Sublimation Heat Transfer vs. Direct to Garment (DTG) Printing

Dye Sublimation | Feb 24, 2012

Sublimation Heat Transfer vs. Direct to Garment (DTG) Printing

What are the differences between dye sublimation, and direct to garment printing?

DTG: It's like an inkjet printer that prints directly on the shirt. The upside, you can print on cottons, and it's no more costly to make 1 shirt than it is to make 100 (the 'per shirt' ink cost and time are fixed). That being said, it's not cheap. The ink costs can range from 1.60 a shirt, to 6.00 a shirt, depending on how often you use it, and how much ink you're blowing through by constantly cleaning the lines, print head, etc. It's a very new technology, and there's still a lot of bugs to be worked out. We looked into developing a DTG printer a few years ago, and our findings were that the technology just isn't ready for the kind of quality and reliability our customers expect from us. It's neat, but that's about it.

It does require the use of a heat press to set the image, so it's similar to dye sublimation in that sense, but that's about where the similarities stop. Dye sublimation (such as our 550 Series) uses a normal Epson inkjet printer, outfitted with a special print head, and bulk ink system, to print sublimation inks on to a transfer paper, this transfer is then used in the heat press to "sublimate" the image onto the product. Basically, it turns the ink from a solid, to a gas, bypassing the liquid state, and the gas ink dyes the material, hence the 'dye' in dye sublimation. It's a super-slick way to print photos or anything else on to shirts, license plate frames, clocks, plaques, mugs, or anything else that is sublimation-ready.

Here's the catch: the product has to be specially made or prepared for sublimation. The ink only holds to polyester, and only onto a white base, so you can't print a colored, cotton t-shirt, but you can print 50/50, or any higher poly blend (there are some great shirts made for the process out there). Plus there are a LOT of other products you can print as well, check out UNISUB's website for blanks, this gives you an idea of some of the product you can print, and we keep most of these products in stock here, or you can order from our vendors on the source list.