What is sublimation?

Sublimation is a process in which a solid substance, such as ink or dye, is transformed into a gas without going through the liquid phase. In the context of printing, sublimation refers to a printing technique where heat is used to transfer dye onto materials such as fabric, ceramics, or metal. The dye is first printed onto a special transfer paper and then heat is applied, causing the dye to vaporize and bond with the material's surface. This results in vibrant, long-lasting, and high-quality prints that are resistant to fading or peeling. Sublimation printing is commonly used for creating custom designs on various products, including apparel, mugs, phone cases, and more.

What fabric can be sublimated on?

Sublimation can be done on fabrics that are made of polyester or have a high polyester content. This is because the sublimation process relies on the dye bonding with the polyester fibers. Fabrics that are 100% polyester or have a polyester blend of at least 50% are ideal for sublimation printing. Some common examples of fabrics that can be sublimated on include polyester t-shirts, jerseys, sportswear, polyester blends, and polyester-coated materials. It's important to note that sublimation is not suitable for natural fibers like cotton, as the dye will not bond effectively with these materials.

Can cotton be sublimated on?

Sublimation printing is not suitable for cotton fabrics. Sublimation relies on the dye bonding with polyester fibers, and it does not work effectively on natural fibers like cotton. For cotton fabrics, other printing methods such as screen printing or direct-to-garment printing are more commonly used. These methods provide better results and durability on cotton materials. If you have cotton fabric that you would like to customize, I would recommend exploring alternative printing techniques that are specifically designed for cotton.

 Why can't you sublimate on black or dark colors?

When it comes to sublimating on black or dark fabric, the issue lies in the nature of sublimation dyes. Sublimation dyes are transparent, meaning they do not have an inherent color. Instead, they rely on the white or light-colored background to reflect the colors and create the desired image.

When sublimating on black fabric, the dark color of the fabric absorbs the dye rather than reflecting it. As a result, the sublimated image may appear dull, faded, or even invisible on black fabric. The lack of contrast between the dye and the fabric color makes it challenging to achieve vibrant and accurate colors.

To overcome this limitation, some sublimation printers use a white base layer or pre-treat the fabric with a white coating before applying the sublimation dye. (Typically, this would be achieved with a vinyl application and then the sublimated image.)  This allows for better color visibility and vibrancy on dark-colored fabrics. However, it's important to note that sublimating on black fabric may still not yield the same level of color intensity and accuracy as on lighter-colored fabrics.