Friday, April 5, 2024

How A Sublimation Printing Machine Works: The Ultimate Guide


How A Sublimation Printing Machine Works The Ultimate Guide

Printing has been seen as a significant way of driving a point for the past years. Whatever materials or printing method is used, the main aim is to relay a message. Your primary aim for printing could be commercial or hobby, but all in all, the purpose remains. Some may opt for fashion or branding purposes. A sublimation printing machine uses a printing method that is quite common in the heat transfer world. You can use it to print various items, garments, e.t.c.Just like other printing methods, you use it for hobby or commercial purposes. It uses heat for printing hence producing quality designs. Sublimation printing produces the most durable designs.

How A Sublimation Printing Machine Uses Heat

Heat is a core denominator in sublimation printing; it binds ink and fabric together. It is quite a high printing method. Unlike other printing methods, it requires a high-quality type of paper. The printing design out of sublimation is permanent. The effects are that fabric is not vulnerable to fading, hence the value of your money. 

When you heat the fabric, its pores open. The sublimation ink cools down and resumes to its solid-state following the application of pressure. Sublimation printing turns out to be permanent; it can not peel, crack, or be washed away. The ink sublimates to dry ice, which is kick-started by heat and powered by Pressure.

The sublimation printing machine is rapidly dominating the printing industry. It is ideal for small and mass orders. This printing method is fine with the detail printing method. It is also referred to as all-over print; you can choose a design extending from one joint to the other. Initially, the method was used on garments, but it is now used on all forms of materials, e.g., ceramic, wood, metal e.t.c.

Basic Requirements For Sublimation Printing

Like any other process, there are primary requirements for sublimation printing that make it a success. There are essential tools that you have for the sublimation process. They include;

Sublimation Printing Machine

The sublimation printing machine is a vital tool for the sublimation process. This is a mandatory requirement whether print for commercial or hobby purposes. In the past years, sublimation ink printers were pretty expensive. However, the demand for printing has significantly lowered their price. Most of them are pocket-friendly, e.g., the Vivohome 5 in 1 combo.

It is advisable to always think about what kind of printer you need for sublimation.

Sublimation Paper

A sublimation paper is a printing paper designed for the sublimation printing machine process. There is a significant need for a sublimation ink printer. It is also referred to as transfer paper. The transfer paper possesses a special coating responsible for holding dye sublimation ink. You may opt for regular paper, but it is not ideal due to its light. It is like being dump as a result of humidity;

A regular paper won't produce the desired turnout. Sublimation paper should measure at least 110-120 gsm.  At the same time, consider which Epson printer is best for sublimation compatible with your paper. 

How to Choose Sublimation Paper

  • Ink Capacity and Limits: It is a primary factor to consider when choosing the appropriate sublimation paper for quality print turn out. If it is wet, use a heavier type of paper to avoid warping and curling.
  • Ink pattern: Ink pattern is either light or heavy ink put or both. Low-weight papers in a situation should be avoided; both light and heavy inputs are mixed. The reason for this is to eliminate the wetness of the sublimation paper. Poor paper selection will lead to curling after heat pressing.
  • Roll to roll or Roll to Sheet: Low gsm papers are ideal for heat materials like a calendar. However, reconsider the events you are using heavy ink or a mixture of heavy and light ink patterns. The results are highly determined by the choice of paper you make. The most common problems experienced for inappropriate paper selection are warping and curling.

Print Speed

Print Speed is pretty vital when press heating. Mass production firms require heat press machines that are considerably fast to stick to their deadline. A sublimation printing paper also significantly determines the speed of your printing. If your machine has a low printing speed, it gives you light paper, while a fast printing machine produces heavy paper. Sawgrass sublimation printing machine is a super-fast printer.

Heat Press Machine

A heat press machine is a primary requirement for heat pressing your designs. Your work is incomplete if you don't have a heat press sublimation machine unless you go the old way; use of an iron. Sublimation printing heat press machines vary. They come in different sizes, settings, quality e.t.c.It all depends on your preferences and your budget.

How To Choose A Suitable Sublimation Printing Machine

You need to impact your sublimation heat press printing machines significantly; There are multiple brands and models; therefore, you can never lack something that suits your needs. How do you choose the suitable Sublimation press machine? 

Plate Size 

The size of the platen is the most significant factor to consider when purchasing a sublimation heat press machine. It dictates the maximum size of your image you can apply for your design. Even heat distribution across the platen is quite crucial when printing since it produces outstanding printouts. Your images should be smaller than the platen size since the sublimation heat press gradually decreases as it moves to the outer edges.

