Navigating Sublimation Printing
Which side to print on sublimation paper?

Sublimation printing is a fantastic way to create vibrant, long-lasting designs on a variety of substrates. However, one crucial step in this process often causes confusion, especially among beginners: determining which side of the sublimation paper to print on. Printing on the wrong side can lead to disappointing results, with colors not transferring correctly or the design not adhering to the substrate. This detailed guide will help you identify the correct side of sublimation paper for printing, ensuring your sublimation projects turn out perfectly every time.

Understanding Sublimation Paper

Sublimation paper is specially designed for sublimation printing. It has a coating on one side that holds the sublimation ink, allowing it to release onto the substrate under the heat and pressure of a heat press. This coating is what differentiates the two sides of the paper and is key to successful sublimation printing.

Identifying the Correct Side

The correct side of sublimation paper—the side you should print on—is the side with the special coating. Here are several methods to help you identify this side:

Visual Inspection: Often, the coated side of sublimation paper has a slightly brighter or shinier appearance compared to the uncoated side. Look closely at both sides of the paper under good lighting to determine which side has the coating.

Touch Test: Gently run your fingers over both sides of the paper. The coated side may feel slightly tacky or sticky compared to the smoother, uncoated side. This method requires a bit of experience, as the difference can be subtle.

Water Droplet Test: If you're still unsure, you can perform a simple test by placing a small drop of water on each side of the paper. The water will bead up more on the coated side, while it tends to absorb more quickly on the uncoated side. Be sure to use this method sparingly to avoid wasting paper.

Manufacturer's Markings: Some sublimation paper manufacturers print logos, watermarks, or instructions on the uncoated side of the paper. If you see any printing or markings, it's a safe bet that the opposite side is the one you should print on.

Tips for Successful Printing

Always Check: Before printing a large batch, always double-check that you're printing on the correct side of the paper. It can save time, ink, and frustration.

Sample Test: If you're using a new brand of sublimation paper, consider doing a test print on a small piece to ensure you've identified the coated side correctly.

Printer Settings: Ensure your printer settings are optimized for sublimation printing. This includes selecting the correct paper type and print quality settings.

Mirror Your Design: Remember to mirror your design before printing. Sublimation transfers reverse the image, so mirroring is necessary to ensure the final product looks correct.


Identifying which side to print on sublimation paper is a fundamental step in the sublimation printing process. By using the tips and methods outlined in this guide, you can easily determine the correct side of the paper, ensuring your designs transfer beautifully to your chosen substrates. With practice, this step will become second nature, allowing you to focus on creating stunning sublimation projects with confidence.