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What Do You Need For Sublimation?

In recent years, printing technology has gone through significant advancements, transforming how we produce physical copies of documents, images, and designs. These advancements have been driven by innovative research, improved materials, and enhanced manufacturing techniques. One of the key areas of progress lies in the development of more efficient and sophisticated printers and the exploration of various printing technologies to cater to different needs and industries. We can now even print out physically interactive 3D prints of any design without any hurdles.

The same can be said for fashion accessories and apparel where printing has become one of the simplest and most sophisticated methods for custom designs. If you’re not completely aware of the sublimation printing technology or looking for hardware to start your own DIY sublimation printing project, we have come to the right place. In this guide, we are going to talk about sublimation printing in detail and tell you everything you need to know along with what you need before you can attempt sublimation printing yourself.

What Is Sublimation?

Sublimation is a rather innovative form of printing technology that is used to create designs in the textile, fashion, and promotional products industry. To make it possible, this unique printing process involves the transformation of ink from a solid to a gas state and then back to a solid state, all without passing through the liquid phase. The distinctive characteristics of specialized sublimation inks are harnessed to create vibrant and durable prints on various substrates, particularly textiles, and materials with a polymer coating.

The sublimation process begins with specially formulated sublimation inks containing dyes that can transition directly from a solid to a gas when exposed to heat and pressure. These inks are used to print designs onto carrier paper, often called sublimation paper. The carrier paper is then carefully positioned on the target substrate such as a polyester fabric or a coated ceramic surface. When subjected to heat and pressure inside the printer, the sublimation ink transforms and creates the print on the printing media.

What Supplies Do I Need For Sublimation?

Now that you understand how sublimation printing works, let us talk about the range of supplies you need to perform sublimation printing on your preferred printing media. Sublimation printing requires specific supplies to transfer ink onto various substrates through the sublimation process successfully. Each supply plays a crucial role in ensuring the final prints’ quality, durability, and accuracy. Here’s what you need to complete the setup of sublimation printing and start printing your designs.

1. Printer

A printer is a fundamental component of the sublimation process or any printing process at all. Unlike standard printers, sublimation printers are designed to work with sublimation inks. These printers have specialized printheads and ink delivery systems designed to accommodate the unique properties of sublimation inks. They ensure accurate color representation, optimal ink saturation, and smooth ink flow, all of which are crucial for producing high-quality sublimation prints. A sublimation printer bridges the digital design on your computer and the physical substrate you’re printing on, making it an indispensable tool for achieving stunning and durable results.

2. Heat Press

The heat press is the workhorse of sublimation printing, as it facilitates the transformation of sublimation ink from a solid to a gas state and its subsequent bonding with the substrate. A heat press typically consists of a heated platen and a press mechanism that applies even pressure. It’s crucial for achieving the right combination of heat and pressure to ensure proper sublimation. A mug press is a specialized version that caters specifically to cylindrical objects like mugs, ensuring consistent heat distribution for a flawless transfer. Without a heat press or mug press, the sublimation process simply cannot take place effectively, making these machines essential for achieving professional-grade results.

3. Ink and Paper

Sublimation ink and paper form the core of the sublimation process. This paper is coated to absorb and hold the ink temporarily during printing. The ink and paper quality greatly influences the vibrancy, color accuracy, and durability of the final print. Thus, using subpar or incompatible ink or paper can result in poor color reproduction, bleeding, or inadequate bonding to the substrate.

4. Heat Tape

Heat or thermal tape is a small but essential supply that plays a critical role in maintaining accurate alignment during sublimation. By securely attaching the sublimation paper to the substrate, heat tape prevents any unwanted shifting or movement that could lead to blurry or distorted prints. Its heat-resistant properties ensure that it won’t melt or leave adhesive residue on the substrate. The precision and consistency facilitated by heat tape are essential for achieving sharp and well-defined prints, making it an indispensable tool for maintaining the integrity of your designs.

5. Blanks

Butcher paper, also known as release paper or heat-resistant paper, serves as a protective barrier during the heat press process. Placed over the sublimation transfer, it evenly distributes heat and pressure from the press, preventing any localized overheating that might cause uneven sublimation or color inconsistency. Additionally, butcher paper helps regulate the vaporization of the sublimation ink, allowing it to gradually infuse into the substrate for a consistent and vibrant print.

