For Sublimation Printing, which Fabric is Suitable?


Posted by AllDayShirts on to Printing Business Tips, Printing Techniques., Product Guides

For Sublimation Printing, which Fabric is Suitable?

In the vibrant world of digital printing, sublimation printing stands out for its ability to transfer intricate and vivid designs onto fabric, making it a popular choice for custom apparel, home décor, and promotional items. However, the success of sublimation printing largely depends on the type of fabric used. This comprehensive guide delves into the best fabrics for sublimation printing, ensuring your projects turn out brilliantly with colors that pop and last. 

Understanding Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing has revolutionized the world of digital printing with its unique process. Unlike traditional printing methods, sublimation printing uses heat to directly transform dye from a solid state into gas, skipping the liquid phase entirely. This process ensures the dye is embedded into the very fibers of the material, whether it’s fabric, paper, or plastic, creating prints that are not only high-resolution but also incredibly durable. The outcome is a product with vibrant colors that remain intact through washes and wear, free from peeling, cracking, or fading over time. This technique is particularly favored for producing customized items, offering endless creative possibilities.

The Best Fabrics for Sublimation Printing

Polyester and Polyester Blends

When it comes to sublimation printing, polyester reigns supreme. This synthetic fiber is ideal for sublimation, as it can fully absorb and retain the dye when it turns into gas during the heating process. Pure polyester fabric is the top choice for achieving the brightest colors and longest-lasting prints. However, there's also a place for polyester blends in sublimation printing. These blends, such as polyester-cotton, offer a compromise between the vividness of sublimation prints and the desired texture or feel of the garment. For example, the A4 Apparel A4N3402 Adult Sublimation Polyester Performance Tee and the A4 Apparel N3142 Upgraded Sublimation and Polyester Performance T-Shirt are excellent showcases of how pure polyester can serve as a prime canvas for sublimation printing. The A4 Apparel A4NB3402 Youth Sublimation Polyester Performance Tee offers a similar quality adapted for younger users, ensuring durability and color vibrancy. Gildan's G420 Adult Performance® 5 oz. T-Shirt further exemplifies the adaptability of polyester for high-quality sublimation prints across different age groups and purposes.

Poly-Coated Fabrics

For those seeking the natural texture and comfort of fabrics like cotton but unwilling to compromise on the quality of their sublimation prints, poly-coated fabrics present a perfect solution. These materials are essentially natural fibers that have been coated with a polymer layer, making them suitable for sublimation printing. This innovative approach allows for the best of both worlds: the classic appeal of natural fibers and the dynamic, lasting prints achieved through sublimation. Although this method may increase the cost and slightly alter the fabric's feel, it significantly expands the scope of materials that can benefit from sublimation printing, offering more versatility in product creation.

Stretchable Fabrics

The world of activewear and swimwear has particular demands when it comes to fabric, necessitating materials that are not only durable and comfortable but also capable of showcasing vibrant, lasting designs. Stretchable fabrics that blend polyester with elastane or spandex are uniquely suited to this task. These materials maintain the high-quality appearance of sublimation prints even when stretched, ensuring that designs do not distort or lose their vibrancy with movement. This makes them ideal for sportswear, swimwear, and other applications where flexibility and durability are key, marrying functionality with aesthetic appeal.

Navigating the Factors for Optimal Sublimation Printing Fabric Selection

Selecting the right fabric for sublimation printing is a nuanced process that requires careful consideration of various factors. Each element plays a critical role in ensuring that the final product not only meets aesthetic standards but also adheres to functional requirements and sustainability principles.

Color Brightness and Durability

The hallmark of a successful sublimation print is its ability to showcase vibrant colors that stand the test of time. Polyester fabrics excel in this area, offering a canvas that not only captures the essence of the design with startling clarity and brightness but also retains these qualities through numerous washes and prolonged exposure to sunlight. This enduring vibrancy is particularly important for items meant for regular use or those exposed to outdoor conditions, ensuring they remain visually appealing over time.

Hand Feel

The tactile experience of a fabric is paramount, especially in the realm of apparel, where comfort is as crucial as appearance. Pure polyester, while unmatched in its suitability for sublimation printing, may not always provide the desired softness or texture for certain garment types. This is where polyester blends come into play, offering a compromise that integrates the printability of polyester with the comfort of other fibers like cotton. However, it's important to note that these blends may slightly compromise the intensity of the print, a trade-off that needs to be balanced based on the end-use of the product.

Fabric Weight

The density of the fabric can influence the absorption of the dye, affecting the depth and richness of the printed colors. Heavier fabrics tend to absorb more ink, which can enhance the visual depth of the print, giving it a more pronounced appearance. Yet, this characteristic may necessitate adjustments in the printing process to ensure optimal dye penetration and color fidelity. This factor is particularly relevant when printing on materials with varying thicknesses or densities, requiring a tailored approach to each fabric type.


In the world of activewear and other stretchable garments, the fabric's elasticity is a critical consideration. The material must maintain the integrity of the print even when stretched, without causing the designs to distort or degrade. Fabrics that blend polyester with elastic fibers, such as elastane or spandex, are adept at meeting these demands. They provide the necessary stretch while preserving the quality of the sublimation print, ensuring that activewear remains functional and fashionable.

Preparing for Sublimation Printing

The preparation phase is pivotal in the sublimation printing process. It sets the foundation for achieving high-quality prints and involves several key steps:

- Pre-Treating Fabrics: Some fabrics may require pre-treatment to optimize their receptivity to the dye, ensuring the print is vivid and long-lasting.

- Cleaning: Ensuring the fabric is clean and free from oils, dust, or other contaminants is essential for preventing imperfections in the final print.

- Printer Adjustments: Tailoring the printer settings to match the specific characteristics of the fabric can significantly impact the quality of the print. Factors such as temperature, pressure, and time need to be calibrated according to the fabric's properties.

Environmental Considerations

The environmental impact of fabric selection, especially for sublimation printing, cannot be overlooked. While polyester offers unparalleled benefits for sublimation printing, its petroleum-based origin raises concerns about sustainability. Fortunately, alternatives such as recycled polyester present a more eco-friendly option, reducing the carbon footprint associated with fabric production. Poly-coated natural fabrics also offer a compromise, enabling the use of renewable fibers without sacrificing print quality. Opting for these materials supports a move towards more sustainable printing practices, aligning with growing environmental awareness and responsibility.


The perfect fabric for sublimation printing strikes a balance between material composition, print quality, and the intended use of the printed item. Polyester stands out as the premier choice for its compatibility with the sublimation process, providing durability and vivid colors. However, blends and poly-coated fabrics extend the range of possibilities, catering to specific needs and preferences.

As the demand for customized and vibrant prints grows, understanding the nuances of sublimation printing and fabric selection becomes increasingly important. Whether for fashion, marketing, or personal expression, choosing the right fabric for sublimation printing ensures that your designs not only look stunning but stand the test of time.

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