Contingent upon this piece, several pieces of equipment but rather items have always been compelled even before attempting to create any type of artwork. Because once going to print on materials including ceramic and fabrics, one would use tools like sublimation and screen printing, which are more like a couple of techniques. They stand out from one another quite distinctly.
Sublimation and screen printing, respectively. It’s important to be conscious of their character traits, as well as their benefits and drawbacks, before using them in the printing process. Compared to screen printing, sublimation is relatively new, although it has gained more popularity recently.
Screen printing uses ink that is applied to the fabric and dyes are absorbed into the fibers, in contrast to sublimation printing. This means that sublimation printing will guarantee that your print will last the entire life of the garment and won’t fade or crack. The fabric will become brittle after numerous pieces of washing because screen printing causes the ink to transfer onto the fabric during the process. Additionally, even after the print is finished, the moisture management material used in sublimation printing continues to be breathable. Screen printing seals the fabric, making it unsuitable for sportswear because more sweat will collect underneath the design as a result.
Screen Printing vs Sublimation: The Differences You Need to Know!
What is Screen Printing?
Adhesive vinyl and a scrubbing brush are employed during screen printing to compel ink through a screen and apply a design to the fabric. One of the first kinds of printed art ever created is done using this technique, also known as silk screening. It produces thick, raised patterns on a t-surface. shirt’s
Despite its long history, both professional printers and amateur artists continue to favors this technique. Screen printing produces high-quality designs because it uses inks that are so thick that they leave a raised, slightly 3D design on top of the t-shirt. This is one of the best things about screen printing. Additionally, using this technique, you can screen print on virtually any type or shade of fabric.
However and as with everything else, screen printing has some restrictions. The stenciled screens must be used to apply one layer of color at a time, so this technique is most effective for designs requiring fewer colors. For example, it is a poor option if you want to print a meme or a picture on a t-shirt!
Additionally, it can only be used on smooth, flat surfaces like fabric. It would be difficult to screen print on a baseball cap or mug.
In What Manner Does Screen Printing Operate?
- To proceed, you should first disassociate an image, a logo, or some lettering itself into the various color components. To make things simple, most professionals use graphic design software for this process! You could also just use lettering or a design in one color.
- You need to set up a stencil on a mesh screen for each color you intend to use. The blank area around your image is the stencil. Using a Cricut and some vinyl, you can create this stencil, or you can use more sophisticated techniques like developing an emulsion that is light-sensitive, just like you would when developing old photographs.
- After that, spread a thick layer of plastisol ink over the stencil.
- To transmit this same ink from either the mesh screen’s stenciled areas towards the shirt, have used a highly specialized squeegee.
- Because unless your design uses multiple colors, you must apply each color layer through a separate screen one at a time.
- In the process of curing as well as establishing the ink, have used a heat press.
Screen printing setup takes a lot of time and expertise, but once you have your screens set up perfectly, you can use them repeatedly. Because you can keep using your screens to create more shirts with the same design, screen printing is a good option for large batches of shirts.
In the video below, which uses sublimation socks as an example, we demonstrate how this technique is personalized:
What is Sublimation?
Synthetic fabric fibers are chemically bonded with dye through sublimation, which uses heat and pressure. Because it produces incredibly durable and vibrant designs, this more recent printing technique is quickly gaining popularity among experts in the field and proprietors of small businesses. It also makes use of the entire CYMK printer model’s digital color spectrum, making it simple to print full-color photos or images using sublimation.
A solid can be chemically transformed into a gas by the process of sublimation. If you recall the science you studied in high school, you will recall that most things change from being solid to liquid to gas. Sublimation proceeds directly from liquid to gas.
When printing on t-shirts, the dye is sublimated onto a special transfer paper by the intense heat of a heat press. The dye transforms into a gas and permeates the shirt’s fabric deeply. The polyester fabric’s polymer fibers are simultaneously opened up by the heat, allowing the gaseous dye to enter the fabric’s actual fibers.
The ink cools and returns to its solid state once the shirt is taken out of the press, but by this time it has already molecular bonded to the fabric! As a result, a sublimation print will figuratively last as long as the shirt’s fabric.
Supplies Required for Screen Printing
- Transfer Tape
- Heat Press
- Screen Printing with Vinyl Starter Kit
- Cricut Maker
- Painter’s Tape
The basic steps to creating a sublimation print are as follows:
- Find a comprehensive, high-quality digital design first. In a design programme, you can use photos or high-resolution images that you create yourself or download. Most of the time, you have to mirror the image to avoid having it appear backward on your shirt.
