Today, we are going to sublimate on shirts. Why sublimate on shirts when there are techniques such as HTV? Because with sublimation printing, we can create vibrant, intricate, and durable designs on shirts. With the right equipment and technique, you can achieve professional-quality results. In this blog post, I will walk you through the process of sublimating on shirts using a heat press machine. Let’s dive in!
Selecting the Right Shirt Material:
Choose polyester shirts as sublimation ink bonds best with polyester fibers. Light-colored shirts work best for vibrant results. Today, I’m using a pink shirt, but it is light enough that the design still shows up well. Sublimation will not work directly on 100% Cotton! I recommend a poly count of at least 70% for the best results. If you sublimate on cotton or a mostly cotton shirt, it will not look vibrant and the ink will wash out after a few washes. I have experimented with a poly spray for cotton before, and you can check that post out here. For shirts, I would recommend sticking to polyester.
Materials and Equipment for Sublimating on Shirts
How to Sublimate on Shirts:
Step 1: Select Design
I created my created my design in Silhouette Studio using an AI generated image. I have mixed feelings about AI generated images (that I won’t bore you with here); but, they pair very well with sublimation! Additionally, I also wanted an image that would be dark enough to show up on a pink shirt. When selecting your design, keep in mind that sublimation printers do not print white so you do need to be aware of how your colors will look on the color of shirt you select. The darker the shirt, the less contrast the design will have.
Step 2: Print Design on Sublimation Transfer Paper
Next, print the design onto sublimation transfer paper. I am using my Epson WF7720 printer and printing from Silhouette Studio. Check out all of my settings in this post and make sure you print the design mirrored!
Step 3: Prepare Heat Press
First, set the pressure on the heat press. Place a pressing pillow on the platen and adjust the pressure to be medium/firm. Closing the press should require a little oomph when the pressure is medium/firm. Remove the pressing pillow and preheat the press to 385F.
Step 4: Prep Shirt
As the press is preheating, prepress the shirt to remove any excess moisture. Then allow it to cool down before moving on. Take the polyester shirt and give it a thorough lint rolling. Lint tends to show up as little blue squiggly lines after pressing, so lint rolling the shirt helps to minimize the risk of these annoying little buggers.
Place the pressing pillow and a sheet of butcher paper inside the shirt. The pressing pillow will allow a nice even press without seams getting in the way of even pressure. The butcher paper will soak up any excess ink so it doesn’t transfer to the back of the shirt.
Align your design and then tape it to the shirt, image side down, with heat resistant tape. Use more tape than you might think you need. This will help prevent ghosting if the transfer shifts when the shirt is still hot. Alright, at this point the shirt should have the transfer paper design taped to the front of the shirt, and a pressing pillow and sheet of butcher paper inside the shirt. It’s ready for pressing!
Step 5: Press Shirt
Place the shirt with pressing pillow onto the heat press platen. Add an additional sheet of butcher paper on top of the transfer paper to absorb any excess ink that sublimates out (to protect your heat press). Press for 60 seconds. Remove the transfer paper carefully and lint roll the shirt again. This helps to pull the pressing lines out. The ink has become part of the fabric, resulting in a soft, vibrant, and long-lasting image. Your shirt is now complete and ready to admire!
Sublimated Shirt Results & Care
Care Instructions: For best long term results, wash sublimated shirts in cold water and use a low heat setting on the dryer.
Sublimation printing on shirts with a heat press can be a rewarding and creative endeavor. By following this step-by-step guide and using quality materials, you’ll be able to produce stunning custom shirts that will stand the test of time. Experiment with different designs and colors to unleash your creativity and make unique, personalized garments for yourself or your customers. Happy sublimating!
Thank you for crafting with me!
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