How to Do Sublimation on Cotton T-Shirts-Easy Guide?

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 have 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.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

How Does Sublimation Works?

You must be wondering how the question “why can’t you sublimate on cotton” has suddenly changed into “how to do sublimation on cotton.” To understand the process better, it’s important to understand the concept of dye-sublimation.

For those who don’t know…

Sublimation is a unique idea of transferring prints, designs, or typography on clothing materials or canvas fabric. During the process, the ink transfuses itself into a gas through heating.

Before some time, it was not possible to sublimate cotton because the material was resistant to sublimation ink. In contrast, polyester is the only material that welcomes the sublimation to transfer beautiful patterns and designs into dark fabrics, mugs, and ceramic plates.

Its easy-going nature with sublimation still makes it the best material for the process. However, the love for cotton has convinced engineers to develop the techniques. Further, we’ll discuss sublimation printing on cotton fabric.

Why is It easier to Sublimate on polyester than cotton?

As mentioned earlier…

Sublimation on polyester is the oldest technique; no wonder why banners, flags, and graphic clothing are made of polyester. On the other hand, the sublimation of cotton is still under development. It is being experimented with, but you can’t expect the same lasting results on cotton fabric as you do with polyester.

Here are some reasons why polyester sublimation is more durable than cotton fabric.

Acceptance to dye or sublimation ink

The first reason that makes polyester sublimation durable is its acceptance of sublimation ink. It works well with sublimation ink and allows lasting and beautiful results. In contrast, you cannot achieve the same lasting results with cotton sublimation (unless done through a special process) because it is resistant to sublimation ink.

The process of sublimation

The process of sublimation on polyester is simpler and easier than cotton. All you need to do is select the design, create an outline, and get it printed for polyester. For dye sublimation on cotton, you need to switch between methods and be careful with the colors when printing.

The durability of the design

The designs sublimated on polyester stay beautiful for a longer time. It allows the prints to rest smoothly on the surface without cracking, even if you wash it. For cotton, there are high chances of tracks in designs and graphics, especially after a wash; if not, the colors of the print might fade water some time.

Additionally, when you print a design on polyester, it gets embedded in the fabric, whereas cotton only sticks to the surface.

How to press 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.

Material needed for sublimation on cotton

We’re sure you must be excited to learn the process of cotton sublimation. But before we move forward, here is a list of material you’ll need throughout the process.

complete process for Sublimation on cotton

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.

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.

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.

3. Pressing the design on your fabric

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. Then position the paper with a mirror or reflective design on the shirt and cover all four sides of the design 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.

4. 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.

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.

5. Make your print durable

Before wrapping up, here is another trick you can use for sublimation on cotton.

It involves Poly-T Plus, which works as a sublimation hack for cotton. It allows the fabric to absorb ink through manipulation.

Here’s how you can do it…

  • Take your garment and press it to offer a neat surface for further steps.
  • Mark the required area and spray it will be special sublimation spray.
  • Let the spray sit for some time to prepare your garment for sublimation.
  • Get your design printed and place it over the garment where you’ve sprayed.
  • Now place your shirt on the heat press. To avoid getting the print on the backside, place a mat between and over the shirt.
  • Press the shirt at 385 degree Fahrenheit for about 60-70 seconds
  • Remove the shirt and peel the print paper carefully, and you’re done with it.



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’ll do it, there’s no coming back. For further queries or discussion, feel free to contact us!

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