Sublimation printing on shirts is a cool and easy process when done with the right type of equipment and thing. Without using the right essentials, we cannot get the best out of the process. The most important of them is the shirt itself. You must need a material that is compatible with sublimation printing in order to get quality output. If you are planning to dip your toes into shirt sublimation, this guide is a real treat for you. Based on my experience, I’ve shared some of the best shirts for sublimation.
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Best Shirts For Sublimation
If we shortlist the material choice for shirt sublimation, there are mainly three options, 100% cotton, 100% polyester, and polyester-cotton blend. All of the materials react differently to the shirt sublimation. But before we start the discussion, we need to know what sublimation is and how it works. For the T-Shirt sublimation process, you need special sublimation printers for T-Shirt.
Sublimation printing is the process of transferring sublimation dyes onto a material via heat. The image or design is digitally printed on sublimation transfer paper by a sublimation printer. Then this print is transferred to the fabric by applying heat. The heat opens up the fabric pores and turns the sub-dyes to a gaseous state to help them get absorbed in the material.
The quality and reliability of print largely depend on the fabric’s ability to absorb and adhere to the dye. If a fabric is not compatible with sub-dyes, you will get low-quality prints lacking clarity and vibrance. Also, it will fade away quickly with few washes.
In order to get vivid and long-lasting sublimation prints, we recommend you to buy a printer from our buying guide for the best sublimation printers.
Polyester is considered the best substrate to sublimate on. 100% polyester shirts are pretty easy to sublimate and give excellent results. What makes polyester ideal for sublimation is the presence of polymers in the fabrics. The fabric opens up easily when the heat is applied. Now dyes can easily make their way through the materials and easily get absorbed. On cooling, pores get closed, and in this way, dyes get locked in the fabric. The bond between sublimation dyes and ink is strong and highly resistant to fading factors like water, heat, and UV. Here are some best polyester shirts for sublimation.
1. A4 Sublimation Performance Tee
It is a 100% poly shirt that you can easily buy on Amazon and other online selling platforms. It is a competitively priced shirt that gives you a soft feel and stylish look for daily wear. This high-quality polyester shirt is pretty easy to sublimate on and retains the sublimation dyes for a longer time.
2. Jerzees 21M
It is another 100% polyester shirt. The best thing about this shirt is that it is pretty thick and offers a great sweat performance. Unlike other poly tees, it doesn’t get stuck to the wet body. The shirt gives a soft cotton-like feel and is ideal for sublimation printing. The thick texture absorbs the maximum dye and retains it for maximum washes. If you are a beginner, Jerzees 21M is the best shirt for sublimation prints.
3. Next Level 6200
The next level-6200 is a poly-cotton blend shirt with 65% polyester and 35% cotton. The shirt gives you the benefit of soft polymer and breathable cotton. This is an ideal poly-blend shirt for sublimation. Also, this is the best shirt to sublimate on if you are interred in overall printing.
4. Polyester Blends
Polyester blends are the next option since 100% polyester shirts are not usually preferred for everyday wear. Polyester shirts are less breathable and also get stuck to wet skin. The simple equation to choose the best polyester blend for sublimation is the more polyester, the better.
The poly-cotton ratio tells you how much polyester it contains. A 50-50 blend shirt has 50% polyester and 50% cotton. You can also find blends containing 60% or65% polyester. For best quality results, you must go with a poly-cotton short containing at least 50% polyester. If you sublimate a 50-50 poly-cotton shirt, it retains only 50% dye after the first wash. This rule works the same way for other poly-cotton blends.
100% polyester shirts absorb the dye entirely and give super vibrant and bold prints. However, we sometimes want to print some designs in less vibrant and light colors to achieve a faded or vintage look. Poly-cotton blend shirts with lower polyester content do not absorb 100% dye and give a faded look. So these are the best sublimation shirts when we want a faded vintage look.
Bella Canvas Shirts
Another choice in polyester blend shirts is Bells Canvas. Bella canvas shirts are a blend of either polyester and viscose or polyester and rayon. Bella canvas shirts are sometimes formed by blending three materials like cotton, polyester, and rayon.
Here are some of the best Bella canvas shirts for sublimation.
1. Bella Canvas Flowy
These Bella Canvas shirts are 65% polyester and 35% viscose. The polymers in the shirt retain the sub dyes for a longer period. So this is a great option if you are interested in overall sublimation printing.
2. Bella Canvas Slub
Bella canvas slub is a unique fabric made of 50% polyester, 37.5% cotton, and 12.5% rayon. That unique blend gives a tonal texture and is another great choice for sublimation printing. Since the polyester content is only 50%, you get faded and distressed prints.
3. Bella Canvas Tri-Blend
Bella Canvas Tri-blend contains 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon. This fabric offers impressive breathability and a smooth surface, making it ideal for apparel. The lower cotton content and higher rayon content make it suitable for sublimation.
4. Cotton Shirts
Cotton and sublimation are not made for each other, and it is not the way to go if you are a beginner. However, cotton shirts are preferred for daily wear since they offer maximum breathability and a trendy look. Though it is not easy to sublimate on a cotton shirt, it isn’t impossible either.
Certain pre-treatments, sublimation inks, and sublimation papers will let you sublimate the cotton shirts. You can get a vibrant and clear print on a cotton shirt by using the proper treatment and sublimation technique. However, it will not be as rich and reliable as you get on the 100% polyester shirt.
Sublimation Shirt Care Instructions
If you want your sublimation shirt to last longer, follow these care instructions.
- Always wash with cold or lukewarm water
- Use detergent in less quantity or wash with a mild soap
- Never wash colored and white shirts together
- For sublimation shirts, hang dry is recommended. However, if you want to dry them in machine, keep them at low temperature or Air mode.
- Never use bleach to remove stains.
- Do not use chemicals like fabric softeners on sublimated shirts
- Do not overload the washer
- Avoid metallic hangers and always hang dry on wooden or plastic hangers
- Dry clean is not recommended for sublimation shirts
- Always store in a dry and cool place
What is the best shirt for sublimation?
100% polyester shirts are best for sublimation. The polymers present in the fabric open up easily when heat is applied and allow the gaseous ink to enter the fabric. Polyester shirts are best for sublimation for their impressive ability to absorb and retain the sublimation dyes.
Why does my sublimation look faded?
Sublimation looks faded due to certain reason
- When you are not using the best sublimation ink
- Sublimation looks faded on cotton and mixed fabrics with less polyester content.
- When you do not apply the strictly required pressure and temperature during the heat transfer
- When you do not use a high-quality sublimation transfer paper
What is the best sublimation paper for dark shirts?
The best sublimation paper for dark shirts is Heat Transfer Vinyl or HTV. A regular sublimation paper will not work for black or dark shirts. HTVs contain a heat-activated backing that transfers the sub-dyes to garments when subjected to heat treatment. Heat transfer vinyl comes in rolls, large sheets, and packs.
Can I sublimate on 50% polyester?
Yes, you can sublimate on 50% polyester. The poly-blend fabrics can absorb and retain sub dyes and are compatible with sublimation printing. However, after the first wash, the fabric will contain only 50% dye, and the remaining 50% will be washed away.
Can sublimation be done on 100% cotton?
Yes, sublimation can be done on 100% cotton. Certain dyes and pre-treatments let us sub-dye a 100% cotton fabric. However, sublimation printing on cotton fabric is not as reliable as on polyester.
So we can safely conclude that knowing what type of shirt is best for sublimation is critical to make the process rewarding. If you are new to sublimation printing, I recommend you begin with 100% polyester shirts. Polyester shirts have a minimum requirement for sublimation printing making them ideal for inexperienced people.