What is sublimation printing?
Sublimation was the name first applied to the printing process because the dye (ink) was considered to make the transition between the solid and gas states without going through a liquid stage. Sublimation printing allows the user to created printed images that can be transferred on to coated objects by using a heat press or heat source.
Sublimation or dye sublimation printing has been in use within the personalised printing markets for over 15 years and is considered to be one of the most versatile and cost effective method of producing printed products. Sublimation printing is utilised by large businesses, small enterprises and hobbyist home users.
What do I need to start sublimation printing?

The basic items needed to start producing sublimation prints are-
Inkjet printer – sublimation starter packages can be found here
Sublimation ink
Sublimation paper
Heat Press
Heat resistant tape
Sublimation ready blank items

Inkjet printer– desktop sublimation printers are commonly a standard digital inkjet printer that has been converted to allow it to use sublimation inks. Sadly not every desktop inkjet printer can be used, Epson and RICOH printers are the most commonly used brands this is because they use a micropezio printing head. Printers with a thermal printing head cannot be used for dye sublimation printing so this means Hewlett Packard, Lexmark, Dell and Canon inkjet printers are not suitable. Here at Ink Experts we like to use Epson inkjet printers for converting to use as dye sublimation printers; pretty much all Epson desktop printers can be used, however here at Ink Experts we do try to chose what we feel are the most stable and capable printers. Models that we sell as a ‘sublimation printer package’ are models we have stringently tested in a ‘real world environment’ and feel to be the best choice for our customers and clients.
Sublimation ink– as the name suggests, you cannot use standard inkjet inks for sublimation printing. Specialist dye sublimation inks are required, here at Ink Experts we favour Inktec Sublinova Smart sublimation inks. Within the market these sublimation inks are considered to be one of the best, providing a consistent and stable ink, with rich deep blacks and vibrant colours. We have also found these inks to be far less likely to dry or block the printing heads in the printer. There are hundreds of sublimation inks on the market so we advise to always do some research before jumping in and buying the first ink you find.
Sublimation paper– sublimation paper is a specially coated inkjet paper media and is basically a carrier for the printed design. Sublimation paper differs from brand to brand but there are differences so we always advise to try a few to see what works best. Here at Ink Experts we supply two different types; Subli-Style and Subli-Fabric. Subli-Style is classed as our standard sublimation paper and is designed for use with hard surfaces or substrates including sublimation coated ceramic (mugs), MDF wood, aluminium and slate. Subli-Fabric paper as the name suggests is designed for use with sublimation ready fabrics and soft surfaces including polyester, polycotton, polyester canvas, silk and PU leather. Subli-Fabric is a high release paper which means it has a softer coating applied to the printing surface. This allows more of the sublimation ink to transfer from the paper resulting in a brighter and more vibrant final print transfer which is ideal for fabrics. The paper is taped to the sublimation blank to keep the printed design in position during the heat pressing process.
Heat press– a heat press is the easiest and most efficient way of heat transferring your sublimation print transfer on to your blank sublimation item. Depending on the type of items you want to transfer print on to you may need different heat presses. Sublimation mugs for example require a mug press, whilst a flat bed heat press (swing arm or clam shell) can be used for a variety of flat items such as t-shirts, mouse mats, cushion covers, aluminium sheets etc.
Heat resistant tape– heat tape is used to secure the paper to the blank sublimation item to ensure the paper and printed design does not move or shift during the heat pressing process.
Sublimation ready blanks– the sublimation print process can be used on a massive range of products. However you must ensure the items you are using are sublimation ready r sublimation compatible. For example sublimation mugs are not just a regular white ceramic mug; sublimation mugs have a special polymer coating applied to them, this coating is what the ink adheres to during the sublimation transfer process. The same goes for fabrics; sublimation ink will only adhere to man made fabrics. It will not transfer and bond to natural fabrics such as cotton. Sublimation ready fabrics will all contain polyester (usually a minimum of 60%) this polyester content is what the ink will chemically bond to.