The digital sublimation paper printing requires specific ink chemistry for the precise types of textile fibers you’ll be decorating. There are four major ink chemistries for textile printing directly onto transfer paper then transfer to fabrics and include disperse dye, acid dye, reactive dye and textile. Acid dyes are reserved for nylon and silk, disperse dyes sublimation paper printing are intended for polyester, and reactive and textile are most commonly used for natural fibers like cotton.
The dye-sub paper printing process uses a specific ink type: disperse dyes. Graphics are printed onto transfer paper, which is then placed in a heat press along with the polyester fabric that you’re decorating.
If you’re looking to print directly onto materials like cotton, nylon or silks, roll-to-roll digital sublimation printers are required. It is important to understand that for printing on all non-polyester fabrics, there is no “paper-transfer process” available. The ink chemistries best suited for all of these fabric types require the ink be printed directly onto the fabric. The process is just as it sounds — it involves printing directly onto a roll of “prepared-for-print” fabric. Direct-to-fabric is sometimes also referred to as direct-to-textile or direct-to-garment printing.
The heat turns the dried, solid inks into a gas, penetrating the polyester to create a permanent graphic. Polymers in the polyester allow the dye sublimation inks to bond and become fully embedded into the material. The result is a completely washable, high-resolution image consisting of vibrant colors.
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