A dye-sublimation printer uses film embedded with solid dyes that are heated, vaporized and re-solidified on paper. These printers produce high quality photos that are resistant to fading and distortion. Dye-sublimation printers are generally more expensive than inkjet printers and are only able to print on paper and film.

Some dye-sublimation printers use a single sheet of film that contains the colors cyan, magenta, yellow and gray. Other dye-sublimation printers use four different sheets of film, each containing one of the four colors. During the printing process, these sheets are placed against the paper and then heated to a gaseous state. Once they are deposited on the paper, the colors cool and turn back into a solid.

When the colors on the film sheets are heated, the pigments combine to create new colors. This differs from inkjet printers, which create the illusion of different colors by printing small dots of color that trick the eye to believe a new color is present. The process of dye-sublimation creates spots of color that are blended around the edges, rather than the solid dots created by inkjet printers. This blending creates a more realistic image. Dye-sublimation printers are less practical than other printers for everyday use.