When starting sublimation printing the first thing you learn about sublimation is how to sublimate on cotton shirts. Sublimation on cotton is a unique way of customizing your items with a super vivid and vibrant design with the help of a Heat press. we create simple-looking things with more of a unique look with the help of a sublimation process, which uses heat to bond a special dye with synthetic fibers of cotton.
Sublimation on cotton is widely used worldwide these days, especially for those who have started a clothing business where they can easily create their custom designs and sell them for a decent price. Sublimation printing is highly liked by the locals, and I am sure it won’t disappoint you either with its results.
Let’s discuss how the sublimation process works.
Table of Contents
How Does the Sublimation Process Works?
In the sublimation process, you use dye sublimation ink with a heat press & a sublimation paper to change dye sublimation ink into a gas that will embed on your shirt for a long time, for it locks into the polyester fibers. So, to sublimate means to change the form.
The design you print on the shirt gives the feeling that it is embedded in the fabric, unlike heat-transferred vinyl which is a bit raised from the shirt.
The only drawback of sublimation fabric is you may not sublimate on black shirts or dark colors.
Can You Sublimate on Cotton?
You will find that sublimation will not work directly on cotton, however, you can fix it indirectly by selecting a good alternative to sublimation on cotton with Glitter HTV Heat Transfer Vinyl, Easysubli, sublimation with Glow In The Dark HTV, and with regular heat transfer paper.
People love to try sublimation on cotton with Siser Rainbow White Glitter HTV. I love this Giller HTV this glitter vinyl gives you the best sublimation on cotton.
Glitter HTV is the best way to sublimate dark shirts, cotton, and fabric. With the Glitter HTV, you will get awesome designs with vibrant colors that will last forever.
With Siser EasySubli HTV, you can sublimate with long-lasting colors. Siser Easysubli is vinyl that lets you print vibrant designs using a sublimation printer. You can use Easysubli with various fabrics such as 100% cotton, poly/cotton blends, and 100% polyester.
This is the ideal alternative to the Sublimation paper & Glitter HTV. Sublimation with Glow in The Dark HTV is a quality heat transfer vinyl method, also similar to Glitter HTV but smoother than Glitter HTV.
Can You Sublimate On Cotton Polyester Blend?
Yes, it is possible to sublimate on cotton polyester blends, however, it might be tricky to get the right colors & right design when sublimating.
You can achieve your desired results by sublimating on 60% cotton & 40% polyester, however, the higher the polyester percentage is, the more vibrant sublimation will be the result.
Can You Sublimate on Cotton Shirts?
You can sublimate on cotton but it has a slightly different method of sublimation than compared to other synthetic fibers such as polyester. To sublimate on such a fabric like cotton you would require a distinct type of transfer paper.
sublimation on cotton shirts
Such transfer paper has a polymer coating which allows helps cotton fibers and sublimation ink to bond rigidly together. You can use a heat press to press transfer paper to bond with cotton fabric under high pressure and temperature. The ink bonds highly well with the cotton fabric resulting in no cracks or peel and has a vibrant and long-lasting effect.
Can You Sublimate On Cotton Canvas?
Yes, you can sublimate on cotton canvas. It requires a transfer paper for a special type which must have a polymer coating and is somewhat similar o sublimating on cotton shirts.
sublimation on cotton fabric
You first will need to prepare the chosen cotton canvas and thoroughly wash and dry it until it’s purified. Then you will have to apply a spray for pre-treatment s. You will print a design of your choice onto the transfer paper with the help of sublimation ink and a sublimation printer. Then, you need to heat press the transfer paper onto the cotton canvas under high temperature and pressure. The results are phenomenal as it gives a vibrant look and no cracks on the print.
What are the materials needed for sublimation on cotton?
Materials that you most probably will need during your process of sublimation will include are as following:
- Sublimation Printer will be needed to print your design with the help of sublimation ink to print onto your transfer paper
- Transfer Paper: A special kind of transfer paper is needed for sublimating onto cotton, such transfer paper has a polymer coating that will help the sublimation ink and the cotton fibers to bond well together.
- Cotton fabric: You will need fabric with 100% cotton which should be pre-treated by a process of washing and drying.
- Heat Press is a machine used to bond the transfer paper(with your chosen design) and the cotton fabric together by pressing onto transfer paper under high pressure and temperature which will transfer the design onto your piece of fabric.
- The Pre-Treatment spray is used to help or allow sublimation ink to bond well with fabric fibers, such spray is used only if necessary.
- Protective Paper is a sheet of paper slid between the heat press and the transfer paper to prevent any smudging of ink onto the heat press machine or overheating on the transfer paper.
