Heat transfer paper vs Sublimation

In heat transfer printing technology, people often compare the different methods. One of them is heat transfer paper vs sublimation.

Heat transfer paper is basically the paper to print the design of the label. We have already discussed about heat transfer paper in detail in another article your guide to heat transfer paper

The process of sublimation
Sublimation process is similar to that of heat transfer paper. In this method too, printed design onto a sheet of specialty paper and heat pressed onto a garment. This speciality paper is the sublimation heat transfer paper. 

When we print sublimation ink, it turns from a solid to a gas. The ink becomes a part of the polyester fabric. After cooling down, the ink goes back to a solid state and becomes a permanent. Hence, sublimation adds no additional layer on top. This makes the transfer incredibly durable.

Sublimation process works best on polyester fabrics. Furthermore, we can use it on variety of hard surfaces that have a poly-coating like, coasters, jewellery, mugs, puzzles, etc.

Heat Transfer Paper vs. Sublimation
Let’s compare both methods.

The cost of starting up
Heat transfer paper is less expensive method for custom designing. All you need is an inkjet printer, a heat press, heat transfer paper and garments.
However, sublimation vs heat transfer paper has a higher startup cost. 

Design feel and durability
In sublimation, the ink becomes part of the fabric rather than a layer on top. Thus it gives both durability and feel. As opposed to the fabric like feel of sublimation, heat transfer paper adds a layer on top of the garment. This layer can be felt differently from that of the garment. Thus, it is less durable than sublimation.

Types of Garments You Can Decorate
In sublimation, the types of fabrics you can customise is limited. To begin with, sublimation only works with polyester fabrics. This is because, sublimation ink binds best on polyester material. The garment material also needs to be very light colour for the design to show brightly.

On the other hand, you can decorate on light and dark-colored cotton, polyester and cotton-poly blends with heat transfer paper.

Colors You Can Produce
With sublimation you can print full colors.  Whereas, Depending on the type of heat transfer paper – inkjet or laser –  the full-color may not be achievable.

Sublimation is self-weeding because only the ink is transferred to the fabric. You only have to print the design, press it and peel it.

As opposed to sublimation, heat transfer papers are not self-weeding. Unprinted areas will show a white background on transfer papers for darks. Hence, trimming is essential. 

Both heat transfer paper and sublimation are great methods to customise apparel. It depends on your needs and budget which method you choose.


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