- Sublimation inks should then be set up in a sublimation printer. The only difference between sublimation printers and regular laser printers is that they use unique sublimation ink. They continue to use the standard black, cyan, magenta, and yellow ink cartridges.
- Print your design onto a piece of sublimation transfer paper by placing it in the printer. The transfer can be used right away or delayed.
- It may take a little practice to apply the transfer to the shirt. Remove any lint, dust, or wrinkles from the surface of the shirt (or other objects) to prepare it. Use heat-safe tape to make sure the transfer paper won’t move after that.
- Finally, use your heat press for the allotted time to apply pressure and heat.
Materials for Sublimation Printing
Few polyester-coated materials necessitate the use of different tactics when sublimating prints on them
Polymer (Teflon and Nylon)
Ceramic (Vases, Mugs, Tiles)
Fabric (Custom Tents, Tablecloths, T-Shirts, Dresses)
Materials Required For Sublimation Printing
Epson ET-3760 Printer
Hiipoo Sublimation Ink
Heat Resistant Tape
Teflon Paper (Butcher Paper)
In the video below, which uses sublimation socks as an example, we demonstrate how this technique is personalized:
The sublimation procedure doesn’t require much time. If you only need one or two custom prints, it works great. Many different types of items, including hard surfaces like mugs or banners with a polymer coating, can also be sublimated.
The drawback of sublimation is that it only functions on synthetic materials or items that have been coated with a polymer. Cotton does not respond to it.
On dark-coloured fabric, sublimation is also difficult to use. On polyester t-shirts that are white or light in color, it works best.
Which In itself is Preferable: Screen Printing or Sublimation?
It really is difficult to identify a clear winner between any of these two approaches to customizing clothing. This same finest one would pretty much entirely be determined by your requirements as well as how you plan to continue to utilize the equipment. Sublimation is a good choice when you have a little really additional money to spend and want to make shirts with photo-realistic designs or only want to do small runs. However, screen printing might be a better option if you are leaning more toward large runs or are trying to start doing garment customization on a tight budget.
All these sublimation and screen printing have had many advantages and disadvantages. Where the method is most appropriate for your situation is entirely up to you. Understand that many people, particularly business owners, employ both strategies. Individuals could therefore reap the benefits of each’s advantages without even being involved concerning about there corresponding major drawbacks.
Crucial Differences are Found Between Screen Printing And Sublimation
The way ink is applied to a shirt differs most between screen printing and sublimation. Sublimation uses a chemical process to bond dye with the fibers of the fabric, whereas screen printing uses ink pushed through a stencil onto the fabric.
Because of the various printing technology utilized in each procedure, all these methods can produce designs of something like exceptional quality, but they each have distinct advantages and disadvantages.
In comparison to screen printing, sublimation prints are more durable. Even though screenprints can withstand numerous piles of washing, eventually the raised-ink design will start to peel away from the fabric or crack. Since the dye bonds deeply beneath the fabric’s surface, sublimation designs will never peel, crack, or fade.
Many printers believed that screen printing offered one of the most long-lasting methods of t-shirt design before the development of sublimation. Although sublimation is more resilient, screen printing is still very long-lasting. Plastisol ink, a unique type of dye used in screenprints, has excellent durability.
Screen print and sublimation designs both possess an exceptional quality, although in distinct manners. Colours in sublimation prints seem to be vivid and bright and won’t deteriorate over time. Additionally, this printing technique is renowned for its ease in producing complex, multicoloured images.
Screenprints produce raised designs with fewer colours that offer a striking, tactile contrast of colours and textures. Compared to a typical DTG print, the designs are more elegant and have a longer lifespan.
Throughout most case scenarios, sublimation printing means allowing for more elaborate designs than screenprinting. This is necessary so that when using the sublimation method, a digital image can be printed directly onto a transfer paper.
You must first create your stencil for a screen print. Of course, you can make intricate stencils, but doing so typically requires creating a challenging light emulsion that functions very similarly to a photo negative. Making a detailed screen print stencil takes a lot of chemicals, a lot of expertise, and a lot of perseverance.
This makes creating intricate sublimation prints much simpler. In this process, you complete all the work prior to printing by using graphic design software to create a high-quality digital image. The design is then printed directly onto transfer paper by the printer, doing all the work!
You can repeatedly reproduce the same design using both screenprinting and sublimation. However, due to smudged ink or dust particles lodged in the design, both techniques may have minute discrepancies.
