Screen printing or sublimation: which is the best technique for your business?

Screen printing and sublimation make for some of the most durable types of prints available on the market. Both are widely used techniques that offer benefits of their own. But when you have to decide between screen printing or sublimation, which process is best for your business? From the platform of t shirt shop in Dallas we will discuss the both the methods in this article.

There is no single, definitive answer. After all, each technique works in a different way and offers distinct advantages and limitations for different types of application. 

Therefore, to decide between sublimation or serigraphy to carry out a print job, it is important to understand how each technique works and what are the particularities in terms of cost-effectiveness.

To help with that, we have prepared this article. Next, learn more about the differences and characteristics of screen printing and sublimation techniques to then make your decision and get the best possible results with your business! 

Screen printing: how does it work?

Also called silk screen , the traditional technique of serigraphy, in stamping, produces the impression from a screen. 

For this, the ink is inserted on the screen in contact with the fabric and, with the help of a puller, the ink is spread on the substrate and “leaks” through this screen, producing the print on the fabric . 

Sublimation technique: how is it done?

The process used by sublimation is a little different. In this technique, heat and pressure are used to chemically bond the dye to the fibers within the synthetic fabrics. 

Thus, instead of direct contact between the ink and the fabric, the print is printed on special paper and then this print is transferred to the substrate using sublimatic ink, which changes from a solid to a gaseous state with the use of high temperatures. 

To make it clearer, Milene Blauth, specialist in stamping design, gives an example: 

The ink is sublimated onto a specific transfer paper when printing on t-shirts using a thermal press, which generates extremely high heat. Deep inside the cloth, the dye transforms into a gas “according to him.  

The specialist adds that “The ink cools and returns to its solid state after you take the garment out of the press, but by this time it has already bonded to the cloth at the molecular level. This means that a sublimation print will last as long as as the fabric of the T-shirt”. 

Screen printing or sublimation: how to choose the best technique?

The choice will depend on some factors, such as the number of pieces to be printed, type of art and fabric used , production costs, expected results and others. 

Both techniques create high quality products, but have different pros and cons due to the unique printing methods used in each process. 

Below, check out a comparison between the benefits and limitations of choosing between screen printing or sublimation: 

Advantages and disadvantages of screen printing 

One of the best things about screen printing is its versatility. With this technique, it is possible to print on almost any type or color of fabric. Another favorable point is that, with it, it is easy to produce large batches of a personalized product and, still, to do so at an attractive cost. 

Also, as highlighted by Ricardo Osório, representative of ProMídia, “it is possible to use many special effects with serigraphy, since the printers can use a wide variety of special inks, such as glitter inks, 3D inks and so on”. 

As a counterpoint, it is important to know that it takes time and effort to prepare for screen printing, so it may not be the best alternative for printing small quantities of personalized parts. 

In addition, the halftone can be thick in the print, leading to a loss of richness of detail in more complex designs, reducing the quality of the stamped part in these cases. 

Another issue to keep in mind is that, over time, the print can start to peel, especially after many washes. 

Advantages and disadvantages of sublimation 

This printing method allows the production of parts with vivid and durable colors. It also uses the full digital color gamut of the CYMK printer model, which means you can easily print color photos or images using sublimation. 

In this way, it is possible to work with more complex designs than in screen printing, even on hard surfaces, such as mugs or banners with polymer coating. Furthermore, this is a more favorable technique for fulfilling small batches of customized orders. 

Durability is another highlight. As the dye binds deep below the surface of the fabric, the quality will last, without the print peeling or fading. 

As a limitation, we have that sublimation is only recommended for synthetic fabrics (especially polyester) or objects that receive a polymer coating, not being indicated for printing on cotton — unless you intentionally seek to produce a piece with a vintage and faded look . 

Also, the results are better when using white or light colored polyester fabrics. 

In short: screen printing or sublimation?

Comparing serigraphy x sublimation, we can say that both techniques allow the production of high quality pieces, but in different ways. 

Sublimation printing technique offer bright colors that remains the same and don’t fade over time. This printing method can also create detailed and multi-color images with ease. However, the results will be better only with the use of clear and synthetic fabrics. 

On the other hand, screen printing works best for vibrant, embossed designs on any fabric color. This method can use multiple colors, but art that only requires a few colors works best. You can easily batch print with screen printing, which makes the technique advantageous for fulfilling bulk orders. 

Between serigraphy and sublimation it is concluded that: 

“Screen printing technique uses very small number of colors to produce prints that offer a bold contrast of colors. Designs look elegant compared to a typical DTG print and last a long time, but occasionally crack and fade. It easily fills large-scale orders, reusing canvases many times. Works best with artwork that requires one, two or three colors.” 

As for sublimation, the specialist states that the technique is capable of “producing vivid and more complex prints, such as those using photos, and offers extreme durability because the dye binds to the fibers of the fabric. , preferably white. It is a technique widely used for on-demand production of small batches of orders”.