Printing on Vinyl and Polyester Cloth Banners


The Type of Plastic and Fabric Materials Printed on to Make Banner Displays

Question: What type of plastic are banners printed on?

Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is still one of the most popular materials to print banners with. There are other plastics as well, although one is a fabric type of plastic, but comes from petroleum as well.

Polyvinyl Choloride

polyvinyl plastic banners PVC is a petroleum-based plastic, as they all are, that has had “plasticizers” added to create the soft, roll-able material that many printers, screen, digital, and other printers have used for the past three decades.


Another plastic material that is used for really cheap promotions like at fast food chains and the like is polypropylene banner material. It is typically shiny and prints out very glossy and is used in both digital and screen printing prodigiously.


Another polymer-based banner material is polyester, which is a woven fabric. It is the same type of material, with improvements, that your granddaddy used to wear suits made of. Like I said, though, improvements have been made to the materials so that now you can get anything from smooth poly knits to poly silks, poly flags, and sheer fabrics for almost any event, indoor or out.

teardrop flag with stand However, while polyester fabric banners are becoming more popular as prices come down, the printing process is much different for fabric or cloth banners. Dye sublimation printing, also alternatively knows as heat transfer printing, creates a long lasting and very attractive print on the various polyester fabrics that can last up to 30 years.

Standard Printing Methods

With PVC and “polypro” banners, the standard printing methods for screen printing or digital printing has remained the same for decades, and the material is very cheap, and the methods for printing have not changed dramatically for screen printing in many decades, and with digital printing for the past 15 years.

Banner Printing Pricing

PVC banners are now close to the same price as polyester cloth banners, and the latest method of dye sublimation printing, DTS/DTG (direct-to-substrate or direct-to-garment) has increased the speed of this process as well. Every time something improves technologically, the price will usually drop, although from my perspective, I doubt prices can decline much further, but I could be wrong. They could possibly, judging by low labor rates worldwide, possibly decline another 10 to 20%.  For more about PVC or vinyl banners, see here.

Outsourcing Printed Banners

It is possible, with certain types of shipping, to purchase banners offshore, printed and shipped and delivered, at pricing lower than material and labor costs in developed nations in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or the United States. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but what is bad news for first world producers is good news for your marketing team. It costs less now to roll out a stunning retail campaign than it ever has in the past, and the graphics can be more stunning on fabric than has been possible ever in the past.

So, while the world economy is shifting, there are some good things happening that you can take advantage of, especially if you’re a marketing manager at a larger firm of any type, or an advertising agency buyer working with medium to large companies.


Are Emission Inspection Stickers a Requirement for All Vehicles?


Emission Inspection Stickers Requirement Across the Different States in America

Question: Can I get an inspection sticker for my car without going through an inspection?

Well, off the cuff, I’d say “No way José!” However, I thought that might be a poorly thought out response, so I thought I’d go to some US State websites and see what they had to say. I reviewed 10 states in various parts of the country, and here’s the surprising results of what I found…

Emission Inspection decal New York – “All vehicles registered in New York State must get a safety inspection and an emissions inspection every 12 months. Both inspections are also required when the ownership of a vehicle is transferred. (Some vehicles are exempt from emissions inspections.) Both inspections are done at the same time by a DMV-certified inspector at privately-owned inspection stations licensed by DMV.” So, “NO” in NY.

New Jersey – “You can make an appointment online for State inspection facilities in Salem, Cape May or Washington (Warren county).” So, “NO” in NJ.

Massachusetts – Massachusetts introduced its “next generation” vehicle emissions testing and safety inspection program on, October 1, 2008. Vehicles 1996 and newer will be tested for emissions (On Board Diagnostic test) every year along with the annual safety inspection. Motorists will be able to choose which inspection station they use as long as the station is licensed. The cost of the test is among the lowest in the nation for this type of program. The Mass Vehicle Check will continue to cost $29 annually. So, “NO” in MA also.

Let’s move south a bit to Virginia – “Generally, all new car dealerships perform inspections. Many garages that repair vehicles are licensed to perform inspections. They will display a large white sign with blue lettering designating them as an official inspection station. Many businesses advertise inspection services in your local phone directory.” So, “NO” in VA.

Going west to the great (big) state of Texas – “If your vehicle is not registered in one of the emissions counties, then you will have to get the vehicle re-inspected at one of the local inspection stations in your area. Currently, there are no replacement procedures for non-emissions county motorists. Hmmmm…..looks like a big “NO” in TX also!

Maybe things are looser in the Pacific Northwest. Washington State’s regs read “If you live in the following counties, your vehicle may need to get an emissions test every 2 years:

Clark County

King County

Pierce County

Snohomish County

Spokane County”

So it looks like a good chance that if you live out of the 5 most populated areas in WA (unlikely as 90% of the population lives in these 5 counties), you can get by without an inspection. I also know that the State of Washington does not use stickers for the inspection, but they do keep track via the central computers in the state capital and they will come and get you. This is the state of my residence, so I know this to be the case.

What about the laid back Midwest. I decided to check Kansas, and a ray of hope if you can stand living among the corn stalks! “Kansas does not have emissions enforcement for motor vehicles. You are not required to have your vehicle tested, and, consequently, no related paperwork is required in order to register your vehicle.” So, a big “YES” for KS!.