Because you can repeatedly create the same design using your individual colour screens for screen printing, it has a pretty good consistency. From one design to the next, you might notice a tiny difference over time, like a smudge here or there. However, screen printing generally enables consistency in design.
Additionally, sublimation printing promotes consistency because all you need to do to create an additional shirt is reprint your digital image onto transfer paper. The risk of variation is present because each shirt must have the transfer carefully set up to prevent ghosting from moving transfer paper or dust smudges from bits of lint stuck to the fabric.
Sublimation is more affordable if you want to produce t-shirts that people have ordered specifically for them. However, screen printing is much more economical if you need to order many copies of a single design.
You would lose a lot of money setting up a screen print for just one or two shirts because it takes a lot of time and effort. However, you will find the time and effort worthwhile if you can reuse your screen ten, twenty, or one hundred times for the same order.
Every time you create a shirt using sublimation printing, the same amount of work is required. This means that you can make one shirt as well as ten at a reasonable cost even though it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of work.
Prints in a Variety of Colors
For multicolored prints, sublimation performs significantly better than screen printing. This is due to the fact that in a screen-print, the colors must be separated and applied one layer at a time.
Professional screen printers frequently employ large machines with numerous arms, each of which holds a screen, to add a variety of colors to an image. But putting this together takes a lot of time and effort!
In order to easily produce multicolored, complex images, sublimation printers combine primary colors. However, white fabric is the best choice for these designs. On a darker material, the designs will not stand out as well.
Why does white fabric absorb sublimation the best? due to two factors. First off, white ink cannot be produced by a printer using the CYMK model. It makes sense that you can’t mix colors to create white. This means that in order for the white fabric to show through in a photograph or image, there must be negative space there.
Furthermore, printing blue ink onto blue fabric makes the blue ink difficult to see. To see a sublimation print, you need to contrast the dark ink and the light fabric. This is a significant benefit of screen printing, which is suitable for shirts of any colour!
Blending of Colors
Although the process differs between sublimation and screen printing, it can be challenging to blend colors and achieve the perfect shade of a color.
The majority of the time, you have to manually mix the desired color shades for screen printing. Professionals may employ computerized paint blending equipment (similar to what you might find at your neighborhood Home Depot!). Nevertheless, this means that depending on the project, your mixed shades may change.
To create cool ombre effects, some artists will sometimes blend colors directly on the screen, but this also requires a lot of skill!
A sublimation print makes color blending appear simple at first glance. After all, the printer takes care of this for you when printing onto the transfer paper by combining the primary CYMK colors! But there is also a catch in this.
You must use software that offers an ICC profile in order to get accurate colors when using sublimation printing. The way ink is mixed in a printer is not the same as how we perceive color or how a computer screen displays color! The ICC profile enables the printer to consistently produce accurate, blended colors by matching what you see on the computer screen.
Time and Costs for Setup
In general, screen printing takes longer to set up, but sublimation prints might be more expensive. However, this greatly varies based on the type of design you want to print.
Even a straightforward one-color design requires a lengthy setup process for screen printing. Create the stencil, then paint the screen with ink. You must create a unique stencil and screen for each color in designs that use more than one color.
In most cases, the cost of each printing technique depends on the equipment required.
You require a unique printer and sublimation inks for sublimation. Additionally, you’ll need polymer-coated blanks like polyester shirts, transfer paper, and graphic design software.
You can either invest in pricey equipment for screen printing or you can create your own mesh screens using inexpensive craft supplies. In either case, you will require pricey plastisol inks, but if you prefer, you can create screen prints on a budget.
However, a heat press is needed for both sublimation and screen printing.
Although sublimation can also be used to duplicate designs, screen printing makes it simpler to print t-shirts in large quantities.
Using the same screens after going through the trouble of setting them up, you can quickly screen print numerous copies. You just need to keep applying ink and running it through the same stencil.
You can print numerous copies of the same design onto transfer paper for sublimation printing. The next step is to use your heat press to apply the transfer to each shirt. However, sublimation makes it much simpler to print in small quantities. This method allows you to make just one or two duplicates because setup doesn’t take a lot of time.
The best fabrics for screen printing are 100% cotton and 100% polyester, respectively. However, if you want to combine less expensive polyester with softer cotton, you can print onto blended fabrics using both techniques.
Having said that, you can screen print on a variety of fabrics, including polyester, with a few specific techniques. Contrarily, sublimation can only be used on materials with a high percentage of polyester. Synthetic polymers are necessary for chemical dye bonding during the sublimating process.
With screen printing, you can use a variety of special effects, but not with sublimation.
