When it comes to all of the different printing techniques used today, it can be really difficult to keep track of them all and ensure that you know what each technique does so you can get the best results for what you are printing. In this particular post, we’re going to talk all about dye sublimation printing including what it is and how it works. While you might not know much about it at the moment, you will know plenty about this process by the time you finish reading through this post. The following information will help to provide you with a solid understanding of dye sublimation printing so you know exactly how you can use it.

Understanding the Technique

If you want to get the best understanding of the process as a whole, then you need to get a pretty general understanding of the technique and all of the information behind it to ensure you get the best results.

Dye sublimation printing is a type of digital printing technique that uses color artwork combined with both polyester and polymer-coated substrates. This process is most common when it comes to signs, apparel and banners but you will also find it uses in novelty items as well such as coffee mugs, plaques, covers and other items that work well with this type of process. The specifics of how the process actually works will be discussed in detail a little later on but it is still important to understand the basics.

Essentially, the image you want to have printed onto the surface is first put onto a paper and then it gets transferred onto the item that it is finally intended to be one. Most of the time, you will find that the process requires incredibly hot temperatures in order to effectively transfer the pattern onto the material you are using.

Most of the dyes and colors that you use will not be active until you reach at least a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Even then, you will find that a range of 380 to 420 degrees is much more common and will be recommended to get the best results and color possible.

When the process is complete, you will be left with a high resolution, full color print that is going to practically be permanent on the piece you put it on. Since the dyes and colors were infused with heat instead of being placed on the surface, you’ll find that these prints are not going to crack, fade or peel under just about any normal condition you might face.

die sublimation process

Dye sublimation explained by Epson

How Dyes Sublimation Printing Works

In the most popular and common process of dye sublimation printing, you will find that each color is put on one at a time and the dye is stored on a ribbon with one color on each panel. The panel is the same size as the design you are trying to print on so a 4 inch by 6 inch medium is going to have four different color panels that measures 4 inches by 6 inches.

During the process, you will find that the printer rollers move the item and one of the color panels together under a printing head that is most likely going to be the same width as the shortest dimension. These tiny heating elements work to change the temperature quickly and will lay amount of ink depending on how much heat you use. Some of the dye will diffuse directly into the medium.

Once it is finished with one color, it will move onto the next ribbon and color panel and will prepare for the next cycle. In all, the process gets repeated four or five times. The last layer that gets put on is going to lay a laminate over the top so that the product is protected from UV light and moisture so that it will last a long time.


Compared to Other Printers

To better understand what this printing technique is capable of, it can be important to understand how it compares to some of the other techniques, more specifically, inkjet printing. One of the biggest advantages of the dye sublimation process is that each dot can be a different color where the inkjet printers is limited to using only the colors that are installed in the cartridges.

Additionally, there are more benefits to dye sublimation including the fact that they are ready to handle as soon as the printing process is complete and you don’t have to worry about as many parts breaking since the head of the printer does not need to move back and forth to put the ink on the material. Lastly, the entire printing process is much cleaner and there are no liquid, messy inks to clean.


What It’s Used For

In the past, most of the dye sublimation printing was used by mostly industrial or high-end printers because it wasn’t a typical and common process that most people had access too. Most commonly you will find that the process was used in images for medical use, graphic arts proofing, security and even broadcast application. However, now you will find that it is most popular in event photography like photo booths that need a lot of pictures printed in a short amount of time.

While the printers use to be expensive to begin with, you can now find great printers for your home starting at right around $100. In addition, you will find that this technique can also be used as an indirect printing process. You can print on regular paper using a transfer toner which can then use a heat source to transfer it onto the desired medium.

You will find that most of the material it gets transferred to include banners, t-shirts, ID cards, flags, and so much more that requires a fast, clear printing process in order to get the right results.


Print Speed

When it comes to the overall speed of the dye sublimation printers, it really is going to vary from printer to printer because it depends on how quickly the element can change temperatures in order to transfer the ink. A strong electrical current can raise the temperature really quick but cooling them down can be difficult and will require you to have a fan or some other device.

While the print time will vary from printer to printer, you will find that the cheap printer you can buy for home use can print a 4 inch by six inch photo in about 45 to 90 seconds. However, if you go with a more heavy duty printer then it will be able to print incredibly fast and some of them are capable of producing prints in as little as just 6 seconds. Like mentioned earlier, one of the best features of this printer is the fact that as soon as the print emerges from the printer, it is totally dry and ready to be handed out to guests or individuals.


Benefits of Dye Sublimation

As with most of the other products you will find on the market, there are going to be a lot of benefits to the product and it can be important to try and understand what they are before you make your purchase. The following are some of the top benefits of a dye sublimation printer.

  • Designs are permanent and will not fade of peel
  • Dye doesn’t build up and stay on the fabric
  • Colors can be incredibly bright
  • Continuous tones give photograph like results
  • Image can be printed on entire item, including right up to the edges.


Negatives of Dye Sublimation

While there are quite a few benefits to the product, there are also some negatives that should be mentioned as well., The following are some of the top disadvantages you will find to using a dye sublimation printer.

  • Printer speed is usually pretty slow
  • Sometimes expensive if you want the best speed and results
  • If there are creases in the apparel, it leaves blank spots.



As you have probably been able to tell, there is a lot of information to take in when it comes to understanding all of the ins and outs of a dye sublimation printer. By now, you should have a firm understanding of what these printers due and what they are able to handle when it comes to printing. If you need to print a bright and colorful design that dries immediately, this is going to be one of the best solutions for you.

Detailed above you will be able to find both a list of benefits and negatives os that you know exactly what you are up against when you use this printing process. While there is a chance that this might not be the best choice for you, chances are good that you will find plenty to like about this printing process and you might even find a way to use dye sublimation printing on your next project.

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