Advantages & Disadvantages of Sublimation Printing

Your presence here says a lot of things about you, one of which is you’re heading towards a sublimation business for which you need first-hand knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of sublimation printing to estimate how much you can actually make out of it and how beneficial or detrimental it can be for you.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sublimation Printing

So, by briefing you on the pros and cons of sublimation printing, I’ll further provide you with quick fixes. So, by the end you’ll reach the end, you’ll know exactly how much profit sublimation printing can yield to you, in what way you can stand out in this specific printing technology, and what’s your success ratio in this.

But did you know what exactly sublimation is?

Before I spill out the advantages and disadvantages of sublimation printing, I need to be assured that you’re not considering anything else as sublimation because there are similar techniques, and the closest one is dye-sublimation. Pals, be clear about sublimation which is:

  • Printing onto specialized paper (called sublimation paper) using a sublimation printer and sublimation ink. Yes, you’ll print on the paper first, which distinguishes it from dye-sublimation, in which you’ll print directly on the fabric.
  • Placing the paper onto the polymer substrate (which can be anything) and heating it under high temperatures ranging from 350 F to 400 F, using a heat press.

This is the newest printing technology for printing shirts, mugs, tumblers, keychains, tote bags, and a million other substrates. Here are the…

Advantages of sublimation printing:

1. Most uncomplicated printing techniques with minimal room for trial and error.

First, sublimation printing is a right-hand game for almost everyone, whether experienced in printing, crafting, or Cricut. As mentioned above, there are just two steps for sublimating anything you want. Plus, you don’t need a lot of room for trial and error (well, I won’t stop you from practicing and seeing what works for you and what’s not).

However, on average, 90% of people have successful results on their first try with sublimation, which shows how easier, less messy, and least complicated the technique is. You don’t need a high-level industrial knowledge for sublimation. Just print the paper and heat it with your intended substrate!

2. Low cost.

Sublimation printing requires the essential 5 things:

  • Sublimation printer (any inkjet printer under $300 that uses Micro-Piezo heat technology)
  • Sublimation ink ($20-$30 100ml of each color)
  • Sublimation paper ($15-$20 per 100 sheets)
  • Heat press or Cricut ($100-$300)
  • Blanks and additional accessories (optional)

All of them average under $1000, that too if you go for high-end products. Meanwhile, the other techniques only have machines worth around 10 to 15 grands. Let’s take an example of screen printing and DTG. Plus, you’re only limited to printing fabrics in these printing techniques, which moves us to the third most crucial advantage sublimation provides:

3. Print on anything:

Unlike other printing techniques, sublimation allows print transfer on any substrate. From fabrics to ceramics, sublimation is friendly on soft and rigid substrates. You can sublimate wood, plastics, woolen fabrics, and what’s not. Even the most “non-sublimable” materials can be sublimated with a polymer coating or a little treatment under any poly spray. This is the most exclusive aspect of sublimation printing which puts it at the top when it comes to customization and printing techniques.

4. Fade-resistant, scratch-resistant, and water-proof results:

Sublimation printing solves one of the enormous problems of customized printing by providing fade-free and scratch-resistant designs. In screen printing, the designs start to wear off after 3 or 4 washes, and it alters the fabric’s sweat-absorbant ability, making it less wicking for the body. With the sublimation, the garments have no changes, i.e., the air will pass the same way as before.

In addition, sublimation becomes a part of the substrate. You can’t touch the design, so there can be no cracks and scratches. And further, the water has zero effects on the prints unless you’re using it in the boiled form.

5. Eco-friendly:

When you’re sublimating, you’re actually doing a favor to the environment. Here’s how:

  • Minimum water usage. You don’t need water at all unless you’re cleaning your printer.
  • Sublimation and butcher papers used in the process are recyclable.
  • Sublimation ink has a non-toxic substance, which makes it fumes non-harmful to the environment when heated.

6. Low energy consumption:

There’s no high energy consumption in sublimation. The heat press operates on as low as 0.75 kWh to 2 kWh, which is the average electricity unit of your ceiling fan. Plus, the printer takes 5 watts. Some new models run on even 1 watt, so your electricity units are always on the low, even if your use is regular.

