What is Dye Sublimation?

By Jessie Burns | Posted on March 25, 2021

When ordering event items, there are a number of options available for you to decide from. Many customers find themselves questioning the difference between processes, not sure what the primary benefits are and what option would be ideal for their order. The choice between dye sublimation, screen printing, embroidery, heat transfer, and more can initially feel daunting for those ordering wholesale custom t-shirts or bulk branded items. 

A high-quality option that is growing in popularity is dye sublimation

Dye sublimation offers the option to order designer mugs that stand up to dishwashing or custom t-shirt designs that skip the crack and peeling stage.

Table of Contents:

What is Dye Sublimation?
Why Dye Sublimation is Important?
How does Dye Sublimation Work?
What items can use dye sublimation?
Dye Sublimation vs. Screen Printing
Final Thoughts

What is Dye Sublimation?

Dye sublimation printing is a technique that uses heat to transfer dye onto a variety of materials. When using heat to transfer the design, we can create full color, high resolution and crisp graphics on a multitude of items. The printing is not only clean and long lasting but offers conformity across bulk custom orders. 

Why Dye Sublimation is Important?

Let’s say that you sell branded t-shirts for your company or offer custom goods as promotional items. How much brand value do they offer if they are faded or chipping? How much promotional value do they offer if people stop using them?

Dye sublimation shirt printing not only creates a crisp and clean image but is permanent. This allows for the accessory or apparel item you are decorating to be the best quality. Customer’s value the quality of their goods and dye sublimation promises that the product will last. 


By printing your custom t-shirts, branded apparel, or company swag with this technique, you will likely find customers, employees, or teammates very satisfied with the finished product for years to come.

How does Dye Sublimation Work?

  1. A graphic is printed onto dye sublimation transfer paper
  2. An industrial heat press is used to the transfer the design
  3. Ink on the dye sublimation paper turns from solid to gas and penetrates the item being customized
  4. The ink bonds with the item and is embedded onto the material

You’ll notice that there is no back-and-forth printing motion in the process like you might see in screen printing or other techniques. Fewer moving pieces minimizes variations between items and reduced the amount of time required for production. 

What items can use dye sublimation?

Dye sublimation process is best on polyester or polyester resin products; however, it can also be used on a mixture of fabrics, making it a versatile option for any printing job. Products include, but are not limited to:

  • Banners
  • Apparel 
  • Tablecloths
  • Coffee mugs
  • Footballs
  • Metal plates

Dye Sublimation vs. Screen Printing

Dye sublimation printing services utilize amazing technology, but it’s not the prefect choice for every job. While dye sublimation allows you to print on an array of items, for example banners and flags, when printing on t-shirts there are limitations. Dye sublimations work best on polyester or other synthetic garments and delivers best results on white or light-colored garments. If you were looking to print on cotton or needing to use a dark color garment, screen printing is the better choice. Consider what it is that you are wanting to print and what material is ideal, which will help you make the choice between these two processes. 

Final Thoughts

Dye Sublimation is a great choice when ordering wholesale custom items on a white or light background. It is best when used on array of items and garments that are polyester material. By utilizing this process, you will not only have a crisp design, but a design that will last.

Learn more about dye sublimated apparel to consider if it’s the right choice for your custom order.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dye Sublimation

What is dye sublimation?

Dye sublimation is a full-color printing technique that uses heat to transfer to add a graphic to an item. To start, graphics are printed onto special transfer paper by sublimation ink. Then, a heat press is used to transfer the paper to the item of choice.

Does dye sublimation fade?

The printing process is known for its high quality and crisp prints. These prints stay vibrant even after multiple washings. The color does not fade because the ink is permanently imbedded to the material.

What materials can be dye sublimated?

For garments, polyester and special synthetic material give us the best results. Dye sublimation also prints best onto lighter colors. The process is commonly used for items such as banners and flags, or other household accessories.

Can you use dye sublimation on dark materials?

Yes, the process works on darker materials, but for better results lighter colors are preferred. If using a dark material, it is best to talk to your provider to discuss if this is the best option for you.

Can you sublimate glass or plastic?

Yes, glass and plastic both yield excellent results with the dye sublimation process. 

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