Sublimation Printing on Black 100% Cotton T-shirts

Sublimation Printing on Black 100% Cotton T-shirts

When you first start sublimation printing on clothing one of the first things you will be told is that you can only print on white t-shirts with a high polyester content and that it’s impossible to print on dark clothing, especially 100% cotton black t-shirts! 

While this is true to an extent there are a few ways of working around it. 

So what is sublimation printing? Sublimation printing is a process where you use a printer much like a regular paper printer but loaded with special paper and sublimation ink. When you print an image this can then be stuck to a number of items and using a heat press the image can be transferred to the items. 

This means you can apply photo quality images to clothing, mugs, cushions, coasters, phone cases and much more.

The only downside is that sublimation printing is not great for dark clothing due to the ink not showing up properly on a dark background and you need clothing with a high polyester content for the ink to bind to the clothing properly. 

Do how so you get around it and sublimation print onto dark clothing?

Because you can’t get the ink to bind to dark cotton for example you simply need to apply a layer of vinyl first. You then take your design and sublimate it onto the vinyl. 

It’s easy really you just go to your design program, take your design and upload it as a .PNG, create a separate backing image to cut the vinyl to shape for your background and your done. You just print off your design, cut your white vinyl backing and the application process begins.

Be sure to make sure both your sublimation design and vinyl cut are mirrored or your design will be backwards when applied to the piece of clothing. 

You then take your t-shirt or hoodie and place it on a heat mat, align your white vinyl background in the centre of the clothing and heat press it to tack it down for 15 seconds, then take off the plastic backing sheet. 

You then apply your sublimation design face down and align it precisely with the white vinyl background. Tape down with heat resistant tape and put a bit of card behind the design inside the clothing to stop any ink leaking through to the back of the clothing. 

Once everything is aligned apply teflon paper over the the design and heat press for 60 seconds. When it’s done allow it to cool and carefully remove the tape and sublimation paper making sure you don’t smudge the design. 

You should then have a really cool sublimation printed piece of clothing!

As an added bonus you can get some really cool effects to your sublimation designs by using holographic or pearlescent heat transfer vinyl like so:

You can also use glitter and metallic vinyl as a backing layer, It’s worth experimenting with different types of vinyl but stay away from dark colour vinyl as it won’t work. 

That’s pretty much it you can now print cool designs on 100% cotton black clothing. I’m not going into every little intricate detail in this post if you know what your doing you’ll be able to figure it out easily enough.

Overall we are really happy with the finish produced by sublimating onto holographic vinyl it looks awesome!

Back to blog

Leave a comment