Sublimation vs. Screen Printing: Which Method Is Best for Your Business?

Rohan Roy

Jun 4, 2024

Print Business

Sublimation vs Screen Printing
Sublimation vs Screen Printing
Sublimation vs Screen Printing
Sublimation vs Screen Printing
Sublimation vs Screen Printing

Two well-liked printing techniques that produces vibrant, high-quality pictures on T-shirts and other items are- sublimation and screen printing. Lets find out more about the two distinct procedures and their respective practical distinctions.

Sublimation printing causes the ink to change from a solid to a gaseous state without ever reaching a liquid state. Initially, a transfer paper with unique properties is printed with an ink design. Subsequently, the picture is placed on top of a polyester or polyester blend fabric and heated to cause the ink to melt and transfer to the finished cloth.

Compared to other printing techniques, sublimation printing technologies have a longer lifespan and a lower chance of fading or uneven colour over time. Additionally, even after washing and wearing, the ink design won't peel or fracture. Alternatively, the complete image can be transferred at once using sublimation printing techniques rather than layer by layer or colour by colour. As a result, there is less chance of misalignment and a quicker application.

Liquid inks are used in screen printing techniques, though. In order to generate a design, ink is transferred through a screen mesh onto the underlying fabric; the location of the ink transfer is determined by the mesh and the temporary application of impermeable barriers. 

Because of the way this method applies colour, or layers, it is common for complicated designs to be created using multiple screens, each applied one at a time.

The application of screen printing is very flexible. Manufacturers can utilize screen printing to add graphics to signage, decals, goods, and other items in addition to t-shirts and clothing. Options for substrates include metal, glass, wood, and textiles. Electronics and medical devices can also employ screen printing to produce printed circuit boards and useful components. Additionally economical, screen printing enables the production of large quantities.

In this article the difference between sublimation and screen printing will be discussed. 

Sublimation printing: what is it and how it works 

Sublimation printing is a popular print-on-demand method that transfers a design from sublimation paper to fabric or other material by applying pressure and heat. Enabling the customization of items used by businesses and individuals at home can be achieved simply and affordably by transforming the solid particles of the inks into a gaseous form.

A solid can sublimate—that is, change from a solid to a gas without first becoming a liquid. Using a high-temperature heat press, the artwork is transferred to the item in a gaseous form during the dye sublimation printing process. It's different from traditional printing methods in that the liquid step is skipped. As a result, the ink drying stage on the printed material is skipped. 

Sublimation printing

To start printing designs on fabrics using sublimation printing, a few things are needed. The first is a printer that can use sublimation ink cartridges and supports sublimation printing.

In order to print-on-demand the designs onto the fabric, users need to buy a heat press. If printing the artwork onto a ceramic mug is an option, one can get a mug clamp and press. Since not all materials work well for sublimation printing, it's important to think carefully about the material you wish to use. You can purchase raster image processing (RIP) software for color correction in addition to transfer media (which could be sublimation or copy paper).

For sublimation printing, the best substrates are ceramic and polyester. However, some designs—like motifs that must be distributed all over the garment—do not lend themselves well to sublimation printing. The potential for "ghosting," color mismatching, and white streaks are some of the causes of this.

Screen printing: what is it and how it works 

Fabrics made entirely of cotton or other natural materials are not suitable for this printing process. They don't have the pores needed to take ink. It might be more sensible to use digital or screen printing when working with such materials.

The process of creating a design by pushing ink through a mesh screen that has been stencilled is called screen printing. It is a typical tactic applied to many different industries. Although silk screen printing and serigraphy are other names for the process, they both relate to the same underlying technology.

There are various methods for screen printing, however they all follow the same basic procedure. A custom stencil could be made with a light-reactive emulsion. This is frequently the most popular kind of commercial printing since it allows for the creation of intricate stencils.

Screen Printing

The printer prints the finished product's design parameters first, onto a clear acetate film. The printer will then choose a mesh screen to fit the intricate design and the textured fabric. After that, a layer of light-sensitive emulsion is applied to the mesh screen, which solidifies in the presence of strong light.

Subsequently, the acetate sheet carrying the design is positioned on the screen covered in emulsion and exposed to intense light. The emulsion is made solid by the light, leaving the screen's design-covered areas liquid. For the inks to flow through, this creates a clean impression of the pattern on a stencil or screen.

The screen is then loaded onto the printing press. Before printing, the item or garment to be printed is laid out flat on the print board, just below the screen. The topmost section of the screen is covered in ink. By doing this, ink is forced across the stencil's exposed areas, applying the design to the material underneath.

Comparing screen printing and sublimation 

Here are a few points of differences made between both the types of printing that can be helpful to know about printing. 

  • Print quality and durability 

Sharp, vivid colors are produced in prints of exceptional quality by screen printing. It works well on designs with one or more color schemes, including text and logos. Photos and other designs with many colors are not supported. Screen printing also yields works with eye-catching designs and sophisticated textures.

Similar to this, the sublimation process yields excellent print quality with vibrant, distinct colors. On the other hand, it makes it possible to print intricate designs with print-on-demand —including photographs—in various colors.

  • Print precision 

Because the ink in screen printing stays on top of the material rather than sinking into it, the thicker the print, the more colors produced. While screen printing uses plastisol ink, which gives prints a long shelf life, after multiple washing the ink peels and cracks and the color fades. It is less durable as a result.