The recommended buffer zone size is all around the one-inch if you are hunting for high-quality designs. A one-inch buffer zone is only applicable to high-quality heat press machines. In general, the heat press should be one inch bigger around the four sides than the platen size.

Manual or Pneumatic

The recommendable Pressure for a sublimation heat press machine is forty psi. Multiple heat presses do not have pressure indicators; they can work best on medium pressure settings. Some of them are manual; therefore, they are mechanically closed. Sublimation heat presses come with a pressure adjustment knob; responsible for pressure control across the platen.

The screw system activated by the pressure knob adjustment helps control the space between the upper and the lower platen. This space determines the pressure applied on both surfaces during press heating. You should increase or decrease the space following the fabric's thickness or thinness.

Pneumatically controlled systems rely on air and pressure when you need to close the heat press platen. The plate automatically opens when heat pressing is done. Pneumatic controlled sublimation printing heat press machines have the advantage of setting pressure that suits your needs. This helps you save some pressure for future use.

Another significant benefit of the Pneumatic sublimation machine is reduced motion accidents since it uses manually exerted Pressure. The manual sublimation works on a trial and error basis when setting the pressure. In sublimation production, you need to make a wise decision to achieve the desired turnouts.

Invest in a long-term sublimation printing heat press machine, even if it’s costly, rather than an affordable short-term presser, the best sublimation printer.


When heat pressing, temperature plays a vital role in excellent final results. Different sublimation heat presses' temperature varies. The constant temperature range for all pressers is four hundred degrees Fahrenheit. In many cases, a slight temperature difference is likely to produce low-quality designs. 

For some sublimation heat press machines, the upper-platen is responsible for temperature consistency, thus preventing cold spots when pressing. The heat pressing tends to cause uneven color on your images. Distance-spaced low-quality heat elements in some sublimation machines are considerably affordable.


Pressure is the following critical requirement in heating pressing. It also varies depending on the sublimation machine and fabric being used. The upper platen has to give out pressure on the substrate. For a platten to be efficient and effective, it should be flat and high-quality construction materials.

Pressure inconsistency contributes to poor sublimation quality, resulting in color imbalances,low-quality details, and ghosting. Low-quality heat presses are compatible with substandard materials to save cost. Not every application has a dire need of pressure application, but sublimation can not do without it.

Platen Configuration

Platen configuration is another crucial physical consideration when buying a sublimation heat press machine. It has a significant impact on the quality of your sublimation designs. Sublimation substrates have diverse sizes and operate on flat head presses. There are three primary platen configurations; clamshell,swing-away, and drawer.

Clamshells are the most popular type of platen configuration. There is a hinge that connects both the upper and the lower platens. The name comes from its angular opening and closing manner. Clamshell head-presses are ideal for thin substrates, whereas they cause uneven pressure distribution on thicker items, e.g., ceramic tiles, flip-flops e.t.c.

Uneven pressure in heat pressing results in unbalanced image colors.

The other type of platen configuration is the swing-away configuration. The heat press platen is attached on the upper and down to facilitate the straight up and down movements. Straight-up and down motions allow even pressure exertion across the substrate's surfaces. What's more, you can easily access lower platen for substrates' alignment and placement; it is enabled when the heat press opens and the upper platens move to one side.

Similar to other platens, the drawer platens have both upper and lower arms. It is possible to lower and lift the upper arm since it's mounted, but you can't swing it. Operation of a drawer platen is simplified by pulling the lower platen forward hence easy access. 

Drawer platen is ideal for all substrates regardless of their thinness and thickness.

Special Heating Products And Your Sublimation Printing Machine

In heating pressing, there are items that require special pressing due to their formation. These products can be curvy or all round in shape, e.g., mugs, caps e.t.c.These unique items call for combination presses, of course in conjunction with special attachments. The combination can offer flat and curvy presses. 

Another excellent option for curved products is the specialty  3-D heat presses. These presses allow you to print multiple images on one substrate—the excellent concentration on designing both the top and sides of a unique item, e.g., cell phone covers. Specialty 3- D heat press uses a vacuum system, unlike other pressers that use a platen.

The item is specially wrapped with temperature and latched in the appropriate position until the pressing is done. In the convection oven, the pressing takes approximately twelve to fifteen minutes. The wraps come in diverse sizes, excellent handling of different products with unique shapes, e.g., mugs, bowls e.t.c.