7. No need for bulk labor and investment:

Because of its easy accessibility, sublimation doesn’t require a full-fledged team of workers and a heavy investment. You can start your sublimation business as a sole proprietor and still manage to cater to 5-10 customers on a daily basis, which is far more than the daily dealings of a well-established printing firm. This is because sublimation printing is also…

8. Quick and fast:

An inkjet printer or a dedicated Sawgrass sublimation printer generates 30-50 prints on a regular scale, of course, if your printer isn’t clogged. The heat press takes a maximum of 10 minutes to transfer the design from paper to substrate, and the cooling takes 5 minutes. And guess what? Your day has 24 hours. Now imagine how much production you can keep carrying day-to-day. Even if you market your services as the “fastest printing company” delivering in just an hour, you’ll still have a lot of time remaining in your clock.

9. Variety of colors:

Sublimation has the most comprehensive color options that print every shade. The basic sublimation printer has a 4-color code: CMYK. The sublimation printer makes every shade out of these 4 colors. You don’t need every shade in the physical form for printing.

10. Print large designs:

In screen printing, you’re limited by the screen size and color; and in DTG, the most common size is 11.8″ to 15.7″ for large prints. In contrast, sublimation doesn’t have such requirements and limitations. You can print in sections or update your printer with an added tray and create as large as a 51” area for printing blankets, wall art, curtains, mats, and so forth.

Disadvantages of sublimation printing:

Disadvantages of sublimation printing

With everything good comes the consequences, and so is the case with this newest technology called sublimation. And I’m covering the disadvantages of sublimation printing because I believe the success of anything depends on what you can’t do with a specific resource rather than what you can. Because then you work out the alternatives and boom! You got the perfect recipe. So let’s move to the…

Limitations of sublimation:

1. Can’t print on non-poly substrates:

Well, that’s the major setback of sublimation printing. It can’t transfer on a non-poly substrate because the ink won’t accept other substrates. If not 100% polyester, the substrate must have at least 50% count of polymer to ensure solid and long-lasting colors.

Solution: You can use poly-coated spray on cotton, linen, and other fabrics to get it sublimated. For rigid surfaces, you can first print on the HTV sheet and then transfer it to your final substrate.

2. Can’t sublimate darker substrates:

Suppose you’re dyeing your black hair yellow. If you do this directly without a cutdown, there’ll be no results. The limitation is the same with sublimation.

Solution: If you want to sublimate dark apparel, you need to bleach them or use an HTV vinyl sheet.

3. Sublimation printers require regular maintenance:

Clogged printheads are one of the most common issues of sublimation printing. Sublimation printers must be used on a daily basis. Even if you’ve nothing to print, you can test a nozzle check to keep the printer working. Otherwise, you’ll run into issues like print ghosting, banding, and faded prints.

Solution: regularly test a nozzle check and make the printer run for half an hour. It’ll minimize the risks of clogging and banding.

4. Limited tools and equipment:

Sublimation is a new technology, and thus the resources, as of now, are very limited. Previously, there were Ricoh-manufactured sublimation printers. Now it’s partnered with Sawgrass, and still, there are just 3 units in total of both brands collectively. Epson has sublimation-compatible inkjet printers, but they need a conversion, after which the warranty stands void. However, newer models have been under construction. In fact, Epson has recently launched a ready-to-go sublimation printer. Yet, it still is a drawback, considering the small accessories, i.e., ink, papers, tapes, blanks, and so forth, which aren’t easy to locate.

Solution: check out other articles on the page. You’ll find plenty of quality sublimation accessories and tools along with purchasing guide.

The bottom line:

Comparing the advantages and disadvantages of sublimation printing, the green side wins with 6 points. Sublimation printing has the most negligible drawbacks within and in contrast with other technologies. Even with those disadvantages, there are alternative ways anyone can adopt effortlessly. All in all, sublimation is a profitable startup for any customization business with which you can many by printing anything rigid or soft. In any way, I can help you further, hit me up through the comment section. Sending luck and love for your future endeavors!


Leave a Comment