The Best Programs for Sublimation Printing Designs

The Four Best Tools to Help Design for Sublimation Printing

Okay you’ve got your printer, your supplies and most importantly, your creativity to get ready and make some awesome designs whether it be for a t-shirt or ceramic tile, now you just need to get a design made!

There are so many different tools out there it can be a challenge to figure out which tool is best for designing the perfect image to apply to your pieces.

Four Printing Design Tools that Are Easy to Use

Adobe Photoshop: Adobe Photoshop is one of the most popular design software programs and for good reason. It’s very flexible, there is a full suite of other Adobe options and an excellent free option. When looking at this tool for sublimation printing there are a few ways to break it down:


    1. Extensive editing capabilities: Adobe Photoshop is a robust option that allows you to manipulate, enhance, and modify designs with precision, ensuring the desired output. Simply put if you can dream it, you can most likely create it in Photoshop.
    2. Every design style option: Photoshop offers brushes, filters, layer styles, and effects that enable you to experiment and create unique designs tailored to your specific needs.
    3. High-resolution output: when you move your images over to a heat press, you will need to have the resolution possible to make sure your images stand out. Photoshop is great because it allows you to work with images of varying sizes and resolutions without compromising quality.
    4. Pick any color you want to the exact level require: Photoshop provides advanced color management tools, such as color profiles and adjustment layers, ensuring accurate color reproduction. This feature is key when you are creating an ideal design for any product


    1. Adobe learning curve can be complex: Photoshop is a professional-grade software with a potentially steep learning curve if you are not used to a design tool. For some beginners it can be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with image editing software. It can take time to mastering the full tool set to your advantage.
    2. Expensive subscription cost : Adobe Photoshop is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, which involves a recurring cost. If you are just an occasional user or on a tight budget, the expense of the subscription might be a drawback.
    3. Limited vector editing capabilities: While Photoshop offers some vector editing tools, it is primarily a raster-based software. If your design relies heavily on vector graphics or requires scalability without loss of quality, a vector-based program like Adobe Illustrator may be more suitable.

    Photoshop is consistently a popular choice for designing prints to be put on clothes or other items you may want to customized with a unique print.

    Canva: Canva is a web-based design tool that has quickly become one of the most used graphic design tools online. We love Canva because the free version gives you plenty of functionality such as the full range of templates, graphics, and fonts to choose from, making it easy to create professional-looking designs quickly.


    1. Extremely friendly user interface: Canva is known for its intuitive and user-friendly interface, making it accessible to designers with a full range of experience. It is consistently used by a range of professionals to make quick edits to beginners who rely on Canva to provide all necessary design support.
    2. So many templates to choose from: With a vast collection of professionally designed templates, Canva is really good for graphic design inspiration you can put on a variety of designs. Words are always an easy way to come up with a unique and custom design for your products
    3. Collaborate easily: if you are working with others on designs and need to keep costs low, this can be very useful since there is no fee for additional users. In addition to that, updates are made on demand so everyone working on the project can see updates happen live
    4. Access it anywhere: since this is a cloud based tool you can access your design from any device on desktop or mobile. With Canva you don’t need to worry about downloading the application directly to your device. Additionally, Canva offers cloud storage for saving and accessing designs across different devices.


    1. Some design limitations: While Canva offers a wide range of design elements and templates, the level of customization can be limited compared to more advanced graphic design software so you may feel constrained on what designs you are able to create.
    2. Less advanced design features: Canva’s focus is on simplicity and ease of use, which means it may lack some of the advanced features found in professional graphic design software. Users who require complex design techniques, advanced photo editing, or vector manipulation may find Canva’s feature set limiting.
    3. Subscription price structure for Pro features: If you end up upgrading to the pro version, there will be a monthly cost associated with the tool. If you only need the tool for one time functionality, then it may not be the best option. For designers on a tight budget or those who require access to specific premium features, the subscription pricing might be a disadvantage.
    4. Hard to access offline: Canva is primarily an online tool, which means users need an internet connection to access and work on their designs. You can easily import offline designs but you will need internet access to make updates directly.

    Always consider your specific design needs and requirements when choosing a graphic design tool. While Canva is user-friendly and suitable for a wide range of design projects, more advanced software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator may be necessary for complex or specialized design tasks.

    CorelDRAW: CorelDRAW is a vector-based design program that is widely used in the printing industry. It offers a range of tools and features for designing graphics and layouts that are suitable for sublimation printing.