6. Transfer Gloves

Transfer gloves are a small but crucial accessory in sublimation printing. The user wears them to prevent any oils, moisture, or contaminants from their hands from transferring onto the sublimation paper or the substrate. These gloves help maintain the surfaces’ cleanliness in the sublimation process, ensuring that the ink adheres properly and consistently.

7. Lint Rollers

Lint rollers are an essential tool for preparing the substrate before printing. Any dust, lint, or debris on the surface of the substrate can negatively impact the sublimation process, leading to irregular ink bonding or color inconsistency. Lint rollers effectively remove such contaminants, creating a clean canvas for the ink to adhere to.

8. Spray Adhesive

Spray adhesive is an optional but valuable aid in the sublimation process, particularly for intricate designs. Applying a light mist of spray adhesive to the substrate before placing the sublimation paper helps prevent any movement or shifting during the heat press process. This is especially important when dealing with fabrics or other flexible materials that may tend to shift. By temporarily adhering the paper to the substrate, you guarantee precise alignment and minimize the risk of misregistration, resulting in sharp and accurately positioned prints.

9. Alcohol Swabs

Alcohol swabs are a staple in the pre-printing preparation process. Before printing, it’s essential to clean the surface of the substrate to remove any oils, dirt, or contaminants that could hinder the sublimation ink‘s bonding process. Alcohol swabs effectively degrease and cleanse the substrate, ensuring optimal ink adherence and preventing potential issues like ink repellency or poor color saturation. Proper cleaning with alcohol swabs is mandatory to set the printing media for successful and consistent sublimation results.

10. Teflon Sheets

Teflon sheets play a protective role during the heat press process. Placed between the heat plate and the printed sublimation transfer, these sheets prevent the ink from sticking to the press itself. This is especially important when working with heat-sensitive or delicate substrates that might be prone to scorching or discoloration due to direct contact with the heat press. Teflon sheets help preserve the integrity of the heat press and maintain a clean transfer process, safeguarding both your equipment and your prints.

11. Computer and Software

A computer equipped with design software is the starting point for creating the digital designs you intend to print. Design software such as Adobe Photoshop or CorelDRAW enables you to create, edit, and manipulate your designs before transferring them onto physical substrates. The ability to adjust colors, sizes, layouts, and other design elements ensures that your prints accurately reflect your creative vision. The computer and software combination allows for precise control over your designs and their final appearance, making them an indispensable part of the sublimation process.

Sublimation – FAQs

1. When should you use the sublimation spray?

Ans: Sublimation spray is typically used before printing. Sublimation spray or pre-treatment spray is applied to the substrate before printing to enhance the sublimation process. It helps improve ink adhesion, color vibrancy, and overall print quality on substrates that might not have the ideal polymer coating for sublimation.

2. Does it take long for the ink to dry out after printing?

Ans: Sublimation ink typically dries quickly after printing. Unlike traditional inkjet printing, where the ink might take some time to dry on the paper, sublimation ink dries rapidly because the sublimation paper absorbs it and doesn’t remain wet on the surface. This quick drying time is possible because of the unique properties of sublimation ink and paper.

3. What adhesive spray should you use for sublimation?

Ans: When selecting an adhesive spray for sublimation printing, it’s essential to choose a spray that is specifically designed for use with sublimation processes. Sublimation adhesive sprays are formulated to provide a temporary bond between the sublimation paper and the substrate, ensuring that the paper stays securely in place during the heat press process. This prevents any movement or misalignment resulting in blurred or distorted prints.

4. Do I need a computer for sublimation?

Ans: A computer is typically necessary for sublimation printing, especially for designing, editing, and preparing the images or graphics you want to print. The computer is the primary tool for creating digital designs, adjusting colors, sizes, layouts, and other elements before transferring them onto physical substrates through the sublimation process.


Sublimation printing is a versatile and vibrant process that transforms digital designs into durable prints on various different types of printing media. It involves using sublimation ink which transitions from solid to gas under heat and pressure and bonds with polyester-coated materials. However, this technology is not common for personal use and is usually preferred at small firms and start-ups apart from commercial printing jobs. Therefore, we have prepared this helpful guide to provide all the necessary information you need about sublimation printing. Here, you can find out how the technology works and what you need to facilitate sublimation printing for your requirements. If you want to know more, simply drop a question in the comment section below, and we will get back to you shortly.

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