A Step  Step Guide to Sublimating on Shirts

A Step--Step Guide to Sublimating on Shirts


Sublimation printing is a process that has been gaining popularity over the years, especially in the personalization industry. One of the most popular items to sublimate is shirts, which can be used for various occasions such as team uniforms, event souvenirs, and gifts.

Sublimation printing uses special ink that turns into gas when heated, allowing it to adhere to the fibers of the shirt. The result is a vibrant and permanent print that won’t crack, peel, or fade. While sublimation printing may seem intimidating, it’s actually a fairly simple process that can be done with the right equipment and preparation.

In this guide, we will walk you through the steps of sublimating on shirts, from selecting the right materials to printing and pressing. With a little practice and patience, you’ll be able to create high-quality sublimated shirts that stand out from the rest.

Materials Needed

Before you start sublimating on shirts, it’s important to gather all the necessary materials. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A sublimation printer
  • Sublimation ink cartridges
  • Sublimation transfer paper
  • A heat press
  • Polyester or polyester-coated shirts
  • A lint roller or adhesive pad
  • Protective gloves and mask
  • A computer with design software
  • A cutting tool (optional)

Designing and Printing the Transfer

The first step in sublimating on shirts is to design and print the transfer. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open your design software and create your design. Make sure to select CMYK color mode, as sublimation ink uses this color mode.
  2. Print your design onto sublimation transfer paper, using your sublimation printer and ink cartridges. Make sure to mirror your design before printing, as the image will transfer backwards onto the shirt.
  3. Use a cutting tool to trim any excess transfer paper around the design, leaving only a small border.

Preparing the Shirt

Before you press the transfer onto the shirt, it’s important to prepare the shirt to ensure the best results. Follow these steps:

  1. Iron the shirt to remove any wrinkles or creases. Make sure the iron is set to the appropriate temperature for the shirt’s material.
  2. Clean the shirt with a lint roller or adhesive pad to remove any loose fibers or debris. This will help prevent any unwanted spots or lines on the transfer.
  3. Align the transfer on the shirt, making sure it’s centered and straight. Use heat-resistant tape to secure the transfer onto the shirt.

Pressing the Transfer

Now it’s time to press the transfer onto the shirt. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Preheat your heat press to the appropriate temperature and time for the shirt’s material. You can find this information on the sublimation transfer paper’s packaging.
  2. Place a sheet of white copy paper on the bottom platen of the heat press, followed the shirt with the transfer on top.
  3. Cover the shirt with another sheet of white copy paper to protect it from any ink that may bleed during the pressing process.
  4. Close the heat press and set the timer according to the transfer paper’s instructions.
  5. When the timer goes off, open the heat press and carefully remove the transfer paper. Allow the shirt to cool completely before handling or washing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I sublimate on cotton shirts?

A: No, sublimation ink can only adhere to polyester or polyester-coated shirts. Cotton fibers do not have the ability to bond with sublimation ink.

Q: Do I need a special printer for sublimation?

A: Yes, sublimation ink requires a special printer that’s compatible with sublimation ink cartridges. You cannot use a regular inkjet printer with sublimation ink.

Q: Can I use a regular iron instead of a heat press?

A: No, a regular iron cannot provide the necessary heat and pressure for sublimation transfers. A heat press is essential for achieving high-quality sublimated prints.

Q: How do I care for sublimated shirts?

A: Sublimated shirts should be washed on a delicate cycle with cold water and mild detergent. Do not use bleach or fabric softener, as this can damage the print. Hang or lay the shirt flat to dry, and do not dry clean.


Sublimating on shirts is a fun and rewarding process that allows you to create personalized and vibrant designs. By following this step--step guide and preparing the right materials, you can achieve high-quality sublimated prints that are sure to impress. With a little practice, you’ll be able to master sublimation printing and take your personalization business to the next level. Happy sublimating!


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