Sublimation vs Screen Printing, Understanding The Differences

The two most popular techniques in the world of garment customization are sublimation and screen printing. However, if you want to try to decide and get some information about the difference, you need to learn more about sublimation vs screen printing.

This is because the two techniques have their processes and characteristics. In this article, you will find out the main differences between sublimation vs screen printing. However, before you know the difference, first know the definition of the two:

What is Sublimation?

Sublimation vs Screen Printing, Understanding The Differences

The sublimation method uses heat and pressure to chemically bond dye the color to the fibers in the synthetic fabric. The way it works is that the press releases extreme heat and will sublimate the dye on a special transfer paper.

Then, the dye turns into a gas and infiltrates into the shirt fabric. The heat generated from this method is useful for opening the polymer fibers in the polyester fabric. So, the gaseous dye inside the actual fabric fibers.

Sublimation vs Screen Printing

When you remove the shirt from the press, the ink cools and returns to a solid form. Then, the ink is already bonded to the fabric at the molecular level so that the sublimation print is durable on the shirt fabric.

What is Screen Printing?

Sublimation vs Screen Printing

If you want to know the difference between sublimation vs screen printing, you should know the definition of screen printing. The screen printing method is one of the oldest printing arts because it has been used for centuries.

Screen printing involves a squeegee and stencil to squeeze the ink through the screen, then layer the design on top of the fabric. So, the first process of how screen printing works is to take an image, text, or logo and separate it into its color components.

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You will need to prepare a stencil on the mesh for each color you want to use. Next, you can spread the thick plastisol ink over the stencil. You need to apply each color layer individually using its individual screen if your design has multiple colors. Then, the final process is to cure and set the ink by using a heat press machine.

Sublimation vs Screen Printing, What is The Difference?

Sublimation vs Screen Printing, What is The Difference 3

After knowing the definition of each technique, now you need to know the difference. Both sublimation and screen printing have differences in color blending, durability, and cost-efficiency. If you are curious what the differences are, here is the review:

1. Color Blending

Both in sublimation and screen printing, color blending and getting the right color shades are quite difficult to achieve. In screen printing, you need to mix the color shades you want by hand. However, professionals generally use computerized paint mixing machines.

Whereas in sublimation, color blending is easier because the printer does this for you. The printer then mixes the primary CMYK colors and prints them onto transfer paper.

However, to produce accurate colors in this method, you must use software that has an ICC profile. Thus, the printer can match up what you see on the computer screen and create accurate blended colors.

Sublimation vs Screen Printing, What is The Difference 5

2. Durability

If you are looking for which one has better durability between sublimation vs screen printing, the answer is sublimation. This is because the dye in sublimation binds deep beneath the surface of the fabric.

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While screen printing uses durable plastisol ink. However, if it goes through many washes, the raised-ink design will start to peel off the fabric or fade away.

3. Multi-Colored Prints

Compared to screen printing, sublimation works much better for multi-colored prints. This is because, in screen printing, you have to separate the colors and apply them one layer at a time.

Even on a professional screen printer, it still takes time and effort to set up. On the other hand, sublimation printers can easily mix primary colors to create complex multi-color images.

Sublimation vs Screen Printing, What is The Difference 4

4. Cost Efficiency

You’ll find sublimation more cost-effective if you’re looking to make custom t-shirts. Meanwhile, if you want to make orders on a large scale with one design, screen printing is much more cost-effective.

This is because you need a lot of time and effort in the screen printing process just to make one or two shirts. However, if you reuse your screen over and over again in the same sequence, you will find the effort and time worth it.

Whereas sublimation printing will require the same amount of work each time you make a shirt. So, you don’t always need a lot of work because you can make one or many shirts cost-effectively.

That is the interesting reason for the difference between sublimation vs screen printing. The difference is quite noticeable from one technique to another. By understanding these differences, you can decide what technique is best to accommodate your needs.

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