How to Do a Sublimation Shirt: A Roadmap to Stylish Success

How to Do a Sublimation Shirt: A Roadmap to Stylish Success

Look, if you’ve ever wondered how to create a personalized masterpiece out of an ordinary, boring T-shirt, you’ve come to the perfect spot! We’re diving deep into the fascinating world of sublimation—yeah, it’s a big word, but the concept is super cool. By mastering the art of sublimation, you can literally print your dreams directly onto a shirt. But hey, don’t wing it! 

Having the correct settings on your heat press and printer is crucial for nailing that picture-perfect result. Trust me, a misstep here could land you a blurry mess. Lucky for you, this article is part of a series on sublimation techniques, so we’ve got you covered from A to Z. So if you want to know how to do a sublimation shirt, stick around. It’s gonna be a fun ride!

Understand the Sublimation

Alright, let’s break it down. Sublimation might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but it’s actually a straightforward printing technique. Sublimation, to put it simply, is the technique of applying heat and pressure to transfer a design from a special type of paper onto a fabric or hard surface, such as a phone cover or mug. The magic happens when the ink turns into a gas during heating, seeping into the material and making the design permanent. Once it cools, voila! Your design is set.

  • Definition and Basics

So, sublimation is essentially a two-step dance. First, you print your design onto special sublimation paper. Next, you apply it to the desired object using a heat press. The ink completely bypasses the liquid phase and changes from a solid to a gas due to the heat before embedding itself into the substance.

  • Required Materials: Special Printer, Special Ink, Special Paper

You can’t just grab any old printer, ink, or paper for this. Nope, you need special sublimation-specific gear. You’ll need a sublimation printer, sublimation ink, and—you guessed it—sublimation paper. No cutting corners here, folks!

  • Types of Objects You Can Sublimate On

The sky’s the limit! Well, almost. You can sublimate on various materials like polyester fabric, ceramic mugs, metal sheets, and even certain types of plastic. Custom T-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, phone cases—you name it!

  • Special Requirements for Objects

Here’s the kicker: the object you’re sublimating on needs to have a high polyester count or a special coating to accept the sublimation ink. Natural fibers like cotton won’t hold the ink well, and you’ll end up with a faded, washed-out look. So make a good choice!

Here you have it—a brief introduction to the fascinating field of sublimation. 

Choice of Shirts for Sublimation

Are you convinced that creating a sublimation shirt is the right idea, then? Great choice! Now let’s talk about the fabric. The type of shirt you pick is super important for how your final design will look. Choosing a product with a high polyester content is your best option. How come?  Polyester holds sublimation ink like a champ, making your design vibrant and long-lasting. Anything less and you risk your design fading faster than a summer tan.

  • Importance of Polyester Content

Your design will appear more vibrant and brighter the more polyester there is in it. If you opt for a blend, make sure it’s at least 65% polyester. However, 100% polyester is your golden ticket for the best possible outcome.

  • Personal Recommendations

My two cents? Brands like A4, Gildan, and Sport-Tek offer some solid choices for 100% polyester shirts that are perfect for brighter sublimation.

  • Where to Buy the Shirts

Don’t know where to start shopping? Online retailers like or offer a wide variety of sublimation-friendly shirts. If you’re more of a “try before you buy” person, craft stores or specialized printing shops often carry what you’ll need.

Printer and Ink

Alright, you’ve got your shirt sorted, but let’s not forget another essential piece of the puzzle—your printer and ink. Trust me, you don’t want to cut corners here.

Personal Printer Recommendation: Epson 15000

When it comes to printers, the Epson ET-15000 is my go-to. It’s comparable to a Swiss Army knife of printers, providing unmatched quality and adaptability. Plus, it’s not too pricey!

How to Convert It to a Sublimation Printer

It’s easy to turn the Epson ET-15000 into a sublimation printer. You’ll need a Continuous Ink Supply System (CISS) that’s compatible with sublimation ink. Simply swap out the standard ink tanks with the CISS, and you’re in business.

Best Inks to Use: Printers Jack Ink

Once you’re set up, you’ll need the right ink. And let me tell ya, not all inks are created equal. Printers Jack Ink is a reliable choice that ensures sharp, vibrant designs that won’t fade away.

Computer Settings for Printing

Alright, so you’ve got your snazzy printer and your top-notch ink. What’s next? Tuning your computer settings, of course!

  • Recommended Software: Silhouette Studio

First things first, let’s talk about software. I highly recommend Silhouette Studio. It’s user-friendly and packed with features that make designing a breeze. Plus, it pairs really well with the Epson 15000.

  • Printer Settings: Document Size, Quality, and More

Now, onto the nitty-gritty: printer settings. Make sure your document size matches the size of your shirt or whatever you’re sublimating. Quality matters too, so go for the highest setting available. Trust me, it makes a difference.

