What Shirts Are Best For Sublimation?

What Shirts Are Best For Sublimation?

When it comes to sublimation printing, choosing the right shirt is crucial for achieving high-quality, vibrant results. Did you know that polyester shirts are best suited for sublimation? Unlike natural fibers like cotton, polyester allows the ink to fully penetrate the fabric, resulting in vivid and long-lasting prints. This makes polyester shirts the go-to choice for sublimation printing.

Sublimation printing has revolutionized the customization industry, offering endless possibilities for personalized apparel. With its ability to produce intricate designs and vibrant colors, sublimation has become the preferred method for creating custom shirts. Not only does sublimation provide durable and fade-resistant prints, but it also allows for complete design flexibility, from all-over patterns to detailed graphics. By choosing polyester shirts for sublimation, you can ensure that your designs come to life with exceptional clarity and durability.



What Shirts Are Best For Sublimation?

Choosing the Right Shirts for Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing is a popular technique that allows vibrant and long-lasting designs to be transferred onto various materials, including shirts. However, not all shirts are suitable for sublimation. The success of the sublimation process depends on the type of fabric and its ability to absorb and retain the ink. In this article, we will explore the factors to consider when choosing shirts for sublimation printing to achieve the best results.

1. Polyester-Based Shirts

Polyester is the most popular fabric choice for sublimation printing. This synthetic material allows for vibrant colors and sharp details to be transferred onto the shirt. Unlike natural fibers such as cotton, polyester has a higher affinity for sublimation ink, leading to better color saturation and longevity.

When selecting polyester-based shirts for sublimation, it is crucial to choose high-quality ones with a high polyester content. Aim for shirts that have at least 95% polyester to ensure optimal print results. Lower polyester blends may result in less vibrant prints and color bleeding.

Additionally, consider the fabric weight of the shirt. Heavier polyester shirts tend to hold more ink and provide better color saturation. Look for shirts with a weight of 150-180 gsm (grams per square meter) for best results.

Some popular brands for sublimation-friendly polyester shirts include Vapor Apparel, A4, and Sublivie. These brands offer a wide range of styles and colors suitable for different sublimation projects.

Pros of Polyester-Based Shirts:

  • Excellent color vibrancy and saturation
  • Sharp details and fine lines
  • Long-lasting prints
  • Wide range of styles and colors available
  • Moisture-wicking properties for sports and activewear

Cons of Polyester-Based Shirts:

  • May not have the same feel and texture as natural fibers
  • Potential for pilling over time
  • Potential for odor retention compared to natural fibers

2. Polyester-Cotton Blends

While pure polyester shirts are ideal for sublimation printing, polyester-cotton blends can also be used successfully. These blends combine the moisture-wicking properties of polyester with the softness and breathability of cotton.

When choosing polyester-cotton blend shirts, it is important to consider the ratio of polyester to cotton. Opt for blends that have a higher polyester content, such as 65% polyester and 35% cotton, to ensure adequate ink absorption and color vibrancy.

However, it's essential to note that sublimation on blended shirts may result in a slightly faded or vintage look due to the different ways polyester and cotton fibers accept the sublimation ink. This effect can be desirable for certain designs or aesthetics but may not be suitable for all types of artwork.

Pros of Polyester-Cotton Blends:

  • Combines the benefits of polyester and cotton
  • Softer and more breathable compared to pure polyester shirts
  • Can create a unique vintage or faded look for certain designs
  • Wide range of styles available

Cons of Polyester-Cotton Blends:

  • Color vibrancy may be slightly reduced compared to pure polyester shirts
  • The vintage look may not be suitable for all designs

3. Avoid 100% Cotton Shirts

Sublimation printing is not recommended for 100% cotton shirts. Cotton fibers do not have the same chemical composition as polyester, which is necessary for the sublimation dye inks to bond and penetrate the fabric effectively.

If you attempt to sublimate onto cotton, the ink will sit on top of the fabric rather than merging with the fibers, resulting in a faded and washed-out appearance. The design will lack the vibrancy and durability that sublimation printing offers on polyester-based materials.

However, if you prefer the look and feel of cotton shirts, you can consider using other printing methods such as heat transfer vinyl or screen printing, which are better suited for cotton fabrics.

