How to Do Sublimation on Cotton T-Shirts?

How to sublimate on 100% cotton step by step

Sublimation on cotton was once considered a stupid idea. However, brands are experimenting with the advancement and new techniques,  sublimation on material other than 100% polyester. It is because cotton is preferred over polyester due to comfort and overall user experience.

Although sublimating on cotton might be less durable, forcing you to play around with light tones only but the results will be worth it. Sublimation on cotton will you give the room to enjoy your favorite designs, cotton t-shirts, or sweatshirts.

If you’re desperately waiting to learn “How to sublimate on cotton,” I won’t make you wait longer. Here is a detailed guide on sublimation printing on cotton fabric using transfer paper in your sublimation printer. We listed three tested methods you can choose according to your need.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Material Needed for Sublimation on Cotton

complete process for Sublimation on cotton

Sublimation on Cotton-Complete Process

The process of sublimation on cotton is not as complicated as it seems. You may say it is similar to sublimation on polyester, with the difference that you’ll need a special sublimation transfer paper for cotton.

The process will remain the same with an additional step from designing to printing. You’ll start by designing the graphics or selecting them from the existing ones. Then you’ll apply heat and pressure to the fabric using a special transfer paper.

The paper will work as a polyester coat for the fabric to let the ink stick to the surface. Due to this paper’s involvement only, sublimation on cotton is made possible.

Read Also; How Sublimation printing work?

1. Sublimation Through Poly T spray

We’re sure you must be excited to learn the process of cotton sublimation. we have listed steps you need throughout the process.

1.1 Designing

Sublimation on cotton or any other material starts with designing. It is the first and most important part because, without a design, you cannot print one.

For designing, you don’t always need heavy or professional software. You can do that with basic knowledge about designing software and graphic designing. Therefore, you’re free to choose whatever software suits you better. You can also download your favorite design from CreativeFabrica according to your need.

If you’re just starting…

It is recommended to play around with contrasting colors that are visible on white. Be careful with the colors, and don’t only rely on what the screen shows you. It is because printers don’t produce the same tones and shades as visible on screen. Meaning you’ll always have a minor difference in colors. It might get difficult for newbies to understand the percentage of difference.

Therefore, it’s best to design your graphics with a minimum of 150% CMYK. CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. It is a color mode used by professionals for graphics that has anything to do with printing.

It will leave a better overall look of the design when done printing. Also, make sure to get a PNG of your design in high resolution. Bad pixels can leave you with a blurry image on the fabric.

1.2 Getting your design printed

Once you’ve finalized your design, place the special cotton sublimation paper on your printer and send a command to print it. Ensure the paper’s position is accurate; otherwise, the printer might show an error.

At first, your design will be wet, which you need. From now on, you need to be a little quick so the ink does dry out before you transfer it to your fabric.

Preheat your shirt:

Pressing is an important yet simple step. Prepare your shirt with a lint roller for the print. It will remove any dirt or dust from the shirt that you might not see with a naked eye.For about 10 to 30 seconds at 30 ° F ,press the t-shirt, sweatshirt, or the garment you want to get printed. Press it to offer a neat surface for further steps.

pre heat shirt to remove dirt

1.3 Spray your shirt:

Due to the compatibility of sublimation ink with polyester fabric and not with cotton, spray your cotton shirt with a Poly-T spray. Poly-T Plus works as a sublimation hack for cotton. It allows the fabric to absorb ink through manipulation. Mark the required area and spray it with a Poly-T sublimation spray. Let the spray sit for some time to prepare your garment for sublimation.

spray poly t plus to create polyester layer

1.4 Place your design on the sprayed area:

Place your design over the garment where you’ve sprayed and cover all four sides with heat transfer tape to ensure the design does not move inside the heat press. Before continuing, place the silicone sheets between the shirt to prevent color bleeding.

Center your design at spray area

1.5 Pressing through sublimation pressing machines

For sublimation on cotton, you don’t need any special sublimation machine. Instead, the one that works with polyester will do the job.

Now place your shirt on the heat press. To avoid getting the print on the backside, place a mat between and over the shirt.

For this step, set the temperature as guided by special transfer paper. If nothing is mentioned, you can set the temperature to 385 ° F. Press the design on the garment with a pressing machine for about 60 to 70 seconds for best results. Once done, simply peel off the paper.

awesome look sublimation on cotton

If you’re getting problems to understand this method you can watch this video.

2. Easy Subli

Easy Subli is a heat transfer vinyl that makes it simple to sublimate onto various materials, including cotton. This is a common technique since many individuals find it challenging to sublimate cotton; for this reason, easy subli is a practical way to accomplish this.
Cotton cannot be sublimated using the conventional sublimation technique because polyester is the only material to which sublimation ink adheres, but by using an Easy subli sheet which serves as a mask during the sublimation on the cotton process. This easy subli mask is covered with the original design to make this work on a cotton shirt.

