posted by Ahijoy on March 30, 2023
How To Sublimate On Dark Shirts?
A dark shirt with a unique vibrant print in the center will definitely earn praise from all. This captivating and distinctive design was transferred on the fabric through sublimation. Though this process is recommended for printing on light colored shirts, it is possible to transform dark fabrics as well into beautiful pieces of art through it. Let us tell you in detail how you can achieve this feat with ease.
What Is Sublimation?
Sublimation printing involves transferring a design onto a substrate, such as fabric, metal, or ceramic, using heat and pressure. A special type of ink is used to print designs on a transfer paper specific for sublimation. It is then placed on the fabric and heat and pressure are applied causing the ink to turn into gas and permeate the fabric's surface. As the temperature cools, the ink re-solidifies and becomes a permanent part of the shirt, resulting in a high-quality and long-lasting print.
Dye sublimation ink is designed to show up best on light-colored fabrics and items. If you try to use it on dark-colored shirts, like black ones, the ink will still be present but it won't be as noticeable or vibrant.
Sublimation printing produces flamboyant and durable prints that do not crack or fade over time. It is typically done on polyester material as it is a synthetic fiber that works perfectly with the sublimation dye. Other materials that can be used are spandex and lycra. Polymers like Teflon and nylon also blend well with sublimation dyes.
Sublimation Printing On Dark Colored Shirts
The process for sublimating dark shirts is the same as that for the light colored ones with a slight variation. We will delve into it in detail but first and foremost, one must gather the right paraphernalia. Following is a list of tools that you need to carry out sublimation.
- Heat Transfer Vinyl: In order to sublimate on dark shirts, you will need premium quality heat transfer vinyl preferably glitter white. Ahijoy offers the best HTV films at competitive rates. They are durable and long lasting, and are easy to apply. They allow hassle free weeding of even the tiniest pieces and can withstand more that 50 washes without cracking or fading. We recommend using the following HTV films available at Ahijoy for sublimating on dark shirts: Glitter rainbow white HTV, White flock HTV, White PU HTV.
- Sublimation Printer: This uses sublimation inks for printing designs on the special transfer paper. It takes into account the consistency and temperature sensitivity of these water-insoluble disperse dyes. You will also need a computer and design software to operate your sublimation printer. Your printer might also have a built-in sublimation printing program.
- Sublimation Transfer Paper: This is a specially coated paper made for sublimation. It works by using heat and pressure to transfer the sublimation ink onto the shirt. It is important to take into account the quality of the sublimation paper as it directly impacts the final product. This depends on several factors, including its weight, thickness, coating, and compatibility with specific sublimation inks and printers.
The best sublimation paper will have a smooth, even coating that allows for accurate ink transfer, and it will be able to withstand the heat and pressure required for the sublimation process without wrinkling or curling.
- Vinyl Cutter or Scissors: Cutting design with a scissor is achievable especially if it is not intricate, but this can be a tedious task. It is better to invest in an automated cutting machine. There are quite a few options available in the market such as Cricut, Silhouette, Brother ScanNCut, Graphtec and more for flawless and perfect vinyl cutting.
- Heat Press: You will need a heat source for the process that can apply heat and pressure uniformly. You can choose from different kinds of heat press machines such as clamshell, swing-away, draw type, sublimation type and more. Do not use the mini heat press machine for this process.
- Parchment Paper or Teflon sheet: This serves as a protective sheet. It saves the fabric from the adverse effects of high temperature. You can either use a double-sided, non-stick Teflon sheet or a parchment paper. You can also use butcher paper.
- Thermal Tape: It is a special tape that can endure high temperatures of up to 425 °F and is typically effortless to remove once utilized. It helps in the secure placement of your sublimation transfer onto your shirt, preventing any movement of the design.
- A Dark Colored Shirt: Lastly, you will need a substrate which in this case will be a dark colored shirt.
The First Method Of Sublimating On Dark Shirts
You can transfer exquisite designs through sublimation on dark shirts using the following methods. Not all of them involve the heat transfer vinyl. Employ the one that you can carry out confidently.
Step 1: Create A Beautiful Design
Using a design software, create the pattern that you want to transfer. It can be anything that your heart desires - funny, unique, and artistic. Duplicate the design on the software. You can use as many colors as you want on one design and the other should be transparent without any colors. This is because one copy will be printed on the sublimation paper and the other will be cut on the heat transfer vinyl. The one to be printed should be slightly larger to give room for color bleed.
Note: The HTV will be cut in reverse and the sublimation paper will also print the design in reverse so don’t forget to flip the design horizontally on the software.
Step 2: Print And Cut
Load ink into the sublimation printer and print the colorful design on the special transfer paper. Set it aside to let it dry. Cut the extra paper from around the design for precision with a sharp pair of scissors.
