What Is Sublimation Ink? Sublimation Ink Vs Regular Ink

If you are thinking of trying your hands at sublimation printing then it’s important to understand one of its most important ingredients- sublimation ink.

In this article, I’ve explained it in the most simple way possible. I’ve talked about anything and everything related to it; from its definition to types, usage, pros & cons, and how it is different from regular ink. You won’t need to search again on this topic after reading this. So, let’s get started.

sublimation ink vs regular ink

What Is Sublimation Ink?

It is a specific kind of ink that is used by sublimation printers and most inkjet printers in the process of sublimation printing. What makes this ink so special is that at high temperatures, it converts directly from a solid state to a gaseous state, instead of the intermediate liquid state. 

But how does it really work? After the printer prints the design using it on the sublimation paper, a heat press is used to transfer the print onto the final product. The press converts the solid ink particles in the print into vapors instead of a liquid, which are infused in the fibers of the final product. Once cooled off, it goes back into a solid state and the design looks as vibrant as it can be! 

Sublimation Ink vs. Regular Ink

Here are a few differences between both: 

  • Regular ink stays on top of the surface, while sublimation ink impregnates the material and seamlessly becomes a part of it.
  • When exposed to heat or water, regular ink can easily get damaged while sublimation ink is water-proof and more durable.
  • Sublimation ink is more long-lasting as compared to regular ink.
  • Sublimation ink is more expensive than regular ink, due to its specialized features that make it more wear-resistant and long-lasting. 
  • Sublimation ink requires sublimation printers or some specific inkjet printers that support sublimation printing, while regular ink can be used with any inkjet printer.

Types Of Sublimation Ink

There are two main types: 

  •  Solvent dye sublimation ink: This ink is used in large or wide-format printers. It is not very common and is mostly used for some heavy-duty printing of large sublimation designs. 
  • Aqueous dye sublimation ink: In this type, the dye molecules are suspended in water, and it is the most commonly used sublimation ink for printing on a variety of different materials. 

Pros & Cons Of Sublimation Ink

Before you go out to purchase one of the best sublimation ink, here are a few benefits and demerits:


  • It is a high-quality, waterproof ink
  • Can work for even the most intricate patterns and produces vibrant and accurate prints
  • Does not smudge, crack or fade away when exposed to high temperatures 
  • The longevity of the print achieved from it is another plus. 
  • Zero dry-time 
  • Eliminates the mess of liquid inks 


  • Does not work well with natural fibers like paper or cotton or any fabric that does not contain polyester
  • Does not work well with non-porous materials or surfaces that do not have a polyester coating 
  • Can only be used on light-toned, cream or white-colored surfaces 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the price of sublimation ink?

On average, its single set can cost between $40 and $60. While this sounds pricey, let’s not forget that if used wisely, it can have a shelf life of 6 months.

2. How many prints can you get from sublimation ink?

The exact number of prints depends on many different factors like, the quality of sublimation ink, the type and quality of the sublimation printer and the size of the design. However, roughly speaking, you can get a minimum of 50 prints from a single cartridge of sublimation ink and a maximum of 200 prints from the same. 

3. How long does sublimation ink last on paper?

While there is no fixed number of days, it can last on paper for quite a few months as long as they are in a cool dry area. The longest for me was 1 year and they came out just fine. Always keep them in a lower light, low humidity room.  

4. How long does sublimation ink last on mugs? 

It is known to be very long-lasting. This means that once printed on a polyester-coated ceramic mug, it can last for more than 10 years. 

5. How long does sublimation ink last on T-shirts?

Since it is transferred into the fibers of the fabric, instead of on it, sublimation ink prints on T-shirts can last up to 10 years. 

6. Can you remove sublimation ink after printing?

Removing sublimation ink from a tumbler or mug is possible, but there are high chances of damage. If you are thinking of removing sublimation ink from T-shirts, the process is even harder.

Final Thoughts 

In conclusion, sublimation ink is one of the most important factors in sublimation. It stands out due to its many salient features like durability, color- retention, longevity and versatility across different mediums.

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