Which One is Right for You?


Sublimation printing, Heat Transfer, and Screen Printing are three popular types of printing for logos, messages, pictures, all kinds of figures, and more. Here, we discuss the differences and compare these processes.


Sublimation Printing

This process uses solid ink instead of liquid ink, primarily used in inkjet and laser printing. The solid ink is first heated, then imprinted to the fabric or desired product. At this point, the image will transfer to the material. As a result, the picture becomes a part of the material and cannot be felt by touching the fabric of the sublimatable part.


Heat Transfer Paper

The heat transfer paper is a specialty paper that transfers printed patterns to shirts and other garments when applied heat. This process involves printing a design onto a sheet of heat transfer paper using an inkjet or laser printer. Then, you place the printed sheet design on your T-shirt and press it using a heat press (in some instances, a home iron will work, but heat presses provide the best results). Finally, you peel off the paper after you've pressed it, and your image adheres nicely onto the fabric.


Screen Printing

Screen printing, also called silkscreen, refers to using a stencil to print the wanted pattern and ink to paint such a design. Here, ink is poured over the stencil, and a cotton-like device spreads the ink evenly to penetrate the material. Screen printing needs a lot of time to be done right but can be repeated several times quickly. The results are often vigorous and bright, delivering unique printing quality. Screen printing does not require advanced equipment, yet it is necessary to have the proper tools. Still, it offers excellent results.


Sublimation VS Heat Transfer (HTV) VS Screen PrintingFactors to Consider


  • Material Compatibility

Sublimation only works with white and light-colored polyester fabrics and does not work with cotton or other fabrics. Screen printing works on various materials such as polyester, cotton, latex, and similar fabrics. Heat transfer paper can be used on polyester, cotton, blends, nylon, and hard surface items.


  • Garment Colors

You are not limited to the color substrate you want to transfer an image to with heat transfer. Instead, you can transfer on any color, dark or light.


With sublimation, you cannot only print on dark-colored garments. Although you can use a heat transfer vinyl that you can sublimate onto after pressing it to the shirt, it is still the most significant limitation of sublimation.


White on screen print, the color usage on screen printing is more complicated and mainly works in simple designs. You can work with dark colors (black, brown, etc.). 


  • Durability & Feel of the Image

Since sublimation occurs when the polyester fabric is dyed, you won't feel the image on the shirt or surface. It has a very light hand. Heat transfer paper can be felt on the garment when you feel it with your hands. In addition, it will crack after frequent washing.


You can wash heat transfer paper garments about 25 to 30 times before you start seeing fading or cracking in the design. 


The advantage of sublimation is the uniform heating process ensures that every dye particle is deep into the garment, preventing chipping, cracking, or even fading over time.


  • Startup Costs

The heat transfer paper is the lesser costly option among the three methods. To get started, all you need is an inkjet or laser printer, a heat press, heat transfer paper, and the substrates you would like to decorate. 


Sublimation carries a higher startup cost than two. While not as expensive as it used to be, sublimation has a higher price tag than heat transfer paper with an inkjet or laser printer. For sublimation, you will need a sublimation printer, a heat press, sublimation paper, and your substrates or garments to decorate.


Screen printing is also costly and requires a lot of time. However, it works wonders for large numbers and simpler designs. The costs, then, are relative. If you're printing small batches with elaborate designs, go for sublimation. But if you're printing large sets or simple images, then screen printing is the most affordable.


You can check out Lotsa Style sublimation ink and supplies here.