What is Sublimation?

The actual process of sublimation involves placing a sublimation transfer that has been printed on paper onto polyester or polymer-coated material and then applying heat (usually with a heat press) to both. The heat changes the solid print on the paper into a gas, which then prints into the polymer surface.

The actual process of sublimation involves placing a sublimation transfer that has been printed on paper onto polyester or polymer-coated material and then applying heat (usually with a heat press) to both. The heat changes the solid print on the paper into a gas, which then prints into the polymer surface.

The operative word here is "into". In addition to the heat causing the sublimation process, it also opens up the polymer so the gas actually goes into the surface coating. When the heating cycle is completed, the image on the paper has been transferred to the item and has actually become a part of the surface. Seconds after the surface starts to cool, the gas reverts back to a solid and the polymer closes back up, trapping the solid. This is why you can run your finger across the surface of a sublimated item and you will not feel anything.

The reason for this is that sublimation is always done on a polyester, polymer, or polymer coated item. At high temperatures, the solid dyes in the print converts into a gas without ever becoming a liquid. The high temperature also opens the pores of the polymer and allows the gas to enter. When the item is removed from the heat press, the temperature drops, the pores close and the gas reverts to a solid state. It has now become a part of the polymer. Done correctly, it cannot be washed out or come off, unless the actual fibers or coating is damaged.

99.9% of inkjet sublimation is done on white materials (substrates is the technical term). The reason for this is because the inks are actually transparent, when sublimated, and need a background to show up. White is the ideal background because it does not clash with the colors. Indeed, the white background actually enhances the colors. This allows us to print a wide gamut of vibrant, brilliant colors on multiple substrates.

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