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What is Dye Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is the application of sublimation inks onto a surface using a heat press to provide the required combination of heat, time and pressure. This combination causes the inks to be converted from a solid to a gaseous state enabling them to penetrate the sublimatable surface so that a permanent, full colour image is formed. The colour penetrates the surface of the item so that the result is colourful, long lasting and resistant to scratching unlike some other printing methods that merely print onto the surface of the item.

Dye sublimation printing is always done on a polyester, polymer, or polymer coated item.

At high temperatures, the solid dye converts into a gas without ever becoming a liquid. The same high temperature opens the pores of the polymer and allows the gas to enter. When the temperature drops, the pores close and the gas reverts to a solid state. It has now become a part of the polymer. For this reason true dye sublimation cannot be done on natural materials such as 100% cotton. Natural fibres and non-coated materials have no "pores" to open.

What cannot be Sublimation printed?

Cotton fabric and garments. Because dye sublimation printing is always done on a polyester, polymer, or polymer coated items (see above). It is possible to sublimation print a cotton fabric but the image will wash out within a few washes.
Other items that may have a polyester/polymer coating but which are unsuitable as they are unable to withstand the temperatures required for dye sublimation printing.