Sublimation (or dye-sublimation process) is a very simple but highly effective process to professionally and permanently apply an image into (not onto) the surface of ceramics (and a range of other items) to create high quality saleable products.
In other printing processes, a transfer paper, metal sheet or film is printed and applied onto a blank item. However, with dye-sublimation, the image is dyed directly into the surface of the item.
- Dye-sublimation utilises the chemical process called sublimation (which is also the chemical process that produces dry ice), which means that the “ink” changes directly from its solid state on a printed screen into gas without going through the liquid stage then back into a solid state bonding within the special polymer coating of the product itself.
- Dye-sublimation “ink” is actually fine dry granules held in a liquid carrier. The dye-sublimation inks are printed with an ink-jet printer onto a special “paper”, which holds the image in place.
It is interesting to note that in the process the special inks and paper used for the screen are two of the most expensive elements.
- The image or screen is then placed onto the blank object (the mug) that is pre-prepared with a polymer coating and heat pressed (in a machine that combines high temperature and pressure).
- The dye then “sublimates” into a gas and with the help of both the heat and the pressure being applied, is embedded into the surface of the mug.
- As the dyes cool they turn back into a solid and have bonded with the polymer molecules which means the image is now permanently in the surface of the product.
And there you have it.