  • Importance of Mirroring the Image

Last but not least, don’t forget to mirror your image before printing. It may seem odd, but it’s crucial. When you transfer the design onto your shirt, it’ll flip again and appear as intended.

And there you have it! With the right software and settings, you’ll be a sublimation superstar in no time.

Preparing to Print

Ready to bring your design to life? Hold on, cowboy! Before hitting that print button, there are a couple of key things to set up.

  • How to Load Paper in the Printer

Firstly, you’ve got to load that special sublimation paper into your printer. Make sure the blank side is facing up; that’s the side that’ll soak up the ink and transfer onto your shirt.

  • Setting Up the Heat Press

And don’t forget the heat press! Crank that baby up to the right temperature—usually between 385 to 400°F. Make sure it’s level and that the pressure is set evenly. Trust me, you don’t want any cold spots messing up your masterpiece.

Additional Materials

Okay, folks, let’s not skip over the unsung heroes of the sublimation world—additional materials you’ll need for that perfect print.

  • Butcher Paper

What’s the deal with butcher paper? This isn’t your Sunday BBQ, after all! Well, it acts like a protective shield. Place it between the heat press and your shirt to avoid ink bleed or unwanted transfer. That way, what’s on the paper is what you get on the shirt—nothing more, nothing less.

  • Lint Roller

The humble lint roller—your new best friend. A quick roll-over removes any pesky lint or stray hairs from the shirt before pressing. Trust me, nothing ruins a print faster than a sneaky piece of lint.

Step-by-Step Guide for How to Do a Sublimation Shirt

Alright, you’ve got all your tools, your settings are dialed in, and you’re revved up and ready to go. Here’s the full monty—a step-by-step guide to walk you through making that sublimation shirt of your dreams.

Step 1: Cutting and Applying Butcher Paper Inside the Shirt

Cutting and Applying Butcher Paper Inside the Shirt

First things first, let’s not forget the butcher paper! Cut a piece the same size as the area that will be covered by your design. Slide it inside the shirt. This acts as a barrier to prevent ink from bleeding through to the other side.

Step 2: Aligning the Design

Aligning the Design

Now comes the fun part—aligning your design. Position your special sublimation paper (the one with the design) on the shirt. Make sure it’s straight; you don’t want a lopsided masterpiece! Secure it with tape if necessary.

Step 3: Pre-Press Steps

Pre-Press Steps

Quick check—everything looks good? Great! Fire up your heat press and do a quick pre-press. By doing this, any moisture in the fabric is removed, leaving you with a blank canvas.

Step 4: Temperature and Pressure Settings for the Heat Press

Temperature and Pressure Settings for the Heat Press

Here’s where things heat up—literally. Adjust your heat press settings. Aim for around 400°F (205°C) and set the pressure to medium. Although you can adjust the time, 45 to 60 seconds is an excellent place to start.

Step 5: Final Press and Results: Applying the Design, Peeling, and Revealing

Final Press and Results: Applying the Design, Peeling, and Revealing

Lay your shirt on the heat press, align the design, and let ‘er rip. Once time’s up, lift the press, and carefully peel away the paper to reveal your brand-new, custom sublimation shirt. Voila!

And there you have it! A piece of wearable art, fresh off the press. Now, who’s ready to make another?

Check out our article on how to heat press DTF transfers.

Wrapping It All Up

So there you have it, folks! From start to finish, we’ve covered the A to Z on how to do a sublimation shirt. We delved into the nitty-gritty, from understanding the basics and gathering the right materials to locking in those computer settings and mastering the heat press. Remember, the key to a stunning result is in the details—getting those settings just right, choosing the ideal ink, and of course, practicing your craft.

But wait, there’s more! Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment in our series where we’ll explore other techniques and materials you can use in sublimation. Ready to broaden your horizons? We’ve got a lot more ground to cover and trust us, you won’t want to miss it!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is sublimation, and how is it different from other ways to print?

A: Sublimation is a technique where ink turns into gas under heat and pressure, permanently bonding with the fabric. Unlike other methods like screen printing, the design won’t fade, crack, or peel.

Q: Where can I buy shirts suitable for sublimation?

A: Many online retailers specialize in high-polyester shirts ideal for sublimation. Physical stores catering to crafts and printing may also stock them.

Q: What if my design didn’t transfer well?

A: Several factors could be at play—incorrect heat settings, low-quality ink, or even the wrong type of paper. Check how you have things set up and try again.

Q: What’s the deal with polyester content? Can’t I use a cotton shirt?

A: Polyester holds the sublimation ink better, resulting in brighter, more durable designs. While you can technically use cotton, the result will likely be faded and less vibrant.

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