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One of the most popular fabric printing processes is sublimation. While this can be a difficult process, it comes with a lot of benefits when done correctly. There are plenty of steps that must be performed before starting the sublimation printing process. One of the most important steps is to find the best fabric for sublimation printing. Here at Spandex Warehouse, we will be covering all of the information that you need to know about sublimation printing. 

What Is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is a process of printing that includes printing on a unique piece of paper. Afterward, another process will be performed, where the image from the paper will be transferred onto a piece of fabric. This fabric is usually polyester or a polyester mix. The ink will be subjected to a certain temperature to heat it enough to facilitate its transfer to the fabric. 

The sublimation printing process can be costlier than other printing methods. However, the printed design lasts longer and will not easily crack and peel off after a while, unlike its alternatives. If a fabric is man-made, it can be used for sublimation printing. All you have to do is make sure to test it out before carrying out a high-volume printing project. 

Sublimation ink is a water-based ink dye that, when applied with heat and pressure, will turn into a gas without passing its liquid state. The gas version of the ink will bond easily with the polyester molecules and dye the molecules so that it will transfer the design with no issues. 

What Are The Different Fabrics Used For Sublimation Printing?

Cotton With Additional Processes

Full-on cotton does not work for sublimation printing. Because it is made from natural fibers, cotton will not be able to permanently bond with sublimation ink dyes. If you try to use cotton fabric for sublimation printing, it will only temporarily transfer the ink and will wash out after. The ink dyes and the natural cotton fibers are not able to bond permanently and the ink will wash out easily. 

Sometimes specialized coatings can be used to allow the ink dye to bond with the cotton fabric. Polyfog and a specialized transfer paper like Reveal S paper can be used with the cotton fabric, but the quality of the printing will be affected. The specialized coatings work by introducing a polymer into the cotton fabric, which allows the ink dyes to permanently bond with the cotton fabric. 

Polyester 

Polyester is one of the best fabrics to use for sublimation. The polymers of this type of fabric open up when subjected to heat. When the ink dye is subjected to heat, it will transform into its gaseous form, the ink dye easily enters the fabric through its pores, and will easily bond once the fabric cools. Polyester does not wrinkle easily, even when worn for long periods of time. The ink dye will easily bond with the polyester molecules, so you can easily transfer the design with the highest quality. 

One disadvantage of using polyester fabric is that not everyone enjoys wearing it. Polyester is not soft and can be uncomfortable and itchy when worn. It is capable of surviving fewer washing cycles than cotton and other natural fibers. The fibers of polyester are usually smaller than fabrics with natural fibers, so they can be easily undone. That is why the material feels uncomfortable and why most clients prefer blended fabrics over 100% polyester fabrics. 

However, polyester blends are usually preferred because they are more comfortable and can last longer than the 100% polyester fabric. If you will be using polyester blended fabrics, you may experience uneven or light transfers during the sublimation printing process. 

There is a possibility that a portion of the material will bond with the ink dyes that you will be using, especially if you are using a polyester blend with a lower polyester count. You may have to use a fabric with at least a 40% polyester count to ensure that the ink dye will transfer. If you want high-quality transfers you must go for higher polyester count fabrics.

Synthetic Fibers 

Nylon, Rayon, Lycra, and Spandex are some of the fabrics that work well with sublimation printing because these fabrics have excellent durability and strength. One disadvantage is that they do not offer as much comfort as natural fibers do, like cotton, for example. However, if these fabrics are blended with cotton, the comfort factor increases for those who wear them. 

Keep in mind that when using special fiber blends, you have to make sure that the polyester content is high enough. Be careful during the sublimation process so that you do not burn the materials. Most synthetic or handmade fibers have a low burning temperature, especially when compared with natural fibers. 

If you burn the material on your fabric, the fabric can change shape and deform the images and designs transferred into it during the printing process. It can also cause the reduction of the airflow through the fabric, which also results in it being uncomfortable to wear. 

Before you continue with the sublimation printing process, you should make sure to check with your supplier and ensure that you have tested your print settings. You must also look into other factors like the pressure and temperature that you will use for the printing process to make sure that the entire process is carried out with no problems. 

How Does The Sublimation Printing Process Work?

Sublimation printing relies on heat to transfer the ink dyes to your chosen fabric. You choose a design and have it printed on a special kind of paper. The ink dyes that will be used are water-based, so it easily turns to gas when subjected to heat. 

Once the ink dyes become gas, they will bind to the molecules of the fabric and become permanently printed on it. The effects will be permanent and will not easily fade as the ink is bonded to the fibers of the fabric and not just lay on top of it the way that other printing processes do. 

Sublimation printing can be compared to a tattoo. Instead of printing the design onto your skin, the ink will be imprinted into the fabric. When the fabric is subjected to heat, it will open up the pores of the fabric and then the pressure will be applied to cause the ink dye to change into its gas form when the ink cools it will become a solid form successfully transferring your chosen design on the fabric. 

The result will be a permanent full-colored complete design that won’t easily crack, peel off, or wash away from the fabric. The sublimation process causes the water-based ink dye to transform from solid to gas. The conversion occurs because of the heat and pressure that has been applied to it. Sublimation printing is also called “all over printing” as it allows you to print a design from seam to seam. This quick printing process has become a popular digital printing method and a common choice for small-batch printing orders, especially for those who want to have detailed printing on their fabrics. 

Always remember that if a fabric is man-made, you can transfer a design to the fabric using the sublimation printing process. Always choose the best fabric material like polyester. However, be wary when choosing 100% polyester as it is not durable and does not offer comfort to the wearer of the shirt. It’s important to also avoid choosing 100% cotton. While this is undeniably comfortable to wear, the printed designs will not stay on the fabric permanently and will easily wash off as the ink dyes will not bond on the natural fibers of the cotton.

You can choose a polyester blend with at least forty percent polyester content so that you can be successful with the sublimation printing process. This way you will not compromise on its comfort and quality. If you want to try different materials such as synthetic fibers such as nylon, lycra, or spandex, for example, then you need to make sure to test them before you proceed with high-volume printing. If you are interested in getting the best fabric for sublimation printing, make sure to choose a wholesale supplier of fabrics like Spandex Warehouse. We will be glad to assist you with all of your fabric needs.

If you need fabrics for sublimation, make sure to check out a trustworthy wholesale supplier like Spandex Warehouse. If you want to order the best fabric for sublimation, you can check this link to send us a purchase order. You can request a quote for any type of fabric that you need by clicking this link here. If you have any questions or inquiries about the fabrics that you need, you can contact us by filling up this contact form here

Spandex Warehouse is a wholesale supplier of different types of fabrics. We have been providing our clients with wholesale fabrics for more than 15 years. If you need a certain type of fabric please contact us. We can help you with your fabric needs. You can call us at 213-629-7416 or you can send us an email at [email protected] You can come and visit our showroom just make sure to schedule an appointment ahead of time. Our showroom is located at 776 Gladys Ave, Los Angeles, California 90021. What are you waiting for? Contact us today! Make sure to choose Spandex Warehouse so we can take care of all of your fabric needs.