The two major types of printing processes today are sublimation and heat transfer. While essentially the same in functionality, there are quite a few differences between the two. We must be aware of these differences to make the best use of them for your purposes.
What is Sublimation?
Sublimation essentially is the process of embedding the ink into the material through heat. The material must be made out of polyester. As the name suggests, sublimation converts solid to gas without the intermediate liquid form. Thus, the sublimation ink is vaporized and released quickly into the material we are printing on.
More about Sublimation:
- The process is complicated and more expensive. You need dedicated blanks that are well-suited for sublimation, special paper, and special sublimation ink.
- The result is very professional, clean, and durable.
- You will not feel any difference between the shirt and the print.
- You need specific sublimation inkjet printers to do the job.
- The sublimation process is impossible without a heat press.
- The major downfall of sublimation is that it can only be used for polyester materials. This will be a hindrance for T-shirt printing, but you can use the sublimation process for a wide variety of other items such as puzzles and coasters.
- The print does not fade away with washes if it has been applied correctly because the sublimation ink is intense and is deeply embedded into the material.
What is Heat Transfer?
Heat transfer is a comparatively more straightforward process that uses a heat transfer paper to transfer the print onto the material such as a cloth. It can be compared to direct-to-garment printing but is considerably cheaper. The print is not embedded into the T-shirt but is like a layer on top of it. Heat transfer uses pigment ink and transfers paper.
More about Heat Transfer:
- Heat transfer is simpler and less expensive. If you are starting a new business, the heat transfer process will not burn a hole in your pocket.
- You do not need a particular printer for this process. A regular inkjet or laser printer will do the job for you.
- However, it needs specific heat transfer paper.
- You will feel the difference between the T-shirt and the print after this process.
- The result is good, but when you compare it to sublimation, you will find that heat transfer lacks depth. However, you can choose high-quality heat transfers to get better prints.
- You do not need a heat press for heat transfer, but we suggest that you use one if you are looking to make professional prints.
- Heat transfer prints do not last forever. They need to be cared for during application and during use for the print to stay for a more extended period.
- Heat transfer works on cotton fabric the best.
- You should get both, light and dark transfer papers for different colored T-shirts.
Sublimation vs Heat Transfer
Two things will decide which one you should go for:
The Usage: If you are only going to print T-shirts, heat transfer is the way to go. You can work with cotton T-shirts and thus, you won’t have to worry about being restricted. If you are looking at printing on a variety of products such as jewelry, coasters, and puzzles, sublimation is the right choice.
The Price: Sublimation can be quite expensive because of all its specific requirements. Heat transfer, on the other hand, is affordable. This is why you should keep the budget in mind as well while deciding on the right method.
Whichever process you choose, it is important to be meticulous throughout the printing process and to add care instructions with the T-shirts and products that you are selling so that the print stays on for long and your users enjoy your products.