What is Dye Sublimation Printing

What is Dye Sublimation Printing

  • March 4, 2016
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Dye sublimation printing is a relatively new printing technology that in recent years has taken the printing world by storm. Using dye sublimation printing it is possible to create permanent high definition prints on any polyester coated material or fabric.


Dye Sublimation Printing vs. Inkjet Printing


Print Quality
The print quality of a dye sublimation printing is far superior to an inkjet print due to the nature of the printing method.  Inkjet printers achieve different colors by printing arrays of different colored dots. On close inspection the presence of these dots can be seen and even at a distance the image sharpness is affected.  Dye sublimation printing uses a continuous flow of color with no visible pixels making for a far sharper image.


Color Retention
With dye sublimation printing the printing process results in the ink being chemically bonded to the substrate. The ink becomes one with the item it is being bonded to resulting in a print that is virtually permanent.  Dye sublimated fabrics and can be washed, folded and stored with almost no image degradation over and over.  No more separating whites and colors, dye sub fabrics will never run.

Inkjet printing involves a topical application of the ink to the printed item and the result is a print that will not last as long especially with textiles that are constantly being washed.


Types of Dye Sublimation Printing


Small Scale Heat Transfer Compression Printing
Many local print shops offer small scale dye sublimation printing services using a dye sub print press. These small scale dye sublimation printing presses are ideal for printing a simple design onto a t-shirt or other item of clothing or for printing a small run of color posters.

The ink printing using this method of dye sublimation comes affixed to sheets of specially treated paper. Fabric, jersey blanks or polyester treated paper is laid flat on the printer with the printing paper placed on top of it. The printer is then closed applying heat pressure to both the substrate and the paper. The ink goes straight from a solid to a gas and is then permanently affixed to the fabric or paper.

Whilst this technology is relatively cheap to purchase and operate it’s not without limitations. It is a slow process and is only capable of printing a design in the center of the t-shirt. It is not possible to print to the edges of an item of clothing with this type of printer.  Even small folds or ruffles in the material will result in gaps in the printed design.


Continuous Print Dye Sublimation Printing
Continuous print dye sub printers can print on a roll of fabric kept flat using tension, with heat and pressure applied during the process to activate the inks. In this type of dye sublimation printing there is no solid ink on paper transfer process. The inks are liquid, and are applied as the material is rolled through the printer.


Large Format Dye Sublimation Printing
This is what we do at Just Vision It, continuous dye sublimation printing with an extra wide capability. We can print continuous roles of material up to 100 inches wide and with near unlimited length. This is ideal for printing large banners or for creating custom fabric for fashion textiles and soft furnishings.

Local printers rarely offer this kind of printing. The equipment is large and expensive and not suitable for fulfilling most day to day printing needs which are better delivered using different technologies. The end products created via large format dye sublimation printing invariably also require a team to assemble them into a finished product thus large format dye sub printing tends to be a specialty service.

The only real limitation of dye sublimation printing is the type of materials/fabric it can be used with. The printing process involves a chemical bonding with polyester so it’s only suitable for printing on polyester fabrics or polyester treated substrates,  a minor limitation with the ever expanding range of polyester materials that are almost impossible to distinguish from cotton, silk and linen.

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