How To Sublimate On Dark T-Shirts | Ultimate Procedure

Sublimate On Dark T-Shirts

The biggest limitation of sublimation printing is that it doesn’t come up well in dark colors. Since sublimation dyes are translucent, the vibrancy of the color depends on the background. So there is no straightforward method to perform sublimation on dark-colored objects. However, many indirect techniques have been developed to perform sublimation on dark T-shirts. In this guide, I’ll cover one of these methods and some key tips to help you get the best results for your black or dark t-shirt.

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How To Sublimate On Dark T-Shirts?

Sublimate on dark t-shirts doesn’t follow the traditional sublimation procedure. This is an indirect method that uses a special type of paper instead of regular sublimation paper. In the method, we do not actually sublimate the shirt. Instead, we sublimate the Heat Transfer Vinyl or HTV. For sublimation on dark colors, Glitter HTVs are best since they contain polyester content.

Materials Required For Sublimate On T-Shirts

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Sublimation On Dark T-Shirts | Step-By-Step Guide

Setting Up A Design

You can either create a design or download a ready-made design. Various software like Adobe Illustrator and Coreldraw allow you to create beautiful designs. Also, you can download hundreds of pre-made designs from various online sources. The thing that matters is the format of the file that you want to print. Images of lettering in raster formats (JPG, PNG, GIF) are not scalable or sizable. For sublimation printing, you need designs in vector format.

The data in the vector format is created by multiple lines and you can easily realign and resize the graphics without damaging the quality or lowering the resolution of the original content. In sublimation printing, the design is mirrored to get it in the right configuration in the final print.

But in this method, there is no need to reflect the image, since the image is directly printed on the final substrate (HTV). The size of the design should be slightly larger than the HTV to leave a bleed area and avoid white edges around the print. Also for sublimation on dark shirts, you should go for borderless printing. Keep the print settings high to get the best possible print quality.

Take The Print

Load the sublimation dyes to the printer and take a test print to see if the printhead and nozzles are working properly or not. Now it’s time to load the heat transfer vinyl. Heat transfer vinyl is a special kind of paper and you must know the right way to load it into the sublimation printer.

HTV has one shiny and another rough/matte side. The shiny side of the vinyl has sticker backing and this side cannot hold the dyes. The printable side of the HGTV appears rough or matte. Depending upon the size of the design and the print media size supported by your printer, cut a heat transfer vinyl sheet of a specific size and load it into the printer. Load the HTV and take a print.


Once the design is successfully transferred to the HTV, cut the excessive media you can use a scissor or a circuit machine like Silhouette Cameo.

Preparing The Substrate

The t-shirts you want to sublimate on should be clean and free of wrinkles and moisture. Clean the surface with a lint roller and then press the shirt to remove wrinkles and moisture.

Position The HTV On Shirt

Peel the sticker backing (shiny side) of the heat transfer vinyl. Mark the printable area on the shirt and position the transfer paper within these markings. Place the transfer paper with ist printed side facing the printable side of the shirt. With the help of heat-resistant tape, fix the transfer paper to avoid misalignment during the heat transfer process. Then place a Teflon sheet or parchment paper on top to avoid heat damage.

Apply The Heat Press

Set up your heat press machine as per the requirements of the HTV you are using. The temperature of HTV sublimation printing ranges between 300-360 degrees Fahrenheit. For pure cotton or cotton blend shirts, it takes around 60-100 seconds to complete the heat transfer process. In the case of polyester shirts, it will not take more than 30 seconds to get the job done.

The ideal pressure for HTV sublimation printing is 20-30 psi. Set up the timer, pressure, and temperature, and apply the heat press. Remove the shirt from the press and remove the transfer paper. Do not directly touch the printed area and allow it to cool for a few minutes.

Your dark-colored t-shirt with vibrant sublimation print is ready!

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Important Factors To Consider Before Sublimate On T-Shirts

Buy The Right HTV

Knowing what material works best with dark t-shirts is important before you perform sublimation. Glitter HTVs are fully compatible with sublimation printing and you can get vibrant and bright prints with little effort.

Use A Dedicated Sublimation Printer

In the case of dark shirts, you cannot use the regular sublimation paper or transfer papers. Regular inkjet printers may or may not be able to handle the Glitter HTVs. It is advised to use a dedicated sublimation printer like Sawgrass SG400 or SG500.

Do Not Apply Excessive Heat Or Pressure

The durability and quality of print depend upon the heat transfer process. Do not exceed the recommended limit during the heat press application.

Always Sublimate On Polyester Shirts

It is recommended to sublimate on the polyester shirts since natural fibers like cotton and cotton blend do not hold well to the sublimation dyes. If you want to sublimate a cotton shirt, you need to add a special polymer coating to make it compatible with sublimation printing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, you can directly sublimate on the black polyester t-shirt. Although you cannot directly sublimate on the black polyester t-shirt, you can use various types of HTVs like Siser Glitter HTV, BFlex Glitter HTV, etc. Take the sublimation print on the HTV and then it is applied to the shirt using a heat transfer process.

Sawgrass SG400 and SG500 are the best sublimation printers for dark t-shirts. These sublimation printers are fully compatible with high-quality sublimation dyes and HTVs of all types.

Final Thoughts

Sublimation printing on dark shirts is made possible through various techniques, but I’ve shared how to sublimate on dark t-shirts without wasting time and money, you should be very careful while buying the materials. The quality of the final print depends upon the quality of sublimation dyes and the efficiency of the heat transfer process. For sublimation on black shirts, you should use the Siser EasyWeed Heat Transfer Vinyl. This polymer-rich HTV holds the sublimation inks very well and helps you get the best quality.

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