Use the duplicate transparent design to cut the vinyl using your favorite automated cutting machine. Weed out the extra film from in and around the design to bring forth what you actually visualized and created on the software.
Tip: Choose white vinyl for the process so that the colors transferred through sublimation appear crisp and vibrant against a dark background.
Step 3: Transfer The Vinyl Design
After weeding, put Teflon sheet or parchment paper on the vinyl design and transfer it on your dark colored shirt using a heat press machine. The temperature and pressure should be according to the guidelines mentioned for the vinyl. Once the design is transferred, remove the transfer sheet and set aside the fabric to let it cool. Increase the temperature of the heat press to 400°F.
Step 4: Sublimate On The Design
Flip your sublimation sheet on which the colored design is printed and place it on the vinyl, aligning it with the design on the shirt. Use thermal tape to keep the sublimation print in place.
Step 5: Apply Heat
Now place the shirt back into the heat press, place parchment paper on top and apply heat and pressure for 60 seconds.
Step 6: Behold The Incredible Result
When the time is up, remove the dark shirt from the heat press then remove the sublimation print. Be careful as it might be hot. You have successfully sublimated a dark colored shirt.
Note: You can use this process to sublimate on 100% dark cotton shirts as well since you are using HTV as the base and not directly sublimating on the fabric.
The Second Method Of Sublimating On Dark Shirts
Step 1: Print Your Vinyl
Create the design of your choice on the software. Do not mirror your image. Before printing your design, it's crucial to understand how to insert your vinyl into the sublimation printer. A vinyl sheet typically has two sides, one of which is shiny and the other slightly rough. You should print your design on the rough side of the vinyl sheet rather than the shiny one because the latter won’t be able to hold the printer’s sublimation ink.
Step 2: Cut And Weed
Once the design is printed, cut it using an electronic cutter and weed out the excess vinyl using a weeding pen. Check out the ones available in the tools’ section at Ahijoy for hassle free lifting and removal of the negative pieces.
Step 3: Pre-Press Your Shirt
Pre-press your dark colored shirt to get rid of any moisture in the fabric. This will also remove the creases.
Step 4: Transfer The Vinyl
Place the vinyl on the shirt after removing the backing. Place the parchment paper on top and apply heat between 360° and 390°F with moderate pressure for 15 seconds. Once the transfer is complete, your sublimated dark shirt is ready!
The Third Method Of Sublimating On Dark Shirts
In this method we will use bleach to spray on the specific part of the shirt where the design will be applied. Below is the step by step guide.
Step 1: Prepare The Design
We will finalize the design on the software and print its colorful mirror image on the special sublimation transfer paper.
Step 2: Bleaching The Specific Part Of The Dark Shirt
Place a cardboard between the shirt so that the bleach does not seep into its back side ruining it. Measure the dimensions of the design and spray bleach onto that specific part of the shirt. Make sure you have a large enough bleached area for the sublimation design to fit in.
Once that specific area is done, you can stop the shirt from further bleaching by soaking it in a 50/50 rinse of hydrogen peroxide and water. After rinsing the shirt, wash and dry it with a detergent.
Step 3: Sublimating The Dark Shirt
Once the shirt is dry, pre-press it to remove any moisture. Raise the temperature of the heat press to 400°F and set the timer to 60 seconds. Place the sublimation paper with the printed design face down on the bleached area and secure it with a thermal tape. Apply heat to it.
Step 4: Get Ready To Be Amazed
Once the time is up, remove the sublimation paper and be mesmerized by the vibrant, exquisite design you have transferred onto your bleached dark shirt.
The Fourth Method Of Sublimating On Dark Shirts
This method also involves bleaching but only the design. The rest of the shirt will not give a bleached effect.
Step 1: Print And Sublimate The Dark Shirt
Print the design on the special sublimation paper and apply it onto the shirt where you want it to be using your heat press machine. After 60 seconds, remove the sheet and you will see that the design has transferred but the colors are dull.
Step 2: Apply Bleach To The Design
Place cardboard between the shirt. Put some bleach in a bowl and apply it only on the design with a paint brush. Make sure it stays on the design and doesn’t spill over. Eventually you will see the colors becoming bright as you originally visualized.
Step 3: Rinse The Dark Shirt
Rinse, wash and dry your dark shirt and your sublimated print is ready. The only part that will be bleached is right where the design is. The rest of the shirt will not have the bleached effect. This works extremely well with solid designs as you can apply the bleach easily.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can easily carry out sublimation on dark color shirts with the simple techniques mentioned in our blog. Once the process is carried out successfully, you will be ecstatic with the result and win accolades from all. Moreover, your print will be durable and won’t wear off easily hence you will be able to enjoy your shirt for a long time to come.