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What settings should my sublimation printer be on?

Sublimation printing can produce vibrant, long-lasting prints, but getting the settings right is key to achieving great results. As a SEO writer assistant, I’ve put together this comprehensive guide on optimizing sublimation printer settings for different materials and purposes.

How Sublimation Printing Works

First, it’s helpful to understand what sublimation printing is and how it differs from other printing methods. Sublimation printing uses heat to infuse dye into polymeric coatings on surfaces like metal, wood, and polyester fabrics. The process works like this:

  1. Special sublimation inks are printed onto transfer paper.
  2. The inked transfer paper is placed against the sublimation-ready surface and heated at high pressure in a heat press.
  3. The heat converts the solid ink into a gas which infuses into the polymer coating.
  4. The surface is dyed as the ink cools and returns to solid form.

Because the dye chemically bonds at a molecular level, sublimation prints are extremely durable and long-lasting compared to other techniques like screen printing or inkjet printing on transfer paper. The level of detail from sublimation is also excellent.

Critical Sublimation Printer Settings

There are several key settings on a sublimation printer that will affect print quality and consistency:

Printhead Alignment

Printhead alignment ensures the different colored inks are precisely lined up as they are jetted onto the paper. Misaligned printheads can cause blurred details and color fringing. Most sublimation printers have an automatic printhead alignment procedure in the setup menu that should be run periodically.

Nozzle Checks

It’s important to routinely perform nozzle checks on a sublimation printer. Nozzle checks test that all ink jet nozzles are clean and firing properly. Clogged or malfunctioning nozzles will show up as gaps or lines in the test prints. The printer should then be cleaned until a perfect nozzle check is achieved.

Color Management

For accurate colors, the printer color profile must be properly set up and color management enabled in the sublimation printer driver. The specific color profile used will depend on the printer model and inks. Using the wrong profile can lead to muddy, distorted, or oversaturated colors.

Print Mode

Print modes control the print resolution and speed. High quality modes print at higher resolutions but are slower. Faster draft modes use lower resolutions. For photo sublimation, a high 1440+ dpi mode should be used. For prints with lower detail, quicker modes around 720 dpi are acceptable.

Paper Settings

The paper size and type must be correctly set in the printer settings to match the sublimation transfer paper installed. Heat-resistant coatings on sublimation paper differ from standard printer paper. Setting incorrect paper settings can lead to print errors or clogs.

ICC Profiles

ICC printer profiles contain information on how a specific printer model prints colors on a certain paper type. Some RIP (raster image processor) software allows custom ICC printer profiles to be made for optimized sublimation output. This can help improve color accuracy.

Print Direction

Most sublimation printers allow printing in both unidirectional and bidirectional modes. Unidirectional printing is slower but provides better alignment between print passes. It’s recommended for full-color photo sublimation. Text-only prints may not require unidirectional printing.

Ink Saturation

Some printer drivers provide options to increase or decrease ink saturation levels. Lower saturations can help prevent blotchy prints on more absorbent papers. Higher saturations produce more vivid, saturated colors but increase risk of bleeding or ghosting.

Optimizing for Different Sublimation Materials

In addition to the universal printer settings above, optimizing sublimation settings for specific material types is key for great quality.

Polyester Fabrics

Setting Recommendation
Print Mode High quality 1440+ dpi
Paper Profile Coated or semi-coated setting
Ink Saturation Normal or slightly increased
Print Direction Unidirectional
Color Management Enabled with fabric color profile

Polyester fabrics like 100% polyester t-shirts require high resolution printing to capture fine detail and gradients without banding. Unidirectional printing also prevents misaligned passes. The high heat resistance allows increased ink saturation for vivid colors.

Metal Surfaces

Setting Recommendation
Print Mode 720 dpi or higher
Paper Profile Glossy photo setting
Ink Saturation Slightly reduced
Print Direction Bidirectional OK
Color Management Enabled with metal color profile

Smooth metal surfaces work best with somewhat lower ink saturations to avoid bleeding or puddling. High resolution remains important for detailed prints. Color management helps boost brightness and saturation.

Wood Products

Setting Recommendation
Print Mode 720 dpi
Paper Profile Plain paper setting
Ink Saturation Slightly reduced
Print Direction Bidirectional OK
Color Management Enabled with wood color profile

For products like sublimation coated wood boards, lower print resolutions around 720 dpi are sufficient. The porous surface requires lowered ink saturation levels to avoid blotchiness. Color management boosts brightness.


Setting Recommendation
Print Mode 720 dpi
Paper Profile Plain paper setting
Ink Saturation Normal
Print Direction Bidirectional OK
Color Management Disabled

Ceramic items like mugs, tiles, and plates don’t require high resolution printing, but details and gradients can suffer at lower resolutions under 180 dpi. Disable color management, as ceramics use different color profiles.

Nylon and Polyvinyl Materials

Setting Recommendation
Print Mode 1440+ dpi
Paper Profile Glossy photo setting
Ink Saturation Slightly increased
Print Direction Unidirectional
Color Management Enabled with material profile

Nylon flags, banners, and other poly-materials require high print resolutions to avoid banding and graininess in gradients. Their slick surface allows for slightly increased ink saturation and vivid colors.

General Recommendations

Here are some additional, general recommendations for optimizing sublimation print settings across different materials and applications:

  • Print a test chart of swatches using new print settings prior to production runs.
  • Ensure the printhead, caps, and ink lines are thoroughly cleaned when changing between sublimation and standard inks.
  • If banding occurs, try toggling between uni- and bi-directional printing.
  • Only use papers intended for sublimation printing, not standard inkjet papers.
  • Store unused sublimation papers in sealed bags out of humidity.
  • Print a nozzle check if prints look grainy, blurry, or have lines.
  • Contact the ink or printer manufacturer for custom color profiles.
  • Give the printer 5-10 minutes of warm up time before critical print jobs.


Sublimation printing involves some specific considerations compared to standard inkjet printing. Paying careful attention to print mode, color management, ink saturation, print direction, and other settings based on the unique materials can help achieve beautiful, vibrant prints. Don’t be afraid to experiment on test prints to dial in the perfect quality. With the right printer settings, sublimation gives unparalleled print durability and detail for personalized projects and decor.