Heat Press VS Sublimation – Sublimation Paper VS Transfer Paper

Which printing mechanism is best for a profitable printing business? People who have recently joined the printing business often ask this question. The quality of your products and the profit you will make in the future rests upon your decision that which printing method you are selecting. “Heat press VS Sublimation printing” is one of the most debatable topics in the printing business.

You don’t have to use heat press and sublimation printers to determine which one is suitable for you. I have compiled all the information needed in this article to save your time, money, and effort. Heat press printing involves the transfer of a design on your desired material with the help of high temperatures.

Heat Press VS Sublimation: The Main Difference

The main difference between them is the image on printed transfer paper is transferred by applying heat as a layer of the image is added to the material. On the other hand, sublimation involves the fusion of the ink with the material. Both methods have their perks.

Heat Press VS Sublimation

Introduction to Heat Press Printing

Heat press printing is one of the most common and oldest printing techniques. It is also known as thermal transfer, as a heat press enables it to transfer the printed image onto a substrate at high temperatures.

First, a picture is printed using the best printer for heat transfer onto a transfer paper either it can be vinyl printing paper or other printing material using pigment ink or inkjet ink. Then heat is applied using a heat press. The design transfers from the paper to the desired material, and now you have to detach the transfer paper from your base material attentively.

You can check here sublimation vs vinyl heat transfer (HTV)

Your product is good to go. It requires patience, as you have to slowly remove the paper after it has cooled down to avoid cracks.

Introduction to Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing has taken over the printing business in the past few years. With the help of sublimation printing, you can fuse your design onto the material or fabric avoiding the layer of the image. Well, how to do a sublimation transfer? The sublimation ink is transferred to the sublimation paper using the best sublimation printer.

Then the required design is transferred from the sublimation paper to the base material with the help of heat. The sublimation ink evaporates as it is heated. The vapors of the ink absorb into the fabric and form the exact image on the sublimation paper, on the substrate. The sublimation ink now seems to be united with the substrate and cannot be detached.

Heat Press VS Sublimation

Heat press and sublimation both are renowned imprint methods. These two techniques are somewhat similar, yet they also have many differences. The mechanism of transferring an image from a paper onto a substrate using heat is the same. However, in the case of heat press printing, the dye mechanically binds with the substrate, forming a layer on its surface.

Heat Press VS Sublimation


The first and foremost thing you should consider while selecting the technique before establishing a printing business is your budget. In the case of heat press VS sublimation printing, Heat press printing is much more affordable.

You need a good quality pigment ink inkjet or laser printer, heat press, transfer paper, and your substrate. Whereas sublimation requires almost the same machines, the sublimation ink is an addition to the list. Compared to the inkjet inks used in heat press printing, these inks are a little expensive. You can also check the difference between sublimation ink vs pigment ink.


In any business, the quality of the product and its longevity is the basic principle for success. Customers mainly prefer products that are comfortable, attractive, and durable. As discussed earlier, the image becomes a part of the fabric in sublimation, and in heat press printing, it forms a layer. This layer is prone to cracking due to wear and tear.

The coating can crack and wear off as the consumer washes the product. The image formed by the sublimation printer is not prone to deterioration as it is infused with the fabric and does not crack. Hence, sublimation printing produces more durable products.

Color-Quality of the Print

If you want a precise color to be printed, then sublimation printing is the best option for you. Sublimation printers produce an image with fantastic color quality as it uses wet ink technology, the dye fuses and form a vibrant image. In contrast, heat press printing can also produce a good quality color print if you select suitable transfer paper for your products.

Substrate Material

In the printing business, you must focus on the consumer’s demand and what type of material they prefer. Each of these printing techniques is suitable for specific kinds of materials. You should have proper knowledge about the materials you are going to use, so you can go for the most suitable printing method for your business according to these materials. Also have a look at, how to do sublimation Acrylic.

One of the easiest ways to select the imprint method among the heat press and sublimation is to choose cotton for the heat press and polyester for sublimation.

Pros and Cons of Both Printing Methods

Pros of sublimation printing

  • Sublimation printing focuses on only a specific type of substrate material for clothing. The sublimation ink requires to absorb the material, so it must be breathable and porous. Sublimation printing bounds you to use polyester as it is porous and can absorb the ink more effectively.
  • Sublimation printing is not effective for pure cotton materials. You can use other materials such as poly-blends with 70% polyester dye on cotton, nylon, rayon, spandex, PVCs, and lycra. Other than the fabric, you can use metals, plastics, mugs, and glasses with a polyester coating as your substrate. Even you can also do sublimation on wood.

Cons of Sublimation Printing

  • You cannot print in dark t-shirt colors without bleaching them.
  • You won’t be able to print on the cotton material.

In case if you want to buy the best sublimation printer for t-shirts you can check.

Pros of Heat transfer printing

  • Heat press printing does not limit to polyester materials, unlike sublimation printing.
  • You can use pure cotton, polyesters, and other poly blends as your base material. You can also use other materials such as plastic and nylon, but you should consider the temperature and time, as they can melt under high temperatures.
  • In the case of the material’s color, sublimation printing is suitable for light-colored or white fabric, as it gives a good finish and the print is more prominent. If you sublimate on dark materials, the colors will not appear clear and form a dim image. You can use white, light-colored, and dark-colored cloth for heat press printing.

Cons of Heat press Printing

  • Cracks after wearing and tearing
  • Less durable than sublimation

Sublimation Paper VS Transfer Paper

Sublimation Paper

Sublimation paper and transfer paper are specially designed for their respective printing techniques. Neither one can be used as a substitute for the other. Sublimation papers have a special coating of polyester that prevents the sublimation ink from absorbing it, and when the heat is applied, the ink does not diffuse into the paper but instead onto the fabric.

Heat Transfer Paper

The heat transfer paper is designed to transfer the layer of a design imprinted on it onto a substrate. It is used along with inkjet printers or laser printers to form an image. The sublimation paper is a little expensive compared to the transfer paper, but the quality of the print that the sublimation paper forms surpasses the transfer paper. One should keep in mind that one can reuse neither one of them.

Sublimation Paper VS Transfer Paper
If you’re still confused then watch this video your doubts will be cleared.


What’s the difference between a heat press and sublimation printing?

Both mechanisms are similar to some extent as both include the transfer of the desired image from a special transfer paper onto a selected base material using heat. But in the case of the heat press technique, the image forms a layer above the material. However, the sublimation techniques infuse the ink and the base material with the help of the sublimation process.

Can you use an iron instead of a heat press for sublimation?

If you are sublimating at home just for fun, you can use iron to heat press your print onto the material, but it needs precision and care. You can destroy your print as you cannot select a specific temperature.

The high temperature can damage your print, and if it is low, it will not form a proper image. Whereas, if you are running a formal business, then a heat press is one of the most essential and fundamental things you will need.

What is heat press printing?

Heat press printing is a printing method in which a design is printed on a transfer paper with the help of an inkjet printer, and then a heat press machine is used to transfer that image on a base, forming a layer on it. It is suitable for a vast range of materials and colors. Only a few fabrics that are heat sensitive cannot be heat pressed. If you want to know about more ideas for printing you can check the sublimation vs screen printing.


Now summing up everything, If you are a newbie in the printing business and are struggling to choose a specific printing method to start your business with, then this article will guide you in selecting one. The heat press printing and sublimation printing both have their specialties.

You can choose one based on the type of material and product you are focusing on. However, I have come across many printing techniques, and in my opinion, sublimation printing is the most emerging printing method. It produces a more durable, permanent, and clear image.

It might need a little more start-up, but its quality, versatility, and popularity make it worth the investment. You can use poly-cotton material for a more comfortable and breathable option. I hope that now the debate of “Heat press VS Sublimation” has come to an end, as I have thoroughly explained the pros and cons in detail.


  • Hello, artists and crafters. Welcome to Our State Of the Art! I am Leo O'Neal. I'm confessing that I am an artist and printing enthusiast. I've been working with my dad in the printing business since my childhood. After spending my whole childhood in the arts, I can easily write and review art, craft, and printing products including sublimation printers, sticker printers, Cricut, vinyl projects. cardstock, Art prints, and many more. From printing t-shirts to tattooing, you'll love the in-depth reviews and how-to tutorials on our blog.