Many moons ago, I lived in Mississippi. The folks down there seem pretty laid back, so I thought I’d see what I could find there. Good news! At least for the time being as you’ll see by the wording here. “Mississippi meets all federal guidelines for air quality, so it has not yet made smog and emission checks mandatory for the vehicles of its residents. So, for the time being, “YES” if you want to live in the alligator swamps! Well, at least in the south of the state.

Let’s catch one more state…that’ll give us a smorgasbord from around the country. How about Minnesota? When I checked in to  Minnesota, I had a pleasant surprise! “Minnesota’s vehicle emissions testing ended in 1999, when the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency requested reclassification of the area’s air quality status from the federal government and got it.” I didn’t even know you could reverse something like this. Usually, once a bureaucracy is in place, they’re kind of like a cancer – very hard to remove. Kudos to Minnesota for a big fat “YES!”

So, as usual, the heavy regulatory states tend to be the most highly populated states in the Northeastern United States, and the socialistic leaning Western states, OR, WA, and of course, CA. But the good news is that the Midwest and the West (excepting the aforementioned triage) have clean air and no testing is required, at least of the three we reviewed.

So, if you live in those states, yeah, you better get those stickers. But if not, then you’re in luck. But I’m guessing by the way you framed your question, you’re going to have to move to the Midwest or the South or Alaska to avoid those stickers.


Emission Requirements in all States of America

Here’s all the states in alphabetical order –

Alabama – Alabama does not require emissions testing of vehicles, although by state law any city can pass laws to begin testing. Currently none have done so.

Alaska – As of March 1, 2012 emission inspections are no longer required in Alaska. Another reversal. This may also speak to the fact that the US has so many emissions controls on vehicles.

Arizona – The Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) applies to vehicles in the metro Phoenix and Tucson areas whose model year falls after 1967, mandating that the cars’ emissions levels be inspected 90 days before their registration renewal date.

Arkansas – Arkansas does not require annual vehicle inspections. However, the state still expects you to pay careful attention to your vehicle emissions. Yeah, I’ll bet every redneck in Arkansas is getting’ that emission checked out annually (smirk).

California – Whether you need it or not, the California DMV will mail you a registration renewal notice telling you whether you are required to get your vehicle smogged; it will also tell you if your vehicle requires a smog check at a test-only station. However, if your vehicle is six or less model years old, you are not required to obtain smog certification as long as you pay the annual $20 smog abatement fee. California will get you coming or going!

Colorado – An “enhanced test” is required in Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson as well as parts of Adams and Arapahoe counties. Even if you happen to live in a county that does not test, or only has the basic test (see below), yet you commute into these areas, then you also need to pass the enhanced test. A basic test is required in parts of Larimer, Weld, and El Paso counties. The area boundaries can get confusing, so if you are unclear as to your county’s requirements just give the local title and registration office a call. Or just scream.

Connecticut – If you have a vehicle registered in Connecticut that is more than four or less than 25 years old, you are required to submit it for a state emissions inspection every other year.

Delaware – You must pass the emission test to register or renew registration on your vehicle. The test you are given depends on the age of your car.

Florida – On July 1, 2000, the State of Florida abolished the auto emissions test requirement for all vehicles throughout the state after 9 years of testing.

Georgia – All gas-powered passenger cars and light trucks between 3 and 25 years old in 13 Georgia counties must pass an emission inspection before being issued license plates.

Hawaii – At this time there are no set emissions standards for vehicles in Hawaii. The state is on the frontlines of the electric vehicle movement and has many hybrids on the streets.

Idaho – Northern Ada County (home of Boise, the largest city in Idaho) is the only county in Idaho that requires the vehicles of its residents to go through an annual emissions test.

Illinois – Many vehicles registered in Illinois are required by the state to have their emissions checked every two years. A notice is sent to car owners when it is time to be checked.

Indiana – If you’re a resident of Clark, Floyd, Lake, or Porter counties, and your passenger vehicle is at least four years old, you will need to complete an emissions inspection every two years. If your vehicle was made before 1976, it doesn’t need tested.

Iowa – Iowa lacks the heavy population that creates smog problems, so there are no guidelines in place for vehicle emission checks.

Kansas – Kansas does not have emissions enforcement for motor vehicles.

Kentucky – While Kentucky did adopt a vehicle emissions testing program for three northern counties in 1999, the requirement ended in late 2005.

Louisiana –Louisiana vehicle inspections focus more on the mechanical parts of your vehicle; however, certain vehicle emission parts will be checked, too. The exception is for cars that are registered in Baton Rouge. These are required to be given On-Board Diagnostics as well.

Maine – If you drive a car/truck in Maine, your vehicle needs to pass a safety inspection annually. Vehicles registered in Cumberland County also need to pass an emissions inspection.

Maryland – The year of your vehicle determines what sort of testing it will undergo. Vehicles from the current two model years are exempt from the first round of testing.

Massachusetts – In Massachusetts, you have to get your motor vehicle inspected every year. And since 1999, Massachusetts vehicle owners have also been required to submit their vehicles to an enhanced emissions check.

Michigan – Michigan currently does not require automobile or truck emissions testing.

Minnesota – Minnesota’s vehicle emissions testing ended in 1999.

Mississippi – Mississippi does not require smog or emission checks on any vehicle registered within the state.

