Are you a business owner who uses sublimation printing? Do you intend to start one instead? Whatever level you’re at, you’ll need blanks or shirts that can be adorned with transfers from your sublimation printer.
When it comes to sublimation printing, polyester garments will always yield the best and most consistent results. While printing on a white shirt will yield the finest results in terms of colors and hues, you may print on much darker shirts as long as they are made of polyester.
However, you must first ensure that you have high-quality blank shirts that can withstand sublimation inks and transfer sheets before you begin printing. When it comes to sublimation, not all shirts are created equal. The final print’s vibrancy depends on the fabric, weave, and color used.
We’ve done the research for you and rounded up the five best shirts for sublimation printing perfection. With any of these soft, lightweight options, you’ll be churning out bright, bold sublimated prints in no time.
Sublimation printing is a popular method for customizing t-shirts and other apparel. It uses heat to transfer dye onto fabric, resulting in crisp, vibrant designs that last.
On a t-shirt, sublimation printing combines heat and unusual dyes to chemically bind ink particles with fabric fibers. The graphics produced by this new printing technique are incredibly durable, but they necessitate certain particular steps. Because it employs the CMYK color scheme, this digital printing technique also performs admirably for elaborate or detailed designs like full-color pictures.
A solid can sublimate without first becoming a liquid. The dye’s ability to adhere to polyester polymers is the result of a special chemical procedure.
Images made using different printing techniques, including printing or HTV designs, rest on the fabric’s surface. In contrast, sublimation printing creates connections deep inside the fabric’s bottom strands.
What Shirts Work Best for Sublimation?
What type of shirt should I use for sublimation? How well a garment will print depends on its fabric, cut, and construction.
Polyester or Poly-Cotton Blends
Polyester fabrics are ideal for sublimation since the ink bonds directly to the fibers. To choose the best shirts, look for ones that contain at least 65% polyester. It also works well and offers better comfort to use poly-cotton mixes that are roughly 50-50 or 60-40.
Light or Midweight
Thinner, lighter fabrics allow the heat to better penetrate the material, so the ink can bond fully with the fibers. Heavy, thick fabrics don’t heat as evenly, and you may end up with poorer print quality.
Moisture-Wicking or Breathable
Fabrics engineered to keep moisture away from the body, like polyester mesh or polyester knit, tend to yield very vibrant prints. The open structure of the knit also allows for efficient heating.
Tagless or Tear-Away Tags
Tags, especially thicker woven ones, can interfere with getting an even print under the tag area. Shirts with tagless labels or easily removable tear-away tags are ideal. You can always remove regular tags yourself with a seam ripper.
Make sure any shirt you buy specifically for sublimation is preshrunk, meaning it has already undergone a shrinking treatment. Otherwise, the heat required for sublimation may cause the shirt to shrink during printing, resulting in a distorted graphic.
Top 5 Shirt Options for Stunning Sublimation Prints
What are the best shirts for sublimation? When it comes to sublimation printing, the type of shirt you use is extremely important. The material, blend, and quality will directly impact how vibrant your prints turn out. Here are the top 5 shirt options for stunning sublimation prints:
100% Polyester shirts for sublimation are the ideal canvas. Polyester fibers readily accept sublimation dyes for bright, photorealistic prints. Look for a t-shirt with a high polyester count, like 90% or more. The higher the poly, the better for your designs.
Moisture-wicking performance t-shirts, often made of polyester and spandex or elastane blends, work great for sublimation. The polyester provides an optimal surface for prints, while the spandex adds stretch and mobility. These soft, lightweight shirts are perfect for athletes, sports teams, and activewear.
For a polished look, you can’t go wrong with polyester polo shirts. The collared style and button placket give them a more professional appearance while still showing off your custom sublimated prints. Many polos are 60–100% polyester, ideal for vivid, long-lasting sublimated graphics.
Polyester or poly-blend tank tops and racerback tanks are ideal for sublimation, especially for beachwear, gym clothes, and outdoor events. Their sleeveless style is perfect for showing off a stunning sublimated print. Look for options that are at least 60–100% polyester for the best results.
