What is Sublimation?

The process of “Sublimation Transfer Printing” allows a digital image to be permanently impregnated into a surface.

sublimation [sŭblimā’shun] – change of a solid substance directly to a vapor without first passing through the liquid state.

The basic dye sublimation process uses a heat sensitive sublimation dye, dissolved in a liquid, to print graphics and text onto a special transfer paper. This is called a dye sub transfer. The dye sub transfer and the substrate are then placed into a heat press. When the heating cycle is completed, the image on the paper has been transferred to the item and has actually become part of the surface.

Line art graphics, photographs or other digital images are permanently impregnated into an extremely durable substrate. Available substrates include: hardboard, MDF, aluminum, steel, fiberglass reinforced plastic, laminate, glass and ceramic tile. The finished surface is impervious to most materials and has been designed to meet the most rigid specifications. The result is a high resolution and extremely durable print.

Applications include:

  • POP displays
  • Games and toys
  • Signage
  • Message boards
  • Photographs
  • Fine art prints

The process lends itself to a customized market, allowing for small (one) to medium (thousands) size runs. This enables highly customized designs, while still keeping on budget.

How Does it Work?

Ink and substrate are placed next to each other. Then heat and pressure are applied.
Inks are heat activated at 400°F. They vaporize, leave the paper, and permanently dye the surface
Creates a “tattoo like” permanent molecular bond to synthetic surfaces
Sublimation ink is composed of small particles of dye suspended in liquid
Because it is a dye (and not a pigment) the color of the substrate affects the final color


  • Create the graphic image
  • Print the transfer sheet
  • Transfer the image to the substrate
  • Secondary Operations
  • CNC Router
  • Die cutting
  • Assembly

Create the graphic image

  • Digital Camera
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • CorelDRAW
  • Print Transfer Sheet

Large format printer, 64” wide

  • RIP Software
  • Sublimation Inks
  • Transfer paper

Transfer the Image

  • Heat Press
  • 400°F
  • 60 psi – 200 psi
  • 40 sec – 6 min

Substrate Requirements

  • Polyesters – Print surface must be synthetic: either polyester-based or
    “sublimation ready” (polyester-based coating)
  • Print surface must be white or light colored (dyes vs. pigments)
  • Print surface must handle 400°F and required pressure