Sublimation Printing vs Screen Printing

To have found this blog post, then no doubt you are aware of the two major printing method types used today: sublimation printing, and screen printing. Both are very commonly used methods that provide very different printing results and both are equally interesting in intricacy of their science and execution.

Below is a detailed summary of the two methods, how they work and what they are most suitably used for:

Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing is a digital printing process whereby special sublimation ready papers are printed with a graphic or design. These papers are printed on digital machines that are loaded with CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK inks) and then transferred to Polyester fabrics through a heat press.
The inks used in the sublimation process are quite unique in their ability to convert from a solid to a gas without going through a liquid form. (Think dry ice)

The conversion happens on what is known as a Calendar machine; it is initiated by heat and is controlled by pressure and time to sublimate transfer the graphic from the sublimation papers onto any sublimation ready surface, such as Polyester fabrics.

Polyester fabrics are the ideal choice substrate to be used in Sublimation printing; blends can be used where the majority content is at least 70% Polyester.

Polyester fabrics are incredibly durable, high quality and inherently fire retardant. This makes the Sublimation printing process perfect for fabrics in soft furnishings like upholstery, cushions, curtains and ottomans, as well as for swimwear, boardshorts and activewear.

Once sublimated to the fabric, the print will last the lifetime of the fabric. The printed fabric feels identical to how it felt prior to printing with no raised surfaces or hardening of ink.

You can read more about the sublimation printing process here

Screen Printing

Screen printing is the process of pushing ink through an open mesh, one colour at a time with a flexible rubber blade called a Squeegee, which can either be performed by hand or machine.

The screen is made up of a metal frame with a synthetic fiber mesh tightly stretched over its surface (it’s called a silk mesh however it is not actually silk). These can come in a variety of sizes and TPI to cater for large scale yardage printing or printing onto glass and ceramics.

The screens are then coated in a photographic emulation ready for artwork film. Once an artwork is complete, it is split into its individual colours and printed onto clear film. This film is then exposed colour by colour onto its own screen, which causes the emulation around the design to harden allowing you to wash away the design. This creates what is called a stencil.

Once the screens have dried they are then set up in a machine or prepared to screen print by hand.

The squeegee then runs over the screen, forcing ink through it and onto the substrate of choice, creating the pattern or artwork.

Screen printing is the cheapest and most effective form of printing for natural fibers such as cottons and silks, however screen printing can be performed on almost any substrate, such as paper, card, glass, plastic and leather.

Once printed to the fabric, the print will last quite a long time if taken care of properly. The printed fabric feels as though the print is sitting on top of it, however with good quality screens andĀ inks used the screen print should feel soft and bendable to the fabrics natural movement.

Thanks for the screen printing image: