Sublimation vs DTG: Is Sublimation Better Than DTG?

For those who are already thinking of starting a printing business, one major hurdle they face is the printing method they should opt for.  In that context, we often receive queries from readers asking us to do a dye sublimation vs DTG comparison.

Cutting right to the chase, sublimation is a process in which we embed designs on different substrates using a sublimation printer and heat press machine. 

DTG, on the other hand, means Direct to Garment Printing and it’s an efficient printing method, especially if you have got to print something in bulk.  We have analyzed both of these printing methods thoroughly to help you choose the one that suits your needs better. 

Have a look at them one by one: 

Dye Sublimation vs DTG: Understanding the Major Difference

The major difference between them is applying ink onto the fabric. In sublimation, a special print uses sublimation ink and is created beforehand. After printing onto sublimation paper, the print is then infused into the required piece of clothing.

While in the next step, it is sublimated and bonded with the ink inside to produce the final result. While the DTG process is totally different and involves the adhesion on the surface using aqueous textile inks.

In Direct to Garment (DTG) printing, however, the material or fabric is treated first and then printed directly with a required design via an inkjet printer. Additionally, it skips both the paper and a heat press, unlike sublimation. DTG is also durable as the sublimation is but it skips the tiny papers and heat press that are used in sublimation transfers. Both processes have different printers used. 

AdvantagesSublimationDirect Garment Printing
Print on dark colorsNoYes
Layer on the topNoYes
Print on cottonNoYes
A permanent part of the fabricYesNo
Using heat pressYesNo
Large Variety of fabricsNoYes
DurableYesYes
100 Times WashableYesNo
Ability to print white inkNoYes
Ability to print on various substratesYesNo
Becomes the part of the fabricYesNo
For bulk order or printing speedNoYes
Comparison table

Dye Sublimation: How It Works

As the word sublimation explains, it is a chemical process where a solid is directly converted into a gaseous state skipping the liquid phase. In working, Dye sublimation printing functions a bit like DTG. It is a digital technology where a number of bright colors are used for artwork. These colors work the best with polymer-coated substrates as well as polyesters.

However, in this method, you take print on a transfer paper first. Then you place that transfer paper on the desired fabric to sublimate that printed ink. In other words, it is a two-step method.

Dye Sublimation

In Dye sublimation, the material or fabric we use is either pure polyester or has a slight blend with cotton. Its examples include your sportswear and fashion wear shirts. Moreover, it can also get printed over hard materials coated with polymers. Such materials include mobile covers, metal sheets, plastics, ceramic mugs, etc.

Dye Sublimation Process

The process happens in three key steps:

  • Design: Design your artwork on a PC
  • Print: Print the design using a t-shirt sublimation printer on a sublimation paper
  • Transfer: Transfer it to the desired material or t-shirt via the heat press process

Benefits of Dye Sublimation

The most prominent advantage of using this technology is that it supports continuous tone printing, it doesn’t change the tone of color and thus the design stays intact and bright.

In case, you get an order of the design that has an image and you need to print it on the fabric without any color changes, this technology is good to go.

However, the colorful images produced by DTG inkjet are not as smooth as those produced by this dye-sublimation technology.

Another benefit of this print is that it lasts long. The dye doesn’t fade away after a certain time period and keeps embedded into the fiber. This way your image resists the repetitive washings and stays the same for several years. And it can win the hearts of your customers.

The process, however, is just like DTG is cost-effective.

Where it actually lacks in competition is that it is a slow and time taking process as it occurs in 3 continuous steps.

So, if you consider the quality of your prints more important and want to get more happy customers then this technology must be your choice over DTG printing. No doubt, it takes longer to get printing done but it definitely adds value to your products and that is what really matters. 

Direct to Garment: How It Works

It is a modern digital printing method in which your design is directly printed to the desired fabric. All you require is a computer and a DTG printer. It enables you to print your favorite design on your shirt directly with no hassle of transferring from one place to another medium and so on.

Direct to Garment

When it comes to material or fabric, you can take the print on light and dark-colored T-shirts, jeans, cotton, or a blend of polyester and cotton. With the advancement in printers and inks, the DTG printers have started becoming the preferences of businesses as they not only print on polyester but also on synthetics. These printers use aqueous textile ink, therefore, suitable enough for both light and dark-colored garments.

DTG Printing Process

Here are the 2 instant steps you require to get a DTG print:

  • Design: Create a design of your favorite artwork on the computer
  • Print: Take a print on the desired material with the help of a DTG printer skipping the heat press and printing onto paper.

Benefits of DTG Printing

One of the major benefits DTG printing gives to the user is that it prints the designs to the sweatshirts, shorts, or other fabric or materials in a single go. And this gives you a chance to make small prints in an affordable price range.

You can create amazing images with these simple DTG printers within no time. For people whose t-shirt businesses are on a smaller scale, it’s a massive opportunity to produce, bright, quick, and high-quality artwork within a decent price range adding maximum value to the product,

It is a perfect technology for businesses that are running on a smaller scale and get smaller orders like up to 20 shirts.

However, when it comes to bigger orders, it is not a good approach to go for this printing technology. As for smaller businesses, it can be expensive.

How much do these printings cost?

You can get a sublimation printer in the range of $1000 to $15,000 but you will also need to have a heat press that costs from $500 to $5000.

A DTG printer, on the other hand, ranges from $15,000 to $250,00.00+. These are the investments that give you long-term opportunities.

DTG vs Sublimation Quality

If we keep an eye on the durability then sublimation will win. Because sublimation ink becomes the part of the substrate but the downside is we can’t sublimate to dark colors directly. On the other hand, DTG printer and process are versatile. They can produce a wide range of designs onto any type of substrates.


FAQs

Is sublimation better than DTG?

DTG printing works best for natural fabrics such as canvas, linen, cotton, etc. It works both on light and dark-colored clothes and creates high-quality prints. However, sublimation printing works the best for hard surfaces such as mobile covers and metal sheets, etc. I’ve also covered the difference between sublimation vs screen printing.

Is DTG better than heat transfer?

In terms of quality over time, heat transfers should be your top choice. As the heat transfer technology makes the prints last longer this way enhances the product quality and wins your customer’s heart.

Is DTG ink the same as sublimation ink?

These two methods are completely different from each other. The chemistry of the sublimation is to recolor the fabric and the fabric absorbs the ink thus the ink becomes a part of the fabric. Whereas DTG is all about adherence on the top of the surface. Therefore, both inks are different from each other sublimation ink is dye-based and DTG ink is aqueous textile ink.

How many washes does DTG last?

Good Question! DTG prints are also reliable and good enough that can survive up to 50+ washes.

Does DTG printing crack?

Well, that totally depends upon the quality of the printing material you’re gonna use. The durability of the DTG depends upon the quality of the ink and adherence.

Which is better: sublimation or digital printing?

The sublimation process produces the garment with more vibrant colors as compared to digital printing. If you want your designs to last longer without changes in color you should go for sublimation printing.

Conclusion

Now that all the details on Sublimation vs DTG have been provided in this article. You can choose the best suitable printing technology for your business and provide value to the customers in order to make them happy and build a long-lasting relationship.

To make the decision now, you just have to analyze your needs and budget, figure out what applications you and your customers mainly require and what your target customer wants from you.

Author

  • 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.