Sublimation vs Heat Transfer Paper

Sublimation vs Heat Transfer Paper

There are huge opportunities in the clothing personalization industry. There are many ways to decorate clothing, and people often compare sublimation paper with heat transfer paper. You may ask, which method of clothing decoration is better: Sublimation vs Heat Transfer Paper? The answer is that both are great! Because it depends on your needs and what you want to do. In addition, each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let us dive into the details to help you determine the best product for you and your business.


What is sublimation printing?

What is sublimation printing? what does sublimation mean? Sublimation printing is a chemical process that uses heat to transfer dyes/inks to products. This decoration method is most suitable for transferring high-quality vivid images to objects or products without losing the original image resolution on the polyester. Don't let the fancy definition scare you. The sublimation process is as simple as printing your design on special sublimation paper and heat pressing the design onto a piece of clothing.

The actual technical process of dye sublimation is a chemical process in which the solid becomes a gas without passing through the liquid phase. This allows full-color artwork to be incorporated into polyester and polymer coated substrates; also known as digital sublimation. Sublimation is a process similar to thermal transfer paper because it requires you to print an image or design on special paper and then apply heat to the substrate. However, there is one major difference-the science of how this process occurs. Sublimation ink is a dye-based ink that changes from solid to gas when heated (this gas will dye the fabric). Then embed itself in the polyester fabric. When it cools, it turns back to solid and becomes a permanent part of the fabric. This means that the design you transfer does not add an extra layer on top, so there is no difference in the feel between the printed image and the rest of the fabric. This also means that the transfer is very durable, and under normal conditions, the image you generate will be as durable as the product itself. Since ink actually dyes clothing fibers, sublimation is only suitable for white and light-colored clothing.

Sublimation is not only suitable for polyester fabrics-it is also suitable for various hard surfaces with poly coatings. This opens up a whole new world of objects that you can customize-coasters, jewelry, cups, puzzles, etc. Click to know more about what is sublimation paper. 

What is sublimation?

What is Heat Transfer Paper?

So, What is Heat Transfer Paper exactly? Heat Transfer Paper is a special type of paper used for printing. A heat press can be used to transfer images to clothes or hard surfaces. There are two types of Heat Transfer Paper: inkjet and laser. For each type, you need its own printer type (inkjet or laser printer). Laser transfer paper cannot be used in inkjet printers and vice versa. Click to know more about HTV.

Heat Transfer Paper can be used with most office printers. However, you will get the best quality and effect from a white toner printer such as OKI. These printers are specially designed for clothing decoration and are covered with a layer of white toner to transfer bright, full-color prints to colored and dark clothing.

Use to print the design onto a sheet of Heat Transfer Paper. Then, you put the printed paper on the T-shirt and use a heat press (in some cases, a household iron can be used, but a heat press provides the best results). After pressing, peel off the paper and your image will stick well to the fabric. You can have a customized T-shirt! That's easy, right?

Garment decoration with Heat Transfer Paper is very simple, and even if it is not the lowest start-up cost in the industry, it is one of them. In fact, many decorators start to use only the printers they already have at home! Some other important notes about heat transfer papers are that most papers are suitable for cotton and polyester fabrics-and you will learn that sublimation is only suitable for polyester. In addition, Heat Transfer Paper is designed for dark or light-colored clothing, while sublimation paper is dedicated to white or light-colored clothing. Click to know how to use Heat Transfer Vinyl.

What is Heat Transfer Paper?

Sublimation vs Heat Transfer

The difference between sublimation paper and Heat Transfer Paper. In addition to the scientific nature of the transfer process, there are many differences between sublimation paper and Heat Transfer Paper. These differences include the type of substrate you can transfer, feel, durability, weeding, and start-up costs.

Sublimation vs Heat Transfer

Clothing color

One of the biggest differences between the two methods(Sublimation vs Heat Transfer Paper) is the color clothing you can transfer to. With Heat Transfer printing, you are not limited to the color substrate to which you want to transfer the image. You can transfer any color, dark or light. Or, through sublimation, you can only print on light-colored clothing. This is due to the science behind the process. Since sublimation dyes the fabric during the transfer process, you cannot sublimate in dark colors. Although there are some solutions to this, such as the use of heat transfer vinyl that can be sublimated after pressing it onto the shirt, it is still the biggest limit of sublimation vinyl. 

Substrate and fabric type

With sublimation vinyl, you can only use white and light colored polyester fabrics or polyester coated hard surfaces. Sublimation vinyl does not apply to cotton or other fabrics. You can't just go to the store to get a cup or other item and sublimate on it, it must have a polymer coating that allows the sublimation process. Heat Transfer Paper can be used for almost any fabric: polyester, cotton, blended, nylon, etc. You can also decorate hard surface items without polymer coating. There are almost no restrictions on what can be transferred using thermal transfer paper.


Image durability and feel or "feel"

Since polyester fabric sublimates when it is dyed, you will not feel the image on the shirt or the surface. It has a very light hand. In addition, it is more durable than Heat Transfer Paper, and will not eventually break like the Heat Transfer Paper design. Since the Heat Transfer Paper will leave an image on the top of the clothes, you will be able to feel the design on the shirt. The design feel or "feel" of thermal transfer paper may vary, depending on many factors, including the type or brand of Heat Transfer Paper used, and whether RIP software or T.Seal is used to organize the table. Heat Transfer Paper garments can be washed approximately 25 to 30 times before you begin to notice the design fade or crack. By using RIP software to rasterize your design, you can extend the life of your shirt and design, thereby improving washability and durability.



Depending on the type of Heat Transfer Paper you are using, you may need to "remove" or cut and trim your design before transferring it to the substrate. There is no inkjet self-weeding transfer paper on the market. However, laser thermal transfer paper has some self-weeding options. For Heat Transfer, there are two-step self-weeding transfer paper on the market. Sublimation does not involve cutting or weeding. Since only the area of the paper with sublimation ink will be sublimated to the garment or substrate, no weeding or cutting is involved. Weeding heat transfer paper

Sublimation vs Heat Transfer

Startup cost

Getting started with Heat Transfer Paper is a lower-cost choice between sublimation paper and Heat Transfer Paper. First of all, you only need an inkjet printer or laser printer, a heat press, thermal transfer paper and the substrate you want to decorate. You can use a standard printer or invest in an OKI white toner printer. If you decide to use the OKI white toner printer to enter the custom clothing market, the cost will be higher. However, if you choose to start with a regular inkjet or laser printer, this will be the lowest cost option. Sublimation has a higher start-up cost than thermal transfer paper. Although not as expensive as before, the price of sublimation is higher than that of thermal transfer paper using inkjet or laser printers. For sublimation, you will need a sublimation printer, heat press, sublimation vinyl, sublimation paper, and a base material or clothing for decoration.

Sublimation paper and heat transfer paper: Which one is right for your business? Which one is right for your business depends on the type and color of the garment and substrate you want to decorate. You must also consider the amount you are willing to invest. If your business focuses or mainly focuses on white and light-colored polyester garments, sublimation is a good choice. Your printed matter will have the lightest feel and excellent durability and washability. However, if you want to print on any color or material type, heat transfer paper will be your best choice. You can start with a basic printer, and then when you start to make a profit, you can reinvest in a higher-quality OKI white toner printer, such as OKI pro8432WT, to get more vivid and higher-quality images.

Both Sublimation and heat transfer paper are good methods of clothing decoration. Ultimately, what is best depends on your business and customer needs

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