Heavy 125-gsm paper stands up to higher humidity. Fast drying. Has a 98% transfer rate. Clearly labeled backing. Transfers onto ceramic, tile, and fabric. Works with Epson, Ricoh, and Sawgrass printers.
The 125 gsm may be too stiff for printing in dry environments.
Fast drying with no cracking or fading. Offers a 98% transfer rate. Works with dye-sub printers from Epson, Ricoh, and Sawgrass using sublimation ink. Users note the color and accuracy of transfers.
Won't work on dark surfaces or fabrics.
Transfers on most polyester and cotton blend fabrics as well as hard substrates. Boasts fast drying with excellent line sharpness, quality consistency, and lie-flat performance. Designed for dye-sub printers.
Some complaints of occasional jams.
Offers fast drying without fading, cracking, or roughness. Boasts over 98% transfer rate. Compatible with popular dye sublimation printers from Epson, Ricoh, and Sawgrass.
Light pink backing is easy to overlook.
Produces bright prints and detailed transfers with fewer smears and cracking. Straightforward for commercial use. Works on both soft and hard substrates such as cloth and ceramic.
International A4 size may be a little confusing for US users.
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Sublimation printing is one of the most popular and fastest-growing crafts and hobbies you can do at home. With only a compatible inkjet printer, the appropriate inks or dyes, and a good stack of sublimation paper, anyone can print T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and more with a colorful custom design. In fact, if you wanted to, you could start a home business doing sublimation printing.
Sublimation paper is key to this type of printing. This special paper has been coated so it absorbs sublimation dyes and transfers them to the desired object, called a substrate or sublimation blank. A substrate can be fabric, ceramic, or even coated wood or metal.
While ordinary printer or copy paper can be used in a pinch to transfer designs, it won’t have the reliability, performance, or accuracy of sublimation paper. A good buying guide and some recommendations can help you find the right paper for your next project.
This type of paper comes in common sizes, such as letter, legal, and international A4, and they all work well for transferring designs onto clothing like T-shirts and sweatshirts, signs, or anything else that can lie flat in a press. To print onto substrates and blanks like mugs and plates, it’s easier and more economical to buy sublimation paper in special sizes intended for those projects, such as 4 x 9-inch mug sheets. Note that not all brands of sublimation paper come in these special sizes.
Sublimation printing can be done on certain models of home or office inkjet printers and on sublimation printers. Generally, converted home inkjet printers use water-based sublimation inks, while sublimation printers use gel-based inks. Some types of sublimation paper perform better with printers that use water-based inks, and some work better with gel-based inks.
Many different kinds of artwork and graphics can be printed, from simple text to detailed photographs. Your design’s complexity and colors can affect the performance of the paper. Deeply saturated images generally need sturdier paper, while simple text and graphics don’t have the same demands. Some sublimation papers do fine with designs that include plenty of white space but can bleed adjoining colors, especially if the colors are saturated. Choose the paper that’s right for the design you’re working on.
Black is the last color to sublimate and the first color to burn. Use black test designs to practice and perfect your sublimation and pressing technique.
Transfer rate: One number you’ll see frequently when purchasing sublimation paper is the transfer rate, which measures how much of the dye transfers from the paper to the substrate. Good-quality sublimation paper has a transfer rate of at least 95%.
Drying time: Sublimation paper has to be dry to transfer the inked design onto the substrate. Paper with a faster drying time allows you to complete projects more quickly and with better results. There are now papers advertised as “quick-drying.”
Sublimation papers come in various weights, expressed in grams per square meter (gsm). A heavier paper with a higher weight is thicker and does a better job of printing deep, saturated colors. Lighter paper is thinner and less expensive. Generally, 105 to 130 grams per square meter is a good range for this type of paper.
There are two types of coating used on sublimation paper: clay and resin.
Clay-coated paper is usually more affordable and does notably well when transferring inks onto hard substrates like ceramic and porcelain.
Resin-coated paper has a sticky quality that makes it good for transferring dyes onto textiles, but it can mottle and blur ink on hard surfaces.
Sublimation paper is single-sided, with a specific front and back. Only one side has the special coating that holds and releases the dyes and inks. The paper should make it easy for you to tell which side is which by the use of watermarks or colors that indicate the back. Another way to tell is the sticky side is the one that transfers the ink. Or you can look closely at the sheet to find the shinier surface. That is the coated side you should print on.
You need a printer for this craft. For beginners or occasional hobbyists, you can use a home or office inkjet with a piezoelectric or piezo print head to print on sublimation paper with the appropriate ink. If your job is sublimation printing, look into getting a sublimation printer with specific features and the performance necessary for larger quantities of this type of printing.
A heat press machine transfers the image from sublimation paper onto a substrate. It’s the final and most crucial step of this type of printing. There are two kinds of heat press machines: clamshell and swing-away. Heat presses can reach 400°F, which most sublimation paper can withstand.
Thermal or sublimation tape helps hold the printed sheet of paper on the substrate during heat pressing. Thermal tape is designed to withstand the 400°F temperature of the heat press.
To keep your printed sublimation paper from inadvertently staining surfaces, you can use uncoated butcher paper as a cover sheet. Slip the butcher paper between the layers of a T-shirt or sweatshirt to prevent the printed design from transferring onto the other side of the garment.
Inexpensive paper costs as little as $0.11 per sheet. You can also find packs of 20 or 40 sheets for less than $10. These cost more per sheet but less per pack. They’re perfect if you want heavier-weight paper but only plan to print occasionally.
A good selection of sublimation paper costs around $0.15 to $0.19 per sheet. These often come in packs of around 100 sheets at less than $20 per pack. They include well-known and dependable brands, offer weights from 105 to around 130 grams per square meter, and come in common sizes like letter and A4.
Expensive sublimation paper can cost over $0.25 per sheet and sometimes more than $30 per pack of 100 sheets. The larger and more unusual the size, the more the paper costs. Rolls of sublimation paper cost $30 and up but work out to a lower cost per sheet.
The best substrates for sublimation printing are polymer textiles like polyester and blanks treated with a poly coating. Natural fibers like cotton and wool are not suited to sublimation.
A. They’re both commonly used to transfer designs onto clothing and objects, but they work in different ways. Sublimation paper infuses dye into the substrate, while heat-transfer paper adds a layer of ink on top of the substrate. You can tell the difference with fabric: a sublimated image feels like it’s part of the fabric, while a heat-transferred image feels like something added onto the fabric.
A. Some home and office inkjet printers can be used for sublimation, but only if they have piezoelectric print heads and they’ve been equipped with sublimation ink. Piezoelectric print heads use electricity to form images with ink on paper. They’re commonly used by inkjet printers from Epson. Thermal inkjets that use heat to transfer ink, cannot be used with sublimation paper. Most HP and Canon inkjet printers use thermal technology and won’t work with sublimation.
A. You can only use a sheet of paper once. Even if there’s still some ink on a printed sheet, it most likely won’t be enough to transfer again and get good results.
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