Sublimation vs Infusible Ink | Head-to-Head Comparison

Sublimation is evolving faster than light speed, yet the fastest is its technologies that continue to grow. To take your crafting to the next level; you’ll have two options 1. Sublimation 2. Infusible ink. While you decide which one to go with, we have brought up this comprehensive sublimation vs infusible ink that will walk you through some of the basic facts, processes, cost, and applicability of each type. 

Sublimation vs Infusible Ink Head-to-Head Comparison

Both sublimation and infusible inks entail multiple benefits but hey, there are drawbacks to each one too, which is why we think you should be really considerate about which one you choose for your projects. A complete analysis of both types of printing options will help you decide wisely based on your crafting methods, printing outcomes, and, obviously, your budget.

Sublimation Vs Infusible Ink:

Both sublimation and infusible ink are pretty much the same except that the former uses a sublimation printer to print out the design using sublimation ink and paper. Whereas, the latter comes ready with design and colors that just needed to be cut and weeded for pressing.

Sublimation:

Sublimation

Sublimation basically is turning solid into gas while skipping the liquid step. In printing terms, sublimation means heating the solid ink which is in dehydrated form until it’s vaporized and turned into gas.

The process of sublimation requires the use of sublimation ink being diffused on the sublimation paper using special equipment that you may refer to as a sublimation printer. After it’s printed, the sheet is then pressed under a heat press, Cricut, or mug press onto a final substrate.

Pros:

There are numerous benefits of sublimation printing. Below, we have discussed a few worth-highlighting ones:

  • Sublimation transfer can be used on darker apparel as well as cotton fabrics too, with the help of a third-party polymer coating, or using any vinyl sheet. In addition, it can also print on ceramics, metals, acrylic, and wood.
  • It allows for full-color printing. You don’t need layering down your designs like in HTV or infusible ink.
  • The prints are permanent forever. It doesn’t fade away over time, even if you wash them. They are crack-resistant and scratch-resistant as well.
  • Apart from general design and 3D ones, you can also print images in  HD quality and true colors.
  • The sublimation design on the sheet doesn’t need to be weeded or cut down. You just simply need to put the paper as it is on the substrate and heat it straight away. This is because only the print gets transferred to the final substrate and that’s how simple sublimation is!

Cons:

Since nothing is perfect, so let us give you the dark side of the sublimation printing.

  • Sublimation requires the entire sublimation setup. A heavy amount is needed to get going with sublimation printing. It includes the cost of a sublimation printer, ink, and papers.
  • Since the prints are permanent, it’s impossible to undo the design in case you have made any mistakes. Though, you can re-sublimate the substrate in case of errors.

So far, these are the only drawbacks associated with sublimation. Though many argue that the printing option is limited to polymer only, i.e. sublimation does not work on cotton. However, the statement is genuine, but there are ways you can do that. Here in “how to sublimate on cotton” we have explained several methods for sublimating cotton.

Infusible Ink:

Infusible Ink

Infusible ink is also a kind of sublimation. Though, we are just not using a sublimation printer here. Instead, the design is already printed on the sheet in various colors or you can create it from Cricut design software. Infusible ink comes in sheets, markers, or pens. The sheets have a layer of ink so you don’t need to print them under any printer.

Though, you can print any design on them. Additionally, if you want, why print on them when you can just have them printed on a simple sublimation printer, which also costs 60 times less than infusible ink sheets. Anyway, there are pens and markers too with which you can create your own design, and then infusible ink is cut and weeded using a Cricut machine. Finally, like sublimation, you can press the design on the final substrate.

Pros:

First, infusible inks are budget-friendly. You don’t need to invest heavily in a sublimation printer that you can’t even use otherwise for alternate purposes other than sublimation. You can simply start sublimation with infusible inks at a low budget.

The results are beyond satisfactory. The colors are permanent and non-washable. They also don’t distort and crack over a longer time period.

Finally, the usage is very friendly. You don’t need advanced ICC profile knowledge to set the colors and obtain the best. The process is very simple, plus the results are always predictable. That said, infusible inks give less room for errors, which makes them a top choice for beginners.

Though, in a nutshell;

  • Infusible inks are cost-effective.
  • Easy to use; no hectic processes.
  • Excellent colors and vibrant designs.
  • Permanent, unfadeable prints.

Cons:

The biggest drawback of infusible ink is that you can use only those colors and designs that are provided by the Cricut machine. This means you cannot print images or photos that aren’t supported by your Cricut design space.

The color and designs are limited. That’s why you can only get the designs and print them out, you get the sheet in.

The design needs to be weeded and cut, which extends the process.

