Screen Printing vs Dye Sublimation

Hi everyone and welcome back to our blog! If you’re new here, we use this space to talk about different design options and services we provide. Today’s topic of conversation will be the difference between silk screen printing vs dye sublimation. If you aren’t familiar with either design, don’t panic, we’ll explain it all. Just keep reading to find out more.

Before we jump right in, lets go over some of the basics. We’ve talked about screen printing and dye sublimation in separate blogs but today we’re going to compare the two against each other. Here are some basics about each method: dye sublimation works best with high-blend, light coloured polyester items, and screen printing can be applied to almost any material or colour. Screen printing is a technique of creating a pattern or picture and forcing the ink onto a surface/garment. Dye sublimation is the process of printing an image on a transfer paper which uses a combination of heat, time, and pressure to affix the image on the product.

Now that we understand the basic difference of each design, lets get into the real details. 

When designing a product or garment using the dye sublimation method, the ink from the transfer paper becomes part of the fabric rather than adding another layer to it. The dye sublimation process involves applying the ink with heat, ideally with a heat press as you’ll get proper pressure applied as opposed to an iron.

In sublimation printing, you can decorate almost any product, but your downfall appears when you’re restricted to only using light coloured garments and 100% polyester blend items. Both screen printing and dye sublimation are capable of reproducing fine details and photorealistic images. Dye sublimation leaves you with a flat print that is absorbed into the garment fabrics, whereas screen printing allows you to add special effects such as shimmer and foil designs although you do get that added layer with the risk of eventual cracking or peeling. 

A downfall about this design method is it can be time consuming, depending on the product you’re using. Take a towel for example, it took us approx. minutes to do one towel – that includes the time it takes to preheat the towel, set up the design, heat press the design, and do the other side of the towel. A coffee mug takes approx. 3-4 minutes per mug as the design is being absorbed much harder. Each product you design using this method will have its own set of instructions and time frames.

Dye sublimation designs can be done on products from apparel to coffee mugs, and more.

Screen printing is a process where ink is pushed through a mesh or stencil to print a particular design on the material. When you’re pushing the ink through the mesh, the ink will only go where the empty spaces on the stencil are. The downfall about this method is you can only apply one coloured ink at a time, which can be time consuming. Screen printing comes in handy for large orders, and can be more cost effective depending on what you’re doing. With screen printing, you need to compensate for the materials and time so some places have a minimum order required. 

Screen printing is a versatile process, allowing you to print on almost any garment. Screen printing produces bright fabric with a great feel. Garments produced through this method tend to be durable and can endure roughness from any washing machine. When it comes to screen printing, natural fabrics tend to appear better than synthetic ones, simply because they absorb liquids better.

Once the chemical reaction takes place and the ink is “cured”, its almost impossible for the ink to come off in the wash, peel off or scratch off the apparel. Other products might have a different effect, so keep that in mind.

Both screen printing and dye sublimation are valuable, versatile methods for designing garments and various other products. At the end of the day, both methods have their positives and negatives, projects they’re more suited for than others and that goes for every other design method like embroidery, vinyl heat pressing. Its another reason why we offer more than 1 design option because not every one will work with what you’re doing. Sometimes the method you pick isn’t actually the best one, and that’s where we step in. 

Getting back on topic, both methods we talked about today will give you different after effects and that’s also something to consider when designing a garment. Regardless of which one you end up choosing, the end results will be excellent and far better than something you’ll buy at the store. Because screen printing requires a lot of materials and tools, that is not something our company provides at the moment so unfortunately we don’t have examples to show you, but we do have dye sublimation examples if you want to check those out! Click here

If there are any questions or concerns, comment below or send us a message!

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