Difference Between Sublimation and Digital Printing

Nowadays, printing pictures and logos on various things are very popular and in trend, and sublimation and digital printing are two such technologies that transfer and print images on different kinds of materials. Both of these have different benefits and instructions, but their uses are the same.

Sublimation vs Digital Printing

The main difference between sublimation and digital printing is that the sublimation is infused into the material, and digital prints are printed on the surface of the material. In contrast, dye sublimation is infused into the material. Sublimation print can not be damaged, whereas digital printing is subjected to decay.

Sublimation vs Digital Printing 1

Sublimation is a high-quality method, where an image is infused on the desired surface. Heat is used in this method to transfer the picture in the paper and then to the desired surface. High temperature and pressure are needed here.

Digital printing is a method where a digital image is directly printed on a surface of a material. This method is a cheap way to print designs on material surfaces. It is also known as flatbed printing. Digital printing is faster than sublimation.

Comparison Table Between Sublimation and Digital Printing

Parameters of ComparisonSublimationDigital Printing
Definition Sublimation is a method where an image is transferred from paper to metal.Digital printing is a method where the image is printed directly on the surface.
UsageIt is reasonable for printing bulk. Then cheaper.It is not a great way to get print in bulk. It is best for sampling.
DyeDisperse dyes are used in sublimation. Reactive dyes are used in digital printing.
LongevitySublimation does not fade.Digital print fades away after multiple washes.
ExpenseSublimation is a costly and time-consuming method.Digital printing is a cheap and fast method.

What is Sublimation?

A high-quality process, where the user picture becomes one with the surface, it is infused on the metal. In sublimation, there is nothing to scratch off or peel. The metal and the infused picture become one entity. In this process, an image is printed on a transfer paper sheet, and then it is placed on metal. Next, this metal is placed in a sublimation printer, where, with the help of heat, the transfer paper turns into a gas, and the image gets infused on the used metal. The process is meant to be followed carefully in order to get successful results.

In sublimation printing, the inks get absorbed directly into the surface of the metal. As a result, the print is long-lasting. It does not get damaged after multiple washes, and it can withstand UV light as well. Sublimation is not proven to be good for glossy prints.

The surfaces that should be used in sublimation must be polymer-coated, such as aluminium, wood, and plastics. In this print, the design gets its details vivid, and the colours get saturated effects. Printing products are needed in small quantities if the printing is done in bulk. It is production feasible.

What is Digital Printing?

Digital printing is a method of printing a digital image directly on a surface. This technique is also known as flatbed printing. One can edit the image digitally before printing. Digital printing prints fast. Digital printing is printed on Dibond panels, including a polyester core. It does not require anything additional. Digital print can tolerate UV light, but after multiple washes, the print starts to get fade.

Digital printing can be done on multiple surfaces, such as paper and plastic. Plates, rubber rolls, nothing is needed in digital printing. Not many products are needed in this. It prints with powdered toner or liquid ink. As editing of the picture is possible here before printing, enhancement of images is an added advantage in this printing. The texture and sharpness of the image can be captured in digital printing.

This way of printing is very flexible, easy and fast. And a small quantity of production Is beneficial as that costs much less than any other available methods of printing. Although this printing costs less, it becomes expensive if one tries to do more quantity of print runs in one go. It is not production feasible. It is a good way to test by printing samples.

Main Differences Between Sublimation and Digital Printing

  1. In sublimation, an image is transferred from paper to metal, whereas in digital printing, the image is printed directly on the surface.
  2. Sublimation is a costly and time-consuming way of printing, but digital printing is a cheap and fast way to do the job.
  3. In sublimation, disperse dyes are used for printing, whereas in digital printing, reactive dyes are used.
  4. Even after multiple washes, sublimation does not get fade, while on the other hand, digital print fades away after multiple washes.
  5. Fabric does not need to be coated in sublimation printing, but in digital printing, the fabric has the need to be coated.
  6. An image is transferred in sublimation, whereas images are printed directly on the surface in digital printing.
  7. Sublimation is a wonderful method to print many supplies together. It costs cheaper when this printing is done in bulk. And digital printing is mostly used to test samplings as it is cheaper and takes less time.


The two methods have their pros and cons, digital printing though cheaper but have many advantages, and on the other hand, sublimation, the high-quality method, has several shortcomings. The best printing method depends on the reasons and purpose of the printing. Accounting to the need, we can select the best process.

Printing personal and significant images on t-shirts, mugs, or anything else is very popular as a gift nowadays. It gives a personal touch and looks promising as well. Both these processes help to fulfil that intention and provide the perfect outcome to gift your loved ones.


  1. https://www.koreascience.or.kr/article/JAKO201013363798646.page
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