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How to do Sublimation on Dark Shirts

Sublimation is a unique printing process that uses heat to transfer dye onto different materials, including fabrics.

When using sublimation printing, you can create eye-catching designs that stand out, especially on dark fabrics. Sublimation printing allows you to easily create custom designs, logos, and text perfect for promotional items, team uniforms, and more. Sublimation is a great way to customize your dark shirts and make them unique and stylish.

This post will guide you through the process of sublimating a dark shirt to create unique designs.

Why Use Sublimation Printing on Dark Shirts?

Sublimation printing is an excellent method for creating durable full-color prints. The prints you make through sublimation are more resistant to fading, scratches, and other environmental conditions. The colors are vibrant and accurate and will not bleed or smudge if exposed to water.

Additionally, the ink used in sublimation printing is non-toxic and safe for clothing and other fabric items. This makes sublimation printing an excellent choice for creating durable, vibrant prints on dark shirts.

Sublimation printing is also a terrific method for printing on dark clothes because it makes it much easier to get white ink to show up on dark garments. Sublimation printing does not require applying a separate layer of white ink to the garment before you sublimate the fabric, thus allowing for great flexibility and creativity. The colors will remain vibrant, and the design will not fade. This makes sublimation an excellent choice for printing dark garments, allowing the white ink to stand out against the dark fabric.

Supplies You Need to Sublimate on Dark Shirts

You will need various supplies to make your sublimation project a success. Some of these supplies include:

  1. Computer
  2. Printer
  3. Sublimation paper
  4. Dark shirt
  5. Heat tape
  6. Heat-resistant gloves
  7. Sublimation Ink

Below are the supplies you need in more detail:

Sublimation Printer

Finding a sublimation printer compatible with your computer is essential if you are to get the desired results. Not only should the printer be compatible with your computer, but it should also be able to print high-quality images with vibrant colors.

This is important because the colors you print on the sublimation paper will be transferred to the shirt or fabric you are sublimating. If the printer does not produce quality images, the colors will be dull, and the design may not look as vibrant.

Sublimation Paper

Finding high-quality sublimation paper is essential for achieving a successful print when transferring your design to a dark shirt. Sublimation paper absorbs and disperses the ink evenly, making all design details clear, vibrant, and saturated.

Low-quality sublimation paper will result in a faded, streaky, and unpleasant design. Additionally, a low-quality paper may not be able to handle the high temperatures needed for the transfer process, resulting in a poor and inconsistent transfer. Investing in high-quality sublimation paper will guarantee a high-quality print.

Sublimation Ink

You also need to use high-quality sublimation ink to achieve the desired results. The design will not be adequately transferred if you use the wrong ink. High-quality sublimation ink ensures that the image is transferred correctly and accurately onto the fabric, providing the best possible results.


You need a computer to create and adjust images for printing on the sublimation paper. Computer software also allows you to add specific effects, such as shading and blending, which can enhance the look of the image. Computers allow for quick and easy editing of images, making it easy to achieve the desired results. You do not need a computer with very high specs. 

Heat Tape

The heat tape keeps the sublimation paper in position, preventing it from shifting and becoming distorted during heating. This ensures the image will be printed correctly onto the shirt without distortion. Heat tape is, therefore, a crucial part of the sublimation printing process.

Heat Resistant Gloves

Heat-resistant gloves are essential when removing the substrate from a heat press. Without them, you risk burning yourself on the hot surface of the press. The gloves also protect your hands from coming into contact with hot inks that you have used in the sublimation process.

Heat Press

The heat press is necessary to press the sublimation transfer paper onto the fabric, ensuring the ink is heated and transferred correctly. The heat press is essential for sublimation printing on dark garments because it applies even and consistent heat to transfer the image onto the garment. Without a heat press, the heat would be uneven, and the image would not transfer correctly.

Dark Shirt Sublimation Process

Sublimation is a fun and easy way to create unique designs on your dark shirts. The process is simple. You only need a sublimation printer, ink, paper, and a heat press.

Below is the step-by-step guide on sublimating on a dark shirt.

1. Design Your Image

Designing the images you will sublimate on a dark shirt can be a creative and fun DIY project. You can create your images using various programs and software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. Some of these programs include:

  • Photoshop allows you to work in layers, which can be helpful when creating a design that needs to be separated into multiple colors.
  • Illustrator is great for creating vector graphics, which allows you to create unique designs for sublimation.
  • CorelDraw is another program you can use for sublimation, as it has an extensive selection of tools to create intricate designs.
  • Inkscape isanother free, open-source vector graphics editor that you can use to create and edit vector images.

You can use any of the above programs to develop a design. You can also download an image from the internet. Alternatively, you can upload a picture to your computer and print it on the sublimation paper.

2. Print the Image on the Sublimation Paper

Printing an image on sublimation paper is a straightforward process. Select print on your computer once you have placed the sublimation paper on the printer. Remember to select the Mirror Image option if the orientation of your image matters. This will prevent the image from printing in the wrong manner. Print the image on the coarse side of the sublimation paper. Doing so ensures that the ink attaches correctly to the paper.

3. Cut Out Your Image

Cutting out your printed image is an essential step in the sublimation process. If you fail to trim the sublimation paper, the paper can become too large to fit correctly on the dark shirt substrate. Cutting also ensures the image is properly centered and aligned with the shirt. A centered image looks professional and aesthetically pleasing. You can use various tools to cut the sublimation paper. These tools include scissors, a craft knife, a cutting mat, a paper trimmer, and a die cutter. You may also use a digital cutting machine, depending on the size of your image.

