Sublimation vs. Screen Printing
min read

Sublimation vs. Screen Printing

Delve into the nuanced comparison between sublimation & screen printing methods for custom apparel.

In the vast custom printing landscape, two distinct methodologies, sublimation printing, and screen printing, present themselves as versatile options for bringing designs to life on various surfaces.

Delving deeper into the intricacies of these processes is essential for businesses and individuals seeking to make informed decisions based on the unique attributes of each technique.

Come along with us as we explain the differences between the two printing methods; we’ve been in the printing biz for over a decade, and while we specialize in screen printing, we know a bit about sublimation printing, too!

Sublimation Printing Explained

Sublimation printing is a cutting-edge technique that harnesses the power of heat to transfer dye onto materials. This process is particularly well-suited for polyester, ceramics, and metals. 

The remarkable aspect of sublimation lies in transforming dye from a solid to a gaseous state, ensuring that the colors become an integral part of the material, resulting in vibrant, long-lasting prints.

The process first involves printing a design onto a special sheet of paper, then transferring that image onto another material- usually polyester or a poly-blend.

The ink is then heated until it disintegrates into the fabric.

Sublimation shirt printing costs more than other methods, such as DTG, heat press, or screen printing. But it lasts longer and is less likely to crack or peel over time than other methods.

Let’s get into the advantages of sublimation printing now, shall we?

Advantages of Sublimation Printing

Expansive Color Palette

Sublimation printing offers a rich and extensive color palette, allowing for the creation of designs with vivid and eye-catching hues.

Precision in Detail

The process excels at reproducing intricate and detailed designs, making it the preferred choice for projects that demand high-detail precision and photographic quality.

Durability Beyond Expectations

Sublimation prints boast exceptional resistance to wear and tear, making them ideal for applications where frequent washing and rough handling are anticipated.

All-Over Printing

One of the unique advantages of sublimation is the ability to achieve full-color, all-over printing, covering the entire fabric or material with the chosen design.

Now, there are some limitations when it comes to sublimation printing. Nothing is 100% perfect.

Limitations of Sublimation Printing

Material Compatibility Constraints

Sublimation printing is most effective on polyester-based materials, limiting its versatility compared to other printing methods.

Transparency of Inks on Dark Fabrics

Sublimation inks are transparent, posing challenges when applied to dark fabrics and potentially affecting the vibrancy of the print.

Now let’s learn about screen printing in comparison…

Screen Printing

Screen printing is a traditional technique that pushes ink through a mesh screen onto a substrate. This method is renowned for its versatility and is commonly used on various materials, including textiles, glass, wood, and metal.

Advantages of Screen Printing

Versatility Across Substrates

Screen printing stands out for its adaptability, making it suitable for a broad spectrum of materials and establishing its prominence in diverse industries.

Cost-Efficiency for Bulk Orders

As the volume of items increases, the cost per unit of screen printing tends to decrease, making it a cost-effective choice for large-scale production.

Vibrancy on Dark Materials

A notable advantage is the ability to achieve vibrant colors on dark fabrics, positioning screen printing as the preferred method for items with darker color schemes.

Enduring Prints

Screen prints are celebrated for longevity and durability, rendering them well-suited for regular wear-and-tear items.

Limitations of Screen Printing

Color Limitations and Complexity

Screen printing can face challenges reproducing a broad spectrum of colors, especially intricate gradients and shades. Achieving a full range of colors in a design may require multiple screens and passes, making the process more complex and potentially increasing production time and costs. This limitation can be particularly noticeable in projects that demand a high degree of color nuance or photorealistic images, where other printing methods like sublimation might offer more seamless color transitions.

Inefficiency for Smaller Orders

The preparatory steps involved in screen printing, such as screen setup and ink preparation, can be time-consuming and costly, making it less practical for smaller quantities.

Which Method Is Best For My Custom Apparel Order?

Choosing between sublimation printing and screen printing is a nuanced decision dependent on the unique requirements of each project. Sublimation delivers vibrant, detailed prints on polyester-based materials, while screen printing offers versatility across substrates and proves cost-effective for larger volumes.

Whether prioritizing all-over printing, intricate designs, or cost efficiency, a nuanced comprehension of the strengths and limitations of each method is indispensable for achieving the desired outcomes in the realm of custom printing.

Here at Real Thread, we have our expertise in water-based screen printing. Like most significant things, choosing your ink style is no wrong answer. Our SuperSoft and Bold inks are water-based, with subtle differences in the final print.

Our team is here to help you simplify your custom apparel search, shoot us a message to learn more.

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