Easy Subli Complete Procedure

Design your image using the same approach as in the prior technique. The process of designing is identical. The base of the image should be copied and pasted on a new sheet after ungrouping the image. Once the design is finished, print it along with the Easy Subli sheet (which we’ll use as a mask). Trim the prints using cameo printing cuts.

  • Start the heat press.
  • Remove any moisture by pressing the fabric.
  • Remove the easy subli mask’s extraneous material. Trim the excessive part.
  • Remove the mask gently from the paper.
  • Effectively attach the easy subli trimmed component to your shirt.

Put the easy subli portion on your shirt, press it down for five seconds, and then give it some time to cool. Take your design and precisely align it to the easy subli mask. To apply the design, use heat tape. Press it to 190 degrees for 90 seconds. Remove the heat tape and peel off your design.

100% CottonPrint( do not Mirror siser) cut & weedWait 24 hours before first wash
100% PolyesterCover with Teflon Transfer Sheet or Multipurpose PaperTurn garment inside out
Poly/Cotton BlendPreheat garment of 2-3 secondsMachine wash COLD with mild detergent
Apply design at 310°F/155°CNO bleach
Use MEDIUM pressure for 15 secondsDry at a normal dryer setting on household machines
Peel EasySubli mask HOTDo not dry clean
If areas of design lift after application, replace cover sheet and re-press for 5-10 secondsLiquid fabric softener not recommended
Instructions apply to the material only, please follow garment washing instructions as well

3. Fabric Cotton Sheet-Forever Subli Light Method:

No cutting or weeding with the fabric cotton sheet technique

DescriptionForever Subli-light is an innovative paper similar to standard sublimation paper but is created especially for transferring dyes onto white or light-coloured cotton fabric. Forever Subli Light can be used on wooden goods and light polyester, polyblend fabrics
Printable MaterialsDIN A4, DIN A3, Letter, Tabloid
SizesWhite, light Cotton and mixed fabrics
Light Polyester
Light Silk
Characteristics1-Paper Solution
Easy & Fast Application
No Background
High Washability
Extremly Soft Touch
High Stretchability
Brilliant Colors & True Black
Suitable for printers with Sublimation Ink
RequirementsSuitable for A4, A3 (Letter/Tabloid) & large format printers with Sublimation Ink

Forever subli light can sublimate light-colored cotton clothing
In no time. If you use sublimation paper on cotton fabric, the colors won’t last long, especially when you wash the fabric. However, there is a sublimation paper that can be transferred to cotton.

Subli Light Printer Settings:

  • Subli light is offered in a glitter finish, ideal for fashionable designs. Capable of printing on sawgrass subli light sg500 and sg1000 printers. 
  • On Sawgrass Print Manager, make a setting. Launch SPM, then choose the program’s Taskbar icon, go to Options, select Edition, and select Enable Custom edition. 
  • Enter “forever” in the blank textbox to open the edition window, then click “Apply” and “OK” to let SPM restart with the “forever edition” enabled.
  • Insert the Subli Light paper into your printer. 
  • Select Subli Light (No cut) after clicking Print the Design. Before printing on SPM, make sure the mirror option is selected.


As the transfer is ready, It’s time to apply it on the shirt. Set your heat press to apply firm pressure for 20 to 30 seconds at 338 degrees Fahrenheit.

Please place your shirt on the bottom platen of your machine once it is ready, and prepress for 5 seconds. Put the shirt with the transfer facing down and then press. Wait until the timer reaches zero, then open the heat press and quickly pull the subli light transfer off by a corner. With the forever subli light technology, sublimation on cotton has now been accomplished.

Tips to improve the quality:

  • Put a cover sheet over your design to boost its quality. Firmly press the design for an additional 30 seconds.
  • You can create a glossy shine with a pro-grade nonstick sheet or a matte finish with parchment paper.
  • For a softer finish when it’s hot, lightly press a t-shirt.

Forever Subli Light Technology Vs. Easy Subli

The Easy subli technique requires us to apply the design to an easy subli sheet which is further used as a mask to apply the design on the shirt.

However, while using Forever subli light, we employ a NO cutting or weeding process and print a design onto a special sublimation paper made explicitly for sublimation on cotton or light-colored materials. With this technique, the pattern does not need to be cut or weeded, a sheet mask is not required, and it is simple and quick. Therefore, in the Expert’s opinion, the forever subli light method is practical, useful, and simple to use.



The sublimation methods described above are easy to follow and give you fair results as long as you follow the processes as they are. In this article, we have given you a range of choices. You can choose a method based on your ease and convenience. In the end, I hope the article will help you make better sales with cotton sublimated garments. It might take you a few times to master the technique, but once you do it, there’s no return. For further queries or discussion, feel free to contact us!

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