A Complete Guide to T-Shirt Sublimation Printing


Posted by AllDayShirts on to Printing Techniques.

So, you're finally fulfilling your dream of designing a custom t-shirt! Great! But now you're running into a more serious problem: you don't know how to print it. 

It's easy to get overwhelmed once you get to this step. Designing the t-shirt is the fun part. Printing it off can be intimidating. 

But don't worry. We're going to help you learn about one of the best printing methods out there: t-shirt sublimation printing! 

Sublimation is an excellent t-shirt printing method. The sublimation designs that you can use are endless. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to do sublimation printing! 

What Is T-Shirt Sublimation Printing? 

Sublimation printing is a method for printing designs on t-shirts. It's very common because of the high-quality results that it produces. 

T-shirt sublimation uses heat to print words and images into the fabric. The use of heat allows for the ink or dye to seep into the t-shirt material. 

Equipment & Supplies Needed 

There are six main pieces of equipment that you're going to need for sublimation printing: 

  • Design software
  • Sublimation ink/dye
  • Sublimation printer
  • Transfer paper
  • Heat press
  • T-shirts/fabric

You'll also need a workspace where you can store all of your equipment and safely print your t-shirts in peace. Think about setting aside some space in your garage, your office, or your basement to do your work. 

Printing Process of Sublimation

Now, if you're interested in using the sublimation method to print your t-shirts, the first question that you may be asking yourself is, "how does sublimation printing work"? 

Well, now you can wonder no more. Let's go through the process. 

1. Draw It Up

Before you do anything, you're going to need a design for your t-shirt. This is why it's important to have some good t-shirt design software. There are lots of different design programs that are great for creating t-shirt mockups.

2. Print It Off

Once you have your design, you'll need to print it out onto your sublimation transfer paper. You must have the right kind of printer, paper, and ink to get the right results. 

3. Heat It Up

The next step is to use the heat press to transfer the design on the paper onto your t-shirt. Using a heat press ensures that the ink sinks deeply into the fabric during the process. This means that your design will have bright, vivid colors and last long. 

4. Check It Out! 

After this, you can release the press and carefully take the paper off of your t-shirt. If everything was done properly, the design should be left behind on the fabric!

Best Sublimation Designs

You must consider everything when creating the design for your t-shirt. If you're planning on using sublimation as your printing method, then you need to make sure your design is a good fit for this method. 

It is great for designs that cover the entire shirt. If you want to use a repeating pattern, like a striped, polka-dotted, or Hawaiian-patterned shirt, sublimation is the way to go. 

Because of how versatile sublimation is, it also works well for t-shirt designs that use lots of vibrant colors. It's a great method if you're working with sublimation designs that are big, complex, creative, and dramatic. 

You should make sure that your design works well with sublimation before you dive right into it. There's a chance that it might be wiser to use a different printing method. For example, if you want to just create a one-off design or a small, simple logo, you might be better off with direct-to-garment printing instead. 

Recommended Shirts for Sublimation

The material of your t-shirt is an important thing to consider before deciding on a printing method. The quality of your printing job will depend on the fabric that you use. 

When looking for t-shirts for sublimation printing, polyester materials are definitely the best choice. Polyester has the right kind of pores that will allow the ink to really settle into the fabric and will give you the best possible results.

However, you can also use the following materials for sublimation:

  • Polycotton textile
  • Polymer
  • PVC
  • Ceramic
  • Polymer-coated metal or plastic
  • Polyester-coated aluminum 

Sublimation printing also works best on light-colored fabrics. While it technically still can print on dark materials, the ink probably won't show up quite as well. So, if you're just starting, white or light fabrics are best. 

T-shirts that are 100% cotton are definitely not a good choice for sublimation. They don't have the right kind of pores for sublimation to properly work. If you're working with cotton materials, you should look into other types of printing instead. 

Pros of Sublimation

T-shirt sublimation printing has tons of advantages. Let's take a closer look at some of the benefits of sublimation. 

Low Cost

You can use sublimation printing to get your custom-designed t-shirts into your hands at a super low cost. Sublimation printers are available for fairly cheap prices. They're often way cheaper than the equipment you'd need if you were using a different printing method. 

Since it's so easy to print the same design onto multiple shirts, sublimation also tends to be the same cost for both one order or lots of orders. This means that it's a perfect printing choice if you're looking to print shirts in bulk for your school, conference, family reunion, or business! 

High Quality

Sublimation printing works very well with designs that are complex and have lots of detail. Other methods of printing may not be able to handle such designs. 

Your t-shirt designs will also last much longer with sublimation. Since the ink seeps right into the fabric, the design won't crack or peel over time. It also helps to retain the soft and smooth feel of the original material. 

And, as a bonus, using sublimation means that your t-shirt designs will be very easily customizable. You can get very creative with your designs since this printing method can handle just about any image or color you throw at it. 

Very Efficient

Sublimation tends to be much faster than other printing methods. This means that you can save time, money, and effort when printing your custom t-shirts. 

It also means that you'll be able to turn a better profit if you're starting up a clothing line. Fewer expenses while making the product means that you can make more money on the whole. 

Cons of Sublimation

Despite its many benefits, sublimation on t-shirts does have a few cons. You must be aware of every advantage and disadvantage that comes with sublimation. 

White Creases

One of the dangers of sublimation is white creasing. This happens when there are areas of the fabric that the design can't reach - for example, if the fabric is folded or if the transfer paper is moist. 

White creases occur in areas where the ink is unable to sink into the fabric, meaning that there are small areas of the t-shirt that will remain white (or the original shirt color). This is most common under the arms and sleeves, so keep an eye out for that. 


Ghosting happens when the transfer paper shifts during the transfer process. This causes a blurry or faded effect on the print, like a ghost. It can happen if there is either not enough or too little pressure being applied, or if the ink hasn't yet dried before you begin the heat transfer process. 

Tips for T-Shirt Sublimation Printing

If you're set on using sublimation, then you'll need to know some tricks of the trade. Here are some tips and hacks to help you in the printing process. 

Invest in Heat-Resistant Tape and Gloves

Working with high temperatures can be dangerous. To prevent injury or any other mistakes when printing your t-shirts, you may want to think about getting heat-resistant gloves

Heat-resistant tape is also worth looking into. It will help minimize the risk of ghosting and white creases since it helps keep the transfer paper in place and secured to all areas of the shirt. Make sure, though, that you don't take over the design. 

Print Your Design Larger Than You Think 

Another helpful tip is to print your design bigger than the t-shirt. If your design to too small for your t-shirt, there will be awkward white spaces. Printing your design larger than your shirt erases this possibility. 

Use RIP Software to Get the Right Colors 

When designing your t-shirt on your computer, you'll see it in RGB mode. But when you print it, it'll be in CMYK mode. So, the colors in your design may look different once they're printed out. 

RIP software can help you make sure that your colors look the way you want them to. Look into RIP software programs before you design your shirt. 

Learn More About How to Do Sublimation Printing 

T-shirt sublimation printing is a fantastic, high-quality method for printing your t-shirts. If you're looking for sublimation designs or hoping to learn how to do sublimation, we hope we've answered all your questions here. 

Choose a blank t-shirt to get started on your t-shirt printing journey today!

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