Screen Printing vs Sublimation | All You Need to Know
Screen Printing and Sublimation are two popular methods of printing graphics onto the fabric. Each process has its benefits and drawbacks, so which one is right for you? This blog looks at the pros and cons of the screen printing vs sublimation printing process.
What is Sublimation Printing?
Sublimation printing works by taking a special paper ink used for screen printing and heating it until it becomes a gas. The dye-sublimation printers then use this gas to transfer the image onto the fabric.
Key Features of a Sublimation Printer
A standard sublimation printer consists of three main components:
1) Sublimation Print Head: The print head uses heat to transfer the dye onto the fabric. This part of the printer is delicate and needs to be stored in a controlled environment when not in use. Manufacturers recommend using a service engineer or replacing it regularly.
2) Dye Sublimation Ribbon: A dye-sublimation ribbon contains three separate parts.
3) Sublimation Transfer Paper: A special transfer paper is used to transfer the image from the printer onto the fabric.
There are many advantages of the sublimation printing technique, including:
- The inks used for sublimation printing do not fade when exposed to light and remain vibrant and colorful.
- A dye-sublimation printer can print on various fabrics, including cotton, polyester garments, and bamboo.
Like most processes, sublimation printing does have some drawbacks. These include:
- The dye-sublimation print head can be easily damaged if an operator touches it. This means that the printer needs to be used with care by trained professionals only. Sublimation prints are not as durable as screen printed graphics, as sublimation prints wear off with time.
- The dye-sublimation process is more expensive than screen printing.
What is Screen Printing?
A Screen Printing method is a form of textile printing where ink is passed through a screen and applied to the fabric. It can be used to print on textiles using a wide range of inks, from water-based inks to solvent-based inks. Commonly used for large orders, this process is quick and effective.
Unfortunately, the size of orders is one of the drawbacks of screen printing, as it takes a long time to set up each color ink.
Key Features of a Screen Printing Machine
A typical screen printing machine consists of five main components:
1) Frame – The frame supports all of the components and needs to be durable. Make sure that the frame is made from strong alloy material.
2) Squeegee – The squeegee goes under the screen and pushes ink through it onto the fabric. It is important that this part of the machine is comfortable to use, as you will need to press down hard when operating it.
3) Ink Pans/Cups – Used to store the ink or varnish.
4) Screen – The screen holds the stencil in place and pushes the ink through onto the fabric when you operate it.
5) Submerging tank – After passing through the screen, the ink is collected by the submerging tank.
Screen-printing has many benefits, including:
- Screenprint machines can be small enough for home use with manual or semi-automatic operation.
- Screen printing is the most economical method of production for large orders, as very little setup time is required to complete each order.
There are some drawbacks to screen printing, including:
- It takes longer than sublimation or transferring paper printing to print onto fabric.
- Each color requires separate ink screens, which means that it takes longer to set up each color.
- The screen must be cleaned after every color is printed, making the process very time-consuming.
Screen Printing vs Sublimation: Detailed Comparison
Sublimation vs screen printing are the two most common methods of transferring images to T-shirts, other apparel items, cups, mugs, mouse mats, etc. They are both great techniques for creating simple designs, but they do differ in various ways.
1. Printing Process
- Sublimation Printing:
The shirt is placed on a heat press machine or between glass plates so that it becomes a flat surface for printing. The garment is then heated to a specifically designed temperature depending on the color and type of ink used. The color pigments in the Sublimation paper are liquefied by this process which allows the ink to transfer to the garment.
- Screen Printing:
In Screen printing, the design has been pre-printed onto a specialized mesh screen. The ink is then pushed through the mesh onto your product in a very similar fashion to how a traditional office printer works in reverse.
Screen printing has been around for centuries and is used mainly with textiles or fabrics. It can be described as a cloth-like paper that is covered in ink. When heated, it bonds to the fabric at a molecular level. The ink is then transferred to the product being decorated.
2. Paper Usage
- Sublimation Printing:
The paper used in sublimation printing works on a similar principle. However, it can also be used with non-fabric items such as mugs, mouse mats, and custom cushions. The images are printed onto special heat-sensitive paper via an inkjet printer at a very high density.
This heat-sensitive paper is called dye sublimation paper and contains crystals within its core. The inkjet prints an image at such a high resolution that when the product is heated, the crystals in the paper are broken down and release gases which cause them to change from solid to the gas phase. This creates extreme pressure, which forces the pigments in the inks to bond with the fabric. This happens at a molecular level, which is why it has held its color for such a long time.
- Screen Printing:
Screen printing is mainly used with textiles or fabrics and can be described as cloth-like paper that’s covered in ink. When heat is applied, it bonds to the fabric at an atomic level. The ink is then pushed through a mesh screen onto the product being decorated.
- Sublimation Printing:
Many people have the misconception that sublimation printing has limitations to print quality and color, which eventually leads to an inferior product when compared to screen printing. However, this just isn’t true. Sublimation paper allows you to produce professional-looking images with unlimited colors at unparalleled print quality. Even though the types of inks used within a sublimation press are significantly more expensive than those used for regular screen printing, you can produce up to 4 times more printed pieces with Sublimation printing per roll of paper.
Sublimation is a process that allows the most vibrant and detailed images to be transferred onto a variety of different materials. The biggest difference between screen printing and sublimation heat transfer is the inks used. Sublimation inks are specially formulated for this process to provide much higher quality prints when transferred onto the substrate.
- Screen Printing:
Many people believe that print perfection will always be an issue with screen printing because of its limitations on print quality and color. However, this just is not true for dye sublimation printing. The paper used within a sublimation press is significantly more expensive than those used for screen printers, but you can produce up to four times as many printed pieces per roll of paper due to the higher quality. Through sublimation, you are unpredictable in nature; however, these issues can be easily resolved if you know what you are doing.
Sublimation is a process that allows the most vibrant and detailed images to be transferred onto a variety of different materials. The biggest difference between screen printing and sublimation heat transfer is the inks used.
Also, learn about DTG vs Sublimation Printing.
Which one is better: screenprinting or sublimation?
Screenprinting and sublimation are two great methods for printing graphics on fabric. While they both have their own benefits and drawbacks, ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. Screenprinting is a more traditional method that uses a screen to print graphics onto the fabric.
On the other hand, sublimation is a more modern method that uses heat and pressure to transfer images or text onto fabric. This process is faster and more accurate than screenprinting, and it also produces less heat and distortion.
What’s the best way to get your designs printed onto shirts, and jackets?
The first option is to use a digital printing service. This service allows you to upload your designs and have them printed onto various items, including shirts, jackets, tote bags, and more. Another option is to use a traditional printing service. This can be useful if you want to print larger quantities of items or if you need more customization than what is available through a digital printing service. Finally, you can also use a shirt printing service like Shirtspring. This service allows you to design and print your own shirts online.
What is DTF printing?
DFT printing, or direct to fabric printing, is a type of printing that uses a special printing press that transfers ink directly to fabric. This eliminates the need for a separate printing process such as lithography or offsets printing. DTF printing is often used to print on garments such as clothes, jackets, and dresses.
Which printing process is right for you? It depends on the type of product you’re looking to create and the level of customization you need. The printing process works best for your business if you have proper knowledge about the printing tools. Hope this blog has discussed enough details to differentiate between screen printing vs sublimation.