Computer and RIP Software

Computer and raster image processors are the software that dictates what you get after printing; you use them to set up the printout product. It is necessary for almost every sublimation printer. The software must be compatible with your sublimation printer.

When you think  of RIP software; think of “what is a sublimation printer” too

Below are the significant reasons why you should have a Raster Image Processor;

Nesting and Layout

RIP software is ideal for printing multiple files at the same time. It enables you to hit your mass production deadline. A raster image processor helps you to eliminate too much waste in heat pressing. Nesting enables the combination of multiple diverse files into a single print job.

With the help of Raster image software, you can drag files and arrange them appropriately on the roll you desire to print on. It processes images faster of diverse files, inclusive of RIP images and high-resolution vectors.

Color Management

The raster image processor is ideal for color profile management; for diverse media,  ink mechanization, and application needs. It has ink control capabilities thanks to its advanced features; it will cut the cost of ink and media.

Multiple Printers

You can print on multiple sublimation printers from a single computer simultaneously. The process is perfectly done without slowing any device down. It is possible to print files from multiple printers if you want to achieve mass production. What's more, you can calibrate your printer to maintain color consistency and accuracy on your printers.

This application is pretty crucial if you are printing multiple similar works; you don't need to dedicate too much work to one printer. Before we dive into a step-by-step guide for using a sublimation printing machine, if you believe there are crucial features that are missing here and need to be examined before making a decision, explore the services offered by the Spotifystorm team and consider sharing your knowledge with anyone who might need it!

Guide To Using A Sublimation Printing Machine 

Now that you have all the requirements of sublimation printing; let's have a look at the step-by-step guide for using a sublimation printing machine

Selecting Your Materials

After purchasing a heat presser of your preference, it is now time to choose the appropriate heat pressing material. There are tons of options for fabrics for heat pressing. The materials will highly depend on your experience and the need for the heat pressing.

The most recommended fabrics for heat printing materials include

  • Cotton
  • Polyester
  • Leather
  • Nylon 
  • Spandex

How To Choose Heat Printing Materials For Your Sublimation Printing

Fabric Contents: Your fabric content entirely depends on your garment materials. It is advisable to use a fabric that is compatible with your garment. For instance, if your garment is cotton made, the heat printing fabric should be compatible with cotton.

Check if your garment is the stretchy type and pick the appropriate printing fabric. Those garments are heat-sensitive; consider choosing a fabric that works well with them to avoid burning and scorching your garment.

Remember to choose a heat presser with the appropriate temperature ranges like the powerpress heat machine.

Complexity and Colors Incorporated in Your Design: Some fabrics like vinyl work well with simple designs, whereas transfer papers are ideal for simple and complex designs. If you opt for other fabrics it is okay to add all the colors of your preferences that suit your design. Heat transfer papers are the best choice for you if you are working on multi-colored prints.

On the other hand, if you have a single colored print, the heat transfer vinyl is the appropriate fabric. Full colors that comprise gradients and shading will also work best with heat transfer vinyl.

Choose a Design

The fabric is now here with you, clean and dry ready for use. You are now to choose a design that suits your preferences and needs. However, designing is not a thing for everyone; coming up with the right design may feel like a pain in the neck. But not to worry, here is a quick overview of to come up when an outstanding design:

Figure out Why you Require the Garment

Some garments like t-shirts are multipurpose. They can be for commercial purposes or hobbyists. Branding is a crucial thing in all types of garments. Ensure that the branding goes hand in hand with the purpose of your garment before you fire up your sublimation printing machine.

Whether fashion or personalized, the design should effectively communicate the message vividly. Let the design catch an eye at a glance. List down key themes, styles, and personalized traits for a start.

Being real when designing your print is pretty vital. Focus on that design that is more likely to sell out your work tremendously. Your question on how to use a heat press for t-shirts is answered quarterly now.

Define your Budget and Quantity

You have your desired design in the picture and are all excited to execute it. But how much money do you have with you? What volume of production can you get depending on the money you have? The number of colors you can use is determined by the amount of money you have and production quantity.

More colors, of course, will cost you extra money. Save colors if you are working on a tight budget. Choose a printing method as per your budget; print methods' costs differ. If you are working on mass productions, consider using a cheaper printing method and vice versa for less production.

