Sublimation paper can be divided into 3 very generalized categories. Some vendors may disagree with me or may have different categories of their own. My personal experience however has shown these categories to be accurate.
1. High Release
2. Low, or Standard Release
All sublimation paper starts out with a base sheet stock, which varies by manufacturer, brand, etc. This is important to give the paper its weight, some resistance to curling and humidity, and several other properties. The base sheet stock is then coated with a variety of chemicals and compounds which vary by manufacturer.
The coating is what actually does most of the “magic” that allows sublimation to occur. If you’ve ever experimented with sublimation using plain copy paper, you were probably very disappointed with the results. That’s because there was no coating on the copy paper. The coating is what actually holds the majority of the sublimation dye in place above the surface of the base sheet, preventing it from being absorbed into the paper fibers, subsequently allowing it to be easily released into the substrate when heated in your press. Since copy paper has no coating, the dye gets absorbed into the paper fibers, and is very difficult to get out again.
We’ll go into the different types of sublimation paper in more detail in the next part.