Hoodies and Sweatshirts
Last but not least, polyester hoodies and sweatshirts make cozy canvases for sublimation printing. Their thicker, warmer fabrics provide an ideal surface for your prints while giving them a soft, high-quality feel. Higher polyester counts, from 60 to 100%, will yield the most vibrant, detailed sublimated graphics on these garments.
How do You Wash Sublimation Shirts?
Now that you’ve created your custom sublimation designs and printed them onto shirts, you’ll want to properly care for them to keep the prints looking their best. Sublimation ink actually infuses into the fibers of the fabric, so the prints are highly fade-resistant and durable.
Follow these tips to keep your sublimation shirts looking vibrant and fresh through many washes.
Wash in Cold or Warm Water
The heat and harsh detergents of hot water can cause excess fading over time. Stick to washing your sublimation t-shirts in cold or warm water to maintain the brightest prints. Avoid using bleach, which can damage the fabric and cause prints to fade prematurely.
Turn Shirts Inside Out
Turning your shirts inside out before washing helps protect the print from abrasion in the wash. The print is embedded into the fabric, but the surface of the print can still get lightly scratched or dulled over time with washing. Turning prints inside out is an easy step to help avoid this and keep prints crisp.
Avoid Fabric softener
Fabric softener coats fibers to make them softer, but it can also coat the surface of sublimation prints and cause them to appear dull or faded. It’s best to avoid using any fabric softener when washing sublimation shirts. The prints are already soft and vibrant, so softener is not needed.
Tumble Dry on Low Heat
As with washing, high heat can cause excess fading of sublimation prints over time. Tumble drying on low or no heat is the gentlest approach. Avoid drying sublimation shirts in direct sunlight, which can also cause prints to fade. If line drying, hang shirts inside out.
The heat and pressure of ironing can flatten the texture of the print and cause fading. Avoid ironing sublimation shirts when possible. If needed, use the lowest heat setting and place a towel between the iron and the print.
Following these care tips will help keep your custom sublimation shirts looking as bright and crisp as the day you printed them. With the proper care, sublimation prints can last through many washes while still retaining a high level of color vibrancy.
What Shirts are Best for Sublimation and Bleaching?
When it comes to sublimation printing t-shirts, the type of shirt you use matters. Not all shirts will work equally well for this heat-based transfer process. Here are some of the best options for sublimation and bleaching:
Polyester And Poly-Cotton Blends
These shirt types are ideal for sublimation printing because the polyester fibers can withstand the high heat required. Polyester shirts will produce the most vibrant colors since the material absorbs inks well. Shirts with at least 65% polyester, like tri-blend shirts with polyester, cotton, and rayon, also work great and will give you a softer feel.
Light or white-colored shirts
Stay away from dark-colored shirts for sublimation printing. The lighter and brighter the shirt color, the better. White is best. Light colors like pastels allow the inks to show through clearly. Dark shirts will not allow the inks to bond as well, and your design won’t pop.
Loose Fitting And Breathable
Look for shirts that are loose-fitting, lightweight, and breathable. Tightly woven or heavy fabrics won’t allow the heat to pass through as well. The inks need to bond directly with the polyester fibers, so more open weaves are better. Also, the hotter the shirt material gets, the better the ink will bond. Loose, breathable shirts heat up more evenly.
Pre-Treated (for Bleaching)
If you plan to bleach your sublimated design, look for shirts specifically meant for bleaching. These go through a pre-treatment process to create blank areas where the bleach can fully whiten the fabric. Regular shirts may end up with a blotchy, uneven effect.
You can get striking, expert-looking effects by using top-notch shirts made for sublimation and bleaching. Take your time to choose quality selections because the What type of shirt is best for sublimation you select will determine how well your finished project turns out. Your customers will appreciate a design that pops on a shirt built to last.
You now know how to start a t-shirt business. Any of these selections will work well for producing eye-catching bespoke clothing since they are five of the best shirts for sublimation printing that will let your graphics shine through with breathtaking brightness. One of these shirts will undoubtedly meet your needs, whether you’re looking for a performance fabric, raglan style, or conventional t-shirt.
The possibilities for distinctive and unforgettable designs are infinite with the appropriate t-shirt manufacturer and a little imagination!