Heat Transfer Vs Sublimation – Sublimation Heat Press

Differentiating between heat transfer vs sublimation can be really hard. Especially if you are about to use them for the first time. So, in this article, I will talk about some of the major differences between the two types of papers along with their purposes. You can use these papers in different printing methods.

heat transfer vs sublimation

We will talk about these heat transfer and sublimation printing procedure and how they are different from each other. So, without further delay, let’s go into the details of heat transfer vs sublimation. And see how it helps you especially if you want to use any of these methods.

Heat Transfer Vs Sublimation

There are several ways of printing unique designs on a piece of fabric. Two such methods are sublimation printing which involves sublimation paper and the transfer method which involves transfer paper. Both the procedures have their own advantages and disadvantages. It depends upon your requirement that what you want to achieve. Both the procedures can be used depending upon the results you want to have. Below are some of the major differences between heat transfer vs sublimation. And how they can be used in the printing process:

Difference Between Sublimation And HTV

What is sublimation printing

Sublimation printing is a type of digital printing that enables the transfer of designs onto various materials including fabrics, ceramics, metals, and etcv Sublimation process used sublimation ink to print designs onto a specific transfer paper. After that transforms into gaseous state without becoming liquid when heat is applied.

What is heat transfer vinyl?

HTV is a type of material which is widely used in textile industry. It creates custom designs on fabric. HTV is made of polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material with an adhesive backing that allows it to be applied to fabric using heat and pressure.

How it works?

To use HTV, the design is first created using graphic design software and then cut out of the HTV material using a vinyl cutter. After removing the excess material, the design remains on the backing sheet. Next, the design is applied onto the fabric using a heat press, which activates the adhesive backing and bonds the HTV to the fabric.

1- Which cost effective

When you have to choose between sublimation and HTV, cost is a primary factor that people consider when deciding between sublimation and HTV. This is because both methods require different equipment to work. In order to simplify the decision-making process, let’s analyze the cost of the equipment required for both sublimation and heat transfer vinyl.

Equipment needed for sublimation printing

It includes the following items,

  • A sublimation printer
  • Sublimation paper
  • Heat press machine, you can also use Cricut press, or Easy Press.

A sublimation printer is more expensive than an inkjet printer. But you can convert an HP inkjet printer into a sublimation printer. But I recommend a dedicated sublimation printer is a better investment. Sublimation ink is more costly than regular ink, but it lasts longer. And there is no requirement of ink in bulk, a set of ink is enough for years. The cost of sublimation paper and regular paper is almost same. A heat press is a relatively expensive item, but you can use a Cricut Easy Press, which is cheaper than a heat press.
Equipment needed for HTV

It includes the following items,

1- an inkjet printer must be filled with regular or pigment inks
2- Vinyl paper
3- A die cutting machine such as a Cricut
4- A heat source like a heat press, Cricut press, or Easy Press.

Inkjet printers and inks for HTV are less expensive than sublimation printinrs and inks. Also the cost of printable vinyl paper is also low. But a die cutting machine and heat press can be expensive.

2- Compare the durability of sublimation and HTV

In sublimation printin, the ink is transferred into the fabric and ink becomes the part of the fabric. This means there is no additional layer, and you will not feel any extra texture when you touch it.

In case of HTV, it creates an additional layer on top of the fabric, which you can feel when you touch it. It may sometimes crack or peel.

Overall, in terms of durability, sublimation printing is winner. While sublimation does have some limitations compared to HTV, it outperforms HTV in terms of durability.

3- Comparison the ease of use of sublimation and heat transfer vinyl

Sublimation Printing:

Sublimation printing process is very simple. Initially, you need to utilize a sublimation printer to print an image onto sublimation paper. Then, the image is transferred to a blank using a heat source. While some steps may differ depending on the blank used, overall, the procedure is simple and does not require any complicated steps.

Heat Transfer Vinyl:

The heat transfer vinyl process is also simple. First, the image is printed onto a vinyl sheet, which is then cut using a Cricut machine. Subsequently, the cut vinyl is applied onto the blank. While one extra step is involved in cutting the vinyl, the process is still easy to follow.

Sublimation Paper vs Transfer Paper

How to Print on Sublimation Transfer Paper

The sublimation paper is somewhat different from the transfer paper. The print you get with the help of sublimation paper is completely merged into the fabric. It appears as a part of the fabric. This means that the print can last for a longer time. And it does not damage upon washing repeatedly. The print does not fade and crack easily. This is quite unlike the heat transfer paper because in sublimation transfer paper there is a layer which can easily crack. So, this is the major difference between the two types of papers.

In the sublimation printing method, only specific inks can be used that are solely designed for this printing method. This is very unlike the transfer paper method. Other than that, sublimation is a more advanced procedure that is based on digital technology and offers many new options. You can get all sorts of prints and designs with this procedure and that too of really high quality. The print seems as if it is a part of the fabric.

Heat Transfer Paper

On the contrary, heat transfer paper is a special kind of paper that is used in the printing process. This paper is basically used to transfer the print designs onto the fabric with the help of heat and pressure. Various types of printers are used and are compatible with this paper. For instance, an inkjet printer can be used or you can also use a laser printer. This paper prints the design in such a manner that it appears as a layer on a fabric. So, this paper is really useful and effective in the printing procedure and is used by professionals.

As compare to sublimation printing, in the heat transfer printing method, you need to have a transfer method. One thing about this procedure is that it is not limited to any specific kind of ink. Rather, you can use any printing ink in the transfer paper method and you will get the required result. All you need to do is to put the paper on the fabric and then apply some heat to it with pressure. This is how the print will be there on the fabric without any difficulty.

Which is Better – Sublimation Paper vs Heat Transfer paper

In general, both sublimation and heat transfer vinyl techniques are user friendly and can generate vivid and vibrant results. While personal preferences may vary. In my opinion, sublimation printing may be slightly easier to use than heat transfer vinyl.

Both are good in different aspects. If your main focus is to print white or light polyester fabric then sublimation is good. Your print will be durable and washable. If you want to print any color material then heat transfer paper is a good choice.


The sublimation heat press is basically the printing procedure that involves the use of heat for transferring the print onto the fabric. In this printing procedure, heat converts the solid form is directly turned into the gaseous state. As a result, you get a design printed on the fabric.

The answer to this question is simply, no! You cannot use sublimation paper with just any random type of printer. It can only be used with specific printers and specific inks. You really need to be careful about that. If you do not consider this limitation, you will not get the required outcome. Even if you use this paper with a regular printer. The heat press machine is an important part of the sublimation printing process which is not there in regular printing.

Yes, you can use it for vinyl. It is effective but not that much. The most effective result you get with a sublimation heat press is on the cotton material. However, there is no harm in using it for the vinyl.

There are different brands that sell transfer paper at different prices. So, it depends on the brand. Other than that, transfer papers are not that expensive. You can get them at a reasonable price that may range from 12 dollars to 18 dollars. The quality may also differ depending on the price. So you first need to figure out your requirement and then go for it accordingly. If you have a business and want to use it for professional purposes then a good quality transfer paper is a must. So, investing in it will be worth it.


So, these are some of the major differences between heat transfer vs sublimation. If you are running a small-scale business, this information may help you in one way or the other. So, do consider all these factors before you start your sublimation printing business.

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