Dye sublimation explained

I previously wrote about the various techniques used for inkjet printing, but a good reader (thanks Daniel!) made me notice that there is a technique less common than the usual dye-based or pigment inks. I admit easily that I did not know it before. But it is a slightly older technique that was used by Epson for desktop printers and that includes both a solvant and a heat-sensitive dye.

To use it, you absolutely need a paper whose special surface has been prepared taking that ink into account and making the surface relatively sensitive itself to heat (polyester cover) in order to open to heat (creating micropore allowing the ink to enter the paper, then closing behind it) or a very hard surface (metal or ceramics, for example, where the ink will be cooked on the surface). This is specifically the technology used in giclées (printing solutions using a surface that looks a lot like a painter canvas: sublimed ink on a canvas heavily coated with polyester).

Rather uncommon today on the desktop (both at home and in the office), this technique must be rather difficult to handle photo-quality colors (the importance of good ICC profiles cannot be stressed too much), forces to adapt to prepared papers (special surfaces like cotton are not usable) and must have a rather good shelf life (the ink is preserved at the bottom of the closed micropores).


Complementary information about the possible use of such an ink on an Epson R800/R1800: These inks are supposed to be used with printers that never were designed for them (far from it!), UltraChrome ink Epson printers (R800/R1800). There, it smells really funny; The more because these good printers normally use a rather complex combination of inks including a varnish or “gloss optimizer” transparent ink used to manage correctly the bronzing effect so common on pigment inks. I would stay far from this odd combination (I would be afraid to damage my printer…)