sublimation ink vs regular ink

Sublimation Ink Vs Regular Ink (Here’s The Truth…)

Discovering the right ink for your printing needs can be a confusing task, mainly when confronted with terms like “sublimation” and “inket”.

Did you know sublimation ink changes from liquid to solid state upon heating, unlike regular ink?

This blog post will simplify these complicated conceptsoutlining their pros and cons to help make your choice easier.

Get ready; we’re about to dip our toes into the colorful world of printer inks!

Key Takeaways

  • Sublimation ink offers more vibrant and vivid colors compared to regular ink.
  • Regular ink is designed for printing on paper, while sublimation ink is specifically used for printing on polyester fabric.
  • Sublimation ink creates long-lasting prints that are smudge-proof and fade-resistant, while regular ink may smudge or rub off when applied to fabric.
  • Sublimation ink undergoes a state change from liquid to solid when heated, whereas regular ink remains in a liquid state throughout the process.

Sublimation ink vs Regular Ink

Difference between sublimation ink and regular ink
Difference between sublimation ink and regular ink

Sublimation ink and regular ink serve different purposes in the printing process, catering to specific material types and color vibrancy.

Let’s compare these two types of ink in detail.

CriteriaSublimation InkRegular Ink
VibrancyOffers more vibrant and vivid colors compared to regular ink.Color vibrancy may be less striking than sublimation ink.
Design PurposeDesigned to be transferred at high temperatures and printed on polyester fabric.Designed for printing on paper, not ideal for fabric printing.
DurabilityDue to its heat-activation, it dyes the fabric resulting in a long-lasting print.Has a tendency to smudge and rub off when applied to fabric.
State ChangeStarts as a liquid and becomes a solid when heated.Does not change states, remains liquid throughout the process.
CompatibilityUsed with sublimation printers and sublimation paper, which allows for high release rates.Not compatible with sublimation paper, often smearing when printed.
UsabilityCannot be used for regular printing due to the heat activation requirement.Commonly used for regular printing, requiring no heat activation.
Sublimation ink vs Regular Ink

Difference between sublimation ink and regular ink

Sublimation ink and regular ink may both be used in inkjet printers, but they are designed for different printing purposes.

See also  Can You Sublimate On PVC? (Answered!)

The main difference lies in their composition and how they interact with the printing substrate.

Sublimation ink is specifically formulated to transfer onto polyester fabric when exposed to high temperatures, resulting in vibrant and long-lasting prints.

On the other hand, regular ink is meant for paper-based printing and does not have the same heat-activating properties as sublimation ink.

Regular ink may smudge or rub off when applied to fabric, whereas sublimation ink bonds with the fibers of the fabric through a process called dye-sublimation.

It’s important to note that sublimation ink cannot be used for regular printing due to its unique heat activation requirement.

What is Sublimation Ink?

Sublimation ink is a specialized type of ink used in the printing process known as sublimation printing.

Read More Here: What Is Sublimation Ink (Easy & Quick Explanation)

Printing process of sublimation ink

Sublimation ink goes through a unique printing process that involves heat and transfer. Here’s how it works:

  • Design preparation: The desired image or design is created using graphic design software.
  • Inkjet printing: The prepared design is printed onto a special transfer paper using an inkjet printer loaded with sublimation ink. The ink used in this process is specifically formulated to turn into gas when heated.
  • Transfer setup: The printed transfer paper is positioned on top of the intended substrate, which is usually made of polyester fabric. The paper and fabric are carefully aligned to ensure accurate transfer.
  • Heat pressing: The assembled transfer paper and fabric are placed into a heat press machine. This machine applies high temperatures, typically around 400°F (200°C), along with pressure to activate the sublimation ink.
  • Ink vaporization: As the heat press reaches its set temperature, the sublimation ink on the transfer paper starts to vaporize without turning into a liquid state first. This process bypasses the liquid phase, allowing the ink to become a gas directly.
  • Dyeing process: Once in gas form, the sublimation ink molecules penetrate the polyester fibers of the fabric, impregnating them with color. This dye-sublimation process ensures vibrant and long-lasting prints.
  • Cooling down: After a specific amount of time, usually around 20-30 seconds, the heat press machine is opened, allowing the fabric and transferred dye particles to cool down.
  • Finished product: Once cooled, the sublimated fabric can be safely handled without fear of smudging or fading since the dye has become a permanent part of the textile.
See also  What Printers Can Be Used For Sublimation? (8 Picks!)

Pros and Cons of Sublimation Ink

Pros of sublimation ink include vibrant and vivid colors, high ink absorption for durable prints, and smudge-proof and fade-resistant results.

Cons include the need for specialized equipment and materials, such as heat presses and polyester fabric, as well as the limited compatibility with different printing substrates.

