Heat Transfer vs sublimation

Heat Transfer vs Sublimation vs Screen Printing | Which one is Best for You?

When you’re looking for a way to print designs on fabric, you have three main choices: Heat Transfer vs Sublimation vs Screen Printing. Each process has its strengths and weaknesses, so it’s essential to understand the differences before taking decision. In this article, we’ll take a look at each of these three methods and outline what makes them unique.

What is Dye Sublimation?

heat transfer vs sublimation

Dye sublimation is a digital printing technique that prints photo-realistic designs on fabric using heat and pressure. It works because dye crystals are heated to their sublimating point, the point at which they turn from a solid into a gas. At that point, they vaporize and bond with the specially treated fabric. If you want to buy a sublimation printer, which is best for heat press, you can visit our article on the Best Sublimation Printer for Heat Transfer.

There are two major types of dye-sublimation printers: standard-capacity and high-capacity. Standard-capacity machines can print 6 to 8 full-color images per minute, while high-capacity models can print up to 18.

What is Screen Printing?

heat transfer vs sublimation

Screen printing is the best option if you want printed designs in short-run quantities (less than 24 pieces). It’s also a good choice if you need a wide variety in your designs because it’s straightforward to change screens between each design. For example, a screen is created when you put a stencil over the transfer paper that has your artwork printed on it.

Ink is then pushed through the stencil onto the product, where it sticks thanks to the capillary action of the screen-printer. This is an excellent option if you need to print on a variety of fabric types, as it’s capable of any type of printing on all kinds of fabrics, from cotton and polyester fabrics to hemp and bamboo.

Don’t worry if you’re in the market and aren’t sure which printer is best for you; we’ve got you covered. To make your decision, all you need to do is read this article on the best sublimation printer for beginners.

What is Heat Transfer?

heat transfer vs sublimation

Heat transfer uses heat and pressure to attach one material to another permanently. The way it works is that your image is printed onto special paper treated with wax or resin so that the ink only adheres where the “release agent” isn’t present (i.e., where you don’t want it transferred). After printing, this paper is carefully fed onto the garment through a pressurized roller system. Check our article on sublimation heat press settings. It will cover the basics of heat press settings.

Once in place on the garment, iron or heat will be applied to the top of the garment, which melts and fuses the ink on the paper with the fabric. Heat transfers are a good option if you’re looking to print simpler designs on various products and want to save yourself the trouble and expense of screen-printing individual designs onto each product.

Heat Transfer vs Sublimation vs Screen Printing: What are the Differences?

1. Cost

The dye-sublimation printing method is relatively inexpensive, as it requires less labor than the other processes. It also allows you to flat print on a wide variety of fabric types and colors, reducing your material waste and lowering your product’s cost.

The screen printing method can be more expensive than dye sublimation because you have to do it in batches to keep costs under control. This means you’ll have to make multiple screens, which takes up time and money. However, screen printing is still more affordable than heat transfers because it uses less equipment.

2. Time Consumption

  • Dye sublimation is a quick method to print 6-8 images per minute.
  • Screen printing is a little slower because you have to do it in batches to keep the process economical so that it won’t be as fast as dye sublimation.
  • The Heat press machine is also reasonably quick and can print on more than one product at a time, this cuts your production time down even further.

3. Material

  • Dye sublimation printers can also be used to print on non-fabric materials like wood, plastics, paper, and metal. They can also be used to create full-color images on adhesive vinyl for quick signage jobs.
  • Screen printing can also be used to create decals and labels for bottles and containers and on wood and leather. It can also be used to apply photos and other images on glass.
  • Heat transfers can only be used for clothing and textiles; they can’t be used on any other materials.

4. Life Span of Prints

  • Dye sublimation prints will last through 50 to 100 wash cycles, and it’s even safe to bleach the fabrics.
  • Screen-printed designs will wear out after a couple of years, depending on how often they’re laundered.
  • Heat transfers only last for about five washes.

Learn comparison between Sublimation and DTG.


Is one method better than another?

Dye-sublimation printing is an excellent choice for creating simple designs on various natural fabrics because it has fewer equipment limitations. You can print on a broader range of colors and fabric types, which makes your product more versatile and cost-effective.

Screen printing is a good option if you need to adapt your design quality for different products and numbers of orders, but it’s not as versatile as dye sublimation. For instance, you can’t print on dark fabrics with screen printing because the ink doesn’t penetrate the flat surface well.

Heat transfers use heat and pressure to attach designs to clothing or other textiles permanently. They get their name because any complex design or custom design is printed on a special paper that has been treated with wax, which makes the print-plates transferable. They’re best for small orders because they can only be used on clothing and textiles.

How much manpower do the printers require?

Dye sublimation printers require one operator, while screen printing requires two. Two operators are also required for heat transfer machines, but they can work on multiple products at once.

Is screen printing and sublimation the same thing?

You can print on T-shirts with a heat press machine and a dye-sublimation printer. Screen printing is a technique that involves pressing ink through a stencil on a fine woven screen with a tube and squeegees to color a T-shirt.


Dye sublimation is a printing process that uses heat to transfer dye from an ink ribbon onto the fabric. Screen printing and Heat Transfer Printing are similar but different in terms of their equipment requirements and the time it takes to complete them. The difference between printers can make a significant impact on your budget. Hope this article has cleared your confusion regarding three printing methods and allows you to make an informed decision.

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