The Difference Between Dye Sublimation and Digital Printing

As technology advances so does our ability to creatively transfer digital images onto a wide variety of materials. Both digital printing and dye sublimation on metal  are extremely desirable ways to print your photos. However, each process offers some advantages depending on the effect you want your photo to produce and the durability of the finished product. Understanding the difference between dye sublimation and digital printing process can help you make an informed decision to best showcase your photos or designs.


Digital printing on metal refers to methods of printing from a digital-based image directly onto a panel. This kind of printing is known as flat bed printing  Digital printing has revolutionised photo printing in terms of the ability to retouch and color correct a photograph before printing. The photo is printed on top of the panel, whereas, acrylic is printed on under the panel and comes through the front. Digital printing on metal requires files to be at least 150 d.p.i. If you require many prints, digital printing is faster then sublimation.

During the dye sublimation process, an image is first printed onto a sheet of transfer paper, which is then placed on During the dye sublimation process, which is then placed on a specialised, pre-treated piece of metal. We place the metal into our sublimation printer, which heats the transfer paper to the perfect temperature. This unique process turns the transfer paper directly into a gas, and solidifies it into the treated metal.alized, pre-treated piece of metal. All needs to go correct to create a masterpiece as there are many steps in production. Dye sublimation prints are also weather proof.


Difference between Dye Sublimation and Digital Printing 


In Dye Sublimation printing the inks are absorbed directly into the aluminium surface. This makes for a long lasting and durable product that can withstand UV light.  If you are not a fan of glossy then Dye sublimation prints may not be for you. The standard dye sublimation panel is thin so you would need a substrate that is solid if you wish to last a long time.

Digital printing on metal can be offered on both white and aluminium surfaces . The white metal has fantastic colour contrast whereas the brushed metal offers a matted effect. Both styles are printed on dibond panels which consists of a rigid polyester core and needs no added substrate to be structural. Panels and print withstand UV light and can withstand harsh climates.


Any polymer-coated surface is optimal for dye sublimation printing. This includes aluminium, wood, and plastics. The difference between dye sublimation and digital printing is that digital prints are printed on the surface of the material, whereas dye sublimation is infused into the material. What this means is that a dye sublimation print cannot be superficially damaged. There is no material to chip, peel or scratch. The image becomes one with the material.

Big acrylic uses Dibond panels that are 96 by 60 inches in size. Panels can be cut into any shape and size.  Sublimation panels manufactured by chromolux can pre cut, so size customisation is not available.

Final Effect:

Here it really is up to individual taste. The beauty of the dye subliminal print is that when printed on metal, the white areas of your print will come through with extra shine. This is because no white ink is used in the process and is also why this type of printing on metal is well suited to black and white photography. You can also achieve a warm effect by printing use dye sublimation on wood.

This process will enhance the colours, and provide an illusion of texture and depth. Some artists and photographers feel that dye sublimation does not capture the sharpness of an image in the same way that digital printing can. An image can appear slightly more blurred. As well, digital printing allows you to print white for a spot color or a backer. You can always consult with us and we can suggest the best option to bring your print to life.


Technology has made it possible for anyone to create unique and vibrant works of art. From awesome iPhone filters to the printing side of the industry, we are seeing amazing innovations. Understanding the difference between dye sublimation and digital printing can help you choose the right format to create a masterpiece. At Big Acrylic we are excited to be a part of this exciting technological revolution in art and photography.