Pros of sublimation ink

Sublimation ink offers several advantages over regular ink. Let’s take a look at the pros of using sublimation ink:

  • Vibrant and vivid colors: Sublimation ink produces exceptionally vibrant and vivid colors, resulting in high-quality prints with excellent color reproduction.
  • Long-lasting durability: Sublimation ink creates a permanent bond with polyester fabric, ensuring that the print remains intact even after multiple washes. This makes it ideal for creating long-lasting designs on clothing, accessories, and other textile products.
  • Fade-resistant prints: Sublimation ink is specially formulated to resist fading over time, ensuring that your printed designs stay vibrant and eye-catching for an extended period.
  • Smudge-proof results: Once sublimation ink is heated and transferred onto polyester fabric, it becomes smudge-proof. This means that your prints won’t smear or rub off, providing a professional finish to your products.
  • High level of detail: With sublimation ink, you can achieve intricate details in your prints without compromising on quality. The sharpness and precision of sublimation printing make it an excellent choice for detailed artwork or photographs.

Cons of sublimation ink

Sublimation ink, while known for its vibrant colors and durability, does come with some drawbacks. Here are the cons of using sublimation ink:

  • Limited color options: Sublimation ink is primarily used for printing on polyester fabric, which means it may not offer the same range of color options as regular ink.
  • Limited substrate compatibility: Sublimation ink can only be used on fabrics or specially coated items that have a polymer base, such as mugs or phone cases. It cannot adhere properly to non-polyester materials, limiting its versatility.
  • Longer printing time: Printing with sublimation ink generally takes longer compared to regular inkjet printing. You cannot just load up your items like paper in a printing tray and leave it on automation like regular printing.
  • Specialized equipment required: Using sublimation ink requires specialized equipment such as a heat press or a special printer capable of doing sublimation prints, which may not be readily available or affordable for everyone.
  • Learning Curve: You will need time to get used to dyes, print settings, heat settings etc.
  • Not suitable for dark-colored fabrics: Although there are way to sublimate dark fabrics as well but according to my experience, sublimation inks work best on light-colored polyester fabrics. When printed on dark-colored fabrics, the design may not be easily visible or vibrant.
See also  Can You Use Parchment Paper For Sublimation? (Answered!)

Also Read: Can You Use A Regular Printer For Sublimation Printing?

What is Regular Ink?

Regular ink is a type of printer ink that is specifically designed for printing on paper using inkjet printers.

The printing process of regular ink

Regular ink is primarily used in inkjet printers for printing on various types of paper. The process of printing with regular ink involves the following steps:

  • Preparation: The inkjet printer is loaded with paper and regular ink cartridges, which contain either pigment-based or dye-based ink.
  • Printing: When a document or image is sent to the printer, tiny nozzles in the print head spray the regular ink onto the paper in precise patterns, creating the desired image or text.
  • Ink absorption: The printed paper absorbs the regular ink, which penetrates into the fibers of the paper. Pigment-based inks tend to sit on top of the paper and dry quickly, while dye-based inks get absorbed into the paper more deeply.
  • Drying: After printing, regular ink needs time to dry on the paper. Drying time can vary depending on factors such as temperature and humidity.
  • Handling: Once dry, printed materials using regular ink can be handled without smudging or rubbing off easily.


1. What Is The Difference Between Sublimation Ink And Regular Ink?

Sublimation ink is specifically designed for use in sublimation printing, which involves transferring dyes from a special paper onto various materials using heat. Regular ink, on the other hand, is used for traditional printing methods like inkjet or laser printers.

2. What Are The Advantages Of Using Sublimation Ink Over Regular Ink?

Sublimation ink offers several advantages over regular ink, including vibrant and long-lasting colors, excellent color saturation, and the ability to print on a wide range of materials such as fabrics, metal, ceramics, and more.
Additionally, sublimation prints are resistant to fading and washing.

3. Are There Any Limitations Or Drawbacks To Using Sublimation Ink?

While sublimation printing offers many benefits, it also has some limitations. Sublimated prints can only be done on materials with a special coating that allows the dye to bond properly.
This means that not all surfaces can be printed with sublimation ink. Additionally, the initial cost of setting up a dedicated system for sublimate printing may be higher than using regular printers with standard inks.

4. Is sublimation ink better than regular ink?

Sublimation ink is better than regular ink for certain applications, especially when vibrant, long-lasting prints are required on materials like fabric, ceramics, and metal. Regular ink is more suitable for everyday printing needs on paper and may not withstand heat or adhere permanently to various surfaces like sublimation ink does


So, when it comes to sublimation ink vs regular ink, the choice depends on your printing needs. Sublimation ink offers vibrant colors and lasting durability for fabric printing, while regular ink is ideal for paper projects.

Understanding the differences between the two types of ink will help you make an informed decision and achieve the best results in your printing endeavors.

Bella Williams

I'm Bella, a mom of 3 cuties. With 7 years of sublimation experience, my blog focuses on all things sublimation and printing. Join me for tips, tutorials, and inspiration to enhance your sublimation journey. Let's create and thrive together!
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