What Is Sublimation Paper: An Introduction To Printing

If you have ever thought about the process in which you can print any design to personalize your t-shirt, read the complete article. Well, the process is known as sublimation, and a sublimation paper requires the same.

As a beginner in sewing and printing, you must be wondering what is sublimation paper? As per this question, a sublimation paper is a single printing sheet with the capacity to absorb water but hold on ink. The layer releases the ink on heating. Thus, this property of the paper helps in printing on various products.

What Is Sublimation Paper: The Scientific Explanation

what is sublimation paperThe science behind the sublimation paper’s working procedure occurs on placing it on a blank surface and allowing it to heat. On heating, the ink converts into gaseous form, and simultaneously the pores in the coating expands, allowing the gas to leave the paper and deposit on the blank area.

In other words, the image infuses in the source while applying heat. The print then transfers from the paper to the fabric.

The Sublimation Inks

Regular inks do not work in sublimation. It requires a unique quality sublimation ink for its magic to happen.

Working Environment

In the case of an environment with low humidity, shrinkage occurs in the sublimation paper. As the process continues under such working conditions, although the paper absorbs the ink, it crumbles up. It also leads to damage of the printing machine. However, 80gsm paper is useful in such conditions instead of 100 or 120gsm.

Similarly, in the case of an environment with high humidity, better results derive from the usage of 110-120gsm. The paper quickly gets damp. At this stage, it softens up, and this is an added advantage. However, if the paper is of low weight, it will harden up. The higher the weight of the sheet, the better it is for use when humidity is high.

Selection The Right Sublimation Paper

sublimation paperThe perfect sublimation paper must have the following features:


The paper must have a higher ability to hold on the ink. The heavier paper absorbs more moisture. It also does not curl or crumble up once softens.


A design may have heavy and light ink areas, so always choose the sublimation paper that can carry both of them quickly and does not shift on pressing. The best choice is selecting the paper with 110 gsm or higher capacity.


Different applications of the sublimation paper may require different weights of papers. For instance: in the case of printing calendars, it is preferable to use low weight paper.


The type of paper should also depend on the rate of printing. For productions with fast printing, lightweight papers are preferable. However, for a slow or individual page, one must use thicker or a heavy weighing paper.

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The Printing Procedure

Once you have got an idea about what is sublimation paper? And what working conditions yield better results. let us have a look at how to print a piece of fabric with the use of the same. The total procedure is as follows.

designing logoMaterials Required

  • Light color or white polyester fabric
  • Heat emitting press
  • Parchment paper
  • Sublimation paper
  • A pre-decided design
  • Heat transfer tape
  • Press

Let us move forward and understand the total procedure of printing in various phases.

Phase 1

In the initial stage, you need to decide the image and print it on the sublimation transfer paper. Do the following:

  • Step 1: Decide the design who wants to transfer on the fabric or outfit.
  • Step 2: Make sure you save the image on the flip side. In other words, set the picture in a mirror image format.
  • Step 3: Set up the printer and also check the ink quantity.
  • Step 4: Use the white part of the paper for printing the image
  • Step 5: Do not use any other ink or paper.

Phase 2

Once the printing is complete, the next step is to transfer the image from the sublimation paper to the garment’s fabric.

  • Step 1: First, preheat the press till 400ᵒ F and not more than that.
  • Step 2: Use the heat on the fabric for 3 to 5 seconds only to release moisture and wrinkles as well.
  • Step 3: Keep the image on the fabric but facing in downwards.
  • Step 4: With the use of tape, secure the paper in its position.
  • Step 5: Place a parchment paper above the sublimation paper.
  • Step 6: Press it for 30 seconds to 90 seconds with a temperature of 400ᵒ F And apply average pressure.
  • Step 7: After 3 to 90 seconds, release the fabric from the press and remove the paper as soon as possible.

Tips And Tricks

  • For best results, use a quality sublimation paper.
  • Ensure that the image faces downwards when placed on the fabric.
  • Do not apply high pressure on the press to avoid damaging the fabric.
  • The fabric must contain polyester or any other polymer in its content.
  • Double the press and ensure its temperature.
  • After completion, remove the press quickly.
  • To ensure that the print stays on the fabric for longer, wash it under minimum cold water.
  • Do not iron the fabric after every wash.
  • Stay away from heat to maintain the image.
  • Hand wash is preferable. No machine wash.
  • Turn the polyester garment inside out while washing.
  • In case of incorrect colors, check the settings of the calibration of the computer and printer.
  • Use the CMYK color system instead of RGB while printing.
  • For perfect colors, use fresh ink that is not more than one year old.
  • Use an inkjet printer for printing the image on the sublimation paper.
  • Clean up the nozzles to avoid clogging. It will prevent bands on the fabric.
  • To prevent ghosting or shifting of the paper on the fabric, secure it firmly.
  • Handle with care while removing the paper from the fabric.

What Is Sublimation Paper: Final Thoughts

The applications of sublimation paper are quite a few. They print on fabrics of garments, household materials like curtains and pillow covers, and flags and banners. As the usage of printing is not very difficult, the uses are widespread. Thus, next time if you think of giving an extra edge to your finished sewing product, use a sublimation paper and get the printing done with your favorite picture on it.

nancy jenkins from get sew

Nancy Jenkins

Nancy is a retired seamstress who loves everything about crafting and sewing. When she is not at her sewing machine, you'll find her coming up with new patterns and designs for her sewing projects. Nancy likes the outdoors, meeting with friends, and cooking.