A wide variety of specialty inks, including clear ink, glitter ink, 3D ink, and others, are available for use with screen printers. Using unique ink application techniques directly onto the mesh screens, you can produce artwork that appears to have been hand-painted. The only restriction on special effects with screen printing is how much time and money you want to invest in the procedure.
More restrictions apply to sublimation printing. If you want, you can print shirts with a small amount of cotton content and achieve a vintage, faded look. However, since you must rely on the color combinations that your printer can produce, you cannot use glitter ink or anything similar.
For vivid, raised designs on any color of shirt, screen printing works best. Although this technique can be used with multiple colors, it works best with designs that only need a few. Screen printing makes it simple to batch print, which is great for large orders.
White polyester shirts are ideal for sublimation, which also makes it simple to create intricate, multicolored designs. This method allows you to cost-effectively produce just one or two custom-ordered shirts, but it makes it difficult to use many special effects.
Screen Printing Advantages
The cost advantages of screen printing are its main advantages. It is the most economical way to start a business and the most economical way to mass produce shirts. A home screen printing setup is inexpensive to build, making it simple to get started on almost any budget.
Additionally, screen printing can be used on almost any fabric. While most people have opinions and preferences regarding the best shirts for screen printing, almost any material can be used with the technique.
Additionally, a variety of screen printing inks are available that let you produce special effects. If you have the right inks, you can screen print foil and three-dimensional designs on wholesale t-shirts.
Limitations of Screen Printing
Screen printing might not be cost- or time-effective if you are only producing a single shirt or a small run. The process of making screens can take a while, and the cost of the materials mounts quickly.
You can only use a limited number of colors and make relatively straightforward designs using this technique. Additionally, since each color must be added separately, production time is extended.
Benefits of Sublimation Printing:
Due to the specialized equipment needed, sublimation printing is expensive to begin. Nevertheless, depending on the type of shirts you are making, the process might be economical. Sublimation might be the best strategy if you frequently change designs and work in small runs.
When it comes to producing intricate, multi-color designs, sublimation is unbeatable. With the help of this technology, it is possible to use any color and any number of colors without having to spend more time or money on the design. Additionally, photo-realistic images can be added to clothing using sublimation printing.
Customizing hard surfaces that have received polymer treatment is another benefit of sublimation. As long as you have the appropriate heat press, you can use the procedure to decorate coffee mugs, tumblers, signs, and more.
Limitations of Sublimation
Despite being more widely available, sublimation printers are not inexpensive. Each is not a heat press. This strategy is not for everyone because it requires a sizable initial investment.
Another crucial point to remember is that sublimation printing only functions on white or extremely light-colored polyester when it comes to clothing. Dark colors and fabrics with less than two-thirds of a polyester content do not work with it.
FAQs About Screen Printing or sublimation
Q1. Which is superior, sublimation or screen printing?
It is impossible to choose between the two printing methods of screen printing and sublimation when it comes to fabric customization. Screen printing would be the best choice if you wanted to move forward with higher volumes of fabric customization on a tight budget. However, it would be better for you to choose sublimation printing if you have extra cash and want realistic patterns.
Q2. Has always been screen printing superior to sublimation printing?
All these screen printing and sublimation printing produce excellent, original designs on fabric. Whether you’re having some trouble making the choice, read ahead for a brief discussion of screen printing vs. sublimation.
Due to all the dye becoming such a component of the fabric, sublimation printing makes it simple to create multi-color design prints that seem to be incredibly reliable. Furthermore, it produces vibrant designs on flat fabric and it does not disappear, crack, or peel over time. It only functions on polyester, though, and looks best on white or light-colored surfaces.
On the contrary side, screen printing or silk screening produce a lifted, distinctive textured design. Even after several washes, the design is still sturdy, but eventually it might crack. When you have large orders, screen printing is cost-effective because of its high setup costs. Additionally, using fewer colors would make it work better.
Sublimation and screen printing have entirely different processes. Each has advantages and disadvantages. It would be the more expensive printing costs associated with sublimation, and it would be the messiness and longer turnaround time associated with screen printing.
It is obvious that the printed image would not peel off or fade away for a long time whether one uses screen printing or sublimation. Both of them benefit from this over alternative image transfer techniques. They have both been modernized and are still being modernized.
Edward Brown is a seasoned expert when it comes to testing tech. From playing a prototype PlayStation One to meeting a man called Steve about a new kind of phone in 2012, he’s always hunting the next big thing at the bleeding edge of the electronics industry. After editing the tech section of Wired UK magazine, he is currently specializing in IT.