Dye Sublimation Process
Dye Sublimation is a method for applying an image to specially coated ceramics, metals and polyester cloth. It uses three main ingredients: sublimation ink, heat and pressure. As shown in the sketch, the sublimation printing process has three main steps. First, the computer processed image is first printed on a special transfer media using proprietary inks. Next, the printed transfer media is placed on a specially prepared piece. Finally, the transfer media: substrate “sandwich” is subject to high pressure and high temperatures.
The sublimation ink is unique in its ability to convert from a solid to a gas without going through a liquid form. This conversion is initiated by the proper combination of heat, pressure and time. In addition, hard items such as ceramic, fiber board, metals, etc. requires a special polymer coating to accept the sublimation inks. However, when you sublimate an image on 100% polyester item such as a mouse pad or a garment, there is no need for a coating because the ink will infuse directly into the fabric. During the polyester printing process, the image actually becomes part of the of the item creating a very durable and long-lasting image.
Dye sublimation inks are transparent and rely on the surface of the printed substrate for brightness. They also do not use white inks which is why many item substrates to be printed such as mugs are generally white. Therefore, if is possible to get a variety of unique appearances just by changing the substrate.