What is sublimation printing? Explained in 4 minutes! (2023)

If you’ve been around the block, you’ve probably heard of the term sublimation printing or all-over-print (AOP). This article will tell you more about this sublime technique that helps create unique pieces of clothing, accessories, and even custom drinkware that you can add to your eCommerce store. Hint: customers love them!

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What Is Sublimation?

If you’re new to the print on demand (POD) dropshipping world, there are a couple of different printing techniques. But let’s talk about the most eye-catching of them all: sublimation printing. Otherwise known as all over print, sublimation printing is a design process where inks are transferred onto the product using heat.

If you’re looking for long-lasting POD products that feature distinct colors and high-resolution quality, keep an eye out for AOP clothing in the Printify catalog. The process is applied to achieve that vibrant, all-over, everlasting graphics on apparel and home décor.

What is sublimation printing? Explained in 4 minutes! (1)

In short, here’s the whole sublimation printing process:

  1. Artwork is printed with sublimation ink onto sublimation paper
  2. The blank item is then placed onto a jig
  3. The garment is wrapped in the desired design
  4. Then it’s pressed in a heat press
  5. Et voila!

How Does Sublimation Printing Work?

Sublimation printing uses heat to fuse ink and surface material or fabric, depending on the case. The inks used in the sublimation process turn into gas when brought under heat, then combine with the textile and permanently imprint onto the fabric. The result is permanent and significantly less prone to fading, as the ink penetrates the material instead of simply laying on top like a regular print.

Think of sublimation printing almost like tattooing where fabric is used instead of skin. Then, instead of pores, there are fibers that open up under the heat. There the ink cools while pressure is applied, transitioning back to a solid, secure form.

Fact: The sublimation printing method allows for long-lasting designs – the images won’t crack or wear even after dozens of uses.

This quick, effective print method is constantly gaining popularity, especially for designs that rely on nuances. Sublimation printing, or ‘all over printing’ (or AOP – these two terms are interchangeable, so don’t get confused if you see one or the other), allows you to play around with designs that cover the entire blank product from seam to seam.

What About Sublimation Shirt Printing?

What is sublimation printing? Explained in 4 minutes! (2)

When it comes to sublimation t-shirt printing, the artwork is first printed onto a special sheet of paper. That image is then transferred onto another material, like polyester or a polyester mix, and the ink then gets heated until it literally disintegrates into the material. The process of sublimation shirt printing may cost more than other methods (screen printing) but it lasts longer and won’t crack or peel over time. And did we mention it looks way cooler?

The Pros and Cons of Sublimation Printing

The Pros

The most exciting upside for this method is purely the freedom you have with your designs, which is not always possible with other printing methods or embroidery. With sublimation printing, you can go bonkers – a shirt that’s covered seam to seam in hotdogs? Knock yourself out. AOP socks that look like blocks of cheese? I want a pair of brie, I mean three. A gorgeous galaxy print leggings? You betcha!

Of course, you can also keep it classy with prints of cloudy skies, grass, cupcakes, landscapes, etc. The possibilities are endless, which will keep you (and your customers) coming back for more.

The longevity of sublimation print is another positive aspect here – a design that won’t crack, peel or fade even after countless wash cycles.

Sublimation printing is fit for small batch orders, seam to seam patterns, and garments with many design variations and applications.

Read more: Sublimation specifics

The Cons

The cons lay mainly in the choice of materials. Sublimation printing isn’t available for natural fibers like cotton or silk – it’s only suitable for garments that include pure polyester or polyester blend. Although you could use cotton, the image won’t be permanent, plus cotton fibers are way more absorbent, and the outcome simply won’t be pretty. And silk would just get damaged in the process as it is not heat resistant at all.

If you’re lusting after a distressed or vintage look, simply look for apparel items with a lower percentage of polyester. For your convenience, we have a whole section of AOP apparel in our catalog + many a home decor and drinkware items.

Another potential issue to watch out for is white creasing. Sublimation printing is only available on white blank products, and if there are areas of the garment that are left uncovered or simply out of reach (like the area around the seams, for example), they’ll remain white. This can occur by accidental folding, or when minuscule droplets of moisture accumulate on the transfer paper. This is not a huge dealbreaker, but you should definitely be aware of this.

Other than material that can be used for sublimation printing, one of the core limitations is the color of the blank items. Because sublimation printing is a dye process, you get the best results when the fabrics are either white or light-colored (that’s why in the Printify catalog, you will only find white blanks).

Is There White Ink in Sublimation Printing?

