Sublimation and screen printing are two popular printing methods that can print high-quality, colorful images onto T-shirts and other products. Learn more about the two different processes and the practical differences between the two.
In sublimation printing, the ink shifts from being in a solid state to being in a gaseous state without ever becoming a liquid. First, an ink design is printed onto a specialized transfer paper. Then that image is laid against a polyester or polyester mix fabric and heated until the ink disintegrates and transfers onto that final piece of fabric.
Sublimation printing processes last longer than other printing methods, with minimal risk of fading or patchy color over time. The ink design also won't peel or crack as it's washed and worn. Sublimation printing processes can also transfer the entire image at once, instead of layer by layer or color by color. This results in a faster application and no risk of misalignment.
Screen printing methods, on the other hand, use liquid inks. The ink for a design passes through a screen mesh onto the underlying fabric; the mesh and the temporary application of impermeable barriers determine where the ink does or does not transfer in order to create the design. This process applies one color, or layer, at a time, so complex designs often have several screens that are used one by one to create the design.
Screen printing is extremely versatile. Along with t-shirts and apparel, manufacturers can also use screen printing to add images to signs, decals, merchandise, and more. Substrate options include textiles, glass, wood, and metal. Screen printing can even be used on medical devices and electronics to create printed circuits and practical elements.
Screen printing is also cost-effective and can be used to produce high-volume orders because the screens can be used again and again. Printers can easily control where the ink goes and create high-quality images.
Both screen printing and sublimation printing processes can create high-quality, long-lasting images that resist fade and wear from frequent use. But it's important to choose the right method based on the details of your project. Some factors to consider include:
Sublimation and screen printing techniques can both be used for creative projects. But it's important to consider which method is the best fit for your production demands before you finalize your designs.
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