Sublimation paper plays a major role in the sublimation process. Sublimation is a great way to get your designs from a computer to fabric or rigid material.
The paper you choose for your sublimation projects is important. It has to work with sublimation ink and be compatible with the temperatures involved with sublimation.
While you can use many types of paper in a sublimation printer. If you want the best results you should use paper specifically designed for sublimation ink.
What is Sublimation Paper?
Sublimation paper comes in standard sizes but tends to be thicker than copy paper. It starts off as regular paper but what makes sublimation paper different is its coating. The coating not only makes the surface smoother but it contains resin and silicon.
Its resin coating prevents sublimation ink from wicking into the paper. When ink seeps into the paper your print will lose finer details and text will be fuzzy. The more ink that seeps into the paper means less ink will wind up on your blank.
The resin coating also prevents blowout during the heat transfer. It seals the paper so sublimation ink doesn’t bleed through the back of the paper. This means more sublimation ink is transferred to your substrate and less is wasted.
The silicon coating in sublimation paper prevents the paper from sticking to your blank. During the heat transfer the paper can adhere to your blank. Some blanks, such as wood, are more prone to this than others. The silicon coating minimizes the paper adhering to your substrates.
The coating found on sublimation paper produces results that can’t be obtained with regular copy paper. It ensures the most sublimation ink winds up on your blank instead of in the paper or blown out the back.
Sublimation Paper Uses
Sublimation paper is specifically made for sublimation printing. While you can print on it with regular ink, you can’t sublimate with regular ink.
Using sublimation paper with regular ink does have better results than color laser paper. It won’t be as good as photo paper with regular ink. Though photo paper is much more expensive and the coating will melt if you tried to sublimate with it.
As for sublimation, if you really want to save money by using other paper you can use color laser paper. It’s smoother and heavier than copy paper.
Color laser paper is a passable substitute for sublimation paper and won’t cost as much. Honestly, for most finished products you can’t tell the difference between sublimation paper and color laser paper.
There will be a noticeable difference for certain designs though. Photos of people, finer details, or small text won’t be as good with color laser paper. Also some colors may not be as bright.
If you want to save money then you should use color laser paper. Just be sure to use butcher or copy paper to protect your heat press from blowout.
If you don’t want to worry about the results then sublimation paper is the best choice.
Is All Sublimation Paper the Same?
While there are several companies that make sublimation paper there really isn’t much difference between the papers they make. Most any sublimation paper will have the similar results.
The difference is with other things like packaging and instructions. Some don’t include any instructions. While others include helpful instructions as well as a chart for time and temperature. Most will have a watermark or color so you know which side to use.
Things like drying time and thickness really aren’t important for sublimation paper. You only need to worry about drying times when using photo paper since it has a different coating. Which can’t be used for sublimation anyway.
Also, sublimation ink dries faster than stock ink. No matter which paper you use drying times isn’t going to be an issue with sublimation ink.
Thickness is more about durability and feel. Which isn’t a factor for sublimation. Thickness is good for resumes and photos, but it won’t improve your final product for sublimation at all. In fact, 120 GSM (grams per meter squared) has better results than 125 GSM most of the time.
Thickness may cut down on blowout in your heat press. But as for printing thickness has no impact (laser printers are another story). Some printers tend to jam more with thicker paper.
Sublimation Paper Recommendations
Here are our top picks for sublimation paper. These papers include instructions, a chart, and mark the back so you know which side to use:
If you want to save money by not using sublimation paper, then don’t use copy or multipurpose paper. It will have noticeably worse results than color laser paper.
This paper won’t have any instructions but you can use either side. It costs slightly more than copy paper but is much better:
You can use sublimation paper for sublimation. You can also use color laser paper for sublimation but not all designs will turn out the same.
Sure, it won’t damage your printer. But without sublimation ink the image won’t transfer.
Sublimation paper acts as a carrier for sublimation ink. Transfer paper comes in two different types. Transfer paper for light materials is similar to sublimation paper since it transfers standard ink to the substrate. While the transfer paper for dark materials closer to vinyl.
Not necessarily. Sublimation paper works best but you can use color laser paper.
The Copier Guy, aka Dave. I’ve worked on scanners, printers, copiers, and faxes over 23 years. When I’m not fixing them I’m writing about them. Although, I’m probably better at fixing them. I’ve worked with every major brand. As well as several types of processes. If it uses paper I’ve probably worked on one.