Missouri – According to Missouri law, emissions inspections are required for drivers who live in St. Louis City or one of the following counties: Jefferson, Franklin, St. Charles, and St. Louis.

Montana – Montana does not require smog or emission checks on any vehicle.

Nebraska – Nebraska does not have any official policy for vehicle testing.

Nevada – The urban areas located in Clark and Washoe counties are subject to strict emission testing requirements for most vehicles.

New Hampshire – To control emissions, the official licensed inspection stations are responsible for evaluating your vehicle’s engine emissions in accordance with your vehicle registration.

New Jersey – Motorists in New Jersey are required by the Motor Vehicle Commission to take their vehicles for an emissions inspection every two years.

New Mexico – Anyone who lives in the greater Albuquerque metropolitan area shall have their vehicle checked – or get an exemption – before registering it.

New York – New York requires all registered vehicles to have two kinds of inspections each year: a safety inspection and an emissions inspection. These are performed simultaneously at privately owned inspection stations licensed by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

North Carolina – When you register your newer gasoline-powered vehicles in an emissions county, your vehicle will have to pass an On Board Diagnostics emissions test. This is in addition to the safety inspection that your vehicle must also pass.

North Dakota – North Dakota does not require emission checks.

Ohio – Currently, E-Check only affects residents of seven of the state’s 88 counties: Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, or Summit counties―and if you own a vehicle―you will need to have its emission system checked before you renew your registration.

Oklahoma – Oklahoma is one of the few remaining states that does not require emissions checks for any motor vehicles.

Oregon – The Dept. of Environmental Quality operates seven Clean Air Stations in the Portland and Medford, or Rogue Valley areas. These areas only are subject to emissions testing.

Pennsylvania – This state requires a vehicle emission test once a year. So as to alert you when it’s your turn, the state will stamp on your vehicle’s renewal notice the words “Emissions Inspection Required/Diesel Vehicles Exempt.”

Rhode Island – Emission checks must done every two years at any state-certified inspection station. Emission tests are done jointly with the annual safety inspection.

South Carolina – South Carolina does not require any smog or emission inspections on vehicles. The state meets all federal clean air standards.

South Dakota – South Dakota is one of the few states that don’t require vehicle emissions testing of any kind.

Tennessee – Only gas or diesel-fueled vehicles weighing up to 10,500 pounds, registered in Davidson, Hamilton, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, and Wilson counties, as well as those registered in Memphis, will be required to submit to emissions testing before they can be registered or have their registrations renewed.

Texas – All cars in Texas undergo an annual safety inspection. Where mandated, an emissions inspection is added to this process (major urban centers like Dallas and Houston).

Utah – Utahans in the densely populated Salt Lake, Davis, Utah, and Weber counties are required to take their cars in for mandatory emissions testing every two years.

Vermont – Vermont does not require drivers to submit to annual or semiannual emission tests.

Virginia – As with many states, Virginia requires most vehicles to be up-to-date on two separate types of tests: one for safety, and one for emissions.

Washington – Emissions testing is required for all other gasoline and diesel vehicles between five and 25 years old that are registered in the five most populated Washington counties.

Washington D.C. – In the District of Columbia, motorists are required to have their vehicles inspected before registration, and the inspection must be renewed every two years.

West Virginia – West Virginia does not currently require  emission checks as a requirement for vehicle registration.

Wisconsin – Vehicles newer than 1968 registered in the most populated Southern Wisconsin counties must undergo emissions testing when it’s time for registration renewal.

Wyoming – Wyoming does not require smog or emission checks for any vehicles registered and titled in the state.

Interested in getting your own inspection stickers? See here for quality printing options.


How to Prevent Car Window and Bumper Stickers from Tearing Off


Preventing Car Stickers From Falling Off a Window or Bumper

Question: How do you keep vinyl bumper stickers or car window decals from being torn off a car or truck?

Most vinyl bumper stickers or vinyl or polyester car window decals have acrylic adhesive glue affixed to the decal on one side and your car window or bumper on the other. Acrylic adhesives come in varying degrees of toughness, but for the most part, the wind will never tear these stickers from your car.

Permanent Decals or Stickers

vinyl bumper stickers Many window decals and bumper decals have what is known as “permanent adhesive.” This adhesive takes about 48 to 72 hours to fully purchase to your window or bumper on your car, as long as it’s not too cold (it is best to apply any decal at warmer temperatures to allow the adhesive to purchase, and over 65ºF (18ºC) is best).

Permanent adhesives are not, of course, truly permanent, but they will be tough to remove within days of application to your car or truck. If, say, a year or two down the road, you want to remove the sticker, the best way is to use a hair dryer to heat the decal surface, which will in turn warm the acrylic adhesive and the glass and soften the adhesive, allowing you to pull the vinyl or polyester stickers off your car.

Getting Rid of Glue Residue with Decal Removal

However, you will almost always find that some glue residue will be left on the glass or on your painted or chrome bumper, so if you trundle on over to your local hardware store, you should be able to purchase an inexpensive bottle of citrus-type glue remover, apply it to the remaining glue until it’s saturated, then use a credit card or stiff plastic card to carefully scrape the remaining adhesive from your car’s bumper or window. I usually also have some paper towels with me, and finally will apply a small amount of the glue remover to the paper towel and give the area a final cleaning.

