Heat Transfer Vinyl vs Dye Sublimation

Hello everyone, welcome to our blog! Today’s post is going to be comparing design methods, heat transfer vinyl vs dye sublimation.

If you’re new to our page or aren’t familiar with these design methods, I’ll give you an introduction. Our company has the ability to design products with both of these methods, but you’ll soon realize which one is the best option (in our opinion).

Let me explain the basic difference between the two: when you use heat transfer vinyl, you’re basically gluing vinyl material onto a product, obviously with heat. To do this, the best way is by using a heat press that applies a more firm amount of pressure than something like an iron (although it is possible for some projects depending on the size). Dye sublimation is a process where the ink becomes part of the fabric rather than adding another layer to the product. Using the dye sublimation process also involves applying the ink with heat and again, a heat press is probably the best option as the pressure applied is a lot greater and will help achieve a much more appealing result.

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, lets dive into more detail.

Let me start by saying that both methods are very effective and give great, although different, results. Remember, each method has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Heat transfer vinyl allows you to create a wide variety of customized products with no limitations to fabrics or colours, whereas with dye sublimation, you can only work on white or light coloured fabrics and it has to be polyester. Vinyl heat transfer printing relies on the use of film or physical transfer material with heat activated adhesive backing such an iron-on vinyl to transfer custom designs onto garments. When using heat transfer vinyl, some tips to remember is the ‘shelf-life’ is going to be approx. 50 washes, give or take the size of the design. Over time you will experience fading, cracking, and possibly peeling, but it all depends on how well you take of the garment.

Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Vinyl heat transfer printing has a very low investment cost and is most ideal for newcomers
  • You can pick between two different printing routes: inkjet or laser printing (we use a laser printer)
  • Choose between cotton or polyester, there is no restriction
  • Variety of colour options to pick from
  • Just as easy as it was to apply with heat, you use heat to remove the vinyl in case of a mistake

Cons

  • Bigger designs using vinyl material are more prone to cracking
  • Depending on the amount of garments you’re doing, the cost can add up quickly
  • Having to weed the vinyl material can become time consuming
  • Bigger designs have a heavier feel

Dye sublimation printing is a form of heat transfer printing and is similar to heat transfer printing as it also requires heat and pressure to transfer the design. However, it uses different materials, ink, equipment, and an application process. In sublimation printing, custom designs are created on the computer and printed on transfer paper with an inkjet printer. The transfer paper is then placed on the garment you wish to design, and a heat press applies pressure. Something that most people don’t think of is the process of dye sublimation may take longer due to the fact that there is no heat-activated adhesive backing so it takes a little longer for the design to transfer to your product.

Back to the design process, the combination of pressure and heat from the heat press makes the ink turn from a solid to a gas which allows the gas to adhere to the fiber of the item you’re decorating and that’s how you get the appearance that the product was made like that. 

For example, take a look at a towel we recently designed. If you look closely, the towel gives off the appearance that it was made with the logo all in one, when in reality, we added it ourselves. That’s the beauty of dye sublimation. (You can find the picture in our Gallery page, here)

The transferred design leaves no additional layer on the garment so there’s no heavy feeling, or roughness to the decorated area. This printing method produces incredibly durable print which will last as long as the fabric itself.

Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons:

Pros

  • No weeding
  • More cost friendly
  • No heavy material feeling
  • Seamless appearance
  • Different product options to work with (apparel, drink ware)

Cons

  • You’re restricted to white or light coloured fabrics
  • Sublimation ink clogs up the printer very fast
  • Can only work on polyester fabrics

It’s a lot to take in and understand but if you were to do a breakdown of a single item, you would be able to tell that dye sublimation is the more cost effective method to choose. Now, that’s not taking into account the startup fees for either method (ie. equipment, ink, material, etc.), I’m only saying that because we just compared 2 quotes that had the same design, same garment, and the dye sublimation method came out to be a lot cost friendly. 

When you sit down and compare the pros/cons for both, you may find that the heat transfer vinyl will work better for you – more options to choose from, different results. At the end of the day, its always good to have options for your clients and that’s why we have so many different machines, it allows us to really connect with you to help bring your vision to life. 

We hope you enjoyed today’s post and if you have any questions, leave a comment below or send us a message!

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