Crafts & DIY

How To Do Sublimation Shirts (What To Know)

Making a sublimation shirt is a great way for you to personalize your outfits, with you creating your own designs and then printing them onto the shirt.

Additionally, it’s also a great business opportunity, because there’s a massive market for printed shirts with cool, customized designs.

While the sublimation process for shirts isn’t too difficult, it does require knowledge and practice first, making it a difficult process for beginners.

I’ve made plenty of sublimation shirts over the years now, printing all kinds of designs, and the experience has taught me exactly what you should and shouldn’t do, If you would like to bleach shirts for sublimation the right way, check out our how to guide. .

In my handy guide below, I’m going to explain everything you’ll need to do sublimation shirts, as well as all of the steps that you’ll need to follow. Read on!

What Will You Need For Sublimation?

Before I explain how to do sublimation shirts, it’s important that you have all the right materials and tools.

Sublimation requires a lot of specialist items that you’re unlikely to have around the house, so it’s especially important that you buy these for the sublimation process to go properly.

  • A shirt (needs to be polyester, because woolen or cotton shirts don’t work)
  • Special sublimation ink (not regular ink!)
  • Special sublimation paper (not regular paper!)
  • Sublimation printer OR a printer prepared for sublimation (see below!)
  • A heat press
  • Software for your design
  • Some butcher paper
  • A lint roller

What Printer Do You Need For Sublimation?

In my list I mentioned that you either need a sublimation printer or a printer that’s prepared for sublimation.

You can’t just use any old printer for sublimation, largely because the way that they are made would cause the dye to be baked into the sublimation paper.

I found this out the hard way when I was a beginner, and it left me without a design, but I learned from my mistakes immediately.

However, buying a sublimation printer for beginners is no easy alternative.

Sublimation printers can be very expensive, so not everybody who is sublimating a shirt will be able to afford one, especially those doing it for the first time.

Thankfully, there is a way that you can prepare certain other printers to be capable of sublimation instead.

The Epson Eco Tank has been my favorite alternative, because it has empty ink tanks that I can fill with my own chosen type of ink.

This means that I just buy special sublimation ink and then fill the printer with that instead – while making sure there is no regular ink left in it at all.

There are various different sublimation inks that you can get, so find your favorite and fill the tanks.

What Shirts Do You Need For Sublimation? 

You also need to be careful about what shirts you use for sublimation, because it will not work on some materials.

The best shirts to use for sublimation will contain a large amount of polyester in them. This is the case because that material contains parts that will bond well with the dyes, achieving an effective print.

Unfortunately, this means that sublimation won’t work on natural fibers, for example woolen shirts and cotton shirts.

This has certainly restricted me in the past, because they’re pretty popular materials for shirts, but at least only using high-percentage polyester shirts has given me no problems.

How To Do Sublimation Shirt

Step One: Getting Your Design

To begin with you, you will need to get a design that you want to sublimate onto the shirt. You can either buy a premade design from an online site like Etsy, or you can make your own.

Making your own is certainly more personal, but you will need specific design software in order to make it. For example, Photoshop is a handy program to create designs with.

Step Two: Printing Your Design

If you’ve made your design using computer software, you’ll need to print it. This will require a special printer – either a sublimation printer or a certain printer that you’ve filled with sublimation ink.

A regular printer with regular ink won’t work! Additionally, your special printer needs to print onto sublimation paper, we also get the question if you can use sublimation ink for regular printing, check out our article for tips. .

When printing, make sure you have mirrored your design on the computer, because it will be sublimated face-down onto the shirt’s front.

Step Three: Pre-Heating

Before you continue, you’ll want to get your heat press and begin to pre-heat it, so that it’s at the right temperature when you’re ready. A bit like you would with an oven! 365 degrees Fahrenheit is a solid heat for sublimation.

Step Four: Butcher Paper

While that’s pre-heating, turn your attention to the butcher paper. You’re going to want to cut three separate sections of the paper.

One piece of butcher paper is going to go on the bottom of the heat press.

Another piece should fit inside your shirt, so that the ink doesn’t run through and ruin its back. A third piece should go on top of the shirt, between it and the heat plate.

While doing this, use the lint roller to ensure your shirt is clean.

Step Five: Using The Heat Press

Carefully open the heat press and put one of the pieces of butcher paper on the bottom of its inside.

Put your shirt onto the press, with butcher paper inside the shirt, then place the sublimation paper with your design on top of it. If you are looking for the best iron on transfer paper, check out our article for recommendations. .

Press your heat press with moderate strength onto the shirt for about 55 seconds, then lift it off again. Making sure not to burn yourself or ruin the shirt, gently take the butcher paper off.

After that, remove the sublimation paper too. You should see that the design has successfully transferred to your shirt! Make sure to let it cool down first, then safely remove it from the press. That’s it!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Sublimation Better Than Using Heat Transfer?

Sublimation is best for when you’re printing designs on white or light-colored clothing, and they’re pretty durable too. With that being said, heat transfer is most useful for printing on colored materials.

Is Sublimation Permanent With Shirts?

Sublimation will permanently print your design onto the shirt fabric, making it very unlikely to fade. In fact, it might even last for up to 10 years!

Final Thoughts

Sublimation is great for personalizing your shirts, but the process can be difficult the first few times.

Follow the instructions carefully, making sure not to hurt yourself, and you’ll soon be able to sublimate shirts easily!

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Michelle Jacobs

Michelle Jacobs

Michelle is a young mom and crafts fanatic. In her free time she loves to write about her latest creations, and how other moms can entertain their children with some colored paper and a pair of scissors!