Can sublimation paper be used for polyester or cotton fabric?
Natural fibers cannot be used in the print process due to their cellular structure and the chemistry of dye sublimation. Rather than printing direct-to-substrate or fabric as digital printing would do, the dye sub printer first prints to a transfer paper, aptly called "transfer paper." The image is printed in reverse on the transfer paper, and once printed, is removed from the printer and "married" to a piece of olefin based material, typically polyester.
If the fabric and transfer media are matched, they are run through a set of heated pressure rollers at around 400°F (about 205°C). As the material passed through the rollers, the heat causes two things to happen simultaneously. First, the pores of the polyolefin fabric expand and open. Second, the dye from the transfer paper is converted to a gaseous state and the pressure from the rollers forces it into the open cells of the poly fabric, thus infusing the color to become part of the fabric itself.
For sublimation printing ,we all know cotton and polyester fabrics are generally pretty durable, and for use in a parade, I can't think of any reason or usage, rain, snow, sun, or whatever, that would hurt a polyester poplin fabric banner. The dye sub print process permanently infuses the poly fabric with color during the print process so that you can send these banners through the washer without color loss, and a rain storm would be more gentle than your average washing machine, we'd think.
If you're unfamiliar with dye sublimation printing of banners and displays and more, let me explain a little bit about this print process, as it is one of my favorite topics because it produces beautiful, high quality, and durable prints if good printers and inks are used. First, in this printing process, the first clue is in the first word. Dye. Inks, per se, are not used in this type of printing, but rather, because we are printing on fabric, we use dyes. The dye set used in dye sublimation printing is slightly different than inkjet printing, and instead of the standard CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black) set of ink cartridges used on a digital printing press or even screen printing, dye sub uses the dye set CMYO, which stands for Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Overprint Clear.
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