What is Sublimation?

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In terms of answering the questions What is Sublimation? as it relates to garments and textiles … Sublimation is the process by which specialized inks are applied with a specialized printer to … you guessed it … specialized paper.  This paper is then placed on a white 100% polyester garment and heat applied to that garment.

The process of Sublimation requires a customized industrial heat press that can exceed 400° F with a flat surface area, large enough to accommodate whatever garment or textile is being sublimated, while allowing that item to remain flat during the process.

In short, sublimation is the process of transferring artwok from a paper substrate to a fabric substrate using heat that allows the ink to convert into gas and permeate the fabric.

What is Sublimation?


Q:What are sublimation inks? 

Sublimation inks are made up of solid color dye particles that are ground into a powder, then suspended in a liquid carrier.  These color dye particles do not melt in the liquid carrier like sugar does in tea.

Q:How does sublimation ink work? 

The sold color dyes they are floating around in the ink can’t be seen easily but they do make solid print images as well as half tones and photo realistic results when printed properly.  Once and image is then printed on a treated paper, the image can be sublimated onto a garment.  The material must be polyester or a polyester treated substrate or have a high blend of polyester or polyester family members like Rayon, Nylon, Spandex etc … When the solid color dyes on the printed image are heated they become a gas and transfer to the polyester garment.  At the same time the polyester expands making it easier for the gas to be absorbed into the fabric.  When cooled the dyes return to their solid state, but are now permanently part of the fabric.

Q:What kinds of materials can be sublimated?

Synthetic polyester based substrates aka … polyester.  This includes polyester textiles, lycra and rigid polyester films.  You can sublimate on blends of fabricm but any percentage of cotton is going to reduce the color accuracy of the end result as well as the bright eye popping colors typically expected from sublimation.  Almost any other substrate that has a polyester treatment can be sublimated.  Nylon can be sublimated as well.

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