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A dye-sublimation printer is a printer that works by heating ink and then depositing it on a surface. The term arises from the misconception that the ink goes from solid to gas without going through a liquid phase, or sublimation. Dye-sublimation printers are used for printing photos and designs on solid objects.
Dye-sublimation printers work by heating solid ink so that it can be deposited on a solid surface, such as plastic or ceramic. These printers are used for printing photos and ID cards, as well as for printing on things like coffee mugs and T-shirts.
Dye-sublimation printers use a special overcoating instead of black with the other standard ink colors, so dye-sublimation uses the CMYO (cyan, magenta, yellow, overcoating) system, though some printers do use black ink. The inks are deposited on the surface one color at a time. Dye-sublimation printers produce continuous tones compared with inkjet printers where the tones can vary with dithering. This makes reproducing photos on dye-sublimation printers much more accurate than with inkjet printers.