Introduction to Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing is a process that uses heat to transfer dye onto various materials, such as fabric or plastic. The sublimation ink is first printed on a special paper and then transferred to the desired material using heat and pressure. This method creates vibrant, long-lasting prints with excellent color reproduction.

The Science Behind Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing relies on the sublimation process, which occurs when a solid (the ink) turns into a gas without passing through a liquid phase. This is achieved by using specialty inks that are designed to convert from a solid to a gas at high temperatures. When heat and pressure are applied during the transfer process, the ink molecules change states and become part of the fabric or plastic surface.

The Process of Sublimation Printing

  1. Design: Create your desired design using sublimation-friendly software like CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator, or Sublimation Studio. Make sure to use CMYK color mode and convert all images to 300 DPI (dots per inch) for optimal results.
  2. Printing: Print your design onto sublimation paper using a heat press or specialty printer designed for sublimation inks. The paper is coated with a layer of polyester that helps the ink adhere to the substrate during the transfer process.
  3. Pre-pressing: Place the printed paper and the desired material (fabric or plastic) into a heat press, making sure they are aligned correctly. Apply pressure and heat according to the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific materials and equipment. The time and temperature will vary depending on the type of substrate being used.
  4. Cooling: Once the desired time and temperature have been reached, allow the material to cool slowly before removing it from the press. This helps ensure that the ink has properly transferred and adhered to the surface.
  5. Post-processing (optional): Depending on the type of substrate used, you may need to perform additional steps such as washing or drying the fabric or coating the plastic for added durability.

Common Sublimation Materials

  • Fabric: Polyester fabrics are most commonly used in sublimation printing because they readily accept the dye during the transfer process, resulting in vibrant and long-lasting prints.
  • Plastic: Sublimation printing is often used for creating customized items like mugs, plates, and other promotional products made from ceramic or polyester coated materials. The process can also be applied to hard surfaces such as metal or wood, although specialty coatings may be required for optimal results.
  • Wood: Sublimation on wood is a fun and easy way to get that natural look with a splash of color. With so many different wood blank options, sublimating on wood is a great way to create memorable gifts. Check out our comprehensive article on how to sublimate on wood.
  • Hardboard: UniSub Hardboard is the gold standard for many different sublimation blanks, including keychains and photo blanks. The high gloss, professional finish of these blanks makes them a fan favorite.

Sublimation on Wood

Tips for Successful Sublimation Printing

  • Use high-quality sublimation inks and papers specifically designed for this purpose.
  • Ensure that your printer settings are calibrated correctly to achieve the best color reproduction.
  • Properly align and pressurize the materials during the transfer process to ensure a smooth, even application of the ink.
  • Follow manufacturer guidelines for heat press temperature and time settings based on the type of substrate being used.
  • Test different substrates before committing to large-scale projects to determine their suitability for sublimation printing.


Sublimation printing offers a versatile and high-quality solution for creating customized designs on various materials, including fabric and plastic. By understanding the basics of this process and following best practices, you can achieve stunning results in your sublimation projects.

To get started, check out these popular sublimation blanks!