4. Prepare Your Dark Shirt

Prepare the shirt you want to sublimate using a lint roller to remove dirt. Dirt on the shirt can affect the outcome of the sublimated image. The dirt particles disrupt the sublimation process by creating an uneven surface that may cause the colors to appear blotchy. Gently roll the lint roller over the shirt, paying extra attention to the area you want to sublimate.

Doing so will ensure that the shirt will be receptive to the sublimation ink resulting in a crisp and vibrant image. You should also straighten up the shirt if it has any creases so that the sublimation ink adheres well to the shirt.

5. Attach the Sublimation Paper on Your Shirt

Attaching sublimation paper to your shirt using heat tape is a simple process. First, cut the sublimation paper. Next, place the sublimation paper on the shirt. Make sure to place the tape around the edges of the paper, leaving no gaps. This will help keep the paper in place when you heat-press the dark shirt. Otherwise, your project might get ruined if the sublimation paper moves around during heating.

6. Prepare Your Heat Press

Place a sheet of butcher paper at the bottom heat press panel. Place the shirt on top of the butcher’s paper and place another sheet of butcher paper on top of the shirt you are sublimating. The purpose of the butcher’s paper is to protect the heat press panel from the sublimation ink you use during the heat-pressing process.

The sheets also help prevent excess dye or ink from transferring onto the heat press panel. Additionally, it serves as a barrier between the heat press panel and the fabric you are sublimating, thus preventing any damage to the material or the panel.

7. Place the Dark Shirt Into the Heat Press

Place the dark shirt in the heat press and set the temperature to 385 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat press it for about 45 to 60 degrees. Set the pressure to medium firm for optimum results. Too much heat can distort the sublimation image or damage the shirt. On the other hand, too little heat can result in a partial ink transfer. Little heat prevents the heat press from getting hot enough to fully activate the sublimation ink, causing a patchy and incomplete design transfer onto the shirt.

8. Remove the Shirt From the Heat Press

Remove the shirt from the heat press using heat-resistant gloves. Failure to use heat-resistant gloves may result in severe burns. Place the shirt on a flat, heat-resistant surface and allow it to cool for approximately 10 minutes.

Congratulations, you have successfully submitted your dark shirt!

Tips for Sublimating on Dark Shirts

Tip #1: Sublimate dark shirt with lighter colors for better results

Sublimation is a great way to add color to a dark shirt. Use lighter colors that stand out against the dark background to get the best results. You can use various colors, depending on the design you want to create. For example, if you are trying to create a vibrant design, use bright colors such as yellow, orange, and red. You can use pastels such as pink, light blue, and peach for a more subtle look.

Tip #2: Use the “mirror” function in your printer to print the design

The mirror function in a printer allows you to print a design in reverse so that the design appears mirrored when printed. To use the mirror function, you will need to select the option in the printer’s settings menu. The option may be located under a different name (e.g., “Flip” or “Reverse”).

Tip #3: You can also bleach the area on the dark shirt you want to sublimate

You can bleach the area on the dark shirt you want to sublimate. This will help ensure the design or image you sublimate on the shirt will be visible. Follow the directions on the bleach bottle for the correct dilution, and rinse the area thoroughly before sublimating the shirt. Remember to put cardboard under the area of the shirt you are bleaching to prevent the bleach from permeating through the shirt.

Tip #4: Use high-quality sublimation paper and ink for the best results

High-quality sublimation paper and ink are essential for the best results when sublimating on shirts. High-quality papers are thicker and can withstand higher temperatures, which helps prevent colors from bleeding, fading, or smearing. You should also use high-quality ink to keep the image vibrant and long-lasting.

Wrapping Up

Sublimation on dark shirts is an effective way to create unique designs and prints. You can easily create custom designs and prints on dark shirts with the right printer, transfer paper, and heat press.

The key to success is ensuring you use the proper settings for the type of fabric and ink you’re using and that you use a good quality transfer paper. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll easily create eye-catching designs and prints.


What is the best dark shirt material for sublimation

Polyester is a great material to sublimate on because it absorbs the inks more easily, creating a sharper and more intense finish. The best shirt to use is one made from 100% polyester, as this will result in the best color saturation and vibrancy. You can also use fabrics made from polyester and other materials like cotton. However, the ratio of the polyester should be higher so that the colors come out brighter and more vivid.

Can I sublimate on colored polyester shirts?

Yes, it is possible to sublimate on colored polyester shirts. The key is to ensure the fabric is 100% polyester or has a high polyester percentage and it has a good coating/finish that will accept the heat and pressure of the sublimation process.

Is it possible to sublimate on a dark shirt?

Yes, you can sublimate on dark shirts using vibrant colors. Sublimation printing is a great way to add colorful designs to dark-colored garments.

Is it possible to sublimate white on a dark shirt?

Yes, it is possible to sublimate white on a dark shirt. Sublimation is a printing process in which heat transfers dyes directly to a garment, such as a shirt. This process allows for the transfer of white, as well as other colors, onto dark fabric. The process involves using specialized transfer paper and a heat press. It is an effective way to add a design to a dark fabric.