It is common knowledge that to perform sublimation printing, you need to use sublimation ink. However, what about regular printing? Can you use sublimation ink for regular printing?
As a general rule, sublimation ink can only be printed on sublimation paper and then heat-transferred to a polyester-based surface. Standard sublimation ink cannot be used for regular printing as they are not designed to be absorbed by regular papers.
Pots of Ink
This article discusses whether sublimation ink can be used for regular printing and look deeper into how regular ink and sublimation ink work. We also answer some common questions people have about sublimation ink.
How Does Regular Inkjet Ink Work?
The regular inkjet ink in the cartridge vibrates to produce bubbles when printing. The ink bubbles then channel to the printhead, which will then spray the micro droplet of ink onto paper. The paper absorbs the ink. This process repeats until the entire design prints.
Regular inkjet printer inks consist of dyes, solvents, resins, and varnishes, among other things. Sometimes manufacturers add things like drying agents, waxes, and lubricants to improve finishing and keep the printhead from getting damaged.
Refilling Inkjet Printer Tank
Regular inkjet ink costs the least which makes using a regular inkjet printer instead of a laser printer less expensive in terms of upfront costs. Also, an inkjet cartridge often costs less to replace than a laser printer toner.
You can further amplify the savings if you use printer inks with external tanks such as the Epson EcoTank ET2720. Because of this, inkjet printers work the best choice for home use, where people want to save money.
Regular inkjet ink also lasts longer. When you print something on paper, it usually stays there for a long time. It does this because the ink soaks into the paper and becomes a part of it.
However, regular inkjet ink tends to dissolve when it comes into contact with water. This is often demonstrated when a printed document smudges when it gets wet, making it hard to read the words. This happens because many regular inkjet inks are made with deionized water as a solvent.
Regular inkjet ink can also take a while to dry. When you print something, the paper or the area where it was printed often feels a little damp. This is because inkjet inks take longer to dry than laser toner.
Learn more about the the difference between sublimation printers and inkjet printers.
How Does Sublimation Ink Work?
Sublimation ink works similarly to regular inkjet ink, with the additional requirement that it should be used on sublimation paper. The paper will hold on to the print design, which can be heat-transferred to a polyester-based substrate (print surface).
Sublimation ink consists of the following materials:
- Vinyl chloride-vinyl acetate copolymer
- Polymeric amide
- 2-methoxy-1-methylethyl acetate
- N-butyl acetate
- Petroleum distillate
- Disperse and/or solvent dyes
- Propylene glycol
However, the formulation may be different depending on the manufacturer.
Printers use sublimation ink in a process called ‘sublimation printing.’ They do it by “printing” the ink onto a special kind of paper, usually called a sublimation paper. Check out this guide on sublimation printing to get detailed insights about the whole procedure.
After placing the ink on the sublimation paper, you then place the paper down against the final item you want printed (fabric, ceramic, etc.). Then add heat, usually done with a heat press.
The heat causes the solid ink to gasify directly (there is no liquid state in between, called “subliming”), so the gaseous inks infuse into the print surface. Here’s a guide to the best heat presses for sublimation printing. You can check it out for further information.
Remember that you must apply adequate pressure to ensure the gasified ink does not blend into the wrong part of the fabric. This may create blurry print results.
The greatest strength of sublimation ink is that it can be transferred to another polyester-based surface with the help of heat and pressure.
Printers often use sublimation ink when they want a way to print on clothing, mugs, or any other materials.
However, sublimation ink’s greatest strength causes some difficulties. To sublimate you must take the extra step of printing first to sublimation paper.
Only sublimation paper can hold on to sublimation ink at room temperature and allow the ink to turn into gas and infuse into the fibers of the print surface.
This makes sublimation ink unsuitable for regular printing on regular paper. Here’s a guide to the best sublimation papers along with buying guide.
Can You Use Sublimation Ink For Regular Printing?
Sublimation Ink doesn’t work for regular printing, only for sublimation paper. It doesn’t work because regular paper won’t absorb sublimation ink. If you print sublimation ink on regular paper, the ink will not be absorbed well, resulting in poor print quality.
Manufacturers design sublimation ink to only fuse with a polyester-based substrate (print surface), meaning it will not fuse with paper, unlike regular inkjet printers.
The only way to do sublimation ink work with regular printing is by using a sublimation paper. Sublimation paper only holds on to the sublimation ink, allowing it to keep the print design.
As a result, it can be common to see people take a regular inkjet printer and then use sublimation ink to print on sublimation paper. They often do this to later transfer the print design to a polyester-based substrate such as t-shirts.
Learn more about whether you can use inkjet printer for sublimation here.
Can You Use Sublimation Ink On Any Material?
Sublimation ink only works on two types of material: sublimation paper and polyester-based surfaces. If the material doesn’t have a polyester-base, it will need a layer of polyester coating to hold on to sublimation ink.
Printers can only use sublimation ink on polyester-based surfaces, such as cloths with a high polyester count. For this reason, you do not see sublimation used on cotton-based clothing, as it would not work.
Often for cotton-based clothing, printers do either screen printing or heat transfers. In another method, printers will first sublimate their design on a vinyl transfer sheet and then heat transfer the vinyl sheet to the clothing.
For non-polyester materials such as ceramic, sublimation is possible if you add a layer of polyester to the surface. With the added surface, printers can sublimate on plates and mugs.
While many materials might not be directly suitable for sublimation, there are creative solutions available. For instance, if you’ve ever wondered about the possibility of sublimating on white HTV, there are comprehensive insights and guidance available on the matter. Learn more about sublimating on white HTV.
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