Dye Sublimation Printing VS Direct Textile Print

The story so far: a quick recap of how transfer based dye-sub works. The printer images on a special transfer paper that has a coating designed to hold and then later release the printed image. After printing, the paper is brought into contact with the fabric in a heat press, Under exposure to the appropriate combination of temperature, pressure, and time, the ink embedded in the paper is converted to a gas and penetrates directly into the fibers of the substrate. For chemical reasons, polyester fabrics are required for transfer dye-sub printing, although you can use dye-sublimation on other types of natural fabrics like cotton, but the results will vary.
Image result for dye sublimation printing
A fast-growing variant of dye-sublimation printing is direct-to-fabric printing, which eliminates the need for transfer paper. However, this form of dye-sub still requires the output to be run through a heat press after printing to fix the dye on the fabric, and it also requires pretreated polyester fabrics. Historically, pretreated fabrics have been expensive and of lesser quality than fabrics used for transfer-based dye-sub, but both the quality and the cost are getting better.
Image result for dye sublimation direct textile  printing
Making a choice between transfer-based and direct-to-fabric dye-sub isn't as easy as it may seem. It may sound desirable to be able to eliminate the expense and waste of having to use transfer paper, but there are other tradeoffs in going direct-to-fabric. A big one is the resultant image.
With direct-to-fabric dye-sublimation printing, the inks penetrate deeper into the fabric than those used in transfer printing – which only makes sense, since you’re jetting the ink directly onto the fabric rather than let a gas permeate into the polyester fibers. The result is often less vibrant color and “softer” text and images, plus more show-through on the reverse side of the fabric. As a result, the top application for direct-to-fabric right now is flags and other types of outdoor display graphics.
A lot of development is going into direct-to-fabric dye-sublimation and new ink sets and machines will whittle away many of its limitations. This is one of those areas where the landscape will likely look very different in a year's time, if not sooner. 

More info:
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