Sublimation printing is a very sensitive process that requires precise and accurate environmental conditions if it is to be done properly. Compared to typical forms of printing that basically use a printer to spray ink on to the printing paper or other materials, sublimation printing relies on the permeation of ink into the fibers of the material. For proper absorption, it’s essential that all traces of moisture are removed from the ink and the material you’re trying to print your images on.
To understand the effects of humidity on dye sublimation, it’s important that people understand how sublimation works. Specifically, it’s important to understand how sublimation printing works.
The Sublimation Process
Sublimation is a process where solids turn into gas, rather than transitioning into a liquid state before turning into gases when exposed to greater amounts of heat. During sublimation printing, first you transfer sublimation dye onto a sublimation transfer paper using a digital printer. After this, the paper with the ink is placed on the final material onto which the images are to be printed and placed in a press to be heated at temperatures as high as 350—400 degrees.
With this intense heat exposure, both the sublimating paper transfers ink that turns into gas to permeate the fibers of the material. Once you take the material out of the press, the ink solidifies once again—but this time in the form of solid particles trapped in the material fibers.
For clear and proper printing, it’s essential that the material and the paper itself are completely devoid of moisture. In the presence of the slightest bit of water content or in humidity, there’s no way that the ink will transfer properly onto the final material.
Usually, if either the transfer material or the sublimation transfer paper is wet, you’ll face the following problems:
Wet transfer material won’t trap ink particles properly because of the presence of water particles within its fibers. Either the ink will mix or it won’t properly permeate the fibers to shift the color and patterns that you want printed on your material.
Just as damp material causes colors to shift, the moisture in the material might mix with the sublimation ink to have the colors bleed across the fabric. Since the material could never trap the sublimated solid ink particles, these particles bleed out with the water content already present in the final transfer material. With this, the inks spread across the entire fabric in splotches.
It’s unlikely that you’ll manage proper ink transfers onto your final material because of the moisture content. Most times some blocks of ink transfer completely, while others aren’t creating these uneven patches of designs on the material.
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