Heat Transfer Paper vs Sublimation Paper: What is the Best For You? A comprehensive guide

Is it better to print on sublimation paper or heat transfer paper?

The truth is that both strategies are lovely, and each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks! Your objectives and what you want to achieve, on the other hand, decide the optimal plan for you or your firm.

So, Let’s get this started!

Heat transfer paper:

Thermal transfer paper is paper used to transfer a printed image onto goods such as T-shirts using heat.

Thermal transfer paper may be printed using an inkjet or laser printer.

The printed sheet is then placed on a T-shirt and heated (in some cases, you can also use a household iron, but the heat press gives the best results).

Heat transfer paper is ideal for decorating garments since it has the lowest start-up cost.

Many interior designers start with a personal printer at home. It’s worth mentioning that most thermal transfer sheets are compatible with both cotton and polyester fabrics.

One may also use thermal transfer paper on dark and light-colored clothes, but sublimation can only be used on white and light-colored garments.

Sublimation Paper:

Only sublimation transfer sheets are used for sublimation printing, made with a similar paper foundation as regular paper. A unique coating is applied to the paper to keep the dye-sublimation inks in place.

Choosing the correct sublimation paper

  1. Capacity and Limitations of Ink

This is a crucial consideration; the more significant the ink limit (wet), the thicker the paper must be to receive moisture from the ink without curling or warping.

2. Pattern in Ink

This demonstrates how a highly intricate design artwork with heavy and light ink input was printed. This is a problem with low-weight sheets, which curl and shift after being pressed.

The ideal answer is to use 110gsm or higher paper that accepts heavy and light inks.

3. Roll to Sheet or Roll to Roll

The calendar heat press prefers Low-gsm papers. However, in the case of solid ink, one must carefully examine the limit and capacity. We’ll look at the restrictions of high-capacity manufacturing, as well as the repercussions such as warping and curling.

4. Printing Rate

The pace at which the paper is printed determines the quality of the finished product.

Slow printing generates thick paper, whereas fast printing provides lightweight paper.

Comparison between heat transfer vs sublimation paper

Now that you have an overview of heat transfer paper and sublimation, let’s compare these two methods of clothing decoration in some important aspects.

  • Start-up costs and required equipment

Thermal transfer paper decoration is one of the cheapest decoration methods to start with.

All you need is an inkjet or laser printer (some of you may already have one), a heat press, transfer paper, and the t-shirt or garment you want to decorate – and that’s it! A hobby heat press usually retails for around $300, and that’s the biggest initial investment you can make.

The initial cost of sublimation is higher than thermal transfer paper, but it has come down considerably in recent years, and sublimation starter packages,

such as the Sawgrass Virtuoso SG400, which are very reasonably priced and include everything you need to get started with sublimation except a heat press.

This package includes a sublimation printer, sublimation paper, the necessary software, and a sample pack of sublimation-ready products.

Other than that, all you need is a heat press, and amateur heat presses start at about $300.

  • Durability and feel

Instead of being applied to the cloth, the ink becomes a part of it using the sublimation procedure. As a consequence, the transfer is unrivaled in terms of longevity and feel.

On the other hand, thermal transfer paper creates a layer on top of the cloth.

This additional layer is more visible and less permanent than sublimation, and it may fade or tear after repeated washings.

It should be noted that thermal transfer paper has advantages and disadvantages, as some feel softer and are more durable than others.

JET-PRO Soft Stretch is more durable.

  • Types of garments that can be decorated

With thermal transfer paper, more fabrics can be decorated than with sublimation.

First, sublimation is only available for polyester materials. This is because sublimation inks only adhere to polyester materials.

Sublimation is also possible on polyester and cotton blends, but the transfer is not as vivid as on 100% polyester. Also, sublimation prints do not create an extra layer on the fabric, so the transfer looks good only on white or light-colored fabrics.

Although thermal transfer paper is superior in terms of the types of fabrics (materials and colors) that can be decorated, sublimation is suitable for a wide range of hard and soft fabrics.

However, sublimation can be used on a wide range of fabrics, from the hardest to the softest, and in most cases cannot be used with thermal transfer paper.

  • Colors that can be expressed

Full-color printing is possible with sublimation printing. It is therefore particularly suitable if you want to print photos or if you have customers who require a specific color, such as a company logo.

Inkjet thermal transfer paper for light-colored clothing or laser thermal transfer paper for OKI’s laser printers with white toner are typically acceptable for photo-quality prints on thermal transfer paper.

  • About weeding

With thermal transfer paper, the print is transferred to the garment through the transfer layer, so unless you want the paper-like background to stand out on a T-shirt, you’ll need to cut out the image with scissors or a cutting plotter.

The transfer layer on transfer paper for light-colored clothes is translucent and practically undetectable, so it does not need to be cut off.

However, if it is not cropped, the transfer layer can be seen even in areas where there is no image.

In the case of “single-sheet” transfer paper for dark colors, it is essential to trim it, as the unprinted areas are white.

Pros & Cons of Heat transfer Paper Printing.


  • Much less expensive to set up, and can utilize a home printer
  • Works with both bright and dark clothing
  • Can be used on 100% cotton textiles


  • It leaves a textured layer on garments.
  • It’s just for use on fabric; it won’t work on stiff items.
  • Less durable and fades quickly when washed.
  • Can crack and peel over time.
  • Cannot iron pattern (but can iron the rest of the garments) • Not self-weeding (you must clip off your picture particularly on dark fabric).

Pros & Cons of Sublimation Paper printing


  • Color is permanently transferred to the fabric
  • No liquid is used in the printing process, so it dries quickly
  • Extremely durable and long-lasting
  • Texture less design, even when used all over
  • Can be used on rigid products with poly-coating
  • Prints full colors, which is ideal for photos and a variety
  • Inks have good UV resistance as standard
  • Self-weeding (only transfers the ink to the fabric)


  • Not suitable for dark-colored textiles
  • Requires a high poly content (85%+)
  • Costlier to set up than transfer

FAQS(Frequently asked questions)

Q. Is it possible to reuse heat transfer paper?

A. Regardless of the sort of thermal transfer paper you use, you cannot reuse it. Even if there is some ink left on the paper after printing using sublimation paper, it will not be enough to produce a good-quality print.

When using transfer paper, the heat from the iron melts the paper’s plastic lining, transferring the ink to the cloth as well as the plastic from the paper. It’d be difficult to reuse this.

Q. Which side of the sublimation paper should you print on?

A. It’s critical to print your artwork on the brilliant white side of your sublimation paper when deciding which side to print on.

Q. Can Sublimation Paper Be Used on Dark Fabric?

A. White or light-colored fabric bases are preferable for sublimation. You may use it on deeper tints, but your colors will be affected.

Q. How Long Will Heat Transfer Paper Last?

A. It depends. The kind of paper you use may have an impact on the outcome.


Both sublimation and heat transfer printing are fantastic ways to adorn garments; both printing technologies are reasonable and helpful. However, if you’re wanting to decorate other surface substrates like tiles, mugs, plastic, jewelry, pottery, etc.

I recommend obtaining a dye-sublimation printer. If you’re solely going to do garment decorating, invest in a good heat transfer printer for your garment printing company.

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