Dye-sublimation vs. Water-based Screen Printing

Here's everything you need to know about the pros and cons of water-based screen printing and dye-sublimation printing.

Which is better: water-based screen printing or sublimation printing?

There are several factors to consider when deciding which type of printing will work best for your custom threads. Let’s break down each option.

Water-based screen printing is very much like it sounds. The process uses water-soluble ink that transfers onto garments and permanently changes the color of the fabric.

Dye-sublimation printing uses a process that transfers ink using high heat that also merges with the fabric, permanently changing the color.

But let’s compare the pros and cons of the two to really get to really weigh our options.

With water-based screen printing, you get a super soft design that won’t crack it won’t peel. You also get the best, most vibrant tees on A-rated shirts.

The downside? You have to have minimums for every color in your design.

For example: if you have a 1-color design the minimum is 12 pieces. For every additional color printed in your design, an additional 12 pieces are required to meet the minimum. That means if you have a 5-color design, you have a minimum of 60 pieces.

Water-based discharge ink cannot be used on 100% polyester garments. This is because the discharge ink can only discharge cotton when trying to achieve the best vibrancy with your design. Your best bet is to choose an A-rated 100% cotton T-shirt.

With dye-sublimation, you also get a soft print that won’t crack or peel, but with vivid full-color images and no minimums.
Keep in mind the sublimation print process can only be done on 100% polyester. Although you can choose light garments, your best options for vibrant prints are white colored tees.

Water-Based Screen Printing

water-based screenprinting


  • Won’t crack or peel.
  • Has a super soft, no hand feel.
  • Full, bright colors on A-rated cotton shirts.


  • Must order minimum of shirts per color, per design
  • Cannot be printed on 100% polyester

Dye-sublimation Printing


  • Won’t crack or peel.
  • Super soft, no hand feel.
  • Full, bright colors on 100% polyester
  • No minimums


  • Cannot use cotton blends for bright patterns