Sublimation for Beginners

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What is sublimation?

Dye Sublimation Transfer is a process where you take an image - that has been created digitally (either by scanning, downloaded from a digital camera or created on your computer) and then print this image with a printer using special sublimation transfer inks onto transfer paper. Once the image is on the paper you place it under a heat press on top of your polyester or poly coated item (substrate) and heat until the inks turn to a gas and transfer the image onto the item.

Sublimation requires certain equipment to get the job done properly. 


Because of the type of ink that is used you are limited in the type of printer you can print with. Currently you can purchase sublimation inks for specific desktop printers by Ricoh® and Epson®. Condé also offers sublimation solutions for wide-format printers by Epson® and Mutoh®.


The ink used in the Sublimation Transfer process is a special mixture of water and heat reactive dyes. For professional results every time we recommend, sell, and support Sawgrass Technologies® Sublimation Inks.

Transfer Paper

For Sublimation there are different papers developed for different substrates. Mousepads, tote-bags, DyeTrans™ Apparel, Vapor® Apparel and fabrics are best transferred using our Jetcol® high release transfer paper. When imprinting items such as ceramics, plastics, jewelry, metal and porcelain (but not glass), we recommend our DyeTrans™ Multi Purpose Sublimation Paper. For glass cutting boards, clocks and coasters we recommend Beaver TexPrint™ or JetCol®.

Heat Press

A heat press is the machine that presses a transfer onto an imprintable substrate. Using high temperatures and specified pressures for a certain amount of time, the transfer is permanently embedded into the product. Heat presses are available with various sized platens, with clamshell or swing away heating elements, and with manual or automatic release features. Some heat presses are created just for specific uses, like the cap or mug presses. The maximum print size of your printer should match the platen size of your press.

Heat presses are recommended for professional and satisfying results simply because standard laminating devices and home hand irons can not get near the temperatures required for a reliable transfer. Sublimation transfers require anywhere from 375° to 425° F and demand serious force in pressing often from 40-80 psi. These temperatures and pressures are not possible with other heated devices.

Condé recommends George Knight® Heat Presses because they are simply the best. George Knight Heat Presses have been the backbone of literally thousands upon thousands of businesses over the past four decades, providing a reliable workhorse of a product that stands up to the demands of any imprinting business.


“CorelDRAW is one of the image-creating programs in a suite of graphic arts software used by professional artists, educators, students, businesses and the general public. The CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X7, which includes CorelDRAW, is sold as stand-alone software and as a cloud-based subscription. CorelDRAW is the core of the graphics suite and is primarily used for vector illustrations and page layouts.”  (

Programs like this allow you to design, edit, and re-format your images. We are digital decorators after all, so proficiency in this area can greatly affect the quality of your work. 

Lastly, there a few small products that make producing clean, precise products possible.

ProSpray: This is an adhesive spray that you use to adhere your printed design onto the substrate before pressing. This is typically used on cloth or soft products.

Heat tape: This is another way to safely adhere your image to the substrate before pressing. This is typically used on metal, wood, acrylic, and other hard substrates.

Butcher Paper: This is to separate your image and product from the top and bottom of the heat press. Without this, ink could bleed onto the press and ruin the next product you are pressing.

What can I sublimate?

Substrate: The base material onto which the ink is transferred; the product that the image is being pressed on

Sublimation is possible on “man-made materials such as nylon, certain plastics, and polyester fabrics contain polymers that when heated, enable the bonding of ink.” (

This means any product that is made with these materials or has a special sublimation coating can be sublimated! A quick look through our website can give you a good idea of all the product possiblities. 


Read our other blogs for tips on designs, marketing, trends, and new products!

If you are thinking of purchasing a sublimation system, contact us for any and all questions! 

For image-ready artwork, visit