How to develop a digital print

Sarah Glyn-Woods

Sarah Glyn-Woods

2014_06_Bath Uni R6-228-Edit

Sublitex is probably the largest European supplier of digital sublimation paper permitting the rapid supply of customer exclusive designs. They also have high speed gravure printing available for larger volumes. Design and Colour Ltd represent Sublitex in the UK.


So you want your own design?

A digital print design has few restrictions in regards to the pattern repeat other than the width of the paper. Sublitex’s paper is 160cm wide. The vertical repeat can be as big or as small as you wish. Panel designs do not usually repeat but are laid out across and down the paper roll as economically as possible.

A panel print


All over repeating pattern

3 If you are planning to have an all over pattern then the design should be supplied in repeat. If the design is not in repeat you will normally be charged a studio fee to make one. When buying artwork you can request that the artist supplies the artwork in repeat. This may cost a little more, but in the long term this will be significantly less than having it done at a later date. What is great about digital printing is that you are not restricted by cylinder or screen circumference size. Sublitex ask that you provide the dimensions of the design at submission, incase the image on the file is not to the desired final scale.

5N778 001

5N778 001

This tattoo design can be made in different repeat sizes to suit different applications and visual results: 5

Image quality

DPI means “dots per inch”, high res means high resolution and you will also hear folk referring to pixels per inch. Which ever phrase you hear at Sublitex they recommend 250- 300 dpi or ppi which is high res. If you want a clean crisp image with great contrast insist on High Res.


Before you hand over a piece of artwork take the time to check that there are no faults. We suggest checking motif by motif as well as tiling out the design, if it is in repeat, to check for join lines or banding. Can you find the fault in one of these elephants? 6 7

Cleaning up

When designs are made up of super-imposed elements you must make sure that anything unwanted is cleaned out of the background. Very faint shadows may not be noticed until after printing if the design is not viewed at full scale.8 Sublimation printing will show every tiny pin prick and as the ink expands slightly these will be more visible.9 91

How to communicate colour

When you look at a design on a screen the colour is back lit and is not representative of solid colour. What you see may not be the same as your neighbour looking at the same file unless you have sophisticated callibration. We recommend that you supply a physical swatch or CAD printout, Pantone references or RGB values of the colours you desire. Different colour mediums have different colour ranges. A colour that exists in acrylic paint may not exist in disperse dyes for sublimation printing. The one thing I always tell clients is that the Sublitex will endeavour to match as closely as possible to the desired result and the sample they produce sets the colour standard that can be reproduced in digital production. Another consideration with fabric printing is that the base cloth on which the design is printed may not be optically white. The surface being matt or shiny, the fibre shape and yarn construction will all influence how the colour appears and is reflected. Be sure to digitally print on the final fabric that you wish to use to achieve the colour rendition that you desire. 92

Design ownership

Do beware of downloading images and designs then reproducing them as you may well be infringing on the intellectual property on another. When you buy a design from a studio they will sell you the design and the copyright. Sublitex own the designs they purchase and those that are generated by their in-house studio. Any design given to a third party will be taken under the proviso that the supplier of the design has the right to reproduce the image. In the case of an infringement the provider of the design is legally responsible.

Did you spot this?


So, what is Sublimation printing?

What we’re all about is sublimation printing, and here Sarah explains what it entails.

Sublimation printing accounts for around 6% of textile printing in the world. It is mainly applied to Polyester fabrics and uses disperse inks. These inks have the ability to move from a solid to a gas directly. The inks are printed on lightweight paper which acts as a carrier.


Polyester fibres are chains of molecules. Imagine that a single fibre is a made up of lots of strands of beads. At everyday ambient temperatures the beads are very tightly packed together yet pliable.

Polyester softens as it is heated and imagine that the tight strands of beads begin to move apart at temperatures between 175 – 220 C.

The Disperse inks, printed on the sublimation paper, at these temperatures move from a solid to a gas. They will happily move into the spaces in the open molecular chain.

Colour is trapped inside when the fibres cool down.


Sublimation Print Paper and Fabric

Sublimation Print Paper and Fabric

The fabric and paper are put in a machine at temperatures around 205C for 25 seconds. When the paper is peeled back from the fabric, exiting the machine, the design has been transferred onto the fabric.

The print moves from the paper to the fabric without water but by the regulated application of heat and dwell time.

designandcolourlogoAgents for Sublimation transfer paper from Sublitex Miroglio Textile.

To learn more about sublimation printing visit and watch the films which are very informative for both digital and rotagravure printing.