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Sublimation Process

Dye Sublimation refers to solid dye particles that are changed into gas using heat and pressure, which then bond with any polymers present and change back into a solid.

The Basic Dye Sublimation Process uses special heat sensitive dyes to print graphics and text onto special transfer paper. The paper is then placed on a Blank Sublimation product and both are placed in a heat press.When the heating cycle is complete, the image on the paper has been transferred to the item and has actually reformed into or underneath the coated surface. Run your finger across the surface of a sublimated photo mug, crystal or any coated product and you will feel nothing. It is as smooth as anything as the image in now within the product.

The reason for this is that sublimation is always done on polyester, polymer – coated items. At high temperatures, the solid dye converts into a gas without ever becoming a liquid. The same high temperature opens the pores of the polymer and allows the gas to enter. When the temperature drops, the pores close and the gas reverts to a solid state. It has now become part of the polymer.

This is why Dye Sublimation can’t be done on natural materials such as 100% cotton or natural fibers and non coated materials which have no ” pores ” to open. Unless a polymer coated paper is used.

This process using polymer coated papers is commonly referred to as HEAT TRANSFERS or IRON ON TRANSFERS.

On this subject just quickly, the stronger and better the coating used the longer lasting the products and T-Shirts.

It is the ” COATING ” that gives the life to the product. Think about painting your house, use the best paints and in 10 years time you are still debating whether or not to repaint. Use the “cheap” nasty paints and you will paint every year for 10 years. Picture Perfect Products only import and use the best coated products. Read more about this in our BLANK Products Page.

One print technology used for dye sublimation transfer uses inkjet printers. There is some confusion because we do not use “ink” per se. The fluid stored in the inkjet cartridge is just the carrier of the dye. The carrier stays on the paper, only the dye migrates from paper to product. The dye has little or no color until heated, so what you see on the paper usually looks nothing like the final bright vivid transferred image.
Other forms of dye sublimation transfers are done with thermal printers, offset printers and laser printers.

Dark or Black materials can not be used with the sublimation process. Why? Because all dyes used in the process are transparent and would allow the dark colour of the garment or product to show through. Dye sublimation will only work on white.

Garments decorated with dye sublimation transfer can not be removed like images on shirts decorated with screen printing. Again, this is not ink that sits on top of the fabric; It is a dye that penetrates the fibre of the fabric. If spots appear after transferring the image to the garment, chances are they can not be removed if the garment is between 50% – 100% polyester. If you can, you are probably not transferring the images correctly…. or there is something else wrong. You can try bleach, but it shouldn’t work: if done correctly on polyester, dyes are permanent…. as they have become part of the fabric.

One of the most frequent questions regarding dye sublimation is:
QUESTION –  ” if dye sublimation only works with polyester, how does it work on ceramics, glass and metals?
ANSWER – All of these products need a coating to be applied. Which is a special layer of polymer which when heated allows the dues to go through as a gas.

The dye particles are designed to bond with polyester, and ignore everything else. It is like trying to mix oil and water with a mostly natural material. There are fabric enhancers, prep sheets, and sprays that can be added to non-polyester fabrics which add a layer of polyester to the shirt. This works better on 50/50 shirts, since the added polyester can bond with the polyester that is already part of the shirt.



  • MAC or PC with as much memory as you can afford and plenty of disk space.
  • GRAPHIC PROGRAMS – Either Adobe Photo Shop or Corel Draw. If you are new to computer designing then the best learning program on the market is ADOBE PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS. It is the baby brother of the full version or PHOTOSHOP. Although it has some limitations, it si a wonderful prgram to learn on.

There are a variety of printers from which to choose from, depending on your needs. The printer you choose must be compatible with the inks / toners / ribbons that are available – and not all printers will work with dye sublimation. Epson Printers are the most common for sublimation. Laser printers can be used, ( There are dye sublimation cartridges available ). They work best on GOLD or SILVER metals. ( Engravers aluminium )

This refers to a heat press, of which there are several to choose from – again, depending on your needs. The clamshell style press will work great on shirts, mousepads and other flat items and is a much faster piece of equipment.
A swing away type of press is better if you are going to be working on thicker items such as tiles, polymer blocks, glass, wood products and is great when working with rhinestone layouts.
A clamstyle press is usually priced lower than a swing away type press.
The swing away press is great from a safety aspect, as the heat platen moves away from you as you place items onto the base rubber mat.
There are also other specialty heat presses which accomodate such products as Mugs, Tiles, Hats, Caps and Ceramic Plates.  See our full range of Mug Presses, Cap Presses.

The brand of sublimation inks you use is very important. Sawgrass Europe pioneered the Desktop Sublimation Process over 1o years ago and have the legal rights to promote and sell Dye Sublimation Inks for Desktop printers. Be wary of the cheap imitation imported dye sublimation inks you might see. If they are priced real “cheap” chances are they will not work correctly and will damage and block your print head.

Sublimation paper is a high quality INKJET paper. There is no specifically designed paper for sublimation. Dye Sublimation, believe it or not can be done using regular bond paper, however the result would not be too good. Picture Perfect Products have tested and tried many many different types of papers and have available the very best paper on the market. It works well on all types of products and garments. With the correct time, pressure and heat it releases nearly 90% of the ink from the paper. This is one of the highest release rates of all papers.

Check to make sure that the products you purchase are right for the type of sublimation you are doing – especially ceramics. Unlike other companies, Picture Perfect Products do not flood their store with useless un- popular products. After over 12 years of research and testing, the products offered by Picture Perfect Products are the most popular profitable products. Our advice is this, start with the basics and then look at other products later when you are experienced and know YOUR market.

In deciding if Dye Sublimation ( Photo Gift Business ) is right for you, first do your research.

First research to find companies which supply information first and offer products as a service. If the company you called or e-mailed has not asked you several questions about YOU and how they can help you to be profitable – OR – if the questions are directed at how much you need to spend, please stay away from this business…..
Whether you are willing to invest the time, money and effort needed to make it work should be the only thing left for you to decide.

If you need help with that question, try talking to those who know you best…… NOT THE SALES PERSON.
Picture Perfect Products do not employ Sales Staff, we only have staff here willing to help and advise you.
Remember : Our only goal, is to help you succeed, so we can also. Simple stuff, wouldn’t you agree?