Digital Printing

Setup. Preparation. Exporting. checklist.

Digital printing (dye-sublimation)

The main goal today is explaining not just the printing process but the production of a digitally printed item. My focus will be on dye-sublimation and its pros, cons, and everything you need to know about it.

But, Before we begin, we need to know the meaning of sublimation and everything else will make sense.


 Sublimation refers to the process where a substance changes from a solid directly into a gas without passing through the liquid phase. This occurs when the substance is heated, and the vapor pressure of the solid exceeds the atmospheric pressure.


Special Inks: Dye sublimation uses special sublimation inks, which are designed to convert from a solid directly into a gas when exposed to heat. These inks typically consist of solid dyes suspended in a liquid solvent.

Printing Process: The design or image is first digitally printed onto a specific type of transfer paper using sublimation ink. The image is typically mirrored or reversed because it will be flipped during the transfer process.

Heat Transfer: The printed transfer paper is then placed in direct contact with the target material, such as polyester fabric or a polymer-coated substrate.

Heat and Pressure: Heat is applied using a heat press or similar device, which causes the sublimation inks to turn into a gas. The heat press also applies pressure, which helps the gas molecules penetrate the surface of the material.

Dye Bonding: As the inks turn into a gas, they bond with the fibers of the material or the polymer coating on the substrate. This bonding process is why sublimation printing results in vibrant, durable, and long-lasting images.

Cooling and Solidification: After the transfer is complete, the material is allowed to cool, which causes the sublimated dyes to solidify and become a permanent part of the substrate. The result is a high-resolution, full-color image that is integrated into the material, rather than sitting on top of it.

Prep and Output


COLOUR OUTPUT – Display Blacks accurately

LAYERS – be nice!


BLEED – reason. Shrinkage, Cutting, Finishing.

FONTS – Converting to outlines, not just pack font files.

DPI – 300dpi, but 72 will do just fine for larger prints.

EXPORTING – PDF,EPS – JPEG,TIFF (knowing when to keep files open and when to flatten)

SHRINKAGE – Sublimation process will always shrink or in some cases expand substrates

Colour matching – Different substrates will display and hold inks differently.


CROP MARKS – there’s another way!!! Guides. If you are using crop marks, layer it! Why? Shrinkage!

SCALING – don’t over complicate it.

Judge yourself.

Before the final export, create your own internal checklist to make sure everything is in order.

For example, this is what I do:

View at 100%. Check for pixilation

Check fonts. Easy way to make sure – ctrl A, then create outlines.

Check for drop off. This can happen when grouping, moving and layering elements.

Zoom out, is everything aligned?

Check artboard size(Shift O) did you add bleed?

Remove template lines.


Common mistakes

Pixilating images – more often when working with scaled down templates.

Fonts not converted.

Images not embedded.

Artwork flattened with crop marks.

Files are saved in RGB colour mode.

Bleed forgotten.

Variations in colour – it shows when printed.