Traditionally, the sublimation world has said that you can only do sublimation printing on light colored fabrics. But now you want to do sublimation printing on black shirts. Is sublimation printing on dark shirts possible? Yes it is, and we will tell you how. We will also let you know insider tips for achieving stellar results.
Table of contents
- Sublimation Printing Dark Shirts
- Summary Table – Techniques for Sublimation Printing on Dark Fabric
- HTV Method for Sublimation Printing on Dark Fabric
- Sublimation Printing Dark Shirts with EasySubli and Sawgrass Printer
- Sublimation Printing on Dark Fabric with EasySubli and Epson Printer
- Bleach Method for Sublimation Printing on Black Shirts – Not Recommended!
- FAQ’s for Sublimation Printing on Black Shirts
- Sublimation Printing on Dark Fabric Video using EasySubli – Johnson Plastics Plus Official Video
- Sublimation Printing Dark Shirts using HTV – Siser Official Video
Sublimation Printing Dark Shirts
We will present three methods of Sublimation Printing on Dark Fabric.
Summary Table – Techniques for Sublimation Printing on Dark Fabric
|Method||HTV||EasySubli with Sawgrass||EasySubli with Epson||Bleach|
|Use for||Simple one piece shape||Simple, Complex, or Multi-part Shape||Simple One Piece Shape Best. Could also use with multi-part shape.||Do Not Use|
|Design Print and Cut Orientation||Mirror Image||Standard||Mirror Image||–|
|Shadow Image Print and Cut Orientation||Mirror Image||No Shadow Image Needed||Standard||–|
|Use SubliMask||No||For Complex Shape||For Multi Part Shape||–|
- Dark shirt – poly/cotton blend or 100% cotton (yes, this is also a method for sublimation on cotton!)
- Sublimation Printer
- Heat Press
- Vinyl Cutter
- Butcher paper (sacrificial paper)
- Teflon or Silicone or Parchment sheet
- Heatpress Mat
- Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) (see instructions below for specific recommendations)
- Heat resistant Gloves – always wear heat resistant gloves when using or working around your heat press.
- Tools for weeding
HTV Method for Sublimation Printing on Dark Fabric
This method is best for a design that can be cut out as one solid piece, without a lot of holes or sharp edges.
Additional Materials Required
In order to use this method for sublimation on dark fabrics, you will need Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) that is both light colored and opaque. You can’t sublimate directly on dark fabric, so instead we will use a smart work around.
- Siser Easy Weed Glow in the Dark Holographic
- Siser Mystic Pearl Holographic
- Siser Sparkle Snowstorm White
- Siser Moonlight Pearl
Good places to purchase HTV are Amazon.com and Heat Press Nation
Note: The HTV must be opaque, not transparent. Siser HTV’s such Sparkle Clear or Rainbow Pearl Holographic will not work.
1 Create Design and the Shadow design
- Upload and / or Create a design in your software. You want your design to be able to be cut out as one continuous piece, without requiring internal weeding or sharp edges.
- Adjust the overall size so that it can both be printed by your printer and cut on your vinyl cutter.
1a Create a Shadow Design
Make a shadow design that is slightly larger that the original design (0.2in approx)
You can use offset function in your software
1b Cut Shadow design in mirror image out of HTV
Using your vinyl cutter or Cricut or hobby cutter.
- Typically, the shiny side (the side you will want to see) is placed face down in your cutter.
- See your specific cutter for instructions.
- Important: You must cut a mirror image.
Weed the excess from the transfer paper so that you are left with the design. Set the shadow design aside.
2. Print your sublimation design
Use your your favorite sublimation paper
Use these settings when printing:
- Mirror image
- Bleed to edges
3. Cut out the design
You can use a cricut cutter, or you can even cut out by hand if there are no internal white spaces that need to be removed. If necessary, weed the design.
The important thing about cutting it out that that you need to have registration marks so that you can center design on the larger HTV shadow cutout that you made previously. With this in mind, if you have a simple-shaped design, you can do a rough cut around most of the design, as long as you know where edges are in some places so that you can center the design.[example of rough cut with registration marks at edges]
4. Prepare the dark colored shirt
- Find the center of shirt by folding it in half
- Put the mat inside or behind shirt
- Remove hairs and fuzz and lint from the shirt with a lint roller or tape
- Preheat and flatten shirt for a few seconds. This step remove any moisture and wrinkles, and heats up the shirt.
5. Affix the HTV Shadow Layer to the shirt
- Position the HTV on the shirt.
- Cover with silicone or teflon paper.
- Press at 380°F For 1-2 sec.