Cons of 100% Cotton Shirts:

  • Faded appearance
  • Design lacks vibrancy and longevity
  • May require alternative printing methods

4. Consider Sublimation-Specific Shirts

In addition to selecting the right fabric, there are shirts specifically designed for sublimation printing. These shirts have properties that enhance the sublimation process to deliver optimal results.

Sublimation-specific shirts often have a special coating or treatment that helps the ink bond more effectively with the fabric. This coating promotes vibrant colors, excellent detail reproduction, and improved washability.

Additionally, sublimation-specific shirts may have features like a tagless design, tear-away labels, and seams that allow for uninterrupted printing across the entire shirt. These features ensure a seamless and professional finish to your sublimated products.

Pros of Sublimation-Specific Shirts:

  • Enhanced ink bonding for vibrant colors and detail reproduction
  • Improved washability
  • Features designed for uninterrupted printing
  • Professional finish

Cons of Sublimation-Specific Shirts:

  • May be more expensive compared to regular shirts

Choosing the Right Shirts Based on Sublimation Print Size

When selecting shirts for sublimation printing, it is essential to consider the size of your prints or designs. The print size can impact the final result and the type of shirt you choose.

1. All-Over Prints

If you plan to sublimate all-over prints, where the design covers the entire shirt, you will need to choose shirts that have a larger print area. Look for shirts with flat and wide surfaces to ensure the design can be fully displayed.

In this case, polyester-based shirts with a loose or relaxed fit, like t-shirts or jerseys, are an excellent choice. These styles typically have minimal seams and allow for uninterrupted printing across the entire garment.

Pros of All-Over Prints:

  • Eye-catching and unique designs
  • Opportunity for creative expression
  • Wide range of styles available

2. Chest Prints

For more traditional chest prints, where the design is located on the front of the shirt, you have more flexibility in terms of shirt styles and fits. Both polyester-based shirts and polyester-cotton blend shirts can work well for these prints.

You can choose from a variety of shirt styles, such as crew neck or v-neck t-shirts, polos, or button-up shirts, depending on the desired look and occasion. Consider the fabric weight, personal comfort, and event requirements when selecting the appropriate shirt style.

Pros of Chest Prints:

  • Versatile and suitable for a range of occasions
  • Options for different necklines and styles
  • Comfortable and breathable fabric choices available

3. Sleeve Prints

If you want to incorporate prints on the sleeves of the shirt, consider shirts with longer or three-quarter sleeves. These can be suitable for promoting team logos, sports events, or fashion-forward designs.

Polyester-based shirts or blended shirts with a higher polyester content are recommended for sleeve prints. Ensure that the fabric is stretchable and allows for comfortable movement.

Pros of Sleeve Prints:

  • Unique design placement
  • Opportunity to showcase team logos or custom graphics
  • Various sleeve lengths to choose from

In Summary

Choosing the right shirts for sublimation printing is essential to achieve vibrant and long-lasting results. Opt for polyester-based shirts with at least 95% polyester content for the best color saturation and durability. Consider polyester-cotton blend shirts for a balance between softness and moisture-wicking properties.

Avoid 100% cotton shirts, as they are not suitable for sublimation printing. If you prefer the look and feel of cotton, explore alternative printing methods such as heat transfer vinyl or screen printing.

For optimal sublimation results, consider using sublimation-specific shirts that have coatings or treatments to enhance ink bonding and offer seamless printing features. Additionally, choose the appropriate shirt style based on the desired print size and placement.

By selecting the right shirts and understanding their compatibility with sublimation printing, you can create stunning and durable designs that capture attention and stand the test of time.


What Shirts Are Best For Sublimation?

Choosing the Best Shirts for Sublimation

Sublimation printing is a popular method for creating vibrant, long-lasting designs on shirts. When it comes to choosing the best shirts for sublimation, several factors should be considered to ensure optimal results.

Firstly, the fabric composition plays a crucial role. Polyester and polyester blends are ideal for sublimation, as they have a high affinity for the dyes used in the printing process. The polyester fabric allows the ink to fully penetrate the fibers, resulting in vibrant and durable prints.

Secondly, the shirt's color is also important. Light-colored shirts work best for sublimation, as they provide a neutral base for the colors to appear more vibrant. It is essential to avoid dark or heavily dyed shirts, as the colors may not transfer accurately during the sublimation process.

