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How To Use Sublimation Paper

How To Use Sublimation Paper

, by Todd Foster, 5 min reading time

Sublimation crafting is becoming increasingly popular, many people are into customizing and personalizing to show their creativity and craftsmanship. If you're a hobbyist who wants to print designs onto shirts and other materials, or you're operating a printing business, one of the most important things you need to learn is how to use sublimation transfer paper.

What Is Sublimation Paper?

Sublimation paper is a specialty paper that is used in the process of sublimation printing. You can't use any standard paper for this printing process. Sublimation paper is the medium to transfer the inks, which can print images with mirror reversal via screen printing, flat printing, gravure printing, and inkjet printing.

Sublimation Ink

Sublimation paper only works with sublimation inks that have heat-activated pigments. You can't apply the ink from the ink jet printer as it will only spread immediately from the page.


Sublimation Printer

Not all printers are compatible with sublimation paper. You can use a sublimation-friendly printer, or upgrade an ink-jet printer (e.g. Ricoh or Epson printers) to work with the sublimation ink.

Alternatively, you can use heat transfer paper to work with your standard inkjet or laser printer when you really want to make an image for heat pressing.

The Sublimation Process

In the sublimation process, when the printed sublimation paper is heated to high temperatures, the sublimation ink turns into a gas. The ink then gets embedded in the material's surface, producing a high finish and permanent print.

Sublimation works not only on t-shirts with at least 50% polyester fabrics but also on surfaces with a poly-coating - called sublimation blanks - such as a tote bag, a mouse pad, and even on hard surfaces like tumblers, mugs, and keyrings.


Guide To Use Sublimation Paper

1. Choosing the Correct Sublimation Paper

If you intend to do some sublimation printing, you need to have a sublimation paper that matches your exact needs. These are some factors to consider when choosing the correct sublimation transfer paper.

  • Ink Capacity and Limits
  • The higher the ink limit (amount of wet ink), the heavier the paper needs to be to absorb moisture from the ink without disruptions such as warping and curling.

  • Transfer Rate
  • It translates to the rate or percentage of ink that gets transferred from the transfer paper onto the material. Sublimation paper should possess a high transfer rate.

  • Type of Heat Press

Different types of heat presses work with varying types of sublimation paper.

2. Printing On The Transfer paper

Before printing, make sure to mirror or flip your design. Take your sublimation transfer sheet and check which side needs to be printed. Remember to print on the bright white side of the paper. Most transfer papers will have a different colour or design on the wrong side for a quick understanding of the printing side.

It's completely normal if the image appears faded.

3. Positioning The Design

Place the paper onto your chosen blank. Be sure to place the printed image face down and tape it with heat-resistant tape. Once it's in place, use a protective sheet on top and bottom of a substrate (and back of the garment if you're using a t-shirt).

4. Heat Press

Preheat press to 375º - 400º F. Press the image onto the blank using the heat press with medium pressure for 45 seconds at 400 degrees. Double-check that the entire design is beneath the Heat Press.

5. Removing The Sublimation Paper Print

After heating, wait until the paper and material cool and peel off the paper from the material. To avoid any design ghosting, take the sublimation paper off in one fluid motion.

The picture will now be a part of the material and will not crack or fade. The finish is not a sticker-like design - you won't feel the outline of the design. The colour is also a lot more dynamic than it appeared on the inkjet heat transfer paper.

Heat Transfer Paper vs. Sublimation

Types of Garments

Heat transfer paper can be used with almost any fabric, like cotton, polyester, nylon, blends, etc. You can transfer onto any colour, dark or light.

On the other hand, sublimation paper is only limited to polyester-coated garments and doesn't work with cotton and other fabrics. However, the advantage of sublimation over heat transfer printing is that there is a more diverse array of hard and soft surface substrates.

Durability And Feel

Considering sublimation occurs when the polyester fabric is dyed, the dye becomes one with the material. And this improves the shelf life of sublimation prints. Besides the durability, the sublimation print feels softer and smoother.

Meanwhile, the heat transfer sheet adds an overlay on top of the material. This extra layer can be physically felt and much less durable as it's more prone to cracking, peeling, and fading after a couple of washing.

Are You Ready To Customize?

Browse our sublimation must-have supplies to find the best sublimation paper for your DIY projects. Order Now and enjoy crafting!


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