How to Do Sublimation On Colored Shirts

Sublimation On Colored Shirts

We know, there are a set of rules and some beliefs in dye-sublimation. If you aren’t new to this, you may be aware of the fact that the substrate must be polyester/polymer-coated and white. Whether it is tile, aluminum, or wood; it needs to be white. Now, this sounds like boundaries for enthusiasts, hobbyists, and print shops that may have a large product line that is not white. So, there must be an alternative way that achieves an elegant print although the shirt is not white. Exactly, I am here to tell you all the easy tips and tricks to sublimate on colored shirts so that you can get started today.

Can you sublimate colored shirts? Yes, you can sublimate on colored and dark shirts. But, there will be varying results in terms of contrast and vibrancy of the printed image. The colors on the white shirt come out to be super vibrant. Whereas the dark shirt had the least contrast and the blue shirt looks slightly different than the white. So, we conclude that the darker the garment the less vibrant the printed image will be.

My Experiments…

Well, then it seems to be compromising to perform sublimation on colored shirts. So, here comes the challenge. I did a couple of experiments on a colored t-shirt such as pressing with different images, adjusting time, temperature & pressure of the heat press, wash test, and so on. The major difficulty I faced is to achieve a perfect color reproduction on a non-white substrate. And of course, sublimation does not have white ink so you cannot print a white background and achieve the same print quality as the white shirt. After performing various tests, I could achieve vibrant print on a colored shirt. You can see the results below:

sublimation on colored shirts

Steps to Perform Sublimation On Colored Shirts

People followed my procedure and they had success with sublimating to things that are not white. As the trick was tested and proved to be working for many, including me; I am sharing the procedure with you to perform sublimation on colored shirts. Even if your shirt is not 100% polyester or a 65% polyester and 25% cotton, this trick is going to work for you. Please go through the following steps below:

Step 1: Your design should be darker than the garment

This is the key trick. As I performed a couple of experiments with designs, I found that the light-colored designs were good on white shirts but it wasn’t on the colored. So, I considered preparing artwork that was significantly darker than the fabric.

Flat or tonal solid colors work well. Any white areas on the image will not be transferred onto the fabric and appear the same color as the garment. For achieving high-quality images with a professional print finish, you may use Sublijet HD ink. If your ink is working well, no need to change. You may get it if you are buying a new sublimation ink.

Step 2: Heat up your Heat Press

Once you have printed your design onto sublimation paper, warm up your heat press. Keep the temperature to 190 degrees Celsius to press with the light to medium pressure.

Step 3: Place your shirt and pre-press

Place your shirt into the heat press with the printable surface facing upwards. Smoothen the surface with a lint roller for any extruding fibers or creases. Then pre-press the garment for a few seconds. Remember to put a Teflon sheet above.

Step 4: Lay your design

Lay your design over the top of the t-shirt, print side face down. Fix it with heat-resistant tape and lay the Teflon sheet over the top.

Step 5: Press the design

Press under light to medium pressure with the set temperature(in step-2) for 50 seconds. When the pressing time is up, lift the heat press, remove the teflon sheet and peel back the sublimation paper smoothly and quickly.

Note: The print will be slightly wet when taking the paper off the garment. So, remove it carefully without smudging the paper against the fabric. This will lead to ghosting effect in sublimation that will ruin your print.

Step 6: Allow it to cool

Remove the garment from the heat press and allow it to cool. And there you get the sublimation image on colored shirts.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can you sublimate on colored polyester shirts?

You can sublimate on 100% polyester-colored shirts. In fact, sublimation printing is best suited for polyester garments because it perfectly reacts with the sublimation dyes to hold the ink on its surface. Whereas the cotton does not react with sublimation dye when heat pressed.
Moreover, the color of the artwork or print may reflect the matching or mismatching aspects of the t-shirt. A white shirt with a black print or a dark shirt with a golden print becomes the contrasting match.

Sublimation on cotton shirts?

When you print on 100% cotton shirts, the print is likely to peel or fade over time. When you print on 50% cotton and 50% polyester blended garments, the print is likely to last longer than printing only on cotton fabrics. Therefore, to print on 100% cotton t-shirts, you have an indirect way to do it. Have you heard of injectable printable heat transfer vinyl? In place of regular transfer papers, uses these HTVs and adopt the sublimation process to achieve full-color sublimation designs on cotton t-shirts.

Sublimation on dark colors?

Sublimation on dark color means custom printing on any of the dark substrates such as dark-colored t-shirts, wooden frames, acrylic, tumblers, and coffee mugs. The surface on which you are sublimating is more crucial than the color of the surface. A polyester or poly-coated surface is essential for a sublimation dye to react and stick longer after heat press. Moreover, printing on dark colors may reflect your print to be more or less contrasting based on the color combinations you choose.

Can you sublimate on grey shirt?

As long as you have a 100% polyester shirt, be it grey or black; you can do full-color sublimation.

Sublimation htv for dark shirts

Sublimation works on polyester garments be it black, grey, or heather blue. If you are using htv i.e. heat transfer vinyl, it absolutely works on cotton, poly/cotton blends, and leather. We recommend sublimation for white or light-colored substrates as it yields optimum results.

Can you sublimate on comfort colors shirts?

Comfort colors is a t-shirt brand that is largely known as an industry leader in blank apparel . It is inspired by natural-colored outfits that feel soft and relaxed even for the first time you wear them. Comfort color shirts are not suitable for sublimation printing because the available t-shirts are either 100% cotton or within a range of 80 to 100% cotton. Therefore, sublimation is suitable for polyester or poly-blend garments.


Didn’t you find how easy it is to sublimate colored shirts? No matter any color i.e. blue, green, pink, yellow, white, violet, black, etc, following the above steps and tricks makes it too easy to print.

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.

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