When you are looking at dye sublimation printing, you may sometimes wonder about the process and any issues that may arise. In general, dye sublimation printing is perfect for fabrics, and many businesses use sublimation printing for fabric banners. If you are interested in dye sublimation printing for a fabric banner, you may want to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the process.

The Basics

In short, dye sublimation printing for fabric is simply sublimating dye into fabric. The standard process requires the ink to be turned from a solid into a gas which can be absorbed into the item being printed. With fabric, a transfer paper that is printed on with a digital printer is used as a go-between. While generically named, the transfer paper is a specially treated paper that is able to accept dyes. CMYO (cyan, magenta, yellow, overprint clear) dye cartridges are used instead of the average CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) ink cartridges. The CMYO cartridges allows the dye to become part of the fabric, rather than simply covering the fabric.

The transfer paper is then applied to a piece of polyester or other similar synthetic fabric. About 375 degrees Fahrenheit of heat is then applied, usually by feeding the fabric through heated rollers that also apply pressure to the fabric. The fabric’s cells expand and the dye is converted into a gaseous state and is absorbed. Once the fabric cools, the cells close up and the ink is trapped, making the printing permanent.

The Advantages

For fabrics, dye sublimation printing is usually seen as a better option than inkjet printing. The biggest advantage is that dye sublimation creates a finished product that is noticeably more durable than a product printed with an inkjet printer. As the dye essentially impregnates the fabric, it actually becomes a part of the fabric itself. The printing then cannot be damaged with wear, nor can it be flaked off or crack.

Dye sublimation printing on fabrics is usually more visually appealing. The process involves a continuous tone output in printing. As a result, it creates smoother and brighter color transitions and variations than inkjet printing. Fabrics that have been printed with dye sublimation usually have an overall more superior look and sleeker finish.

The Disadvantages

There are actually very few disadvantages to dye sublimation printing fabrics. The biggest issue that arises or causes problems is that the process is much slower than using inkjet printing. There are more steps in dye sublimation, and it requires additional labor, which can cause the price to be a bit higher than other processes.

Another disadvantage a production issue more common with older printers. Occasionally, the fabric would become creased or wrinkled as it is pulled through the rollers, effectively ruining both the fabric and the transfer print. Newer printer models have eliminated this issue by having the paper and fabric inline, with the printers continuing to print as the piece is drawn into the rollers.