If you are planning to put a new sticker on in the same spot, you will need to have a little isopropyl alcohol (recommended) or soapy water to remove the oily glue remover, as the citrus oil in the glue remover will prevent any new decals from sticking. Then you WILL have a hard time keeping your decals from being torn from your car.

Removable Decals or Stickers

Another acrylic adhesive that is gaining popularity is the removable acrylic adhesive stickers. However, be warned, just because they’re called “removable” doesn’t always mean they’ll be easy to remove. Most “removable” decals have a time limit of six to twelve months before the adhesive hardens off to the point that it becomes pretty much the same as permanent adhesives. There are now, though, two to three year removable adhesives that are available as well, although do be warned, pickers (peeps who like to pick at things like decals) could be able to remove or tear these stickers from your car, although it’s probably not terribly likely. But the wind won’t be able to do much.

Static Cling Decals

Rear Car Window Stickers, car decals Static cling decals are also an immensely popular option for vehicles now as well. However, be warned, these do NOT have any adhesive whatsoever, and stick to glass only because of the plasticizers added to the vinyl these are made of and the softness and stickiness is what adheres them to your glass. But not the outside of your car window. These absolutely WILL be torn from your car if you put them on the exterior glass. Interior application only! If you have tinted windows, you will want the background of your static cling stickers to be white, or no one will likely ever see them.

Reflective Stickers and Decals

And one final word regarding reflective stickers and decals – which are also gaining in popularity – at least until you need to peel them. Again, heat is the only good option for removal of reflective decals from painted surfaces like most modern bumpers, but the adhesive is even tougher to remove than the standard permanent adhesive stickers or decals. These stickers are most often used as parking stickers, and therefore are usually put on the front windshield of your car or truck, which is better than if they’re applied to a painted bumper on your vehicle. If they are applied to glass, you can use a razor blade scraper to remove the stickers (again, it’s easier with heat, but can be done without heat). Be sure to use a surfactant, though, to keep the razor blade from scratching the glass. A surfactant is something that makes the surface of the glass slick and is a fancy word for soapy water or the like.

To check out personalized printing of window decals and stickers for cars, View Here; for bumper decals and stickers, Go Here.


Dye Sublimation Printing – Benefits and Type of Fabric Used


The Fabric Suitable for Dye Sublimation Printing and the Pros of this Print Technology

Question: Do fabrics need to be 100% polyester for dye sub printing?

While you do need at least 60% polyester fabric to successfully dye sub print, it is better to use 100% polyester because you will attain a superior print if 100% of the fabric accepts the dye when it enters gas form and is inducted into the open polymer pores.

 dye sublimation cloth What you may not know is how this process works and why polyester fabric is the best product for dye sublimation, whereas cotton, wool, and even nylon will not work for this type of printing.

Starting with the dye, it is necessary to know that the dye is not the same type of ink as inkjet inks which use the CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black) ink set, but instead, use a CMYO dye set (cyan-magenta-yellow-overprint clear) where the clear, when it is printed on the dye sublimation transfer paper, turns to black and transfers that way.

Once the paper is printed, it is joined, print side to whichever type of material you are using, then put through a set of heated rollers. The heat must be in excess of 370º F (190ºC) to cause the dye to be converted into a gaseous form, and also to cause the polymer’s cells to open as they expand to accept the now gaseous dye into the cells.

Once this process has taken place, the fabric cools, the cells close, and the color is permanently locked into the fabric in continuous tones of beautiful color, similar to a photograph’s tones.

Without the cellular construction of the polyester fabric and it’s polymeric qualities, it would not be possible to print using dye sublimation. So, the more polymers, the better. So the answer is, of course, yes and no. We recommend using 100% polyester, but it’s not an absolute requirement.


Question:  What fabrics can you print using sublimation printing?

Any fabric having polymeric cellular structure. If that sounds like Greek to you, read the answer above as to why polymers are important, no, necessary for dye sublimation to work properly.

Having said that, there are a spate of fabrics that go by different names that are polymeric fabrics like polyester. They include polyacrylonitrile (Orlon and Acrilon brand names), acrylic (same brand names as previous), nylon (not printable with dye sublimation, though), polyethylene terephthalate (polyester), spandex, and a couple others that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

However, due to cost factors, availability, and ease of use, polyester is the best and least costly fabric available for graphic printing. If you have a dye sublimation printer and heat press, by all means, experiment with it. You might discover something new!


Question:  What are the benefits of dye sublimation printing on fabric?

What aren’t the benefits!? Dye sublimation printing will give you the longest lasting color in your fabric of any type of printing available on fabric. The best national flags are made of polyester because they are color fast and wind resistant.

 pop up retractable banners The best printing method on clothing is dye sublimation printing because there is no ink buildup that will prevent wicking of moisture away from the body. On fabric graphic displays, or art reproductions that are used indoors, the colors are guaranteed to last for 30 years or longer because they are encased in the sealed polymer cells.

Another benefit of dye sub printed polyester fabric banners or displays or clothing is that you can wash them for years and not lose any color. I have a shirt that is a dye sublimation floral “Hawaiian-style” print that gets hung out to dry in the sun, and after several years it has not faded at all, unlike my cotton print shirts.

Finally, although there are other benefits I could point to as well, the last benefit is the richness of the color print on the polyester fabric. Because the dye is converted to gas during the heat transfer process, the tones blend into each other, creating a photographic quality to the prints, unparalleled by any other printing process.

