What Is Sublimation Paper?

By Phil Whitmer

Sublimation paper is used in the dye-sublimation printing process for applying images to specially coated ceramics, metals or polyester. When heated, the ink converts from a solid into a gas, skipping the liquid phase.

Dye-Sublimation Prints

Dye-sublimation paper, or dye-sub paper, is specially designed to accept dye-sublimation inks. The ink conversion imprinting process is done with heat and controlled by pressure. The coated dye-sub printed paper can be the final end-product, but dye-sub paper is most often used as a type of heat transfer paper to imprint the sublimated ink onto a specially coated surface.

Heat Transfer

Sublimation paper used as heat transfer paper in dye-sub printing is not coated like the receptor surface. It has a special finish that prevents the ink from soaking into the paper. After the paper is printed with the transferable image, it is placed on the coated surface of the receptor product to be imprinted with heat and pressure from a heat press.

Paper Properties

Sublimation paper comes in widths of 24 to 96 inches. High-release dye-sub heat-transfer paper has a silicate coating applied in vertical grids to hold the ink. During printing, heat from the press evaporates or sublimates the ink into a gas form. The released ink vapor then bonds with the surface of the receptor material to form a permanent print.