- Peel the backing layer from the HTV while it is hot.
- Note that the goal of this step is just to get the HTV to stick to the shirt and be flat.
- The HTV can be damaged if the heat press is too hot or if it is pressed for too long.
- You may have heard that you can press it at 400°F for as long as 10 sec, but Siser, the manufacturer of the HTV, recommends the lower temperature and no more than 2 seconds.
6. Sublimate the design onto the HTV
- Set the design, face down onto HTV. Align the design using registration marks. Since you cut the HTV larger than the design, you should be able to center it and have an HTV border all around the design.
- Use heat tape to hold the design in place.
- Cover the sandwich with sacrificial butcher paper (Its purpose is to absorb any ink that bleeds through the back of the sublimation paper/)
- Next cover the layers with a parchment, silicone or teflon sheet
- Press for 35-45 sec at 380°F
- You may be surprised at this time and temperature setting, because typically, you sublimate at 400°F for 60 seconds. However, since you are sublimating onto HTV, it should be done for less time at a lower temperature. This prevents the vinyl from degrading.
- After 35-45 seconds, remove the design from heat press.
- Let it cool. This is important so that the HTV can stabilize.
Finally, peel the sublimation paper away, and admire your creation. You have just sublimated on dark fabric!
Sublimation Printing Dark Shirts with EasySubli and Sawgrass Printer
Use For: This method works for complicated and intricate shapes. With this method, you don’t have to print or cut anything as a mirror image.
Additional Materials Needed:
Notes about the Easy Subli Method
- This method works uses Siser EasySubli Vinyl and a Sawgrass Printer.
- In this method, you can print your sublimation design right onto the EasiSubli Vinyl.
- This method is not recommended if you have an Epson printer.
1. Create or Upload your design
The design can be intricate and require internal weeding
2. Print on the matte side of the Easy Subli.
- In your Sawgrass printer, load the paper matte side down
- Use HTV as your printer setting.
- Note that the Sawgrass Sublijet ink is recommended.
- You can also use the Easy Subli ink, however once you decide on a type of ink to use in your Sawgrass printer, you cannot switch. If you interchange ink types in a Sawgrass printer, you void the warrranty.
- When printing is complete, the image will look dull, and the colors may look wrong.
3. Dry the Image
- Set the heat press to 375°F.
- After printing, move immediately to the heat press to dry the image. Don’t touch the design because the ink is wet and it can smear.
- Place the transfer paper on the lower platen, and hover the heat press top about 3 inches over the of the image. NOTE: You are not pressing, you are just heating and drying the image. DO NOT CLOSE THE HEAT PRESS ALL THE WAY.
- Let it dry for 5 full minutes.
- Don’t skimp on time, as drying serves two purposes:
- It sublimates the color into the EasySubli Vinyl which brings out the brightness and true colors.
- Drying the ink ensures that the ink won’t smear in the next step when you cut out the design.
4. Cut the Design out of the EasySubli Paper
- Take the paper with the design to your Cricut or other brand hobby cutter. Put the EasySubli paper on the cutting mat with the design face up.
- Use your software to cut out the design on the cutter. You may have to adjust the settings, blade, and pressure to get the best cut, depending on your model.
- Weed around the design while it is on the mat.
- Remove the design from the mat.
5. Prepare Your Shirt
Prepare your shirt the same ways as in step #4 above in the above HTV Method
6. Completing a One Piece Design
If your design is one piece, you can remove it from the mat and then remove the backing from the EasySubli.
- Set the design, design side up, onto your dark shirt, and press it down gently with your hands.
- Lay a sheet of silicone, parchment, or teflon over top.
- Set the heat press to 311°F, with light to medium pressure. Press down for 15 seconds.
- Admire your amazing work!
7. Completing a Complex Design
If your design is complex, with multiple parts or open spaces inside the design, then after weeding,
Peel the Easy Subli away from the Mat (Some people find it easier to flip it over, and peel the mat away from the EasySubli.
- Orient EasySubli HTV so that the design is facing up.
- Take a sheet of EasiSubli Mask, remove the backing, and press it to the front of the design. Use a squeegee to press it firmly and remove air bubbles.
- Flip the design over, and remove the EasySubli backing. You are left with the design adhered to the Mask.
- Lay the design on your prepared Tshirt
- Press it at 311°F for 15 seconds.
- Hot peel the mask off the design, starting at a corner.
- Admire your gorgeous creation!
Sublimation Printing on Dark Fabric with EasySubli and Epson Printer
This method uses an Epson printer, and EasySubli paper. It is similar to the HTV method above.