What is sublimation printing? Explained in 4 minutes! (3)

Unfortunately, no. And this would add to the cons list. Sublimation employs a CMYK color scheme; thus, no combination of any base color ink can create the color white. You can print onto lighter color or ideally white materials, but this will not work with sublimation if any of your designs have white within them.

What Are the Best-Selling AOP Products?

Some of the products that you can include in your eCommerce store would definitely be all-over-print t-shirts and sweatshirts. But among the most popular there also are sublimation socks. Feel free to read this piece on tips on how to sell sublimation socks like a pro, because it really is a lucrative niche.

Designs That Work Well With Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing works especially well with dramatic, whimsical, and almost, dare we say it – ridiculous designs. I can neither confirm nor deny that the author of these lines owns leggings with dozens of bratwursts printed on ’em.

What Sublimation Products Does Printify Offer?

What is sublimation printing? Explained in 4 minutes! (4)

In the Printify catalog, you’ll find blank all-over-print goodies for every need: we offer leggings, t-shirts, hoodies and jackets, socks, custom underwear, custom swimsuits, bags, and even countless home decor items – mugs, cushion covers, and so much more – you’ll simply have to visit the catalog and see for yourself.

What Makes Printify the Best Sublimation Printing Provider?

It’s simple – working with us is a walk in the park. Printify is free, foolproof, and oh so lucrative. Besides the vast catalog of 300+ printable items and a network of 90+ highly-rated print providers from all around the globe, Printify provides you with tools that help you sell more:

Streamlined Fulfillment

Printify's print providers handle order fulfillment so you, the merchant, can focus on marketing and growing your brand. Design your products, publish them to your online storefront, and Printify handles the rest without you needing to lift a finger when you make a sale.

Production Network

Printify lets you easily choose among the 90+ print providers the ones you wish to work with. Take a pick based on what's essential to your business – product, location, and price. By choosing print providers closer to your audience, you can substantially save on shipping costs and fulfillment time.

Save More With Printify Premium

Printify is and always will be free to use for everyone. Integrate your sales channels with ease and publish as many products to your stores as you want. But with their Premium subscription, you get an additional 20% off on all products drawing more profit.

Easy Integrations

The Printify platform offers automatic integrations with some of the world's most popular online marketplaces and eCommerce platforms: Shopify, Etsy, Wix, WooCommerce, eBay, BigCommerce, and more.

Now that you know a little bit more about this sublime printing technique, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Figuratively, of course, since Printify does everything after you’ve come up with some designs to offer to customers.

So, if you haven’t already, set up your online store, connect it to Printify and let there be fun. Fun, you might ask? Yes, because Printify’s Mockup Generator is super easy and fun to use, especially with all-over-print products. So, go ahead, start creating beautiful continuous designs that cover your high-quality blanks from edge to edge and seam to shining seam.

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What is sublimation printing? Explained in 4 minutes! (5)

Zane Bratuskina

Zane is a writer and translator with over eight years of experience. She considers words the most powerful tool in marketing and human life. Zane aims to write as clearly and simply as possible so that her reader always feels relaxed, no matter their background. Her greatest passions are reading and human psychology; she believes that combining these two makes it possible to achieve a significant impact in customer satisfaction.


What is sublimation printing? Explained in 4 minutes!? ›

Sublimation printing uses heat to fuse ink and surface material or fabric, depending on the case. The inks used in the sublimation process turn into gas when brought under heat, then combine with the textile and permanently imprint onto the fabric.

How do you explain sublimation to customers? ›

Sublimation is the process of transferring dye to a fabric using heat. The images and graphics are printed on special paper placed on the garment and heat is applied, allowing the ink to become part of the fabric. This will leave you with a more breathable, soft-hand feel to the fabric.

What is the difference between sublimation printing and regular printing? ›

Sublimation printing embeds the ink into the fabric, while in screen printing, the ink sits on top of the fabric. Sublimation is usually only printed on polyester while screen printing is mostly done on cotton.

How many minutes for sublimation? ›

60 seconds 375-400° F 40 psi (medium) Time varies with metal manufacturer (always consult manufacturer for correct time and temp).

What is sublimation in easy words? ›

Sublimation is the transition of a substance directly from the solid phase to the gas phase without passing through the intermediate liquid phase (Table 4.8, Fig. 4.2).

What is sublimation simplified? ›

What exactly is sublimation? In scientific terms, Sublimation is the transition of a substance directly from a solid state to a gas state. It does not pass through the usual liquid state, and only occurs at specific temperatures and pressures.