Knowing your Printing Options

After budget and quantity definition, you can now choose the printing methods. Of course, this is determined by factors like time-frames, cost, and materials. Screen printing is a high-standard printing method for your garments.

This printer produces original prints and concentrates on every single color. Any user who does bulk printing should consider investing in a screen printer. Another printing method you can opt for is vinyl printing. It is a more durable and reliable method of printing. Vinyl printing produces the most outstanding designs you have ever thought of.

Direct to garments, also known as print on demand, is a convenient method of printing. Its designs are significantly customized, with robust options of colors. Each printing method will determine the design quality and its durability.

Brainstorm your Design Concept

You just decided on the printing method; the next thing is to brainstorm your design concept. Now you can have a rough idea of what your garment will look like. Think of where to get similar garments if you are a mass producer.

At this point, creativity counts a lot; it helps you get exemplary results.  You can catch your audience through great styles and imagery. Consider the typography also; since it determines the look of your design. Settle for classy fonts like serifs as it tremendously contributes to beautiful and striking designs. The colors of your design speak volumes of your brand.

Fabric and colors go hand in hand. They should match if you are hunting for an attractive look for your Printing designs. Still, under brainstorming, consider choosing the appropriate heat press machine for t-shirts,

Find a Designer

Not everyone is a designer. You want a professional design, whether the design is for casual or commercial purposes. However, designers are all over intending to make design concepts into reality. Don't just pick a designer; hire an expert who understands the true definition of design styles and ideas.

Ask around about the designer's in question expertise just to be sure of your choice. After concluding on your designer's selection, it's time to illustrate to them what you want. Give them the benefit of fine details to avoid misunderstanding. Don't forget to give details on colors, styles, and printing fabrics.

The finer the details, the perfect printing design you get.

Select Your transfer Paper

After landing on the perfect design of your dreams, the next step is selecting the transfer papers. There are two types of transfer papers; inkjet and laser printers. Your printer significantly dictates the transfer papers you require.

Transfer papers can either be dark or light like there are light and dark materials. Transfer papers and materials complement each; therefore, it's advisable to match the two for an appealing look. When selecting your transfer paper, it is wise to consider the type of fabric you are using.

The breadth of your fabric has a significant impact on your choice of transfer paper. Some fabrics like cotton, polyester, and poly/cotton work best on multiple diverse papers. The rest of the blends outside the fabrics, as mentioned above, may not work to your convenience.

Garment colors may seem so obvious when heat pressing, but they affect the selection of your transfer papers. Dark colors, e.g., Red, green, black, navy, are special dark transfer paper such as jet-opaque 11. On the other hand, light garment colors e.g.white, ash-gray, off-white, etc., call for light transfer papers.

It is crucial to mirror your image before printing; when using light transfer paper. Also, when using light transfer papers, trimming the edges around your images offers the best yields after pressing. On the contrary, don't mirror your image when using dark transfer paper is forbidden.

What's more, always cover dark transfer paper with silicone paper before pressing. With your image facing upwards, carefully remove the paper backing after pressing; only applicable when using a dark transfer paper. The reminders mentioned above are to make sure you don't ruin your printing after and before pressing.

Print Your Design

We are still on how to use a heat presser. Print your design since you already have it ready. Firstly, trim the transfer paper using a trimming machine. Consider weeding the interior part of the cavities before printing the design. Use weeding borders to make the wedding more straightforward. Since you are using transfer paper, remember to mirror your image before printing the design.

 It will perfectly show the way on your fabric. The design size should rhyme with your graphic size so that you can easily crop or trim the edges around the design after printing it out.

Heat the Machine

Without heat, you cannot press your garments whatsoever. Pressure and heat make a super team when you want to heat press t-shirts or other garments. Ensure your heat presser is at the correct temperature ranges for best results.

Different heat presses have diverse temperature ranges; thus, you can never run out of options. Extreme high temperatures are more likely to burn your fabric and bleed the design. Relatively low heats, on the other hand, will equal harm as high temperatures.

The low temperatures will make the print temporarily after several washes hence costing you more. Moderate temperatures are ideal for all types of fabrics. Fortunately, all the heat presses come with instructions; so that you can appropriately set the temperatures.

