How About the Differences Between Dye Sublimation Transfer and Heat Transfer?

As we can see that with all the different printing methods out there, it can be difficult to find out which one best suits your application. we often hear people asking the question: what is the difference between dye sublimation transfer and heat transfer? To be honest: lately an attractive alternative has been created which combines the best of both worlds: dye sublimation printing.

What is sublimation?

Sublimation is the process of transferring dye to a fabric using heat. The images and graphics are printed on special paper placed on the garment and heat is applied, allowing the ink to become part of the fabric. This will leave you with a more breathable, soft-hand feel to the fabric. The best part is that the numbers, letters and graphics do not peel, wear off, or come out in the wash! Sublimation is a great process that allows for vibrant, full color, all-over prints.


What is heat transfer paper?

Heat transfer paper is a specialty paper that transfers printed designs to shirts and other garments when heat is applied. The process involves printing a design onto a sheet of heat transfer paper using an inkjet or laser printer. The most common way to do sublimation printing is paper sublimation printing. You print the design on paper, place the paper onto the fabric and feed it through a calendar. In the calendar, the paper and the fabric are heated and pressed in between two large rolls. The high pressure and the temperature cause the ink to go instantly from solid state into sublimate which will be absorbed by the fabric.

Differences Between Sublimation and Heat Transfer Paper

Aside from the science of the transfer process, there are many differences between dye sublimation printing and heat transfer paper. These differences range from the type of substrates you can transfer on, the feel, durability, weeding and startup costs.


One of the biggest differences between the two methods is the color garments you can transfer to. With heat transfer printing, you are not limited to the color substrate you want to transfer an image to. You can transfer on any color, dark or light.

Alternately, with sublimation, you can only print on light-colored garments. This is due to the science behind the process. Since sublimation dyes the fabric in the transfer process, you cannot sublimate on dark colors. While there are work-arounds for this, such as using a heat transfer vinyl that you can sublimate on to after pressing it to the shirt, this is still a major limitation in sublimation.


With Sublimation, you are limited to polyester fabrics or polyester coated hard surfaces. Sublimation does not work with cotton or other fabrics. You cannot just go to the dollar store and grab a plain mug or other item and sublimate on it, it must have a polymer coating that allows for the sublimation process.

Heat transfer paper can be used on any fabric: polyester, cotton, blends, nylon and more. You can also decorate hard surface items without a polymer coating. There are really no limitations on what you can transfer to with heat transfer paper.


Since sublimation happens when the polyester fabric is dyed, you cannot feel the image on the shirt. The garment will have a very light hand. It is also more durable than heat transfer paper and will not crack like a heat transfer paper design would. Since heat transfer paper leaves an image on top of the garment, you will be able to feel the design on the shirt. Heat transfer paper can vary in the feel or “hand” of the design depending on a multitude of factors including the type or brand of heat transfer paper used and whether a RIP software has been utilized.

Heat transfer paper garments can be washed about 25 to 30 times before you will be able to start noticing fading or cracking in the design. The life of the shirt and design can be extended by using a RIP software to rasterize your design which allows for greater washability and durability.


Depending on the type of heat transfer paper that you use, you may need to “weed” or cut and trim your design before transferring it on to your substrate. There are no inkjet self-weeding transfer papers on the market. However, there are some self-weeding options for laser heat transfer paper. For heat transfer, there are two-step self-weeding transfer papers on the market.

No cutting or weeding is involved with sublimation. Since only the areas of the paper that have sublimation ink on them are sublimated onto the garment or substrate, there’s no weeding or cutting involved.


Getting started with heat transfer paper is the lesser expensive option between sublimation transfer paper and heat transfer paper. To get started, all you need is an inkjet or laser printer, a heat press, heat transfer paper, and the substrates you would like to decorate. You can use a standard printer. It will be more costly if you decide to enter the custom apparel market. However, if you choose to just start off with a regular inkjet or laser printer, it will be the lowest cost option.

Sublimation carries a higher start-up cost than heat transfer paper. While not as expensive as it used to be, sublimation carries a higher price tag than heat transfer paper with a inkjet or laser printer. For sublimation you will need a sublimation printer, a heat press, sublimation paper, and your substrates or garments to decorate, but now sublimation printing are use widely.

We supplier many kinds Sublimation Material like sublimation transfer paper, dye sublimation ink also the sublimation printer, any need, pls feel free to let me know, we will waiting for you!

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