Learn more about dye sublimation printing of fabric displays made from Polyester and Silk. Pricing is at wholesale. See more features as well.


Is Dye Sublimation Printing on Plastics Possible?


Can Plastic be Printed Using Dye Sublimation?

Question: Are you able to print plastics using dye sublimation printing?

Pretty much anything that has the correct chemical composition – i.e. is made from polymers (is polymeric in its chemical structure), it can be printed. Or, if not, if your substrate, whether it be leather, wood, glass, or non-polymeric plastic, will retain a clear or white base coat spray throughout the sublimation printing process, then yes, you can print plastic with dye sub printing – with a big caveat.

Printing on Plastics The dye sub print process uses heat. Lots of heat. About 400º F of heat, give or take a few degrees. Heat and plastic can be a bad combination, as plastic has a tendency to melt at that temperature. So, there are some plastics that can be printed, but they need to be reinforced with fiberglass. As of this writing, I am unaware of any formed plastics that can be printed. Just flat FR reinforced plastics. They can be cut to shape, of course.

I’m also going to broaden my answer to include some things you didn’t specifically ask about because inquiring minds want to know, and I like writing about dye sublimation printing.

What Can Be Printed through Dye Sublimation

As stated in the first paragraph of this article, any product that has a polymeric base should be printable using dye sublimation. This would exclude nylon, cotton, wool, leather, wood, etc. As also stated in the 2nd paragraph, these polymeric items must also withstand high heat, which will exclude a lot of plastics with the exception of reinforced plastics, such as fiberglass reinforced plastics. The last exclusion would be anything of dark coloration, such as pre-colored fabrics or other viable polymeric substrates. Bright or “true” white substrates work best for sublimation printing. Light colors are not forbidden, but you will lose 15-25% of your color gamut, depending on the color (light tans or grays or the like).

Having said that, I also alluded to the fact that there are white and/or clear polymer base coat products that can be sprayed or printed onto various substrates such as wood, leather, glass, and much more that will allow you to transfer a dye sublimated print to one or more of these items. Items that are now being dye sublimated after being treated with polymer base coatings include snowboards, skate boards , skis, mugs, mousepads, glass, leather, wood products, metal, badges, awards using some of the above materials, signs, photographic plaques, and more.

Outdoor Banners with stands There are also many printable fabrics that can be printed using dye sublimation printing, but they don’t require the base coat spray as they’re already polymer-based, can withstand high heat, and are normally white in color. Sublimation printing is also used for microfiber style fabrics that can wick moisture away from the body, and the printing will not inhibit moisture wicking like all other printing will do on athletic or exercise clothing products.

Dye Sublimated Display as an Advertising Tool

As stated above, the promotional products industry has embraced the high quality photographic processes that dye sublimation affords.

Also, because of the photographic continuous tone printing that dye sublimation can create on polymer based fabrics, the graphics industry is turning more and more to dye sublimation for trade show graphics, retail banners and posters and other marketing related items because of the beautiful prints created using dye sub printing.


Dye sublimation Printing of Ceramics, Metal, Glass, etc.


Glass, Metal, and Ceramic Substrates for Dye Sub Print Processing

Question: Can dye sublimation printing be used on glass, metal, and/or ceramics?

Yes, but only with the right treatment. There are polymeric sprays that you can treat various materials with that create the right surface for dye sublimation printing.

Custom Ceramic printing Dye sublimation printing is perhaps one of the best and most effective printing methods available today, as well as being a cost-effective print method that produces high quality and long lasting and satisfying graphics on a wide variety of materials, from glass, ceramics, and metal to various polymer based fabrics.

Best Substrate for Dye Sublimation

Of course, it is best to print dye sublimation to white or at least close to white substrates. Whether you’re printing mesh baseball caps, polyester patches, ceramic plates, mouse pads, license plates, MDF hardboard (like a clipboard), ceramic tiles, jackets/shirts, beverage insulators, poly calendars, doll patches, banners, flags, displays, polyester fabric posters, metal clock faces, key chains, plastic coasters, photo plates, etc.

All of these are available in white or off-white materials and with that being the case, it is simple to print with beautiful continuous tone dye sub printing.

Different Dye Sublimation Printer Sizes

There are a couple different main sizes of printers for dye sublimation printing. The larger, wider format printers are mostly used for fabric printing, which includes clothing fabrics as well as display fabrics.

Small format dye sublimation printing requires a desktop printer that is capable of using dye sublimation inks, but also contains “piezo electric print heads” – and not a printer that utilizes heat in the printing process. Epson owns the patent on these print heads, although they do lease it to other printer companies, I am told.

piezo electric chargeThese print heads utilize an electric charge that causes the dye molecules to flex when the electrical current flows through it. As the charge hits the ink droplet, it forces it to spray out of the ink nozzle creating the print, but without heat. The reason this is important is because dye sub inks are heat reactive. You don’t want them turning to gas during the printing, but rather only in the transfer process as would happen with standard inkjet print heads.

Super High Resolution is not Necessary

One thing to note in passing…it is never necessary to print super high resolution with a dye sub printer. 1440 dpi is more than enough, and most of the time 720dpi is just fine. When the dye turns to gas in the sublimation process, creating the continuous tone that dye sub prints are famous for, most of the refinement that is offered by the higher resolution printing is lost because the dyes flow together during the heated dye sublimation process.

