Sublimation Paper and Heat Transfer: 5 Questions Answered

If you’re in the business of transfer printing, you probably work with consumer goods, such as clothing or pottery. Transfer printing refers to transferring a material or pattern onto another surface. There is a lot that goes into transfer printing, including heat transfer techniques involving vinyl sheets that help conduct the high temperatures. There is also digital transfer printing, a more advanced form of technology that involves digitally printing the pattern that gets transferred.

There is plenty to know about the world of transfer printing, including sublimation paper and heat transfer. Beware, though: this is far from your average arts and crafts project for kids. This is mainly for professionals.

In today’s blog, we’re answering your most burning questions, so you can be well-informed as to the processes involved and which facets may be the best route for you to take.

1.   What Is Sublimation?

There is a lot of vagueness surrounding the process of sublimation, and how it works. Sublimation uses a special kind of paper and heat to print designs using advanced digital technology that is becoming more and more popular today. This transfer of heat involves the use of the common printer you have at home, as well as normal ink. The difference is in the type of paper that is involved in the process – sublimation paper.

If you don’t have a laser printer or standard inkjet, there are reputable companies like Crafting Besties that offer such services.

The process of sublimation is mainly used for printing on fabric that is at least 85% polyester. This polyester fabric allows the dye to stick due to its open pores made of poly fibers, which is ideal for sublimation.

2.   What Is Sublimation Paper?

Sublimation paper is a special kind of paper that is used for sublimation printing. It is made out of normal paper that is 35% silica and 5% binder, featuring a paper substrate with a specific kind of coating that is added to the paper afterwards. This coating is able to hold the dye and ink during sublimation and the paper varies in weight.

3.   How Does Sublimation Printing Work?

So, how does sublimation printing work, anyway? It starts with the printer. You print the pattern or color or design that you want on your fabric onto sublimation paper. These designs should be mirrored (so, backwards) in order for them to be transferred the right way. The ink that is on the paper gets exposed to a heat press and turns into gas from the high temperatures. This process transfers the design over to the fabric with the heat presser. The heat press causes pressure and high temperatures alongside a vacuum. The heat expands the pores of the polyester fibers so they can accept the gas and the two elements become one. The ink then becomes a part of the physical fabric for a seamless, integrated look, instead of looking like an added layer on top of the fabric.

4.   Is Sublimation Paper Sensitive to Certain Conditions?

As you can imagine, given the heat and gas transfer process involved in sublimation, the sublimation paper is sensitive to certain weather conditions such as humidity. This is because the sublimation paper will easily absorb the moisture in the humid air, ruining its quality and ability to take the ink. The ink may be more prone to dripping, running, smearing, or dotting if there is excessive moisture on the paper or in the air. In addition, the paper may peel or curl at the edges.

5.   Common Mistakes When Using T-Shirt Transfer Paper?

The process of sublimation involves extra care to sensitive conditions, as it is an advanced procedure. Here are some common mistakes people make when using transfer paper such as sublimation paper.

Many individuals choose to print on the wrong side of the sublimation paper. Be sure to print on the bright white side. You will notice the colors look more faded than they should on the paper. This is normal and the colors will appear bright once pressed onto the fabric.

In addition, some people try to reuse their sublimation paper because they notice there is still some ink remaining on the paper. This is typically not enough ink to create a quality sublimation job for your product. Transfer paper cannot be reused either, as the iron from the press melts the plastic lining on the paper, which protects it from the heat. If you were to run it through again, it would burn up.