Last Updated on November 8, 2023 by Fredrick Miller
In today’s modern world of apparel printing, sublimation and direct-to-garment (DTG) are two of the most popular printing methods. While both effective techniques for producing high-quality designs differ significantly in equipment, inks, transfer paper, cost, and profit.
So, whether you’re a business owner looking to invest in a new printing technique or a hobbyist interested in learning more about the different printing methods. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to sublimation vs dtg.
Table of Contents
What is Sublimation Printing?
The process involves heat and pressure being applied to a transfer paper with a printed image. The transfer paper is placed on the fabric and heated with a heat press.
When the heat is applied, the ink on the transfer paper turns into a gas and permeates the fabric’s fibers. The image is permanently embedded into the fabric, creating a durable, high-quality print.
- Images do not fade, crack or peel over time
- High-quality and detailed prints
- Suitable for all-over printing
- It is capable of printing on hard surfaces
- Limited to light-colored fabrics
- Requires a particular type of printer and ink
- It is not possible to print black
What is DTG Printing?
It stands for Direct-to-Garment printing. It is a process where a digital image is printed directly onto the fabric. The printer sprays water-based ink onto the fabric, then cures using a heat press. It produces high-quality, detailed prints that can replicate images with multiple colors and gradients.
- You can print on various fabrics, including cotton, polyester, and blends
- No limit on the number of colors used in the design
- High-quality prints with precise details
- No minimum order requirement
- Easy to print-on-demand
- Not suitable for large quantities
- Prints are not as durable as sublimation
Sublimation Vs DTG Difference
Sublimation and DTG (Direct-to-Garment) are different printing methods used to create custom designs on various garments. Here are the key differences between the two:
One of the most significant differences is the equipment required to produce designs. Here’s a closer look at the differences:
Sublimation printing requires several pieces of equipment to produce high-quality designs, including:
- Transfer paper
- Heat press
- Materials for printing on (e.g., polyester fabric)
It is specially designed to print designs onto transfer paper using ink. Once the design is printed, it is transferred onto the material using a heat press.
DTG printing also requires several pieces of equipment to produce high-quality designs, including:
- A DTG printer
- Pretreatment machine
- Materials for printing on (e.g., cotton fabric)
It is designed to print directly onto the material using water-based ink. Before printing, the material must be treated with a pretreatment solution to ensure the ink adheres properly.
Sublimation inks are specially designed to work with transfer paper and materials made from polyester or other synthetic fabrics. When heated, the ink becomes a gas and bonds with the material, creating a permanent, high-quality design.
DTG inks are water-based and designed to bond with natural fabrics like cotton. It absorbed into the fabric, creating a soft, durable design.
Transfer paper is a critical component of the printing process but is not required for DTG printing.
Transfer paper is designed to transfer designs from the printer to the printed material. The design is printed onto the paper in reverse and then transferred onto the material using a heat press.
Sublimation printing requires a printer, transfer paper, heat press, ink, and printing materials.
Depending on the quality and features, the cost will range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Ink can also be expensive; the transfer paper must be purchased separately.
The cost of producing a design using dtg printing will depend on the design size and the cost of materials, ink, and transfer paper. However, it can be cost-effective for producing high-quality designs on various materials.
Profit is another crucial factor when deciding between sublimation and DTG printing. Sublimation can be profitable for businesses producing high-quality designs on various materials.
Because it can be used on materials like polyester, which is impossible, there may be more opportunities to produce unique designs that stand out in the market.
However, the initial investment can be significant because printing requires several pieces of equipment, specialized ink, and transfer paper. When pricing their products, businesses must consider the cost of equipment and materials.
DTG printing can also be profitable for businesses producing high-quality designs on natural fabrics like cotton. It offers more flexibility in terms of the materials that can be printed on, and the quality of the designs produced can be exceptional.
The cost per unit can be higher because it requires specialized equipment and ink. Businesses will need to factor in the cost of equipment and materials when pricing their products to ensure they are profitable.
Is DTG Similar To Sublimation?
DTG (direct-to-garment) printing is not the same as sublimation printing. While both methods are used to print designs, they use different processes and capabilities. It applies ink directly onto the fabric, similar to how a traditional inkjet printer works.
This method is ideal for printing small quantities of more complex designs, allowing for greater detail and color accuracy. It can also produce high-quality results with a softer feel, making it a popular choice for custom t-shirt printing.
On the other hand, sublimation printing uses heat to transfer dye onto a substrate, typically a polyester fabric. The ink is first printed onto a transfer paper and then transferred onto the fabric using a heat press.
The heat causes the ink to vaporize and bond with the fabric’s fibers, creating a permanent and vibrant image that won’t crack or peel over time. It is great for printing on white or light-colored fabrics and produces high-quality, durable results.
While both have their strengths and weaknesses, they are not the same process. It is better suited for smaller orders and more complex designs, while sublimation printing is ideal for larger orders of solid color designs on polyester fabrics.
Sublimation or DTG: Which Is Best?
They are popular methods of printing designs onto clothing and other textiles. Which method is “best” largely depends on the specific needs and preferences of the person or business doing the printing.
Ultimately, the choice will depend on various factors, including the type of fabric, the design, the number of items being produced, and desired durability of the finished product.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which printing method is better for printing on garments?
It depends on the specific needs and requirements of the project. Sublimation printing is ideal for polyester fabrics and produces vibrant, long-lasting colors, while DTG is better for cotton and produces high-quality images with fine details and shading.
Which printing method is more cost-effective?
It depends on the specific project and the number of items being printed. Sublimation printing can be more cost effective for larger quantities, while DTG may be more cost-effective for smaller quantities.
Can sublimation printing be done on cotton?
No, sublimation printing cannot be done on cotton. It only works on materials with a polymer coating, such as polyester, nylon, and certain plastics. The process relies on the ink bonding with the polymer coating, and it will not work on cotton or other natural fibers.
Which printing method is faster, DTG or sublimation?
DTG printing is generally faster than sublimation, as the ink is applied directly to the fabric and doesn’t require a transfer process. It typically produces a finished garment in minutes, while sublimation can take several hours.
We have explained the advantages and disadvantages so you can see the sublimation vs. dtg. We can assist you if you need clarification.
They both have unique characteristics, but they differ in many ways. The cost-effectiveness of each method depends on factors such as the size of the order and the complexity of the design.
DTG printing is faster and produces more vibrant and detailed prints on cotton fabrics, while sublimation produces long-lasting prints on synthetic materials. It’s essential to carefully consider these factors when selecting a printing method to ensure you achieve the best possible results.
Fredrik Miller is the Founder of PrinterLake.com, a platform dedicated to providing information on sublimation printing. With a Master’s degree in Information Technology from Reputed University, Fredrik brings a wealth of technical knowledge and expertise to the site.
He leads a team of writers who are experts in the field and strive to deliver the best and most comprehensive information on sublimation printers, inks, and paper.