Sublimation is an easy and effective method of digital printing. It is used to transfer high quality pictures and graphics on polymer surfaces, and to print designs and captions on promotional materials, such as mugs, or T-shirts containing polyester.
Sublimation is, first and foremost, based on a chemical process, from which it delivers its name. The process relies on pigments, which are absorbed and bond with polyester fibers. The print (in CMYK mode) made on transfer paper is transferred on the target product (i. e. T-shirt) in thermal press. Under the influence of heat produced by the machine the pigment heats up and transforms from solid to gaseous. The fibers of polyester fabric open up and take in the pigment. Thanks to that it can sink into the center of the fibers (and does not accumulate on the surface, as it is in case of other printing techniques). When the temperature falls, the fibers close up and indefinitely merge with the pigment. In this way the print does not change the texture of the garment (the print is unnoticeable to the touch), which allows to obtain a natural effect.
The special advantage of this method is the endurance of the print, which permanently dyes the fibers of garment, and proves to be color-fast, and fading resistant. In addition, it does not get destroyed by weather conditions or ironing. Moreover, sublimation allows for selection of colors, from vivid to subtle, natural hues. Thanks to the high quality print which is undetectable to touch, it is highly popular and especially used in full print, where the print is applied to the whole area of the garment. High quality and relatively short time of printing raise the atractiveness of sublimation.
While selecting the sublimation method, it is important to remember that the sublimation inks are pigments which dye fibers, with which they permanently bond. It means that without bleaching the garment, you cannot dye the dark-colored garment with light color. Additionally, the sublimation pigments are semi-transparent, therefore the background color has a big impact on the final result and may change the color output. It is good to select the white fabric if we expect the faithful colour reproduction. In case of colorful fabrics it is advised to select the design with definitely darker shade than the fabric's color. The best choices are color black or solid colors. It is important to remember that the white areas of the design will not be transferred onto the fabric, but instead change color to the one of the fabric's. Additionally, it is advised to check the polyester content in a given fabric. The higher the polyester content in the fabric, the more vivid print. On the fabrics with the lower polyester content the subdued colours may be obtained, different from the original ones.
It should be noted that this technique requires the fabrics with at least 70% of polyester.
The advantages of sublimation printing:
The print is the result of a permanent dyeing of fabric filaments.
Virtually unrestricted palette of colors and shades.
The print does not fade or crack and is color-fast.
The printing is not time consuming.