    1. Vector-based design: CorelDRAW is a powerful vector-based design software, which is useful for sublimation printing because vector graphics can be scaled to any size without loss of quality, ensuring crisp and sharp prints on various substrates.
    2. Most extensive file format compatibilities: CorelDRAW supports the widest range of file formats that supports all you would need including popular ones like AI, PDF, EPS, and SVG. This compatibility allows you to import and export files from other design software or share your designs with print service providers without issues.
    3. Powerful layout and design tools: CorelDRAW offers a comprehensive set of layout and design tools, enabling you to create complex designs with ease. It provides features like precise alignment, node editing, bezier curves, and typography tools, allowing you to create intricate and detailed designs for sublimation printing.
    4. Integration with other software and devices: CorelDRAW integrates well with other software and devices commonly used in the sublimation printing workflow. It can work seamlessly with RIP (Raster Image Processor) software, printers, and cutting plotters, providing a smooth and efficient design-to-print process.


    1. Hard to learn for beginners: CorelDRAW is a professional-grade design software and is considered the hardest one to learn on this list. You may need more extensive training and opportunities to give dedicated time to practice creating designs on the tool.
    2. Surprisingly limited photo editing capabilities: While CorelDRAW offers basic photo editing tools, its capabilities in this area are not as robust as dedicated photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop. If your sublimation printing projects involve extensive photo editing or manipulation, you may need to use additional software in conjunction with CorelDRAW.
    3. High price and licensing fees: CorelDRAW is a commercial software, and its pricing may be a consideration for some users, especially if they are on a tight budget. Depending on your needs, you may need to purchase a license or a subscription to access the software’s full features and updates.
    4. Hardware requirements: CorelDRAW is a resource-intensive software, and it may require a computer with adequate processing power, RAM, and storage to run smoothly, particularly when working with large files or complex designs. Users with older or less powerful computers may experience performance issues.
    5. Less community support compared to some other software: While CorelDRAW has a user community and support resources, it does not have the same level of extensive online tutorials, forums, or user-generated content as some other popular design software.

    CorelDRAW’s vector-based capabilities and design tools make it a strong choice for creating precise and scalable designs, but it may require some investment in terms of learning and hardware requirements.

    GIMP: GIMP is a free and open-source image editing program that offers a range of tools for designing and editing images. While it may not have as many features as some of the other programs listed here, it is a great option for those on a budget both in terms of money and tims


      1. Free and open-source: GIMP is a free and open-source software, which means it is available to users at no cost. No cost ever and you don’t have to worry ever putting in credit card information.
      2. Surprisingly robust image editing features: GIMP offers a wide range of image editing features, including tools for retouching, color correction, resizing, and applying filters and effects which all allow you to prepare your designs for sublimation printing, ensuring the desired quality and appearance.
      3. Extensive plugin interactivity: GIMP supports a variety of plugins and scripts, many of which are developed by the user community. These plugins extend the functionality of GIMP, providing additional features and tools that can enhance your workflow and improve productivity.
      4. Cross-platform compatibility: GIMP is available for multiple operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. This cross-platform compatibility ensures that users can access and use GIMP regardless of their preferred operating system, providing flexibility and convenience.


      1. Steeper learning curve: GIMP can be more challenging to learn for users who are new to image editing software or have previously used other graphic design tools. Its user interface and workflow may differ from other popular design software, requiring some time and effort to become proficient.
      2. Less intuitive user interface: While GIMP provides powerful features, its user interface may not be as intuitive or user-friendly as some other design software. Navigating through menus and finding specific tools or functions may require more exploration and familiarity with the software.
      3. Limited CMYK support: GIMP primarily uses RGB color mode, which may not be ideal for sublimation printing that typically requires CMYK color mode. Although GIMP offers some CMYK support through plugins, it may not have the same level of color management and accuracy as dedicated software designed specifically for print production.
      4. Less industry standard and compatibility: GIMP is not as widely used in professional design and print production industries compared to some other software like Adobe Photoshop. This difference in popularity may result in compatibility issues or limitations when working with certain file formats or when collaborating with print service providers who prefer specific software.
      5. Smaller community and support resources: While GIMP has an active and supportive user community, it may have a smaller community compared to some other design software. Finding extensive online tutorials, resources, or user-generated content specific to sublimation printing within the GIMP community may require more effort.

      When considering GIMP for sublimation printing, it’s important to assess your specific needs, familiarity with design software, and the level of compatibility required for your workflow. GIMP’s cost-effectiveness, robust image editing features, and plugin support make it a viable option for sublimation printing, but it may have some limitations in terms of CMYK support and industry standards.

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