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heat transfer vs. dye sublimation printing services

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Which is More Efficient? : Heat Transfer Paper vs. Dye Sublimation Printing Serv

Welcome to the awesome world of customization and t-shirt printing!

And while you’re asking which one of the heat transfer and dye sublimation printing services is better, let me give you an honest answer: BOTH! But considering your need for quality and cost-efficient promotional materials, I understand why you want to know about this. So, in this blog, we’ll talk about the differences between the two to help you decide which works best for your needs!

What is heat transfer paper?

First of all, what in the world is heat transfer paper? Well, as its name suggests, it is a specialty paper that transfers printed designs to clothes and garments when heated. It is relatively easy to use and you only need a sheet of transfer paper where you’ll print your designs using an inkjet or laser printer.

After that, you can place the printed heat transfer paper on any part of the shirt and use a heat press on it. If no equipment is available, a home iron will work too, but the quality of the print will vary. If you think the whole print was already sticking to the cloth, carefully peel away the paper. After that, the image will nicely cling to the fabric.

Well, that was super easy, right? Aside from being convenient, it doesn’t cost much either! A lot of startup decorators use heat transfer paper with their regular printer and it still works. However, it is important to take note that depending on the ink, printer, and heat press that you use, the quality of the print will definitely vary. This means that using professional materials will make the print last longer. It is a whole lot better than a DIY project with what you already have at home.  

What is dye sublimation printing services?

dye sublimation printing services printer

Dye sublimation printing (or just sublimation printing) is another form of heat transfer printing like the previous method. However, this is more on the digital side and requires proper equipment and expertise to make it work well.

Sublimation printing is a process used for creating high-quality images on disposable or reusable items. It uses a combination of pigment and ink that is applied by hand. Unlike traditional photo-based printing, sublimation prints do not rely on a light source. It can be created on nearly any piece of material.

As for the process, well, you might need to brace yourself for this cool explanation of how it works!

When you apply heat, the sublimation ink turns from its solid state to a gas as it embeds itself in the fabric. Take note that you can only use polyester fabric in this process. When it cools, the print will go back to being solid. It will then be a permanent, beautiful part of the clothing. Instead of having an additional layer of ink on top, the image will have the same feeling as the rest of the shirt. It is also important to note that the end product using sublimation printers is incredibly durable and will last long.

Also, unlike conventional photo printers, sublimation printers do not rely on a paper stock which means that they are completely recyclable. So, if you want an eco-friendly option, sublimation is the best choice for you!

What are the differences between the two?

But, what is the difference between heat transfer paper and dye sublimation printing services? To make things easier for you, we compiled their differences. We based them on the important factors that you need to consider when choosing a print. From startup costs to weeding, we’ll talk about them one by one.

Equipment requirements and startup costs

If you are tight on budget and need something cheaper, you should consider having your shirts printed with heat transfer paper. The materials you’ll use are pretty easy to find and a lot less expensive than what you need in sublimation. You only need heat transfer paper, any printer that you have at home, the garments that you want to decorate, and a great design. Voila! You can now start your printing journey!

On the other hand, dye sublimation printing services need a higher start-up cost than heat transfer paper. When doing this, you need to have a sublimation printer, sublimation paper, essential software, and the clothes you want to sublimate. Aside from that, you need a quality heat press as a simple iron won’t work on this.

Wondering Dad’s Printing can offer a fairly cheap price for sublimation prints? Well, that’s our important secret and the reason why you should let us print for you! *winks*

dye sublimation printing services heat press

Time, pressure, and temperature requirements

When it comes to time, pressure, and temperature requirements, dye sublimation printing services will surely win. It uses a lot less temperature and pressure that is needed when transferring the print to a fabric unlike when using heat transfer paper. You won’t also need to press for too long and the print can be transferred in less than 60 seconds.

Meanwhile, a heat transfer requires more pressure and heat for a longer amount of time to make sure that the print is completely transferred to the fabric. When the amount of heat or pressure is not enough, the quality and life of print will suffer.

So, for bulk prints and rushed orders, it is best to use wholesale dye sublimation printing for a faster and better quality of fabric prints.

Types of garments you can use

The most important thing to remember about heat transfer paper is that it works on both cotton, polyester, and blended fabrics. Meanwhile, dye sublimation prints only work on polyesters so it means that you cannot use this on 100% cotton garments. Depending on the number of polyesters in the fabric, the quality of the print will vary.

Moreover, heat transfers can work for dark and light-colored fabrics because you are simply adding a layer to the clothing. On the other hand, sublimation is exclusively for white or other light-colored fabrics which means you only have limited choices.

Colors you can produce with heat transfer and dye sublimation printing services

Now, let’s talk about the quality of prints that you will be able to create with the two procedures.

If you are looking for a printing style that will show the full design and colors of your design, dye sublimation printing services are your go-to choice. This allows its user to print full colors which means that you can even print photos and delicate company logos without having any quality issues with it. 

On the other hand, you may not be able to achieve the same full-color and photo quality transfers when using poor-quality heat transfer paper. However, having the same quality as sublimation is still possible. This is if you will use inkjet heat transfer paper on light-colored garments. You can also use laser heat transfer paper with a white toner laser printing and everything will work out great.

Feel and durability

Dye sublimation printing services have unmatched durability and feel when compared to the heat transfer paper. This is because the ink used here becomes part of the fabric which makes it super smooth and strong. On the other hand, heat transfer paper just adds another layer of print on top of the garment. This makes the final finish feel less smooth and durable. Over time, the prints can also fade and develop cracks with numerous wash cycles and usage.

Moreover, heat transfer papers may vary depending on the quality of the paper, printer, ink, and heat press used. So, you can see other printing shops offering more durable and softer prints than other shops. I’m not saying that’s us, but yeah, that’s definitely Dad’s!


If we’re talking about self-weeding, then the clear winner would be dye sublimation printing services. As you know, sublimation is naturally self-weeding. This is due to its process of transferring the ink through an easy and fast printing, pressing, and peeling process.

Meanwhile, heat transfer papers are not self-weeding. You need to personally trim around the design with your scissors or a cutting plotter. If not, then a visible background around your image will appear on the garment. If that’s what you’re intended to go for, then you need to weed them carefully.

Final Takeaway

You’re almost finished with this article!

As you can see, both sublimation and heat transfer printing are great ways to decorate apparel. They are both easy to do and are relatively cheaper than other types of prints. These are just some of the reasons why a lot of people prefer using them for their apparel, company uniforms, and promotional materials.

But, depending on your needs and preferences, you can choose between the two with the factors we mentioned above or you can compare sublimation vs screen printing if you are unsure. But if you’re not planning to start a printing company and need someone to print for you, we can help! Dad’s printing can offer you the best quality of prints with a competitive price value!

If you want to have custom gifts, promotional materials, or uniforms, make sure to contact us. We’ll be happy to provide you with quality personalized products.

With an in-depth understanding of Quality Control, Apparel Production and experience in warehousing and transportation all over the world, the Dads Printing Team is dedicated to making your Canadian Apparel production a seamless process, no matter the product or the print!

Key advantages to working with Dads Printing:

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