When you are starting to look into printing T-shirts, bags, or various other textiles, the options available can be overwhelming. The biggest question you will face when it comes to your methods is transfer paper, screen printing, or dye sublimation paper? Below are a few points in favor of dye sub paper that you should consider when making your decision.
How It Works
Dye sublimation paper is a fairly simple process once it’s broken down — sublimation ink is printed onto the dye sub paper, which is then transferred to the t-shirt or other textile of your choosing. It is transferred using heat, which changes the sublimation ink from a solid to a gas without becoming a liquid in-between, which is where the name ‘sublimation’ comes from. This gas state allows the ink to permeate the layers of the fabric and the heat sets the ink.
One of the biggest benefits of dye sub paper over screen printing is the set up that is necessary to make it work. Whether done with a machine or by hand, screen printing is a messy business, that can ruin shirts if not done just right. One smear of ink and that shirt’s revenue is lost. Dye sub paper eliminates that worry; all you need is the right printer and ink and a heat press, no muss, no fuss.
One of the major benefits of dye sub paper is the appearance of the garment it is used on. T-shirts that have been printed with dye sub paper tend to have brighter, bolder colors than shirts made with other printing methods. They also have a reputation for colors that last longer, rather than fading, like screen printing sometimes does, or cracking and peeling like other transfer methods may do.
Shirts made with dye sub paper have a completely different feel to them than the heat transfer shirts you may be used to. Traditional heat transfers put a layer of ink on top of the fabric, making it stiff and often uncomfortable. It would sometimes crack or peel, ruining the image. The science behind dye sub paper means that is not a concern when using it; the ink turns into a gas that permeates the fabric when used in the heat press, so the ink literally dyes the fabric, leaving it just as soft and malleable as it was to start off with.
Unlike heat transfers and screen printing that may fade with time in the sun or with repeated washings, shirts printed with dye sub paper are sure to maintain their bright, bold colors for a long time to come. They will never crack or peel, since the ink is embedded in the fabric, and the dye will withstand countless washings without fading.
While heat transfer paper really only works with fabrics, dye sub paper gives you much more versatility. It works best with polyester shirts, which may seem limiting, but it also opens up a wide variety of possibilities — almost anything with the special polymer coating needed can be used, including coffee mugs, plates, koozies, frisbees, jewelry, and any number of other things. This opens up a world of marketing possibilities instead of limiting you to what can be made with fabric.