You could also use this method with your Sawgrass printer.
Epson Method vs HTV Method
The key points and differences between this method and the HTV method are mainly about how to create the shadow layer.
- Instead of using standard HTV to cut out your shadow layer, you use EasySubli.
- You cut out the EasySubli shadow layer face up (not a mirror image) because there is a backing on it which you remove prior to applying it to the shirt.
- You do not need to use a heat press to press the shadow layer down first like you do with standard HTV. You can just use your fingers.
- The image that you print on the sublimation paper still needs to be printed as a mirror image.
- Sublimate the image onto the EasySubli for 45 seconds at 375°F using medium pressure.
Epson vs Sawgrass when using EasySubli
The major difference between using EasySubli with a Sawgrass Printer versus an Epson printer is related to how the image gets put on the paper:
- When you use an Epson Printer, you must sublimate onto the EasySubli paper
- When you use a Sawgrass printer, you can print directly onto the EasySubli paper (although you could also sublimate onto it)
Multi Part Shapes
You could use the EasySubli Mask method described in step 7 of the previous method to move a multipart shape to black shirt, and then sublimate the design onto it. This is possible but challenging. You would need to create registration marks to align your sublimation paper up to the EasySubli once it is adhered to the shirt.
Bleach Method for Sublimation Printing on Black Shirts – Not Recommended!
Some people are using bleach to remove the dye out of the black shirt in certain locations and then sublimating as normal on the remaining white fabric.
We do not recommend this method!
Bleach is dangerous. You don’t want to get it on your skin or in your eyes. The fumes are bad to breathe in and they linger.
If you need a second reason, if some spills, you can get bleach spots on other parts of your work or on your own clothes.
If you have read this far, then you can see that we have taught you how to sublimate on dark shirts without bleach! Don’t use Bleach!
FAQ’s for Sublimation Printing on Black Shirts
Mark the center of the shirt.
Fold the shirt in half, and then put the shirt in your heat press for a few seconds to make a crease on the center line.
Use a lint roller or tape to remove all fuzz, dust, lint and hair from the shirt prior to applying the vinyl. Any trapped objects would cause raised areas and bubbles under the vinyl.
Always pay attention to when you need to make a mirror image of your design to print or cut. When using standard HTV, both design and shadow design are cut as mirror images. When using EasySubli and a Sawgrass, you don’t need to use a mirror image when you print and cut.
HTV for black should be opaque. HTV such as Sparkle Clear or Rainbow Pearl Holographic are transparent. The design will be invisible because the black shirt will show through. Use one of these instead:
• Siser Easy Weed Glow in the Dark Holographic • Siser Mystic Pearl Holographic • Siser Sparkle Snowstorm White • Siser Moonlight Pearl
HTV Works best for large contained designs. The hardest part is matching up the sublimation design directly on top of the HTV Vinyl. If you have a single solid print, you have a little bit more wiggle room. If you have to do a lot of intricate weeding, however, any mismatch will be apparent throughout the detailed design.
Use EasySubli with a Sawgrass printer.
Always use heat tape to secure your design to the tshirt. If your design shifts, even a little, you get ghosting.
No! Don’t use bleach!
Use lower temp and time when sublimating on HTV and EasySubli so that the HTV does not get damaged.
If sub paper sticks to HTV, then you can use water and towel to gently scrub the paper away, Alternatively, wash the item in a washing machine.
If you are going to make multiple shirts with the same design, then you should have a method so that all the designs are created in the same location. You can use your fingers and a guide, or create a cardboard guide, or use a tape measure to position the design a set distance from the collar. For side to side, make a crease in the tshirt so that you can identify its centerline and center your design on that.
Several people have tested the designs after 25 wash cycles, and the designs are still intact.
According to SiserNorthAmerica: “Wash on a normal cycle, cold water, wash inside out, wash in normal detergent- avoid using industrial strength, bleach, or dry cleaning- hang dry or use dryer at a lower temp.”
Sublimation Printing on Dark Fabric Video using EasySubli – Johnson Plastics Plus Official Video
Grace Needler and Karli Parsell of Johnson Plastics Plus demonstrate several methods to sublimate on dark fabric and cotton fabric using Siser EasySubli. Skip to 13:55 to see how to use Siser EasySubli Mask for sublimating complicated and multi-part designs.
Sublimation Printing Dark Shirts using HTV – Siser Official Video
Official Siser North America spokesman Joe Piazza shares his favorite tricks for how to sublimate on dark fabric. Jump to 1:26 to find out which HTV products work best.