Dye-sublimation printing can seem like a very complicated process to many people, even those involved in the printing industry. In layman’s terms, it is a printing technology that is computerized and uses heat to transfer dye onto materials like paper, cardboard, fabric, or plastic. To accomplish this, the method employs a secondary process instead of directly printing on the end product.
There are many questions that people have about the dye-sublimation printing process, so we are going to answer most of them here and in part 2 of this article. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about dye-sublimation printing and try to answer them as best we can.
What Exactly Is “Dye-Sublimated Fabric Printing?”
Dye-printing is a very special printing process that is capable of producing some extremely sharp and vivid fabric prints that are full color. First, inks that have been specially formulated are printed in reverse onto sublimation transfer paper. Then high amounts of pressure and heat are used to push the paper prints together with the target fabric.
While these prints are being pressed together, the ink slowly begins to sublimate from the paper and directly into the fabric fibers. Once this transfer is fully complete, the image will be fully impregnated within the fabric and can then be ironed, dried, or washed without losing any of its quality.
What Materials Can Be Used With Sublimation Printing?
One reason the dye-printing process is so popular is that it works extremely well with almost all polyester-based fabrics. But that’s not the only material upon which sublimation printing can be used; it can also work with hard items such as:
- Specially Coated Plaques
This process additionally works very well with softer items such as t-shirts, polyester fabric, pillowcases, cushions, canvas, and much more.
What Items Are Not Able to Be Sublimation Printed?
There are a few items upon which it is not possible to use sublimation printing. These include items such as garments and fabric made from cotton and items that have a polyester coating on them but are not able to withstand the extreme temperatures that are required during the dye-sublimation process. It is, however, technically possible to print a cotton fabric using the dye-sublimation printing technique, but the print will generally fade within a few washes.
How Durable Are Dye-Sublimation Prints?
Many people are curious about the strength and durability of dye-sublimation prints, expecting them to be rather easily washed away. The truth is that, when a dye-sublimation print is performed on a material with which it works well, the dyes in the inks become chemically bonded to the polyester fibers within the fabric.
Once they have chemically bonded with the fibers, the print is not able to be washed, scraped, or scratched out of the fabric. These materials can also be ironed and laundered many times without losing any of the quality they possess. The only things to watch out for when it comes to dye-sublimated prints are dry-cleaning and ultraviolet light.
Dry cleaning is too harsh of a procedure for these fabrics, and it will likely damage the print. On the other hand, ultraviolet light will eventually cause fading of print over a long period. However, if used under normal conditions, without any harsh elements or ultraviolet light, fabrics should last for many years.
How Are Prints Done With Dye-Sublimation Used?
This method of printing might sound like an overly complicated process only to be undertaken for the highest quality fabrics, but dye printing can be used for a variety of household items that commonly used on a daily basis.
The fabric made with the dye printing process is typically used for:
- Fashion and Apparel
- Decorative Signage
- Architectural Installations
- Home Decor
- Promotional Graphics
- Exhibits and Displays.
The products made from the dye-sublimation printing process are all around us at all times of the day. This printing technique barely has any drawbacks but features plenty of benefits. One of the main advantages of dye-sublimation printing is that the results, when appropriately achieved, are always permanent. This makes dye sublimation a much better choice when using materials like polymer coated items, polymer, or polyester.
The fabrics made from dye printing are very durable in general, and only need to be kept away from long-term exposure to ultraviolet light and dry cleaning. When you tally up all the benefits of the dye-sublimation method, it’s not hard to see how well it outranks other dye printing techniques. Stay tuned for part 2 of this article within which we will discuss dye-sublimation printing machines in more depth.