So, what do we print to when we’re creating any of the above products? First we print to a high quality transfer paper that is treated specially for the dye sublimation printing process. We don’t use a low quality paper because it affects the print quality.

Click here to see graphics that can be done through dye sublimation printing process.


Dye Sublimation Banners: Advantages, Outdoor Usage, & Unsuitable Substrates


Using Sublimated Banners Outdoors, Substrates for Fabric Printing, and Opting for Dye Sub Displays

Question: Why can’t dye sub printed banners or other items be used out-of-doors?

I am not sure exactly who fed that information to you, but it is absolutely and unequivocally untrue.

Pole Banner Prints For instance, one of the most popular places to use dye sublimation printing is on snowboards. Another is light pole banners. There are several fabrics that can be used for display graphics outdoors at outdoor trade shows.

Another place that dye sublimation printing is used is on gazebo covers. The top and edges can be printed with graphics and advertising, and dye sub printing will last a long time outdoors.

Flags can also be printed using dye sublimation. It is very common to see nylon and polyester flags printed for outdoor usage that are flying from standard flagpoles with company graphics below your country’s flag.

So, yes, dye sublimation printing can most definitely be used on outdoor graphics as shown above.


Question: What items cannot be dye sublimation printed?

Anything that has not been treated with a polymer spray cannot be printed. It is the polymer spray that makes certain items like snowboards, glass, wood, or coffee cups printable with the dye sub method.

Natural fibers are also not printable using dye sublimation, because the pores of the materials such as cotton or linen are simply not polymeric (plastic, essentially) like polyester, nylon, or orlon.

Because of the plasticity of these materials, the heat and pressure applied to the married transfer paper and the synthetic fiber fabrics mentioned above, the cells will open up to accept the gaseous dye, then close again, sealing in the dye. This can’t happen with natural fibers, because they’re not plasticky like polymeric fabrics are.

So, most any item that has been treated with polymeric spray, or is a polymer material like plastic, it should be printable. Natural fibers, not so much.


Question:  Why would I choose dye sublimation printed products?

Simply because of the superior photographic replication of any photo or graphic. Inkjet printing, for instance, sprays little dots of color onto a substrate, and is a good way to print decals or vinyl banners, but compared to dye sublimation with its continuous tones, it is simply no match quality-wise.

large format Digital Printing It really starts with the process though. Dye sublimation printing uses a CMYO (cyan-magenta-yellow-overprint) dye ink that is initially printed digitally like inkjet ink. It is printed to a paper material creatively called “dye sublimation transfer paper.”

This paper is then “married” to a polyester fabric and put through a machine that has heated rollers – at around 400º F. As the fabric and paper are run through the rollers, the dye under the heat and pressure becomes a gas, and the fabric’s pores open up, allowing the gaseous dye to flow into the open pores.

As the fabric comes out the far side of the rollers and cools, the pores close, permanently locking the color into the fabric in continuous tones of photographic color. That is why I would always choose dye sublimation if it is an option.

For more about dye sublimation products, check this.


The Process of Dye Sublimation Printing on Darker Substrates


Sublimating Dyes Onto Darker Substrates, & How Dye Sublimation Works

Question:  Is it possible to print dye sublimation inks onto darker substrates or fabrics.

double sided bannerYou can do it, but it probably won’t look that great. The short answer would be, “why?” The longer answer follows.

Even double-sided fabric banner materials printed using dye sublimation barely pass the viewing test because there is just enough black block out visible to make the material appear slightly grayish-white.

Make no mistake about this…it is going to affect the color of your print. A bright red may now show up as a slightly less bright red, and a yellow will also be affected slightly toward a duller yellow as well.

If the print is a photographic print, and it covers the entire background of the banner, it will not likely show up much because the eye will adjust to the print. If there is a lot of white showing, most people will not pick up the slight diminution of the coloring on the print, but an astute observer might.

If you were to use a red or blue material, though, you might be able to sublimate a black image onto a colored material, but it might be difficult to find the material to create this bi-chromatic style of print from any printable fabric distributor.

This would, of course, beg the question as to why you would even want to start with red when you could just as easily sublimate print a bi-chromatic image on a white fabric anyway.


Question:  What exactly is dye sublimation printing?

wide format dye sub printer Even though I’ve answered similar questions in previous posts, I enjoy explaining dye sublimation printing on fabrics and cloth and other substrates because the science of dye sub printing is fascinating to me. I have no idea how someone came up with the idea of printing dye on a treated paper, marrying it to a piece of fabric, rolling it between heated rollers at high pressure to create a gaseous explosion which gets sealed into the polymeric cellular structure of polyester fabrics and other polymeric treated surfaces. Who thinks up these things!?

If you didn’t’ quite get that last paragraph, let me describe it in a little more detail, one process at a time.

The Ink Set

Printing: Dye sublimate printing uses a CMYO ink set. This is similar to CMYK, but instead of Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black, it uses Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Overprint. The overprint ends up black through some chemical process that I haven’t yet figured out, but obviously, someone has because it works.

The Paper

This dye/ink is printed onto a special paper known simply as dye sublimation transfer paper. This part of the process is similar to digital inkjet printing and is pretty recognizable in this century as a standard style of printing.

