What is Sublimation Printing and How Does It Work?

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Everyone knows how a printer works. It is in the name; it is a device that prints. Although there are thousands of printer models in the world, the basic principles of printing are all the same.

Each printer must contain several basic elements: some form of ink in a cartridge or container, a battery or electrical source must power the printer, a tray to load the surface on for printing, and the printer’s software so it can compute a design so the machine can print it.

A printer can create a variety of different designs, including text documents, including text documents, art, photos, and much more.

But some people do not know that there are printers out there that can create designs on different objects, not just on paper products.

There are printers that do so much more than print ink on the surface. In the last ten years, manufacturers have created printers that can print an object seemingly out of thin. They are called 3D printers, and these devices have taken the world by storm! But that is an article topic for another day.

For the past 100 years or so, printers that can print on different surfaces such as rocks, polymer, plastic, wood, clay, marble, and fabric have been in use, and they are getting popular to use in the home as well.

These types of printers are usually used in manufacturing, but an enthusiastic hobbyist with enough money can buy a miniature version of a manufacturing printer for themselves so they can develop and print amazing designs. So what type of printer prints on fabric? This type of printer would be a sublimation printer.

What is a sublimation printer?

A sublimation printer is a printer that prints ink designs on fabric. These types of printers are used in the clothing industry. If you are wearing an article of clothing with a design on it, that article went through a sublimation printer at a point in its creation.

Besides printing on fabrics, the main difference between a sublimation printer and a paper printer is that the sublimation printers use heat as well as ink to integrate designs onto any piece of fabric.

If a room is filled with sublimation printers, the heat in the room will rise to uncomfortable temperatures. If the temperature rises too high, the printers can overheat and break. It is important to place a sublimation printer in an area with good ventilation, so the heat can quickly dissipate.

How does a sublimation printer work?

So we know that a sublimation printer prints on fabric by using both ink and heat, but how does it do that exactly?

The first part of the sublimation process starts with the paper the design is printed on. When a sublimation printer prints out a design, it must be on a special type of paper. Then the paper and its design are placed on top of the fabric.

Depending on the size of the design and where it goes, the special paper sits on top of the fabric. It can fall over the sides of the fabric if the design is supposed to be printed on one entire side. But if a design is supposed to go in a specific area, like on a t-shirt in the middle of the front or back, the design must sit in the exact position.

Inside the printer is a device that acts as an iron. The iron will press down on the paper and press it against the fabric. The iron will superheat, and the special paper will turn into a gas, so the ink on the paper will then absorb into the fabric.

If you want a better understanding of how sublimation printers work or you would like to see one in action, there are plenty of videos on YouTube that show how sublimation printers work and how human beings load and create designs with them.

After the printed fabric comes out of the printer, it must be set aside so that it can cool. But this step won’t take more than a minute or so.


The types of fabrics that are loaded into a sublimation printer affect the design and how long it lasts. The most common fabric that is used in sublimation printing is polyester. Since polyester is a man-made fabric, it easily clings onto ink and does not allow the color to fade as quickly as other types of fabric.

Factories and printing companies use white fabric because any other colors would alter the color of the design. So if you see a colored t-shirt with a design on it, it is likely that the entire t-shirt was turned into that color by a sublimation printer when it was printing the main design.

Can I have a sublimation printer in my house?

You may not want a massive sublimation printer that factories have to in order to print thousands of designs a week, but you are not limited to these types of printers. There are small sublimation printers that a person can keep in their home if they want to print on a t-shirt.

Small sublimation printers are great if you want to print their own designs on clothes they already own. One other type of person who would benefit from owning a small sublimation printer is someone who was trying to start a small t-shirt printing business.

They want to be able to show off their printing capabilities to their clients. Beginners don’t want to wait weeks for each design to arrive in the mail.

If a person wants to buy a sublimation printer, they can search the phrase “home sublimation printers” into the search bar OF their favorite browser. In less than a second, they will see that there are dozens of sublimation printers. As you already guessed, sublimation printers are much more expensive than regular printers.


Sublimation printing has risen in popularity in the last ten years, as many people who want to open small businesses usually start with a design printing business. If you are interested in making your designs for your clothes, you can buy a sublimation printer and start creating your own personal designs.

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