Best practice: Why sublimation printing is sustainable


The heat transfer sublimation printing process is a great eco-friendly and highly sustainable printing technique. It is not only simple, but also efficient in creating bright and interesting prints on fabric. It is a fantastic technique that’s used by top designers and visual artists. CLOTH project participants in the CXC Ruse/Bucharest were acquainted with sublimation printing at GABIC – producer of flags and offering sublimation printing services.

Sublimation printing is a chemical process that imprints a design onto a garment through a chemical reaction. Sublimation refers to the passage of molecules from the solid to gas state, without moving through a liquid state, fusing the design onto the fabric, and then turning the gas back into a solid, thereby creating a lasting imprint. Upon exposure to heat, the cloth fibers open, allowing the dyes to permeate into the fibre and bond with it permanently. 

Sublimation results in minimum wastage. No dye gets into the water system which happens with many other dyeing processes. The same sublimation print can be used multiple times to print on more than just one piece of fabric. The process is called exhaust printing. Although subsequent prints will reduce in intensity, it will still work for a number of pieces. This can give its own unique effect.

Another advantage of sublimation printing is its level of safety for the worker. The dyes used are safe and not in any way harmful. Printers usually opt for using CMYK, so the result is that only a minimal amount of dye inks are actually used.

Sublimation printing creates absolutely zero waste. There is absolutely no need for water in the dyeing process. Sublimation can be used on recycled polyester.

In fact, sublimation is the most environmentally friendly and sustainable method of garment printing and production currently being used today.