Heat Transfer of Print from Paper to Fabric

Transferring the Print to Fabric: The next step involves “marrying” the paper to the substrate, which in this case will be a piece of polyester fabric for use on a trade show display. Although any polymer-based fabric will work, the favorite material that has emerged is polyester. Polyester fabric can be anything from a sheer material to a satin to a knit and more.

The Dye Sublimation Process

The paper and the fabric are then placed onto the pressure unit, which has rollers that heat to around 400ºF in this instance (there are other flat units as well as units that are used for not flat items). They are then fed through the heated rollers at a slow rate of speed.

As the paper and the cloth go into the rollers, the heat and pressure create a gaseous “explosion” and the dye is converted to a colored gas (whatever color the dye was), and the polymers expand to open like a flower in the sun, and the gas pours into these open pores, and just as quickly, as the material cools, the polymeric pores close again, but now with continuous color tones that have created a photographic reproduction of the print that was in the computer, then printed to the transfer paper, and now is permanently bonded to the fabric. Or rather has become a part of the fabric.

This amazing print process has created a revolution in graphics that didn’t exist before dye sublimation, and even though dye sublimation has been around for quite some time, it made it’s way into the display industry with the advent of digital printers, and is becoming more popular by the year now, it seems.

Click here to see fabric graphics that can be printed through dye sublimation.


Dye Sublimation Printing on Snowboards and Cotton


Can You Do Dye Sublimation Pressing on Snowboard or Cotton Fabric Surfaces?

Question:  Is the dye sublimation printing process usable for printing snowboards?

Printed Snowboards Absolutely. Dye sublimation can be used on any surface where polymeric treatment of a substrate can be successful, from mugs to glass to snowboards.

Because it is the polymers that are the basis of dye sublimation, if a substrate can retain the polymeric treatment on its surface, that substrate can be dye sub printed. Plastics, glass, wood, stone, metal…anything with a smooth surface that will accept the various sprays available for treating a substrate in preparation of dye sublimate printing.

The way that dye sublimation works is that when heat and pressure are applied to an item that has been treated and married to the printed dye sublimation transfer paper, the polymers expand and open up, kind of like a flower in the sun. As the pressurized \heat causes the polymers to expand, the dye turns gaseous due to the heat (around 400ºF), and the dye (as gas) flows into the open polymers, creating a beautiful continuous tone print as it cools, locking in the color for a permanent display of continuous photographic tones.

So, as that long answer to your question about whether snowboards can be printed using dye sublimation was above. And the short answer is yes, and it is being done already, but if you can create a market, you may have the most incredible-looking snowboards on the mountain!


Question:  [Barry’s Note: I paired this question up with the one above as it seemed to be related but on the opposite side of the question of materials] Will dye sub printing work on cotton surfaces?

No. Above I explained that any hard, smooth surface that will accept the polymeric spray is screen printable. Much has been written about dye sublimation printing on cotton T-shirts, but true dye sublimation printing cannot be done on natural fabrics, although there are some heat transfer inks that will work as sort of a sublimation process.

Why Dye Sublimation won’t Work with Natural Fibers 

The problem with natural fibers is that they don’t open and close like the polymer based fibers. Because they don’t open or close, but are porous, when the dye turns gaseous and passes through the fibers, binding to the surface and not into the fibers. In turn, if you wash the fabric, the dye will simply come back out.

Cotton has been screen printed successfully for decades, but the issue with it has always been the feel of the ink, which over time fades with successive washing and it has a bit of a hard hand  feel to it. However, there are some new inks, just mentioned above, that do have a soft hand feel to them and are as close to dye sublimation as you can get without being polyester.

The Fabric of Choice

Polyester fabric is the typical fabric used for dye sublimation cloth printing, and again, this is because the polymers in the fabric are able to open up with the heat and the gaseous form of dye is able to enter those opened pores, then be locked in when the fabric cools.

Other Fabrics that can’t be Dye Sublimated

Other natural fabrics that cannot be dye sublimation printed include linen, wool, ramie, jute, silk, and angora, to name some of  the more common fibers. Synthetic fibers include orlon, rayon, acetate, nylon, acrylic, polyester, olefin, spandex, lastex and kevlar. Of this list, all of them are polymer fabrics and can be printed using dye sublimation although polyester, because of its versatility, has emerged as the favorite fabric for most dye sublimation printers.

To see more details about sublimation printing on polyester fabrics, check this out.


Dye Sublimated Banners as a Trade Show Backdrop


Using Dye Sublimation Banner Displays as Trade Show Booth Backdrops

Question: We are designing a trade show booth, and would like to know if dye sublimation banners would be suitable for  the boot backdrop?

Yes. Not only would it be suitable, it would be the most attractive backdrop, in our opinion, that money can buy. And not that much money any more, as the price of dye sublimation printed fabric comes down to more affordable levels.

tradeshow booth display It is our belief that if you use dye sublimate fabric banners, displays, backdrops, whatever you can do with dye sub printed fabrics, that your product or service will have an underlying quality that will be subconsciously intercepted by your potential clients, as opposed to the subconscious “gee, that vinyl banner looks plasticky and cheap…wonder if their product or service is also as cheap as that banner looks.

One Big Factor

Of course, if your message is irrelevant, the trade show will be value-less for your company any way. But if the dye sub printed graphics are given a chance to shine with a good message, the whole package will deliver the appearance of a great value than would cheaper materials that also had a well-delivered message (such as “Purchase this printer and get toner free for 2 years! Or the like).

