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The difference between the sublimation paper and heat transfer paper

There is often some confusion involving the differences between dye sublimation and heat transfers. Both use heat presses to "transfer" the image to the substrate at about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The main difference is in the actual transfer process that is occurring and how the image physically gets to the substrate. This means there are also differences in the items that may be decorated with either process.

In order to clarify the difference between the sublimation paper and heat transfer paper, we must to understand the principle of the sublimation and heat transfer first.

What is sublimation?
Sublimation is a digital printing process that is similar in concept to the digital transfer application, but uniquely different in the chemical process.

Technically, printing adds color to the surface of the substrate (the item being printed). Sublimation on the other hand is a dye process, meaning that it actually penetrates and re-colors the substrate below the surface.

The chemical process is such that sublimation dye turns into a gas when heat (400 degrees) and pressure is applied. It then permeates and attaches to any polymer based fiber it comes in contact with. The result is high resolution, permanent coloration that won’t peel or crack.

What is heat transfer?
Heat transfer is the process of printing onto special transfer paper and using a heat press or home iron to transfer it onto a shirt. Heat transfer is a similar process as direct-to-garment or screen-printing, but does not carry the same high cost or messy set up. It is kind of like to stickers, meaning the image will lie on top of the shirt and has a different texture than the surrounding material.

What’s the advantage of sublimation?
-Quick setup
-Unlimited colors
-Low production costs
-No special skills required
-No color separations needed
-Ideal short run production solution
-Longer life span than heat transfer
-No difference in feeling between the image and the t-shirt.

After knowing above principle, now it is time to return to our theme: what is the difference between sublimation paper and heat transfer paper?
-Sublimation paper usually use with sublimation ink.
-Heat transfer paper usually use with dye ink, pigment ink, solvent ink or others.
-Sublimation paper can be transferred onto polyester, mouse pad, banner and hard surface, such as mug, ceramic and aluminum plate, etc.
-Heat transfer paper is usually transferred onto 100% cotton.
Requirement on the pressure:
-Heat transfer paper requires higher pressure than sublimation paper during the transfer process.

As you can see, dye sublimation is not limited to t-shirts, it opens an entirely new world of sublimation blanks – anything from coasters to jewelry, mugs, puzzles and more. 

The benefits of sublimation are obvious, but it requires the special ink-sublimation ink-which is often expensive in the local market. But please don’t worry, as one-stop supplier, MICROTEC also supply the sublimation ink and offer the moderate price. We supply heat press machine, sublimation paper, sublimation ink and various sublimation blanks, please feel free to contact us at if any demands.

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