Comparing Heat Transfer and Sublimation

Comparing Heat Transfer and Sublimation: Exploring T-Shirt Printing and Beyond

In the realm of garment customization, the comparing heat transfer and sublimation emerges as a pivotal decision. When comparing heat transfer and sublimation techniques, one delves into the distinct processes that define each method. Heat transfer involves applying heat to a pre-designed transfer paper, transferring the image onto the fabric. On the other hand, sublimation entails the transformation of a solid dye into a gas, permeating the fabric and resulting in a vibrant, long-lasting print. This exploration navigates the nuances of both methods, shedding light on their respective advantages, applications, and considerations, providing valuable insights for those seeking the most suitable approach for their printing endeavors.

Most heat transfer printer software, including the LuminRIP software that comes free with the Luminaris 200 printer, allows you to fully customize your artwork directly in the software. With LuminRIP, you can manipulate graphics, remove colors, add graphic effects and queue up multiple print jobs. You are also able to print graphics larger than the standard A4 print size by cutting the graphic in the software and printing it across multiple sheets.

What is Heat Transfer Printing?

Heat transfer printing is a two-step method where you print a design onto a transfer paper. You then transfer the printed design onto an adhesive paper using a heat press. Finally, you peel away the adhesive sheet from the transfer sheet and then press the design onto the garment. After pressing the design onto the garment and peeling away the paper, you have a design that’s transferred onto the garment. 

What is Sublimation Printing?

Like heat transfer printing, you’re printing the design onto regular copy paper or sublimation paper and then using heat via the heat press to transfer the design onto a substrate. 

When you heat the printed design during sublimation, the toner on the transfer paper goes from a solid to a gas and then embeds itself into the fabric. When it cools, it goes back to being solid and becomes a permanent part of the material. Sublimation doesn’t add an extra layer to the top of the fabric, unlike heat transfer printing. And you won’t feel the difference between the printed image and the rest of the material.

Now let’s discuss what to consider when choosing between sublimation and heat transfer printing.

Durability and Feel

A heat transfer printed design can last about 30 to 40 washes, depending on the size of the design, and how it’s washed. You will also feel the difference between the design and the fabric. 

With sublimation, the ink fuses to the fabric, so it’s more permanent. Most sublimated designs will last as long as the actual fabric. You’re not going to see any cracking after washes, and the image is less likely to fade. 


With sublimation printing, the types of substrates you can transfer images onto is limited. This is because sublimation can only adhere to polyester-coated materials. Even if you use a polyester blend, you’re not going to get as much vibrancy in your design compared to 100% polyester. Also, you can only use white or very light-colored substrates. That means you can’t use sublimation on a black t-shirt or a dark mug because the design won’t show. 

On the other hand, with heat transfer printing, you can print on light and dark-colored garments and on almost any surface like cotton, polyester, ceramic, and other hard surfaces like wood and metal.

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Color Quality

Sublimation allows you to print full colors. This can be very helpful when sublimating a photo or doing a job for a customer that requires a specific color, such as printing a company logo. 

You can also achieve sharp, vibrant designs using the heat transfer method if you’re printing your design using a white toner transfer printer, like the Luminaris 200 White Toner Transfer Printer. So you can achieve full-color vibrant designs with either method.

In the end, the differences between these methods lie in durability, feel, and the variety of products you can print on. 

Ultimately, which method you choose depends on what your customer is looking for and the type of material they want to print on.



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