The way that one famous marketer asked a question was, “If you want to sell hamburgers, what is the factor most likely to enable you to sell those burgers?” Of course, he got various answers from “well, you want to have outstanding flavor and good quality ingredients,” to “If you want to have a successful hamburger restaurant or stand, the location is the most important thing.” All the answers were well thought out, but not what he was looking for. “To sell lots of hamburgers, he said, “the number one most important factor is to have a crowd of hungry people!”

Have People Want Your Product

Duh! Why didn’t I think of that. Whatever you’re taking to the trade show, a great product or service, people have to desire whatever it is that you’re hawking. If it’s a new product or service that nobody has heard of, or only a few people, then your battle is an uphill one, because you have to create a desire in people for your service.

If it’s a periphery service, this might be relatively simple to do. For instance, where I live and work, there is a lot of dust, and because the climate is sub-tropical, the houses aren’t built airtight, so the dust will come through the cracks around the doors and windows fairly readily, making it so that all my computer equipment and printers and phones and routers, etc.

If I were to run into someone who had a service to clean my laptop computer keyboard at a reasonable cost, that person would have an easy time marketing to me, because like the hungry persons who wanted a hamburger above, it’s an easier sell to convince me that if I continue to build up dust under the keyboard of my computer, it’s going to wreck my computer.

Sample Scenario at a Trade Show

Now, let’s say, for fun, that I am going to a trade show, and I am carrying my laptop in my briefcase, and I happen across not one, but two booths offering laptop cleaning. Both are able to show how dust looks under your keyboard, and has slipped in around the cracks on my laptop like the dust creeps in around the windows and doors of my home. And how my $1500 laptop can suddenly be ruined, losing years of valuable data (assuming I was dumb enough not to have backed it up online).

Even if you did back up your data online, there will be days worth of retrieving data and replacing that $1500 laptop, but if you have their service clean your computer, you will avoid this disastrous scenario. So, which booth was I attracted to? Similar message and service. Same pricing. Obviously, the one with the “richer” looking dye sublimation fabric banners and graphics, of course. Subconsciously my “lizard brain” (my instincts) said, go with them. They care more.

So, that was a long answer to a short question about whether fabric dye sub displays and banners could be used for trade shows, but now you know why I firmly believe that this media is the best media for tradeshows or any other advertising, both indoor and out.

View here to check out more features and options of dye sublimation banners for trade show booth usage.


Glass, Fiberglass or Metal for Dye Sublimation Printing?


Fabric, Glass, & Rigid Substrates for Sublimation Printing, & Large Vs. Small Format Prints

Question:  Can direct-to-textile dye sublimation printed fabric be used for exterior banners or flags?

teardrop flag banner stand You bet. The better dyes now are good for exterior usage, and there are several good options for polyester fabrics that are available for exterior usage.

Teardrop flags, beach flags, pop-out banners, and basic banners are all outdoor types of flags and banners that are used every day all over the world to advertise products and services.

Check here to see more details about dye sub printing on outdoor banners and flags.


Question:  Can rigid substrates be printed using dye sublimation?

Yes. Many items can be printed using dye sublimation printing such as coffee mugs, snowboards, license plates, and other promotional items.

Because the surfaces of these aforementioned items are not polymer-based like polyester fabrics are, the surfaces of these items need to be treated with a special polymer coating to enable these items to accept the sublimation dyes.

Because of the complexity of the surfaces of these and other rigid items, each item will require varying temperatures and pressures and dwell times, as well as being dependent on the variation of heat presses available for these items. Once the printed paper has been sublimated to the treated rigid substrate, though, the image has become part of the surface, so no clear-coating or any other surface protection is needed. The image is durable and permanent and won’t wash or rub off. This is why dye sublimation is becoming the choice of many companies that rely on splashy graphics to sell their products.

In the past, you needed to have different types of dye sublimation transfer papers to transfer the dye from the paper to the substrate. However, new innovations in sublimation transfer papers have produced the hybrid transfer paper which is allowing the transfer of images to both rigid and fabric substrates, thus streamlining production as well.

Because the technology of dye sublimation printing is still expanding, it is likely that dye sublimation printing will continue to emerge as one of the favorite forms of printed products, both rigid and fabric. New breakthroughs in the dye sub industry are pointing to the potential for dye sublimation to be used on printed signs and displays where long term usage is required. Literally, the sky is the limit with dye sublimation printing on rigid substrates.


Question:  Can dye sublimation printing be used on glass surfaces?

Yes. If the surface is treated with a specialized polymer coating. The way that the polymers work is that when heated and pressed together with the dye sublimation printed transfer paper, the polymers expand, the dye turns to gas, and is infused into the polymers. As the polymers cool, the colorful gases get locked into the polymers, and they become permanently part of the surface of the glass.


Question:  How does small format sublimation compare to large format sublimation?

They work the same way, for the most part, but they’re typically used for different products.

Wide format dye sublimation printing is typically used specifically for fabric banners and displays whereas the smaller format heat presses and dye sublimation printing is used for more specialized items like custom mouse pads, glass items, coffee cups, and/or license plates. However, with the new hybrid transfer papers that have come out, many small items can be printed on the wider papers, the separated to be used on the smaller heat presses if you have more than one unit.


© Copyright 2016, Visigraph