Dye Sublimation

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What is Dye Sublimation?

Sublimation it a process where a solid becomes a gas, without becoming a liquid. Dye sublimation is a process that involves specially created inks that once printed on the special transfer paper, becomes a gas when heated near 400° Fahrenheit, under pressure.

What can you decorate with Dye Sublimation?

Dye sublimation inks bond with polyester fibers, and some other man-made materials. The inks will not bond with natural materials, such as cotton, wool, wood, or metal. Blank products can be purchased that have a special polyester coating applied to them, so that they will accept dye sublimation inks. These products include tiles (ceramic and hardboard), cell phone cases, ornaments, jewelry, bags, shirts, hats, slate, plaques, can coolers, clocks, watches, photo panels, and lots more. New products are being developed all of the time.

What kind of designs can you use to decorate items?

Anything you can create in a computer program that can print to a printer. Photos, logos, digital artwork, text, scanned images, etc…

Can I decorate dark items (i.e. shirts, hats, etc.)?

No, dye sublimation inks are translucent, and take on the color of the item they are printed on. There is also no white ink with sublimation. White areas of a print have no ink at all.

Where can I get items to decorate with dye sublimation?

There are lots of places on the internet to buy dye sublimation blanks. Some of them will sell to individuals, but some of them won’t. Some of my favorite places to buy from are:

  • Sublimation 101 - http://www.Sublimation101.com - Michael Kaminsky gives great support, and gives his cell phone number to customers so that they can call when they need help. This is who DMS bought the working 8-in-1 press from.
  • Johnson Plastics - http://www.johnsonplastics.com - They have a warehouse in Carrollton, near Midway and Keller Springs, but don’t stock all of their sublimation products there. Call them to find out if what you want is available locally.
  • Condé - http://www.dyetrans.com - Located in Georgia, but a very comprehensive collection of dye sub products, and lots of templates for them. At last check they require a $50 minimum for online orders.
  • JDS Industries - http://www.jdsindustries.com - They carry a great selection of products available in their Dallas warehouse, but require a tax ID to set up an account.

What do I need to do Dye Sublimation?

At minimum, you need:

  • A computer
  • A printer capable of using sublimation inks
  • Sublimation inks
  • Transfer paper
    • This can be purchased from Creative Arts in packs of 4 sheets. A 4-pack of 8-1/2" x 14" (legal) paper is $5, and pack of 11" x 17" (tabloid) is $10. Manila envelopes containing dye sublimation paper can be found in the lateral file in the Scrap Vinyl drawer. When you have used all of the paper in your envelope, please return the empty envelope to CA for reuse.
    • Single sheets are not available.
    • If you provide your own paper, there is a reduced fee for using just the dye plus the affiliated consumables. This "no paper required" fee is $1 per page printed for Legal, $2 for Tabloid.
  • A heat press (there is no fee to use the heat press - just for the associated consumables)
  • Blowout paper (uncoated butcher paper or newsprint work great)
  • Items to decorate

Additional useful items:

  • Heat tape
  • Repositionable adhesive spray
  • Lint roller (for decorating apparel)
  • Heat resistant gloves (i.e. Ove Gloves or similar)
  • Scissors
  • Heat conductive pad (used for tiles, slate and glass)

DMS Dye Sublimation Tools

Dye Sublimation Printer

MAXX20 Dye Sublimation Heat Press

JTrans Dye Sublimation Heat Press

DMS has purchased a number of tools to use for dye sublimation. Training is required for their use.


We have a Sawgrass SG800 printer that is loaded with Sawgrass SubliJet-HD dye sublimation inks. It is capable of printing on 11x17 paper. The printer manual is available online here. You must take the Dye Sub 101 class to get access to the dye sublimation printer.

16" x 20" Heat Press

We have a Stahl MAXX20 16" x 20" heat press. The manual is available at this link.

When using this press for dye sublimation you must have the temperature in the 380 to 400 degree Fahrenheit range. Some fabrics require the lower end of the range to keep from scorching.

11 x 15" Heat Press

There is also a JTrans 8-in-1 heat press that works as an 11" x 15" flat press, cap platen, 8" plate press, 10" plate press, and a press for 11 oz. and 15 oz. coffee mugs, water bottles, 12 oz. latte mugs, and 17 oz. latte mugs. It is currently configured as a hat (cap) press. The mug press has its own base with its own heating and timing unit. We have scanned the JTrans 8-in-1 Heat Press Manual for your convenience.

When using this press for dye sublimation set the idle temperature (the first one) to 330 degrees Fahrenheit, and set the working temperature (the second one) to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Some fabrics require the lower end of the range to keep from scorching.

Supplies and Accessories

There is also heat tape, repositionable adhesive spray, Ove Gloves, and butcher paper to use while decorating. DO NOT use the waxed freezer paper in place of butcher paper. You may ruin your item, the heat press, and your day.

Other Tips

  • A lot of metal sheet stock, fiberglass reinforced plastic, and hardboard products come with a clear plastic protective cover. Remove this before pressing, or you will ruin the item.
  • When decorating shirts, and other apparel, scalloping the paper around your design will minimize the appearance of press lines on your final product.
  • When pressing shirts, and other apperal, either dress the press so that only one layer of fabric is between the upper and lower platens, or put a sheet of Teflon between the layers of fabric to prevent your design from blowing through to the other side.
  • Products will be HOT when they come off of the press. Use an Ove Glove or similar protection to handle them.
  • Products like slate or ceramic tiles need to be pressed with a green heat conductive pad to help the paper conform to the shape of the item, and to evenly heat them.