How to Do Sublimation Shirts?

How to Do Sublimation Shirts

In the sublimation of t-shirts, you are basically dying the fabric with sublimation transfers. You should be aware that sublimation does not print white. You can’t dye dark objects with lighter ink. Mainly, you can only dye things darker. Therefore, it is essential to use a white or any light-colored shirt. Because if you print black on a black tee shirt, you are not going to see it.

To answer “why can’t we sublimate on dark garments?” is you can’t see the print on a dark shirt even if the dye is transferring to it. Moreover, sublimation dyes only adhere to the polyester fibers. The reason is that when the sublimation ink gets heated up, it infuses into the polyester. So, the more polyester content you have in your t-shirt/garment, the brighter and bolder the colors appear.

While, if you have a 50/50 polyester and cotton blend shirt, the dye-sublimation ink will not stick to the cotton, but it will stick to the polyester. As a result, it will be a faded look. Therefore, the higher the polyester count in your fabric, the brighter and bolder prints you can achieve.

Before you press, the colors on the printed transfer paper look muted or dull. Mainly blue, mint, turquoise. However, these colors will look completely different after you press them. Whenever you print out your sublimation, it looks completely different after applying heat press if you are doing it at home or print shop. Due to the application of heat, it becomes a lot brighter, bolder, and vivid.

4 Tips to Remember Before Sublimation Printing on Shirts:

You must remember the important sublimation tips before initiating the sublimation process.

  1. For sublimation printing, you can use a heat press or easy press. Because you need 400 degrees Fahrenheit and iron will not work, especially when you want to keep the substrate still and even apply pressure.
  2. When you put the shirt onto the heat press, you always want to put something between your shirt rather than just placing it. Because the print will appear all the way through to the back. Especially in thin shirts. Therefore, protect your shirt from threading. Threading in sublimation printing means you open the shirt and put it in your heat press with only one side of the shirt up while the other side isn’t directly lying below it. It gets separated by a layer.
  3. Anytime you are pressing, do not have the seams or collars on the press because it will cause uneven heat and pressure during the heat press.
  4. Moreover, anytime using sublimation, always protect your press with protective paper.

Step by Step Procedure for Sublimation Shirts:

For sublimation onto a t-shirt, get a photo-quality image with vibrant colors. Since you are dying the shirt, the transfer does not feel heavy to wear. Therefore, sublimation has a permanent solution with strong washability. If you are starting with sublimation, here is the procedure by which you will need to sublimate a shirt.

Materials Required:

  1. Sublimation printer
  2. Transfer paper
  3. Heat press – 15″ x 15″ inch in dimension
  4. Parchment paper/Teflon sheet
  5. T-shirt

Follow the steps below for sublimation shirts:

Step 1:

Print your design using the sublimation printer. Optimize your printer settings so that the output colors are accurate and vibrant. Also, mirror the image before you take the printout. The printout may look a little dull and fade, but it is totally normal. Since sublimation inks don’t reach their full brilliance until heated. So, once we sublimate this transfer onto our t-shirt, the colors are going to pop up.

Step 2:

Next, we will heat press the transfer onto the t-shirt. For this step, center your shirt on the lower platen of heat press and pre-press for about 3 seconds.

Pre-pressing the shirt eliminates moisture in the shirt and gives us a smooth flat surface to print.

Better use a pressing pillow for sublimation to help prevent press marks from being left on polyester shirts.

Step 3:

Place your printed transfer with the ink side down on your shirt. Further, you can use an alignment tool like a T-square to get the more accurate transfer before pressing. Fix the transfer paper with heat-resistant tape.

Step 4:

Cover your transfer with a piece of parchment paper to protect direct heat or bleeding. If you are using a thinner t-shirt, you may need to slip a piece of parchment paper inside the shirt to block any bleed through to the back or onto the pressing pillow. As we discussed above, it is known as threading.

Step 5:

Slide the lower platen back in and press for 50 seconds at 385 degrees Fahrenheit. The recommended time and temperature for sublimating garments is 45 to 60 seconds, with temperatures 385 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit at medium pressure. Depending upon the climate around, the temperature may vary. Better perform several tests before you print on a new shirt.

Step 6:

Since you are done with step 5, lift the heat press and carefully remove the parchment paper. Give the transfer a few seconds to air cool. Before pilling off, avoid the transfer to shift; otherwise, it will blur the image underneath, which is ghosting. Just pull it off quickly from any of the corners like a band-aid.

And finally, we get a perfect sublimation shirt.


The sublimation print feels soft on touch, and literally, you cannot feel like there is a print. Because the colors embed the fabric and seem to a part of it.

Sublimation printing is too easy for a newbie to get started with the custom printing business. You could quickly achieve a soft and professional-looking print ready to sell or use personally.

Written by Davis Brown

Hi! I'm Davis Brown, Head of Editorial Team of HowNest. We are team of researchers, writers and veterans. We publish articles, whitepapers, journals and blogs with full-proof research and proper analysis. We focus on various areas such as eCommerce, industrial operations, corporate management, technologies, and DIY solutions.

Top 10 Agile Scrum Software for Project Management

Top 10 Agile Scrum Software for Project Management

Top 7 Ways to Remove Ants That Infest Printers

Top 7 Ways to Remove Ants That Infest Printers