The print lasts longer when using the sublimation procedure this is especially useful for custom t-shirts. Because color is infused into the fabric fibers during the heat-based process, it is more durable and less likely to wash out. Furthermore, the sublimation print resists fading and peeling.

  • Print complexity on fibers

Cotton textiles work the best for screen printing. This is because the ink sticks to the fibers more effectively. Polyester blends, polymer-coated textiles, and light-colored polyesters are examples of fabrics that work well with sublimation printing. The better the material, the larger the amount of polyester. It is utilized with materials made of nylon, spandex, and neoprene. 

This method can also be used to print designs on cork-backed coasters and ceramic or enamel mugs. Cotton and silk are examples of materials that are not suitable for sublimation because the ink does not stick to them well. 

  • Color usage

You can reliably manufacture a certain design with screen printing. Because you may reuse the same color screen multiple times to create duplicates of the same design, it also facilitates the production of duplicates. Smudges may occasionally appear after multiple duplications.

While designs are constantly produced via sublimation, each garment requires the printing of a fresh transfer sheet. In these situations, it's critical to precisely position the transfer on every item of clothing to avoid ghosting from shifting the transfer sheet or leftover stains from lint particles adhering to the fabric. 

  • On-demand production

Since only one item may be ordered with sublimation, it is a preferable option for on-demand fulfilment. However, in on-demand production, screen printing is not a widely used method.

For instance, if you offer sublimation-printed bespoke t-shirts on Printful, your product is only produced when an order is placed. This is so that one-off designs can be produced easily and fast using digital printing. Screen printing makes on-demand fulfilment challenging because each design needs a unique stencil.

Therefore, ordering and printing goods in bulk will be more economical if you want to offer screen-printed designs in your store.

  • Bulk manufacturing 

For manufacturing large orders, screen printing works better. Stencils are made especially to be printed on each item of clothing by hand. It is not worth the work to set up this method in order to make a few t-shirts. It takes a lot of time and effort. For big orders, it is therefore more economical. Furthermore, in order to receive cheaper rates, screen printing products are sometimes obtained in bulk, which results in leftover stock that might only sell if all of the acquired products are used up. As a result, it is a less common and economical method of on-demand fulfilment.

Sublimation printing is a common printing method among businesses since it can be utilised for both small and large orders. Making each t-shirt using this method takes the same amount of time and effort. Thus, ordering custom t-shirts or producing a small batch of t-shirts is more economical. Furthermore, you can prevent having extra stock by only buying one sublimation product. This lowers the cost of using it as an on-demand fulfilment method.

  • Eco-friendliness 

If you're looking for an environmentally responsible fulfilment technique, sublimation is a good option. goods that are sublimated and made only when needed, in order to prevent overproduction. In addition, sublimation uses less water than other dye transfer methods and the ink is non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

On the other hand, if you screen print merchandise for your company, you probably need to place large orders in order to receive the greatest pricing per item. If your products don't sell, this could lead to wasteful merchandise and leftover stock. Furthermore, the most widely used plastisol inks in screen printing are poisonous and non-biodegradable. More environmentally friendly water-based inks are supported by screen printing; however, not all vendors utilize these inks, so you'll need to do your homework.

Which printing method is for you?

Let's examine which approach best fits your business model after weighing the benefits and drawbacks of both screen printing and sublimation procedures.

Should you use sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing is a great choice if you dropship your merchandise. For example, sublimation printing is a better fit for your company if you sell things that are made to order. It's among the most often used printing methods that print-on-demand businesses provide.

You can print as many products as you need, one or one hundred, because sublimation allows you to offer varying amounts of things.

When thinking about printing techniques, consider how you want your designs to appear on finished goods. Detailed multicolored artwork, pictures, and patterns can be printed from seam to seam using sublimation. The ideal option for totally covering a garment with your designs is sublimation printing.

Finally, but just as importantly, consider the clothing you wish to sell. For polyester cloth and similar fabric blends, sublimation works best.
Read This also: How to Choose the Right Sublimation Printer

Should you use screen printing?

Why use Screen Printing?

In general, print-on-demand businesses do not use screen printing as a technology. Keep in mind that using this method to fulfil a single or small number of products is not economical. When you place large orders, you get the greatest pricing per item.

When designing a simple design with only one or two colors, screen printing is a smart option. If you appreciate the way ink feels on clothing, you'll enjoy this printing method. To make your creations stand out more, you may also add extra flair with glitter or specialized inks. Lastly, keep in mind that screen printing works best on cotton and similar blended fabrics.

Conclusion 

A solid can sublimate—that is, change from a solid to a gas without first becoming a liquid. Using a high-temperature heat press, the artwork is transferred to the item in a gaseous form during the dye sublimation printing process. It's different from traditional printing methods in that the liquid step is skipped. As a result, the ink drying stage on the printed material is skipped.

A productive method for producing colorful canvases, banners, and artwork is screen printing. However, it can also be used to print textiles and fabrics, which makes it perfect for creating a variety of distinctive clothing items.

Screen printing was the preferred printing process for both small and large businesses for a number of decades. However, because of its benefits and the ability to print on a variety of surfaces with detail, durability, and versatility, sublimation printing has gained popularity recently. It's also simpler to convert digital photos and files into a format suitable for sublimation printing. However, because of its low entry barriers and price, screen printing is still a popular instrument, especially in underdeveloped nations.

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