How to do Sublimation: The Ultimate Guide on Printing and Transfers

Sublimation may not have caught your attention during a chemistry class, but it stands out in the art and printing scene. The sublimation process simply refers to turning a solid into a gas without going through the liquid phase. That allows you to transfer images printed with sublimation inks on various materials using a heat press.

A heat press combines heat, time, and pressure to convert solid inks into gases. In gaseous form, the inks penetrate the surface of the printing material, creating a permanent full-color image. By binding ink to polymer, sublimation printing results in durable and colorful images that are scratch-resistant.

Artificial polymers such as PVC and polyester are the most suitable materials for sublimation printing. The materials can be soft such as nylon, spandex, and polycotton textiles. Or hard materials such as ceramic tiles or sheets of aluminum coated with polyester.

Sublimation printing is increasing in popularity because it is a cost-effective way to create beautiful quality products. The images resultant from sublimation transfers are superior to those from other printing methods.

How to do sublimation printing

Getting started with sublimation easy and exciting as it sounds. You'll need the following items to get started:

  • A sublimation ready printer: You can convert your current printer to accommodate sublimation or use a sublimation printer.
  • Sublimation ink: These are usually liquid inks that are used to print images on the sublimation paper. Once the dry print is heated, the solid ink turns into a gas that embeds into the printing material.
  • Sublimation paper: These are specialty papers designed to let the ink sit on the surface for clean, crisp image transfer.
  • Heat press: It allows you to transfer the design from the sublimation paper onto the material. Make sure to match the heat press to your designs and printing material.
  • Design Software: You'll need design software such as CorelDraw to create your designs and manipulate your images.
  • Sublimation printing materials: Polycotton textiles, polyester, polymer, PVC, and ceramic are best. Others include polymer-coated metals and plastics, polyester-made fabric, and polyester-coated aluminum.

These are the basic supplies you need to indulge in the rewarding art of sublimation printing.

How to make sublimation transfers

Naturally, the first step is creating your colorful image on your PC using design software such as CorelDraw. CorelDraw allows you to create exquisite designs that include both words and pictures. It also allows you to flip or mirror images when using a design with words and pictures.

Be sure to use high-resolution images to avoid pixelating. The image should be slightly larger than the printing material to allow bleeding over the edge without creating white edges.

Once the image is ready, print it on sublimation paper. You can substitute with photo paper, but the image quality won't be as sharp since the paper absorbs much of the ink.

Sublimation papers have a special coating on the surface to prevent ink from being absorbed into the paper. That allows full-color transfer, creating images with excellent color saturation.

Turn on the heat press and adjust the time and temperature to suit your printing material. Make sure to follow the recommended settings on the sublimation paper.

Next up, you need to fix the printing material on the heat press. Be sure to align it properly to avoid wrinkly the fabric as it could result in a crooked design.

Lay the printed image facedown on the sublimation material, making sure to position it correctly.

Close the heat press lid while making sure the press is set at the recommended temperature and time.

Once the time lapses, open the press and remove the sublimation paper to reveal your vibrant and colorful printed item.

When subjected to heat and pressure, the pores in polymer materials open, allowing the gaseous sublimation ink to penetrate. The high pressure of the heat press cools down the ink, turning it back into a solid. As the material cools, the pores close, making the solid ink image a permanent part of the material.


Sublimation printing is a simple, convenient, and cost-effective way to create a range of products with hi-res graphics. It's an affordable way to produce full-color graphics without limitations – you can create as many or as few as you need.

If you already have a computer, you only need reliable design software, a heat press, and printing supplies to get started. Sublimation printing is an excellent way to launch a business right from your living room.

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