prints on clothing – sublimation

October 24th, 2018 / Prints on clothing

We have recently looked at two printing methods involving the transfer of a special film from the material base. You can check previous post clicking here.  Today, we will take a closer look at another printing technique, which consists in transferring the finished printout from the transfer paper to the fabric, but with the use of a special paint. In this post we will check what thermosublimation is.

A pinch of physics…

What is sublimation in general? It is a physical process involving the change from a solid state directly into a volatile state, omitting a liquid state.

How is sublimation referring to actually creating the print? It turns out that exactly naming the method as sublimation is wrong, because the process taking place during printing is more like diffusion. The naming of this printing technique has not been changed, however, and the term thermosublimation is still used in relation to prints made with the use of a dye-sublimation printer or using printing on transfer paper and heating with special presses.

In practice this method is based on printing by heating a special paint in the base material at high temperature and under pressure. As a result, the print is transferred from base to t-shirt (material), which consists in the penetration of pigments into fibers.

This technique is not very expensive, and the only thing we need for it is an ordinary inkjet printer, but equipped with special sublimation inks. In addition, it is necessary to exchange the paper for a special transfer paper and … we can start printing!

It is worth realizing that the printer, after switching to sublimation printing, cannot be used later in normal inkjet printing. For sublimation printing, a sublimation press will also be needed to fix the imprints, thanks to which the print will be pre-heated in the textiles under pressure.

When all the necessary tools are purchased, and the final pattern made on transfer paper, you can proceed to make the right overprints on the target items (due to the nature of the whole series, we will focus primarily on printing on clothing).

…and and ounce of tech.

Thanks to thermosublimation it is possible to make very accurate prints; we’re talking about photographic precision, because – thanks to the specific application of sublimation ink on transfer paper – we can get very high detail. Unlike in typical raster print, individual paint points are almost imperceptible, thanks to which we have the impression of smooth transitions between colors and clear lines. Despite the maximum resolution of printers at the level of 300 dpi, prints are printed at 4800 dpi in the ink equivalent. This results in the fact that we can print very high quality photos. The tonal transitions and mappings of even very complicated patterns will prove to be child’s play with thermosublimation.

In addition, these prints will have vivid, expressive colors, and the paints themselves are characterized by high coverage – no matter if we do them on dark or light textiles; white underprint will not be necessary.

At this point, it is worth mentioning that the thermosublimation is not only suitable for printing on clothing, but it is great for decorating and personalizing advertising and promotional materials such as: mugs and porcelain of all kinds, phone cases, mouse pads, puzzles, leashes and more. The final products may have a surface with a high gloss or a minimum matte, depending on the desired result.

worth it or no?

We talked about how to print using thermosublimation, what is needed in production and what results we can expect. At the end, the question of cost-effectiveness and labor intensity has been addressed.

When it comes to printing costs – they will be the same with each piece of the final product, because each time it is necessary to prepare an identical print on transfer paper, cut out and position it, and then burn using a press or heating device (if we print on cups and other items in the shape of a cylinder). Unlike screen printing, we will not get here by printing a large series of products. This is also the main application of this technique, i.e. uniqueness. If you want to make a single, complicated print, thermosublimation will work perfectly. However, if we are focused on large-scale production – it is better to choose other methods.

one-wash or a bit more?

The strength of clothing decorated with thermosublimation is very high, comparable to a screen-printing made with plastisol paints.

Imprints by the described method are characterized by high tensile strength, thanks to which we can print not only on cotton textiles, but also all kinds of plastic materials, thermoactive clothes, etc. – they are highly flexible if done correctly. Manufacturers of sublimation materials provide resistance to imprints on laundry at the level of 50 cycles (with moderate use, prints should not lose visual and technical values ​​from about half a year to a year).

In conclusion, if you are looking for a method of printing on clothing, which will work for unique products, and you also do not want to limit yourself only to cotton t-shirts, then dye-sublimation is for you. The relatively low costs of equipment and materials combined with a non-particularly demanding method and very good results make dye sublimation the perfect technique to start the adventure with the production of clothing. In addition, you can extend your activity over time to include prints on other items. Your products can be not only unique, but also high quality – both in terms of accuracy and durability.

So what? Are we getting to print? Let me know if you are printing or going to print using thermosublimation in your company. Or maybe you use products made with this method? How do they work? Do you have any comments? Be sure to share them in a comment. Regards and to read next time!