Polyester types

Can You Sublimate On Any Polyester? + Tips For Good Results

Polyester makes the best substrate for sublimation since it interacts very well with sublimation ink. However, can you sublimate on any polyester type?

There are three major polyesters: Ethylene Polyester (PET), PCDT Polyester, and plant-based polyester. You can do sublimation printing on all these polyesters since they all contain polymeric materials to take in and bond with sublimation ink.

Polyesters for Sublimation

In this article, we explore whether you can sublimate on any polyester. We start by discussing polyester and its types. Then we explore how you can get good results when sublimating on polyester.

Finally, we also cover the possibility of sublimating on substrates that blend polyester and non-polymeric materials. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

What Is Polyester?

Polyester is a synthetic material commonly made out of petroleum. It is a type of polymer. Fabric mills use polyester to make fabric, but other manufacturers use it to make plastic wares such as food containers. You will also find polyester used for fishing lines, phone cases, piano keys, and even carpets.

Polyester, a polymer made up mostly of compounds in the ester functional group, is often made from ethylene. Ethylene, usually derived of petroleum, can also come from plants. You will find these listed as plant-based polyester.

Polyester fabric has become one of the most popular textiles in the world. Companies use it as widely as natural fibers such as cotton, linen, or wool.

Polyester can be made into the fabric by itself combined with other materials to form blends. Common combinations include polyester and cotton, as well as wool.

Besides being made into fabrics, polyester is a very versatile material, and manufacturers use it to produce a huge number of consumer and industrial products. It can be spun into fine strands and used to make carpets or artificial grass. Polyester can be hardened and made into objects that need to take impact frequently, such as piano keys or lift buttons.

Some polyester can also be formed into larger surfaces while keeping its flexibility. Polyester works extremely well for making food and drinks containers and phone cases. In fact, whenever you see the word ‘PET’ on any products, they are made of polyester.

How Many Types Of Polyester Are There?

You can generally separate polyester into three major types, Ethylene Polyester (PET), PCDT Polyester, and plant-based polyester. PET is most common and used in most polyester fabrics. The second type, PCDT, has more resilience and elasticity than PET. People concerned with the environment choose the earth friendly plant-based polyester.

In general, you can use the three major types interchangeably to produce fabrics or plastic products. However, differences between the three polyester types lie in properties, original sources, and also how environmentally friendly they are.

Ethylene Polyester (PET):

PET is the most common type of polyester fiber. PET mainly consists of ethylene, which comes from petroleum. Companies look to PET polyester for its hardness and transparency. Typically, you see PET used as fabric and plastic parts in consumer and industrial products.

PCDT Polyester:

PCDT stands for poly-1, 4-cyclohexylene-dimethylene terephthalate. Similar to PET, it also contains mostly ethylene derived from petroleum PCDT has as much versatility as PET but greater resilience.

Polyester Fabrics

Because of its superior resilience, fabric suppliers choose PCDT polyester for creating fabrics subject to heavier use. For example, draperies, furniture, or car coverings.

Plant-Based Polyester:

Plant-based polyester was created to make the materials more environmentally friendly. Instead of using ethylene in petroleum, plant-based polyester use ethylene found in plants. However, plant-based polyester costs more to make and doesn’t stand up as well as PET or PCDT polyester.

Can You Sublimate On All Types Of Polyester?

You can sublimate to all types of polyester, regardless of whether they are PET, PDCT, or plant-based polyester.

All three work for sublimation because all polyester types contain polymeric materials that can form bonds with sublimation ink. This means you can sublimate sublimation ink and leave permanent designs on them.

Polyester makes the best fabric choice for sublimation.

In fact, printers can only sublimate directly to polyester and not to other popular fabrics such as cotton, linen, or wool.

Suppose you intend to sublimate on cotton, linen, or wool. In that case, you will need to add an intermediary layer, such as a sublimation coating or a heat transfer vinyl (HTV) sheet. This makes sublimation on these fabrics more troubling and harder to perform.  

To sublimate on polyester, you only need to have your design printed on sublimation paper using a sublimation printer. Then, transfer the design over to your polyester fabric using a heat press.

Heat Press

Can You Sublimate To Polyester Blends?

You can sublimate to polyester blends, even if the blending material does not contain much polymeric materials. However, the lower the content percentage of polyester in the blend, the less vibrant and durable the sublimation will result. With fewer polymeric materials in the fabric, the ink has less material with which to bond.

You find 100% polyester everywhere but, many people find it less comfortable to wear than other fabrics. Many reported that their skin felt itchy after wearing it for some time.

100% polyester fabric may also pose danger under high heat or fire, as it may melt and cause irreversible skin burns. Natural fiber such as cotton or wool simple chars under direct fire.

For the above reasons, mills tend to combine polyester with natural fibers, more comfortable to wear, such as cotton or wool. This raises the questions about how well these blend fabrics work for sublimation.

Natural fibers alone do not take sublimation ink well. You can sublimate on polyester blend fabric, as long as the polyester content is usually high enough in density to take in sublimation ink and retain the design well.

However, printers should understand that the lower the polyester count in the fabric, the less sublimable it becomes. In general, many experts recommend the blended fabric to at least have a 40% polyester count for satisfactory sublimation results.

By the way, are you interested to learn more about which surfaces are sublimation-friendly? Then, we highly encourage checking out these guides:

How To Get Good Results When Sublimating To Polyester?

To get the best results when sublimating to polyester, start with a clear and sharp design in the right image format. Then be sure to print using good printers, inks, and sublimation paper. Finally, when sublimating, ensure to set the head press according to your sublimation paper maker recommends.

#1. Print Sharp Design:

It does not matter what printer, ink, or paper you use. Your sublimation result will not be great if the initial design doesn’t have sharp, clean lines. An unclear or blurry image or design on the finished product usually starts with the original image.

Commonly, using the wrong image format causes the problem. Bad image formats for sublimation include lossy file formats such as JPEG. These image formats also do not scale well. They turn blurry if you resize them.

The best image file formats for sublimation are SVG or PNG, because these formats are lossless and scalable. You can zoom in and resize as big or as small as you want without the image turning blurry. When possible, look for these file formats when performing sublimation.

While we are talking about SVG files, have you ever wondered if you can use SVG files for sublimation? Check out the guide to learn more.

#2. Use Good Tools and Materials:

Now that you have a great image file, the next step is to ensure you execute your sublimation using the right tools and materials. In particular, pay attention to the quality of your printer, sublimation ink, sublimation paper, and heat press.

Good quality sublimation printers may take a dedicated dye-sublimation printer. Good sublimation ink tends to have more dye in it.

A good sublimation paper would be thicker to resist folding and creasing under the heat press. A good heat press would have more heating elements in the heat plate, ensuring a more even heat distribution across the plate for good press results.

Speaking of tools used in sublimation printing, we highly recommend checking out these guides for further insights:

#3. Heat Press with the Right Settings:

Finally, ensure that when pressing your design to your polyester, you use the right settings on your heat press. When it comes to settings, focus on the temperature of the heat press, and the pressure applied.

Usually, your sublimation paper maker would provide information about the right temperature and pressure settings to use when heat pressing. You can check on the packaging of your sublimation paper for the best settings.

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