- Essentials needed:
- Heat-resistant tape is used to secure the transfer paper correctly on your piece of fabric.
- Timers and thermometers are recommended as they help you in ensuring that the heat press is pressed onto the fabric for the correct amount of time and at the correct heat or temperature for perfect results.
- Protection gloves are needed for you to handle the hot transfer paper and fabric.
- Scissors for cutting the transfer paper according to your chosen design.
The process of sublimating onto cotton
Here is a guide for you to sublimate onto your cotton fabric.
Preparation of cotton for sublimating:
- Washing the cotton fabric: You have to wash your cotton fabric in hot water and use a slight amount of detergent for the removal of any kind of residue which may affect the sublimation process in any way. Make sure to not use cotton softener as it won’t let sublimation work successfully.
- Drying your cotton: You have to dry your cotton fabric on high heat and shrink it to its final size.
- Cutting the cotton fabric: You have to cut your cotton fabric according to the size of your transfer paper.
- Pre-heat press the cotton: To avoid or remove any wrinkles from your cotton fabric, the fabric will need t go through 10-15 seconds of pre-press at 375 F.
- Pre-treatment spray: If necessary use pre-treatment spray on your piece of fabric to help the sublimation ink and cotton fibers to bond well.
- Print your design: You can print out your selected design onto your transfer paper with sublimation ink and the help of a sublimation printer.
- Cutting the transfer paper: Cut any access transfer paper from your design size and adjust it neatly onto your cotton fabric, face down, and secure it in a fixed place with heat-resistant tape.
- Heat-press: Place a heat presser machine onto your transfer paper lying on top of your cotton fabric to let both objects stick well together for smooth transfer for a certain amount of time. Use a protective paper between them to prevent overheating and smudging of sublimation ink onto the heat press.
- Removal of transfer paper: You can then gently remove your special transfer paper, resulting in a smooth design transfer onto your cotton fabric.
- Finish product: After letting the cotton cool down you will be left with a vivid design on your cotton fabric that will last long!
Step to finish your sublimating on cotton
- Wash your cotton fabric: wash your sublimated cotton thoroughly with cold water and detergent to remove any resins. it is important not to use any fabric softener.
- Dry cotton fabric: After washing your cotton fabric you have to dry the cotton fabric in a dryer on low heat or hang it g it to dry
- Iron the fabric: Iron/heat the fabric opposite to the sublimated design printed side.
- The finishing product: You can store away such a fabric preventing it from damaging or fading, this will lead you to have your desired sublimated cotton shirt!
How to heat press your cotton fabric?
Your heat press should be set for about 400 F and set the time for 50 seconds. Place your design face down, and with the help of heat-resistant tape keep it steady in one place.
Then you set your heat press to 302 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 seconds time. Press your heat presser machine onto the fabric to remove any wrinkles or moisture for just a few seconds. With the help of a lint roller remove dust particles from the fabric. There will be dust particles on your piece of fabric which will end up ruining your sublimation process. Slide a protective paper between the heat press and the fabric for precautions. Press the heat machine for 12 seconds at a temperature of 302 degrees Fahrenheit. After you remove the heat press you will receive a successful vivid sublimated print on your cotton fabric.
There are other heat transfer methods as well for cotton sublimation such as heat transfer vinyl (HTV) or inkjet transfer paper. The steps of such processes are similar to normal sublimation processes using heat transfer.
After washing my cotton fabric why is the sublimation ink fading away?
The main aim of sublimation is printing vibrant long-lasting prints on your piece of fabric, and if it doesn’t turn out successfully and repeatedly removes vibrancy and allows peal to appear on the printed design it may occur due to:
-Allowing heat press to stay on the design for too long which leads to overheating and fading away of sublimation ink. To prevent such things, you need to keep a check on your set temperature and the amount of time it is heated for.
-Printing on untreated cotton may lead to sublimation ink to start fading away. To prevent this try using pre-treatment spray which helps bonding to occur more.
-Cheap transfer paper or usage for standard transfer paper will cause such fading away of the design. It is recommended to use polymer coating which will help fibers of cotton and sublimation ink to bond rigidly.
Sublimation is a process where you can add high-quality designs to your piece of material in high quality.
As it may be difficult or not totally workable for you to sublimate onto 100% cotton but there are a few ways in which you can try to sublimate a design that can be long lasting. Usage of HTV or spray coating to help bind both the sublimation ink and the fabric fibers together. the results of such processes are long-lasting and vibrant just like sublimating design on synthetic fiber.