Study the manual instructions so that you don't damage your fabric when heat pressing. Here is a guide on how to set your temperature for your heat press machine;

  • If your fabric is multipurpose, then the appropriate temperature setting should be three-hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Don't forget that a multipurpose fabric is leading for design purposes; it offers the best results.
  • If you are using a heat-sensitive material like polyester, set your temperatures at approximately two-hundred and seventy degrees Fahrenheit for at least ten seconds.
  • Stretchy materials do not require extreme temperatures as they can burn or scorch. The temperature settings work best at three-hundred and thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit with the timing of twelve to fourteen seconds. Only peel it when cold.
  • If you want to achieve an appealing look when working with full colors, consider setting the heat presser temperature at three-hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit. The heat pressing takes at least ten to twelve minutes.

For outstanding design, make sure to follow the temperature settings strictly.

Set the Pressure and Time

Pressure and time are equally vital as heat in heat pressing. Appropriate temperature with inadequate pressure and time in heat pressing; you won't achieve a lot for your design. Pressure settings differ for different heat press machines.

For vinyl materials, it is recommended to use medium pressure of 320° for fifteen seconds. Users who opt for transfer papers should set a medium of 350° for forty-five seconds. Avoid high pressures when using iron materials to avoid being exhausted.

Place the Fabric Inside

You are now at the final stages of heat pressing. Ensure the temperature and pressure settings are compatible with your choice of fabric. Keep the fabric tightened adequately. Let the design face upwards. A compressed design looks more appealing than a stretched one. Ensure the fabric is not wrinkled to avoid a crooked design.

Below is a simple guide on how to load your fabric on a heat presser;

  • Firstly, appropriately align your garment tag at the heat presser's back
  • Move your garment directly to a laser section
  • It is recommended that you print a test page on ordinary paper before starting the actual heat pressing. This experiment gives you a picture of what to get after pressing your garment.
  • Hold the appropriate transfer paper on the heat presser. Don't forget to match your transfer paper with a heat presser. 

Place the design

The garment is now inside the heat press machine. Emphasize the garment's alignment to avoid getting unfinished and cluttered presses. The alignment will make your design look orderly and enhance visual connections. The design becomes more conspicuous and can be read at a glance.

Be keen to avoid burns as you are dealing with a hot heat presser. Some users find it safe to align the garment first and transfer the workpiece to the heat press machines. What’s more, others prefer only to turn the machine after complete alignment just to be safe enough.

In heating, users come up with personal preferences based on experience. When using the transfer paper, let face down on your garments. It is advisable for users who prefer heat transfer papers (htv) to place them facing down. Go ahead and coat it with a Teflon sheet for heat transfer vinyl not to stick on the plate.

While working on heat transfer vinyl, on surfaces that are not flat, find a pillow to avoid crooked results. Some materials won't lie flat wholly because of their designs and things like buttons.

Start Presses

This is the real deal now! You are waiting for it eagerly to get your designs since you have everything in place. Make sure you have set the right temperature, pressure, and time. They are determining factors on how your design comes out. Lock the handle by pulling it down continuously until it closes.

Some heat presses are pretty advanced in that they can automatically lock and open themselves when done. Immediately the machine is locking; the timer starts its responsibility of counting until your work is complete. If you are lucky enough to have a heat presser with an LCD, you can keep monitoring your time and temperature since the readings are visible.

You can open the heat presser when your time is off. Multiple modern heat presses have beepers, thus alerting you when your work is complete. Leave the garment for a while to cool; immediate peeling off your garments may ruin the presses. A little wait won't hurt.

Remove the garment

The garment is now cool. You can safely remove it from the machine. Please note that it is ideally wrong to let the garment cool completely. Carefully remove the transfer paper. And there you are! It was successfully done.

It is important to note that you may require special attachments because of their shapes for other materials like hats and mugs.

Things To Avoid And Helpful Tips

  • Avoid washing the garments immediately after presses; leave for twenty-four hours at least.
  • Too high temperatures when pressing; you might burn your garment
  • Choose your fabric wisely
  • It is recommended that you place your design and heat presser appropriately.
  • Always start your presses with a test print.

Final Verdict

If you are a beginner, you may have felt like heating pressing is a big challenge for you. You thought the temperature was just temperature. You normalized the value of pressure and time when pressing. When choosing a fabric, you now have a handful of knowledge on how to go about it, and you can choose a sublimation printing machine with confidence, and use it too.

Designing is another vital part; you can do it yourself or hire a professional. Put it in mind that design is the brand itself; work on it carefully. With the above step-by-step guide on sublimation printing machine use, you can successfully heat press your t-shirts and make them outstanding.

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