During pressing, dye sublimation printing physically penetrates, bonds with and recolors polymer fibers/cells from the inside out. Because this is a molecular process, binding agents are not required and the polymer windows are never an issue. Thus, sublimation transfer paper is composed of a polymer management layer combined with a release agent – and no binder.
On the surface, sublimation papers look all pretty much the same. But, different brands have different manufacturing recipes, so it pays to explore the options on the market. Don’t focus on cost. Look for a product that consistently delivers the highest quality images for your substrates.
Now that you know about the main types of digital transfer papers out there, let’s talk about substrates. Each of these processes are appropriate for specific types of substrates. Standard inkjet and laser papers have binding agents that help the ink bond to the surface of the given substrate. They usually work well for cotton and cotton blend fibers, but not necessarily with polyester and rarely for hard-surface products. If you are able to successfully transfer inkjet or laser prints onto polyester, you may not get the color vibrancy or longevity that is desired.
Sublimation paper will only work with polyester fibers, polymer products or substrates that have a polymer coating applied to them. The dye has to chemically and physically bond with the polymers in order to transfer. Theoretically, using an inkjet paper with sublimation dye might sound like it would work for non-polymer fiber products, but it doesn’t deliver quality results and has a tendency to wash out quickly.
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