First, let’s talk about what file types you can use for sublimation. Sublimation involves printing your images with a sublimation printer, sublimation ink, and sublimation ink.
The file types you can use for sublimation printing are: PNG, JPEG, SVG, PDF, PSD, EPS, and TIFF. You’ll want to make sure the file quality for your image is good and if you need to do a large print you’ll want to make sure that the photo is high resolution.
What is a PNG File?
The acronym stands for Portable Network Graphic. Let me translate, that means this image and file type can eventually get pixelated (or blurry).
If the PNG is not saved at a high resolution or if you stretch the image out too large it will turn fuzzy. PNG files are also referred to as raster graphics or images. Just like an SVG file, our cutting machine programs will open this PNG format.
So this is where it gets a little confusing. Unlike an SVG file, a PNG file DOES NOT have cut lines inside the file. When you send it to cut, you will only see an outline of the entire image, not the individual layers. The file itself is flat.
You can not ungroup or move layers around (remember it doesn’t have any) to cut in different colors. If you have a file open and go to select cut lines, and it is only highlighting a box around the image instead of the lines of the image themselves, you probably have a PNG file open instead of the SVG.
What is an SVG File?
The first file type that you have probably heard most commonly talked about in cutting machine crafting groups and online is SVG files. The acronym SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphic.
In the most basic terms, that means you can size up the file as big as you want, and it will never get pixelated or blurry on your screen. You might also hear this type of file called a vector graphic for short.
SVG files are perfect to use with cutting machines because they can have layers. Depending on how the design is created will determine how many layers are in the file.
You can ungroup, divide, and cut different colors and layers without having to trace a single thing. Your machine will automatically read the lines of the file when you send it to cut.
When To Use What?
Now that we know the difference between an SVG and PNG image you might be wondering to yourself…, why would I ever use a PNG file with my cutting machine if it doesn’t actually have cut lines?
So glad you asked! Let me give you a few ideas! As I eluded to above, PNG files are great for print and cut. Projects like making stickers or printable vinyl are the perfect way to use PNG files.
Not having to deal with all the layers and elements in an SVG file format are one of the main reasons you would want to use the PNG instead.
Next are mock-up images. PNG files typically have a transparent background which makes them perfect for mock-ups. You don’t have to mess with the elements of the design moving, shifting, or getting out of place while arranging the image digitally on the shirt.
What software to use for sublimation printing?
There are a variety of programs to use for sublimation design and printing. My favorite is Adobe Photoshop, but I also use it for work so the subscription price is worth it for me. You can also use:
- Inkscape (free)
- Silhouette Studio (free for basic)
- Design Space (free, but limited on print size)
There are a few more programs, but I don’t have experience with them.