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What is Sublimation print?

I am often asked ‘what is sublimation’
As you can see from my website I personalise gifts and items with customers photographs and messages, this is done using a digital decorating technology called Sublimation – also called dye sublimation.

personalised glasses case

The above image is a personalised case for glasses, having been supplied with the drawing by a small child’s mother, using the sublimation process I was able to make this item as a gift for the child’s father.

Sublimation embeds high definition, full colour images INTO the surfaces of a wide variety of products. These substrates have to be made of polymers or polyester, or have a polymer coating designed for the sublimation process – most other substrates will print but they smudge or wipe off the surface.

Your design is created on a computer using desktop graphic software, sent to print using a specific printer, ink and transfer paper designed for use in the sublimation process to print the artwork.

horse chopping board

(The above photograph is a glass chopping board! because the glass has a polymer coating I am able to produce stunning gifts and items)

Sublimation inks consist of dye solids suspended in a carrier fluid. Only the print heads in printers designed for sublimation can handle the high viscosity fluid that passes to the transfer paper, as well as produce the high definition images sublimation is known for.

Your transfer is attached to the substrate and placed in a heat press. The high temperature and pressure of the press causes the sublimation process to happen, embedding the dyes from the paper into the surface of the substrate. Unlike other transfer technologies only the dyes are left behind.

During the sublimation process, the dye solids in the transfer paper transform into gasses, while the polymers on the substrate open up. The pressure from the press pushes the gasses into the polymers. On cooling, the polymers close and the gasses turn back into solids, encased within the substrate’s surface. This is how sublimation creates permanent, high definition colouration that does not chip or wash away – if printing a T Shirt for example the image will stretch with the fabric and not crack or peel. Your designs become part of the product itself and are presented in stunning colour and clarity.

Sublimation enables businesses to offer a print on demand service because the artwork is created and printed digitally there is no need for colour separations, screen burning or other manual setup, therefore I can offer just one product rather than customers or businesses having to order in bulk.

bun in oven

I was asked to produce this apron with a photograph of a baby’s scan, this was the mother to be’s way of announcing the news!

I hope this give you some insight into this fascinating printing process!


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