Sublimation Printer Working Guide – How to Use it

Large-format digital printing technologies have been serving multiple markets for over thirty years. They were born in the graphics and visual communication industry. 

And, over time, thanks to the evolution of inks and performance, they have also reached the textile industry. Large format plotters soon made inroads in the fabric flags and banners market, to then reach fashion and the most extreme fashion.

Sublimation printing is particularly in demand today because today there are fabrics rich in polyester on the market but very similar to the touch of natural fibers, which are more complex to print. 

Sublimation ink, in fact, binds well to polyester fabric, pure or with percentages not lower than 40% (blend-polyester). So, in this article, you will find out How to use a sublimation printer?

How to Use a Sublimation Printer?

The truth is that to use a sublimation printer, what you have to do, first of all, is to know if it is compatible with this function. Otherwise, your projects may not come out with the expected quality.

You should also take into account the ink you use, something that is part of the compatibility with the printer itself, as well as the materials used for this purpose.

Also, it is essential that the surface to which it adheres has a layer of polyester so that the ink adheres better. This also affects solid objects such as mugs, in which you will have to put a layer of polyester in so that they take the ink.

For this reason, the results you will get will be very good, although the process is somewhat more tedious in terms of assembly.

Then, once you meet all the requirements and have the material where you are going to print-ready, all that remains is to follow the steps of a normal printer.

So, you will have to go to your computer, select the image to materialize in the relevant software, and hit the print button.

You can also print it from your mobile, although it is best to view it on a large screen in case any detail needs to be corrected.

How do Sublimation Inks Work?

Sublimation inks are a type of “disperse” inks. It means that they chemically bond to the polyester. They are used in sublimation inkjet printers.

sublimation ink

Through the application of heat and pressure, they pass from the solid to the gaseous state and then return to the solid state on the polyester fabric. 

This particular process serves to keep the sublimation dye inside the fabric fiber, where it is fixed by heat and pressure. The heat and pressure are exerted by a calender or heat press (heat press).

Sublimation inks are “alive” inks, in the sense that they contain components that tend to oxidize and “degrade” rapidly when exposed to light, air, and sudden changes in temperature. 

This can lead to fungal growth in the hydraulics of the printers. These characteristics have made this technology the exclusive preserve of plotters equipped with piezoelectric inkjet heads. 

In fact, the thermal heads as they are conceived today would cause the “self-sublimation” of the ink even before it is sprayed.

What do you need for Sublimation Printing?

First, an inkjet printer must be used exclusively for sublimation printing. In other words, if the printer you intend to use for sublimation printing is used with regular ink, it will no longer be suitable for sublimation. 

When buying a sublimation printer you must also take into consideration the type of objects you want to personalize. If you are talking about mugs, cases, or covers for mobile phones, etc., you can opt for a small A4 format printer. 

If, on the other hand, you intend to customize textile items such as T-shirts, T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, etc. you’ll need a larger printer.

Sublimation ink: This is a type of special ink that, at high temperatures, turns into a gas and penetrates the surface of the sublimable product. 

In the sublimation printing technique, the sublimation ink is the most important product to guarantee an optimal final result, therefore, the fact of choosing a type of high-quality ink is essential to avoid sharpness problems in the printed design, and to avoid loss of definition with custom product washes. 

To print with sublimation only you need four colors of ink: black, yellow, cyan, and magenta. Keep in mind that when you print your chosen image onto sublimation paper you do not see the same coloration as the original image. 

Don’t panic. If the ink you have chosen is high-quality ink, the color will be correct after the design has been transferred to the surface of the item you wish to personalize.

Sublimation Paper: Sublimation paper acts as a carrier for the ink, which is transferred from the printer to the item to which it is applied. If a good type of paper is used, the definition of the print will be maximized, and the ink transfer will take place more precisely. 

sublimation paper

Please keep in mind that no matter what object you intend to sublimation print, although there are different brands of sublimation paper, there is only one type.

This means that the type of paper will be identical, and the object to be printed is a cup, a fabric, a porcelain object, or any other object.

Thermal tape: The function of the thermal tape is mainly to fix the sublimation paper already printed on the item to be personalized, and to resist the temperature of the heat press.

thermal tape for sublimation

Heat press: To choose the right heat press, once again, the type and size of the item to be customized must be kept in mind. 

heat press machine for sublimation

There are heat presses specifically designed for cups or plates, heat presses with a flat base for other types of objects, such as fabrics, photo panels, and handbags, and even “combo” heat presses with interchangeable elements that allow you to sublimate print different types of objects.

Final Words

Everything described here for this technique can be applied to glass, plastic, or metal mugs and technical garments with the difference in sublimation times and temperatures. 

The margins to start in the business of personalized mugs are very profitable, as are the costs. materials for sublimation. Now that you have read all the considerations and tips, we hope you find them useful. 

Leave a Comment