What Is a Sublimation Printer and Why a DTF Printer is Better for Your Business

what is a sublimation printer

What is a sublimation printer? 

Sublimation printing, also known as dye sublimation printing, is a digital printing method that involves transferring ink onto specially coated material through high heat and pressure. This process ensures that the ink becomes a part of the material.

This technique has become increasingly popular as more and more businesses are looking for methods that can provide high-quality, long-lasting prints on a variety of products. 

In this post, we’ll explore what sublimation printing is, how it works, and why a direct-to-film (DTF) printer might be a better option. We’ll also look at the pros and cons of sublimation printing and compare it to other popular printing techniques.

What is a Sublimation Printer? Types to Consider

What is a sublimation printer? There are two main types of sublimation printers: desktop and wide-format. Desktop sublimation printers are affordable, and they are ideal for small to medium-sized businesses. While you can use an inkjet printer to complete your sublimation printing work, it’s important to note that the quality of your print project may be compromised. Wide-format sublimation printers are more expensive, but they can handle larger prints and quantities. It is essential to choose the right printer based on your business needs and budget.

black ink

What Supplies Do You Need for Sublimation Printing?

To perform sublimation printing, you will need a dedicated sublimation printer and sublimation dyes. You will also need a heat press that can reach the necessary temperature for the sublimation ink to transfer correctly. A range of different substrates can be used in sublimation printing, such as t-shirts, hats, and bags with polyester fabrics.

t shirt, front, back

Sublimation Heat Presses

Various kinds of heat presses for sublimation prints exist, such as swing away heat presses, single presses, clam presses, and calendar press dye sublimation printers, to name a few.

graphic designer

How do Sublimation Machines Work?

Wondering about the operational mechanics of a sublimation printer? Sublimation printers work by embedding the image directly onto the underlying sublimation paper. This process happens by using heat and pressure to transfer ink onto polyester materials.

Sublimation inks are first printed onto special transfer paper and then heated using a heat transfer press. This process converts the transfer sublimation ink into gas, allowing it to transfer onto the substrate. Once the ink cools down, it becomes a part of the material and is resistant to fading.

black gears

How to Prepare a Design File for Sublimation Printing

Preparing a design file for sublimation printing is similar to other printing techniques. You will need to create a transparent background for the design and ensure that the color profile is set correctly.

It is recommended to create a sample first before transferring designs to ensure that the colors are vibrant, and there are no errors in the design.

One potential concern to keep in mind is the occurrence of white creasing. Since sublimation printing operates by printing designs onto white materials, anticipate that these areas will remain white if the design cannot cover them fully. What’s the implication? Unintentional folds or exposure to moisture that may land on the transfer paper.

Once you are satisfied with the print, you can then transfer it onto the product using a heat press.

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Questions About Choosing the Best Sublimation Machine For Your Needs

Choosing the best sublimation machine can depend upon a variety of factors, such as budget, printing volume, and the range of products you wish to print. You should also consider the brand of the sublimation printer and its reliability, as well as its compatibility with substrates you plan on printing. It is essential to do your homework and research each machine thoroughly before making your purchasing decision.

Designs That Work Well With Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing works well with designs that have bright colors and high contrast. It is essential to use a high-resolution image to ensure that the print is sharp and vibrant. It’s worth noting that sublimation printing works best on white or light colored substrates, as darker colors tend to mute the vibrancy of the print.

skull, crossbones

Pros and Cons of Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing has several benefits, including high-quality prints, a range of substrates, resistance to fading, and long-lasting durability. However, it also has some downsides, including the need for specific substrates, not being able to print on dark substrates, and initial setup costs that can be on the higher side.

Sublimation vs. DTG

Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is another technique used for printing on textiles. It uses a specialized printer that can print directly onto the fabric. While DTG gives a more natural feel and allows printing onto dark colored fabrics, it can often be less vibrant and less durable than sublimation printing.

pineapple, design

Sublimation vs. DTF Printing

Direct-to-film (DTF) printing is another printing technique that is gaining popularity. It is similar to sublimation printing, but instead of using transfer paper, the ink is printed directly onto the film, and then the film is heat pressed onto the substrate. DTF printing allows for more vibrant print colors and higher resolution prints.

love you graphic

How Does DTF Printing Compare to Other Printing Methods?

DTF Transfer Printing is often contrasted with other garment decorating techniques such as Screen Printing, Direct-to-Garment (DTG) Printing, and Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV). Upon comparison, DTF Transfer Printing emerges as faster and easier to set up, and it eliminates the need for color separation prints, placing it ahead of screen printing.

DTG printing requires a specific printer that often carries a substantial cost, making DTF transfer printing a more cost-effective alternative. HTV uses a vinyl cutter for printing and can be quite time-consuming when dealing with complex designs, thus making direct to film transfer printing a preferred choice for such scenarios.

mountain, graphic design


Now that you have an answer to “what is a sublimation printer?”, we hope you gained a greater understanding on how the sublimation print process works. The sublimation printing process can be an excellent technique for businesses looking to print on light colored fabrics. It can be used on a range of substrates and provides prints that can last for years.

However, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons and choose a sublimation machine that best fits your business needs. For those looking to achieve even higher quality prints, a DTF printer might be a better option. Whichever method you choose, make sure to do your research and choose a reliable machine that can meet your business needs for years to come.

Limitless Transfers, your design here

Do You Need DTF Prints to Elevate Your Holiday Season?

In sum, DTF printing transcends being merely a technique, becoming a powerful ally for your business, notably during the fast-paced holiday season. It brilliantly combines affordability, versatility, and exceptional quality. This fusion allows you to generate eye-catching, high-definition prints that align with your unique brand and seasonal needs without straining your budget.

An additional highlight of DTF prints is their enduring durability. Designed to stand the test of time, these prints resist fading and wear, even under extended use or exposure. Picture the possibility of presenting your clients with promotional materials and business items that not just embody the seasonal spirit but also exhibit your brand’s dedication to quality and uniqueness.

DTF printing makes this idea a reality, enabling the creation of everything from bright, holiday-themed decorations to personalized apparel that your staff and clients will adore. So, as you prepare for the holiday season, bear in mind that DTF printing provides more than a service – it paves the way for bolstering your brand’s visibility, nurturing client connections, and leaving a lasting impression. Think about incorporating DTF printing into your holiday marketing plan, offering your business a festive uplift that will reverberate long into the New Year!

black snowflakes

About Limitless Transfers

With the festive season in full swing, consider Limitless Transfers as your premier destination for all your holiday-themed direct to film printing requirements. Our key commitment is to consistently deliver crowd-pleasing, high-grade results in a timely manner, ensuring you’re well-equipped to share the festive joy. Every order we receive is treated as a unique masterpiece, meticulously crafted with precision, attention to detail, and a touch of holiday enchantment.

Our processes are as streamlined and dependable as the elves of Santa’s workshop, promising speedy dispatch of your orders, perfectly timed for the holiday celebrations. When it comes to adorning your holiday projects with DTF printing, count on Limitless Transfers to illuminate your season! Visit our website today to explore our range of available prints.


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