Sublimation vs Heat Transfer: The Differences to know Anyway!

Heat transfer method and Sublimation Method - these two happen to be the two most popular techniques around the world when it comes to printing on T-shirts and other similar clothing items.

Both of these techniques are different from each other; each of them have their own features, uses and techniques, and preferred by business-owners and entrepreneurs for different reasons.

However, the question remains: what is the difference between these two methods? This is the article where you will find all the answers to this question.

What is the Heat Transfer Method? 

When transferring your designs to a T-shirt or clothing, the heat transfer method requires a special kind of paper called transfer paper. 

Anyone can use the heat transfer method for transferring design on their T-shirts if they have an inkjet printer or a laser print. No special ink is required in this method, and anyone can try it out.

Heat transfer method is all about the special transfer paper. Any design you want to transfer to your T-shirt needs to be printed into transfer paper using regular ink in a regular inkjet or laser printer.

The transfer paper needs to be stuck to the garment you have in mind, and heat needs to be applied on the paper. Usually, a regular household iron can be used to apply the heat to the paper, and the entire process is extremely easy.

There are different kinds of transfer papers available for different types of fabrics. Usually, poy textiles and cotton garments are used for heat transfer methods, and there are also different types of transfer paper for light-colored and dark-colored fabrics.

What is the Sublimation Method? 

While the heat transfer method has been extremely popular among both amateurs and professionals, the Sublimation Method has become more popular lately.

After 2004, the use of Sublimation methods in transferring designs to garments have increased at an astounding rate of 115% around the world.

Quite different from the Heat Transfer Method, the Sublimation Method used another special kind of paper known as Sublimation PaperHeat is also required in this process.

Sublimation method is preferable to be used on textile and fabric that is 85% or more poly. Poly fibers have larger pores that easily accept the dye from Sublimation Paper; used in other kinds of fabric, the ink ends up looking faded and vintage.

The same kind of Sublimation paper can be used to transfer your designs to hard surfaces like mugs, keyrings and jigsaw puzzles.

Sublimation papers come with a special coating that holds the dye sublimation ink on its top. This coating includes 5% binder and 35% silica, and it holds the ink to the paper until heat is applied on the paper to transfer the design to the fabric.

Differences between Heat Transfer Method vs. Sublimation Methods

There are a few differences between these two techniques, which you can find in this part of the article.

Paper Type

Of course, the biggest difference between these two methods is the kind of paper they use. Heat transfer method uses transfer paper and Sublimation method uses Sublimation Paper, and these two paper types are completely different from each other.

Transfer paper, needed in the Heat Transfer Method, has a coating of pigment and wax. Any regular ink in any inkjet or laser printer can be used to print on these papers, and the ink is stuck to the paper by the combination of wax and pigment.

When heat is applied, the ink is easily transferred to the garment or the fabric in a matter of minutes. In this same process, designs can be transferred to not just T-shirts and other clothing items, but also hats, bags, canvases and similar surfaces.

Sublimation paper, on the hand, is another special kind of paper that comes with a coating that includes 5% binder and 35% silica. This special coating not just holds the ink to the paper, but absorbs it completely, making the printing more steady.

When heat is applied to the paper, the ink melts and is transferred to any other surface you want the design on. This special trait of sublimation paper makes it possible to transfer your designs not just to fabric, garments and clothes, but to other hard surfaces.

Uses

Heat Transfer Method uses transfer papers, which can only be used to transfer your designs to fabric and clothing.

Sublimation Method has a much wider use; in this technique, you can transfer your designs, logos, artwork, text or images to not just fabric, but all different kinds of surfaces, i.e. mousepads, mugs, jigsaw puzzles, plates, etc.

Level of Expertise

Heat Transfer Method is more suitable for a beginner or an amateur, especially if you are doing this occasionally. A beginner only needs an inkjet printer or a laser printer, and a regular household iron to complete the whole process themselves.

On the other hand, the Sublimation Method should be tried only when you have enough experience with this particular business.

For this particular process, a commercial heat press is required instead of a household iron, which is an additional investment. These commercial heat press machines are quite expensive and only a professional can afford them for their business.

Transfer Type

In Heat Press Method, the design that is transferred on the fabric or garment of your choice stays on top of the fabric. A separate layer of ink can be felt with your hands on top of the fabric, as the ink isn’t completely absorbed by the fabric itself.

This is one reason that the design created with the Heat Transfer Method is prone to cracking or peeling over time. If not washed carefully or properly, the design will start to peel off or at least, show signs of cracking over time.

This is why, when this technique is used, only a small design, text or logo is transferred to fabric, instead of covering large spaces.

If bigger designs are transferred to the fabric via the Heat Transfer Method, they are more prone to cracking and peeling off. Besides, the larger the designs or the larger area the ink covers, the heavier the T-shirt or the clothing feels to the user.

This is not a problem with the Sublimation Method. In this method, the ink is completely absorbed by the fabric.

The transferred design isn’t layered, rather it becomes a part of the fabric. The clothing or any other surface seems dyed rather than painted or printed on. 

Even when touched with a hand, no one can feel an additional layer of ink, and the weight isn’t increased at all. This is the reason, sublimation technique can be used if the design is large one or if the design needs to cover a very large area.

Ink Type

Any regular ink can be used in Heat Transfer Method, printed via any inkjet or laser printer. On the other hand, the Sublimation Method requires the use of a special kind of sublimation dye ink. 

Startup Cost

The startup cost of Heat Transfer Method is significantly higher than that of Sublimation Method.

For this technique, you will only need a laser printer or an inkjet printer, a heat press or a regular household iron, transfer paper and the T-shirts or garments you want to work on.

For the Sublimation Method, a beginner will require the purchase of a special Sublimation Printer, Sublimation dye, the essential software, Sublimation Paper, a special heat press machine, and the required garments or solid surfaces. 

The initial cost becomes higher here than trying Heat Transfer Method. It is possible to use a regular inkjet or laser printer for this kind of printing, but special sublimation dye can clog up the regular printers very quickly.

Fabric Type

With the Heat Transfer Method, you can transfer your designs to any kind of fabric of any color. There is no restriction when it comes to the color or the materials of the fabric when it comes to Heat Transfer Method.

With the Sublimation Method, however, you cannot transfer your designs to 100% cotton materials. There has to be some amount of polyester blend in the fabric you are using.

This is because the ink used in the Sublimation Method only adheres to fabric that is polyester blend or completely polyester.

Besides, as the ink is completely absorbed into the fabric, the color of the garment you are using cannot be too dark. It is always better to use white, beige, cream or similar light-colored fabrics for the Sublimation Method.

Other Requirements 

The Sublimation Method takes significantly less time to complete compared to the Heat Transfer Method. The average transfer takes around 60 seconds to complete, which can take more than a few minutes in the other technique.

These, in a nutshell, are all the differences between the Heat Transfer Method and the Sublimation Method.

For the outsider, they may not seem like such important differences, but they are significant to professionals and people who are thinking of designing clothes and other materials with their own designs.

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