Is a Cricut a sublimation printer? ›

A: Yes, the patterns on Cricut Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets use the same sublimation process to transfer colored ink to sublimation blanks, dyeing the compatible fibers and surfaces.

Why would anyone use sublimation printing? ›

The print that is produced by sublimation will not fade or peel, unlike other designs that are printed. This is because the ink is absorbed, rather than remaining as a layer on top of the fabric. This means that you can wash the item of clothing as many times as you want without having to worry.

What kind of printer do you need for sublimation? ›

Inkjet printers whose ink can be replaced with dye-sublimation ink are the most common type of printers that can be converted to sublimation printing. The Epson Ecotank ET-2800, ET-2760, ET-3760, and ET-15000 are the most popular inkjet printers that can be used for sublimation printing.

Can cotton shirts be sublimated? ›

Yes, you can do that! You can sublimate on cotton in two ways — using heat transfer vinyl or a sublimation coating spray.

How long do sublimation prints last? ›

Sublimation process is an excellent option if you are looking for high-quality, long-lasting prints, Sublimation prints can last for years without losing their colour or quality.

What are 5 examples of sublimation? ›

Five substances that undergo sublimation are: ammonium chloride, iodine, camphor, naphthalene, dry ice.

What is the perfect example of sublimation? ›

The best example of sublimation is dry ice which is a frozen form of carbon dioxide. When dry ice gets exposed to air, dry ice directly changes its phase from solid-state to gaseous state which is visible as fog.

What is sublimation and give three examples? ›

Sublimation is the transition of a substance directly from the solid to the gaseous state on heating, without passing through the liquid state. Examples: Camphor, Iodine, Ammonium Chloride, Naphthalene, etc.

What is the method of sublimation? ›

Sublimation consists of the evaporation of a solid from a hot surface and subsequent condensation on another surface at a lower temperature. Depending on the nature of the solid, sublimation can occur at atmospheric pressure or vacuum.

What is sublimation printing examples? ›

Sublimation printing is a printing process for transferring designs onto a variety of materials using a carrier material, for example onto T-shirts or ceramic mugs. Special sublimation printers and sublimation inks are used for this purpose.

What is sublimation printing vs vinyl? ›

The key distinction between vinyl and sublimation printing is how the design adheres to the fabric. With vinyl, a coating of vinyl is attached to the surface of the cloth using heat and pressure. Sublimation involves dyeing the cloth itself so that the design becomes an integral part of the garment.

What are the three types of sublimation? ›

Types of Sublimation
  • Basic Sublimation. Basic sublimation is a simple print on multiple different fabrics. ...
  • Full Sublimation. Sublimation printing allows you to gain full control over every inch of your jersey. ...
  • Spot Sublimation. ...
  • What products qualify?

Which is better Cricut or sublimation? ›

In terms of startup costs, Cricut is a less expensive option upfront, but you will be limited to what color Infusible Inks Sheets, vinyl, and paper you can purchase in-store. Sublimation has a higher initial start-up cost but offers much more freedom in terms of designs.

Can I use regular printer for sublimation? ›

NO, sublimation requires a dedicated printer as it uses a specific heat-activated ink. The Epson EchoTank model printers can be converted into sublimation printers however they cannot have had regular ink installed in them.

What is the difference between heat transfer and sublimation? ›

Sublimation uses a process where the ink becomes part of the fabric rather than adding a layer on top. This results in a transfer that is unmatched in both durability and feel. On the other hand, heat transfer paper adds a layer on top of the garment.

What are the disadvantages of sublimation? ›

Sublimation items must have a white or light-coloured print area. Black or dark-coloured surfaces can't be sublimated. The item may lose colour over the months due to the effect of UV rays if it's permanently exposed to direct sunlight. Like all inkjet printers, the printheads may clog if they are not used frequently.

What are the cons of sublimation? ›

Cons of Sublimation Technology

Because sublimation printing uses special printers and inks, it costs more than other techniques. Another downside is that the printers function at a slow pace. Materials other than polyester can be used but only if they can be coated with the core material.

What is the problem with sublimation? ›

Sublimation requires a tight marriage between the transfer paper and the blank product during pressing. If the paper shifts or is not firmly planted against the substrate, then the result will be ghosting and/or gassing out.

Do you need special ink for sublimation? ›

Since the chemical process is very specific for dye sublimation, you'll need to use a specific type of ink known as disperse dyes (commonly referred to as “dye-sub inks”). These dyes are able to go from a solid state to a gaseous state in high temperatures and will easily bond to polyester fabrics.