It only works in light-colored apparel with at least a 50% count of polymer. Though, you use the hacks of sublimation here too for getting other materials and substrates sublimated.

Sublimation Vs Infusible Ink: Head-To-Head Comparison

Sublimation Vs Infusible Ink
Sublimation Vs Infusible Ink

As we explained both the types of sublimation in detail, let’s evaluate them on the following factors.

Printing Options:

Printing options are the variety of designs and colors you can use with each. In infusible ink, you are limited to using the colors and designs supported by the Cricut design space. Even in markets and pens, the colors are limited and you can not create combination colors with them like in sublimation printing.

This is where sublimation comes to the rescue. You can use a million colors with sublimation, I can print even my own pictures with the sublimation printer. However, you must be familiar with the color ICC of the printers in order to have as contrasting colors as you want.

Additionally, you can also print in full-color in sublimation printing, whereas no such perks can be enjoyed in infusible ink.

Cutting And Weeding:

Cutting And Weeding

Infusible ink sheets have ink embedded in the paper already, which is why you need to cut and weed the design. Otherwise, the entire paper will be printed on the substrate when heated. Sublimation, on the other hand, doesn’t ask for any such requirements. This is because the ink on the sublimation paper gets printed from the printer, which only forms the design only. The rest of the paper will have no effect on the substrate during pressing.

Needed Supplies:

Sublimation printing requires the following supplies;

  • Sublimation printer
  • Sublimation ink
  • And, sublimation paper

These are quite so much when compared to the infusible ink supplies that only include a Cricut maker or cutting machine, that probably every craftsman owns already.

Additionally, the supplies of sublimation printers can be used with sublimation only. You cannot use them alternatively like you can use the Cricut machine for hundreds of your crafting projects.

Process:

The sublimation process is pretty much elongated. You need to use all the equipment that includes creating the design and printing it with the printer, let alone ink-refilling processes, in order to get through sublimation. While you just need to use a Cricut machine for cutting and weeding and you are done.

Speaking of ink-refilling, sublimations get messier sometimes. The machine can run into malfunctions too that delay your process. Using the printer correctly, its settings, and color ICCs are also not a straightforward task. This is the reason sublimation printers is mostly stayed on the commercial and professional artisans that have this business on a daily basis.

Cost:

Let us compare the cost of both the methods as follows:

SublimationInfusible ink
Sublimation printer: 300$ – 2000$Cricut cutting machine: $200 – $300
Sublimation paper: $20-$40 (200 sheets)Infusible ink sheets: $5 – $6 per sheet
Sublimation ink: $30 – $50No inks required

As you can see, you are going to need a heavy amount to start sublimation printing from step one. In the infusible ink, even if you need to purchase the Cricut, the overall cost won’t exceed $400, that too if you combine the cost of infusible ink sheets in bulk with the machine.

Though the starting cost of a sublimation printer is no doubt uneconomical, it gives long-term economic benefits in a long run. Look at the example. You’ll buy sublimation paper for $0.1 – $0.2 per sheet. The ink is $30 – $50 which you’d require on a yearly basis. The entire cost hardly merges to $0.3 with everything included compared to the 6 dollars per sheet print in infusible ink.

Therefore, if you casually do sublimation for home use or other short-term sublimation projects, infusible ink is a good way to go. However, you won’t have any other best alternative that ensures both economic and qualitative factors than sublimation for regular and heavy loads of sublimation projects.

Similarities Between Sublimation Vs Infusible Ink:

Apart from the differences, a few factors are there that merge both sublimation and infusible ink sheets on the same road. These are;

Heat Press:

Both sublimation and infusible ink need a heat press or Cricut press to get the design transfer on the final substrate.

Transfer Sheets:

Both the methods required transferring of design for which transferred sheets are essential. In sublimation, these are sublimation sheets while infusible in k sheets are used in the other method.

Printing Results:

Both the methods will have dull and pale results on the sheets and they will get only true colors once pressed under high temperature. Though after applied pressure, the result on the final substrate is vibrant and permanent.

Applicable Surfaces:

Sublimation and infusible ink are compatible only with ceramics and fabrics with a minimum of 50$ polymer count. Both methods do not work with cotton, natural fabrics, and other types of materials unless you are channeling a polymer coating in between.

Which One Is Better? Sublimation Or Infusible Ink?

Huh! Finally, we are done with everything of sublimation vs Cricut comparison. The difference and similarities can definitely help you make an informed decision as to what your requirements are, how often you sublimate, and what fits your budget. 

Though, if you haven’t done sublimation in your entire life, we may suggest you try it with infusible ink, and if you happen to enjoy and expand it, then immediately move to the sublimation printer otherwise you’ll have your shot already without spending much! Good luck!

Emily

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