Dye Sublimation Printing


There are two methods of Dye Sublimation printing.

he first method involves a digitally driven thermal print head to transfer disperse dyes directly onto a substrate. A common product that is printed this way would be the instant personalised plastic cards that you get when you join a gym. A simple dye sublimation card printer can do this while you wait.


The other method uses a normal print head to print disperse dyes onto a transfer sheet, which is then placed against the substrate and together they are heated so that the image transfers across. This method is frequently used to dye fabrics, in particular polyester.


Disperse dyes are not soluble so they are still in a solid state while they are mixed in anaqueous solution to create the dye sublimation ink.


As the ink is heated to a specific temperature, the disperse dyes ‘sublimate’ which means the particles vaporise, causing the image to transfer onto the substrate. When substrate cools, the dye becomes solid again.


Platen presses can be used to dye sublimate individual pieces such as cut apparel parts, T-shirts, sports apparel, tote bags, etc. Platen presses are also used to print on rigid substrates such as ceramic tiles.


Rolls of fabric are printed using sublimation heat transfer machines, through which the printed transfer sheet and the unprinted fabric substrate pass between two heated rollers. Variations in temperature control the amount of dye that sublimates, thus varying the colour intensity. It is an effective way of printing onto fabrics, as the dye molecules sink into the porous material.