In the past two decades, the business of printing T-shirts through sublimation printers has boomed. Sublimation printers have become a great alternative when looking for high-quality prints for T-shirts and many other types of items. Sublimation printing makes use of a process which transfers heat, so that a paper release liner is able to print through the process of using sublimation dyes. Once heat is added, the printed image transforms into gas, which moves the dye from the paper to the item of clothing.
Sublimation printers were hugely popular in the 1960s and 1970s, and were the “go-to” method for anyone who wanted to print onto T-shirts, caps or other promotional items. But, during the 1980s, inkjet printers became popular and the makers of sublimation printers had to change their methods in order to keep up with the increasingly developing market. This led to the type of sublimation printer we know today, and even sublimation dyes were developed specifically for use in inkjet printers.
Sublimation printers are great for polyester fabrics, as these types of fabrics allow colours to be as bright and vivid as possible. The best colour T-shirt or item to print on is white, pale or pastel colours or a light beige, as the designs do not tend to show up well on darker fabrics. Because the process of sublimation printing is done by hand, it is great for once-off T-shirts, but for large orders, it may be difficult and expensive to get done.
The best thing about sublimation printing as opposed to other types of printing, is that the printed area does not become “hard” and have that tell-tale plastic-like sheen to it, which makes it obvious the design was added to the shirt. Instead the design, which uses dye instead of ink, permeates into the fiber of the shirt. Unfortunately, this can also lead to the design fading over time, as the colour of the shirt fades too.
There are constant improvements in sublimation printing, allowing dyes to look brighter, more vivid and last longer.