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Is Sublimation Paper Equal To Heat Transfer Paper Or Heat Transfer Vinyl

The Sublimation Transfer Paper is used to transfer images onto sublimation coated mugs, cups, plates, tiles, puzzles, mouse pads, iphone cases/covers, Samsung galaxy phone cases/covers, polyester t-shirt and other applicable substrates via Sublimation ink. It works with all kinds of Inkjet printers.Sublimation is not Heat Transfer Vinyl or Heat Transfer Paper.  Why am I repeating myself and asking you to join?  Because I’ve seen a bunch of people in groups and forums trying to help others by telling them that the heat transfer paper they are using or trying to use is sublimation.  Trust me, it isn’t.  I know this because I spent four years working at one of the largest sublimation ink manufacturers in the US.  And as a Product Manager during part of that time I spent hours on end testing sublimation ink, papers, and substrates so I know what I’m talking about.

sublimation transfer paper application

What is the definition of sublimation printing process? Sublimation is the process of using a digital printer, dye based ink, a specialty paper made for the process, and a substrate with a polyester coating to create products.  While it’s the same as Heat Transfer Paper in the fact that it uses ink and a paper.  It’s different in the fact that these inks are sublimation dye ink and the specialty paper used holds the ink without bonding it to the paper. Then when heat is added, the ink is released and it bonds with the polyester to make the image permanent to the substrate.

tacky sublimation paper

However,heat transfer vinyl and heat transfer paper donot permanently become part of the substrate.  Case in point – vinyl can be removed and heat transfer paper images will fade.  Sublimation products will not do either of those things.If we want to do sublimation printing,what materials do we need?Sublimation requires the use of a piezo head printer such as an Epson, Ricoh, Mimaki or Roland printer.  Epson and Ricoh have smaller desktop versions of printers while Mimaki and Roland have larger printers for higher production/size requirements.It also requires special dye based inks made specifically for sublimation.  Sawgrass Technologies is a large manufacturer of sublimation ink for both desktop and production solutions.  Ink is distributed through specific dealers and can be purchased directly from them.Specialty papers that hold sublimation ink and allow it to be released/bonded with the substrate are also needed.  There are several companies out there that make this paper and it can often be found with the same dealers that carry the ink.Then lastly, you need light or white colored fabrics/products with polyester coatings that can capture the ink and make it a permanent part of the product.  100% polyester fabrics such as t-shirts, banners, towels, flags, and sportswear work great with sublimation ink.  

sublimation transfer paper

Polyester coated products also work with sublimation ink.  Unisub is a large manufacturer of sublimation blanks and the same dealers that carry ink/paper carry these blanks and often have their own branded substrates.