How To Sublimate a Shirt Like a Pro In 6 Steps

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How to Sublimate a Shirt Like a Pro in 6 Steps

Want to wear a shirt with your creativity? Look no further, as you will have one for yourself shortly. Sublimation lets you easily design and print your favorite quotes, images, or any art on your shirt. These designs will stay on your shirts for a longer duration. You don’t need to worry about it peeling or removing with time. Ensure you use good quality sublimation paper, ink, and printer for transferring.

Moreover, the quality of the shirt also plays a vital role, so avoid compromising on quality. As we have discussed in detail about the benefits of sublimation on shirts, the question is how to sublimate a shirt. As a beginner, it may look frustrating to do it, but if you follow the steps properly, you can do it easily without any trouble. 

How to Sublimate A Shirt

Sublimation is a printing technique that involves transferring dye onto a fabric using heat and pressure. Here are the general steps to sublimate a shirt:

Choose a Polyester or Polyester-Coated Shirt

When sublimating a shirt, choosing the right fabric is essential to ensure the best results. Sublimation works best on synthetic materials like polyester or polyester blends specially coated for sublimation. It is a popular choice for sublimation because it has a tight molecular structure that allows the dye to bond with the fabric, resulting in vibrant and long-lasting colors. Polyester is a durable fabric that withstands repeated washings without fading or peeling. When choosing a polyester shirt for sublimation, it’s important to look for a lightweight, breathable, high-quality material. A light-colored shirt is also important, as the sublimation process works by dyeing the fabric, so the colors will not appear well on darker fabrics. In addition to polyester, some manufacturers offer polyester-coated shirts specially designed to improve the sublimation process. 

These shirts have a coating that helps the dye to adhere better to the fabric, resulting in more vibrant colors and a sharper image. Polyester-coated shirts are often more expensive than regular polyester shirts but offer better results. It’s also important to note that sublimation does not work on natural fabrics like cotton, as natural fibers do not have the same molecular structure as synthetic fabrics. Attempting to sublimate on natural fibers will result in a faded, washed-out image that will only last for a while.

Design your Artwork

Designing your artwork is an important part of the sublimation process, as the final result will depend on the quality of your design. Use professional graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW to create your design. These programs offer many tools and features to create high-quality artwork. When creating your design, use the CMYK color mode, the standard color model used for printing. After that, use a high-resolution image for your design, preferably 300 dpi or higher, to ensure the image will be sharp and clear when printed onto the shirt

Print Your Design on Sublimation Paper

When printing your design onto sublimation paper, mirror the image so it appears decent when transferred onto the shirt. It is because the design is printed onto the paper in reverse and then moved onto the shirt in the correct orientation. To make the colors in your composition appear more vibrant, use a white background for your design. When designing your artwork, please keep it simple and easy to read. Avoid using too many colors or complex designs, as this can result in a blurry or pixelated image. Before printing your design onto the sublimation paper, test it on a regular sheet of paper first to ensure it appears correctly. That will save you time and money if any adjustments are needed.

Preheat Your Press

Preheating your heat press is a crucial step in the sublimation process, as it helps to ensure that the temperature and pressure are even across the entire pressing surface. 

  • Ensure your heat press is plugged in and turned on before preheating. 
  • Set the temperature and time according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer of your heat press. The temperature and time will depend on the fabric you use and the sublimation ink/paper. 
  • Before pressuring your shirt, allow the press to preheat for at least 10 minutes. 
  • Use a temperature gun or thermometer to test the temperature of the pressing surface before beginning to press your shirt. The temperature should be consistent across the entire surface.
  • Adjust the pressure of the heat press according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. The pressure should be even across the whole pressing surface.
  • Before pressing your shirt, test the pressure of the heat press by pressing down on the handle. The handle should be firm and not too loose or too tight.

Apply Pressure and Heat

Applying pressure and heat is a critical step in the sublimation process, as this causes the sublimation ink to transfer from the paper to the shirt.

  • Place the shirt on the pressing surface of the heat press with the side you want to sublimate facing up.
  • Place the sublimation paper with your design printed face down onto the shirt.
  • Close the heat press so that the shirt and paper are aligned correctly, and the edges of the pressing surface are aligned.
  • Apply the pressure according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. The force must be distributed across the pressing surface to ensure the ink transfers evenly.
  • Now, apply the heat according to your requirement. The temperature and time will depend on the fabric you use and the sublimation ink/paper.
  • Please wait for the heat press to complete its cycle. It may vary depending on your specific heat press, but it typically takes between 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
  • Once complete, open the heat press and remove the sublimation paper from the shirt. The design should be fully transferred onto the shirt, producing a vibrant and long-lasting image.

Let the Shirt Cool

After applying pressure and heat to your shirt during the sublimation process, it’s important to allow it to cool before handling it.

  • Once the sublimation process is complete, open the heat press carefully and slowly to avoid burning yourself.
  • Use a heat-resistant glove or tool to carefully remove the shirt from the pressing surface and place it on a heat-resistant surface to cool.
  • During the cooling process, avoid touching the sublimated design on the shirt. The design is still delicate and could smudge or become damaged if touched.
  • Allow the shirt to cool completely before handling it further. This will vary depending on the ambient temperature and the shirt size but typically takes 5-10 minutes.
  • Once the shirt has cooled, inspect the design to ensure it is transferred fully and evenly. If there are any issues with the design, you may need to troubleshoot the sublimation process or adjust your settings for future prints.


Sublimation is the perfect way to transfer your favorite designs to shirts. Following the above-mentioned steps, you can easily understand how to sublimate a shirt. The process requires time and concentration to get a perfect result. If you are ready to make a difference, then sublimation on a shirt is not difficult.

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