Lastly, the shirt's construction should be considered. It is recommended to choose shirts with a smooth and tight-knit surface, as this allows for better ink penetration and higher image resolution. Avoid shirts with rough textures or loose weaves that may disrupt the printing process.

By selecting shirts made of polyester or polyester blends, in light colors, and with a smooth surface, you can achieve outstanding results in sublimation printing. Remember to test each shirt type and brand before committing to larger orders to ensure compatibility with your sublimation process and design requirements.


###Key Takeaways: What Shirts Are Best For Sublimation?

1. Choose shirts made of polyester or polyester blend fabric.

Shirts made of polyester or polyester blend fabric are best for sublimation printing.

2. Look for shirts with a high polyester content.

The higher the polyester content, the better the sublimation results will be.

3. Avoid shirts with a high cotton content.

Shirts with a high cotton content do not absorb the sublimation ink as well as polyester shirts.

4. Opt for light-colored shirts.

Light-colored shirts allow for vibrant and accurate sublimation printing.

5. Consider moisture-wicking shirts for active wear.

Moisture-wicking shirts

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you wondering what shirts are best for sublimation printing? Find answers to your questions below.

1. Can I use any type of shirt for sublimation?

While sublimation can be done on various types of fabrics, polyester shirts are the best choice. This is because sublimation ink bonds well with polyester fibers, resulting in vibrant and long-lasting prints. Polyester shirts also offer excellent moisture-wicking properties, making them ideal for sportswear and activewear.

It is important to note that sublimation ink does not work well with natural fibers such as cotton. This is because sublimation ink needs to bond with the fibers at a molecular level, which is only possible with polyester fabric.

2. What blend of fabric can I use for sublimation?

In addition to 100% polyester shirts, you can also use polyester blends that have a high percentage of polyester. A common blend is 65% polyester and 35% cotton. However, keep in mind that the more polyester in the fabric blend, the better the sublimation results will be. Blends with a higher percentage of cotton may result in less vibrant prints.

It is always best to test a small piece of fabric before sublimating a full garment to ensure the desired results.

3. Are there specific shirt colors that work best with sublimation?

Sublimation ink is transparent, which means it will blend with the color of the fabric. Light-colored shirts, such as white or pastel shades, work best for sublimation as they allow the ink colors to stand out. Dark-colored shirts, on the other hand, may alter the appearance of the sublimated design as the ink blends with the fabric color.

However, advancements in sublimation technology have made it possible to achieve good results on darker fabrics as well. Special sublimation inks and transfer papers are available for dark fabrics, but the overall colors may still be affected.

4. Should I choose a specific shirt style for sublimation?

You have a wide range of shirt styles to choose from for sublimation. Whether you prefer crew necks, V-necks, polo shirts, or even hoodies, sublimation can be done on most shirt styles. Consider the end use of the garment and the preferences of your target audience. For example, if you are creating sports jerseys, a moisture-wicking performance shirt would be a great choice.

It is always recommended to select shirts that have a smooth and flat surface, as this allows for better ink absorption and results in sharper prints.

5. Can I sublimate on pre-printed shirts?

In general, it is best to sublimate on blank shirts without any pre-printed designs or graphics. The sublimation process requires high heat and pressure, which can affect the existing prints or graphics on the shirt. It is recommended to start with a blank shirt and apply the sublimation design from scratch to ensure the best results.

If you have a pre-printed shirt that you want to sublimate on, it is important to test a small area first to see how the existing print reacts to the sublimation process.



To summarize, when it comes to sublimation printing, certain types of shirts work best to achieve vibrant and long-lasting results. Polyester shirts are the top choice for sublimation due to their ability to hold the dye and retain the vibrant colors. The high polyester content allows for the ink to transfer fully and seamlessly onto the fabric, resulting in a professional and durable finish. It is recommended to use shirts that have at least 50% polyester content for the best sublimation outcome. These shirts are readily available in the market and come in various styles and sizes to cater to different preferences and needs.

Additionally, it is advised to choose shirts with a white or light-colored base for sublimation printing. Light colors provide a blank canvas for the dye to showcase its true vibrancy. Dark-colored shirts may interfere with the color accuracy and can result in dull or less defined printouts. By selecting the right type of shirt and color, you can ensure that your sublimation prints stand out with vibrant, true-to-life colors, and long-lasting durability. So, when it comes to sublimation printing, polyester shirts with a light-colored base are the best choice to achieve outstanding results.


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