How much does it cost to start a sublimation business? ›

Start-up and production costs are lower than other businesses when starting a Sublimation business. However, it should take less than$1,500.00 to get your sublimation business going and turn a profit. Keep in mind that an entry-level printer and inks start at around $500.

Do sublimation printers need special paper? ›

Furthermore, you can't print on a regular printing paper using dye sublimation ink and use it for sublimation printing. In a nutshell, for sublimation printing, you'll need sublimation paper and an inkjet printer with sublimation ink.

Can you use a Cricut to make sublimation shirts? ›

Turns out, it's totally possible to use Cricut Design Space for sublimation printing! The easiest way to use Cricut Design Space for sublimation is to use the upload feature to upload sublimation PNG files. If you're not a designer, this is probably going to be your best bet.

Can you sublimate 50 cotton 50 polyester? ›

Yes, you can sublimate 50 percent polyester/50 percent cotton fabric. Keep in mind, however, that only 50 percent of the sublimation dyes will remain in the fabric after washing – leaving you with a faded look that most of us would consider unacceptable.

Does sublimation peel off? ›

Sublimation printing will only ever transfer the inks, so there is no almost-sticky feel, and the inks become a permanent part of the material, so they won't peel or scratch off.

Does sublimation print wash out? ›

Washing has a huge impact on fading of the ink. When you are using sublimation printing, it mixes with the fabric and so does with the water which eventually results in the fading of the ink. For example, if your customers are washing their favorite t-shirt in hot water every day, it is very likely to fade.

Does sublimation print faded? ›

Unlike an inkjet or laser printer that print out with full color ink, sublimation ink will be dull on the sublimation paper but will come to full color until heat and pressure are applied. It's absolutely normal for sublimation ink to look dull when it's first printed.

What shirts are best for sublimation? ›

When making sublimation t-shirts, the gold standard is to use shirts that are made from 100% polyester fabric. Since sublimation ink will ONLY bond with the polyester fibers in the fabric, using 100% polyester will give you the brightest and most vivid colors possible with your sublimation transfers.

Can you sublimate on 100 cotton? ›

If you directly sublimate on 100% cotton shirts, the ink will fade right away after washing. If you want to sublimate print on 100% cotton shirts, use sublimation coating spray or heat transfer vinyl as a layered barrier.

What color shirts are best for sublimation? ›

Thus, white is considered the best apparel color for sublimation, but you can print on light-colored garments, provided you don't need the color white within the image. With colored apparel, there is another concern. Apparel dyes are heat set to ensure colorfastness when the garment is washed.

What is the best way to describe sublimation? ›

Sublimation is the conversion between the solid and the gaseous phases of matter, with no intermediate liquid stage. For those of us interested in the water cycle, sublimation is most often used to describe the process of snow and ice changing into water vapor (gas) in the air without first melting into water.

Can you explain sublimation? ›

sublimation, in physics, conversion of a substance from the solid to the gaseous state without its becoming liquid. An example is the vaporization of frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) at ordinary atmospheric pressure and temperature. The phenomenon is the result of vapour pressure and temperature relationships.

What is an example of sublimation with explanation? ›

The best example of sublimation is dry ice which is a frozen form of carbon dioxide. When dry ice gets exposed to air, dry ice directly changes its phase from solid-state to gaseous state which is visible as fog. Frozen carbon dioxide in its gaseous state is more stable than in its solid-state.

What are 2 examples of sublimation? ›

Therefore, sublimation of dry ice, and Iodine are the examples of sublimation.

What is sublimation one word answer? ›

Sublimation is the transition of a substance directly from the solid to the gaseous state on heating, without passing through the liquid state.

What is special about sublimation? ›

The sublimation printing process

The inks that are used turn into gas when brought under heat, then combine with the fabric and permanently print onto the fabric. The effects are permanent and less prone to fading, as the ink is embedded in the fabric or substrate rather than simply laying on top like a normal print.

Is sublimation good or bad? ›

As Freud suggested, sublimation is usually considered a healthy and mature way of dealing with urges that may be undesirable or unacceptable. Rather than act out in ways that could cause us or others harm, sublimation allows us to channel that energy into things that are beneficial.

What is an example of sublimation printing? ›

Sublimation printing is popularly used to create custom coffee mugs and keychains. However, the process works on a number of surfaces and can be used to customize picture frames, boards, tags, or even metal plates.

What is the opposite of sublimation? ›

Sublimation is a type of phase change that takes place when a solid turns directly into a gas, skipping the liquid phase. The opposite of sublimation is vapour deposition. The term "sublimation" only applies to a physical change of state and not to the transformation of a solid into a gas during a chemical reaction.


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