Sublimation printing is a very easy way to transfer the designs to different substrates. The sublimation printing provides VVID and vibrant colors onto the fabric. We can print a wide range of designs with it, but the downside is that it only applies to some materials. A few years ago, the designer used screen printing to do sublimation on the cotton fabric, but now we can sublimate the cotton substrates with the same or even better color quality.
I have been working in the sublimation business for 7 years and have transferred the designs to many substrates. Most of the people asked me how to sublimate on cotton? That’s why I have prepared a list of sublimation methods on the cotton. After reading this article, you can make your sublimation coating spray.
How Does the Sublimation Process Work on Fabric?
Before going deep into the topic, we first need to learn how the sublimation process works on the fabric. First, a design is printed on the sublimation paper, and we put the printer side onto the fabric and secured it with the heat-resistant tap. The next and important step where the magic happens is to keep the fabric and printed design in a heat press machine under a certain pressure. After applying the heat, the sublimation ink changes its state from liquid to gas and sticks to the fabric. The ink can stick easily with the polyester fabric because it contains at least 85% of the polymer and can easily open its porous when heated under high pressure. After cooling down, it can make a chemical bond with the ink.
Can We do Sublimation on 100% Cotton?
Yes, you can do sublimation on 100% cotton, but the ink will fade out quickly, even in a single wash, because the cotton contains 99% cellulose. It didn’t open its pores while the ink-transferring process, which caused poor bonding of the ink and cotton. But you can help the ink stick properly with the cotton by using some tips and tricks I have shared with you below.
Things required to do sublimation on the cotton:
- Cotton substrate/shirt
- Printed design on the sublimation paper.
How to Sublimate on Cotton Fabric with Vinyl?
Sublimation on the cotton substrates with heat transfer vinyl is a very easy way to get the best results on the substrate that contains 100% cotton. Providing the best temperature and pressure will amaze you with the results; you can also use it on dark color fabric. Here I will share the step-by-step process of sublimating the cotton t-shirts with vinyl. The things required in this method are Vinyl sheets, a Cutting machine, a heat press machine, and cotton fabric.
- The first step is to create the designs on your laptop or computer; if you need to design custom designs, you can hire a designer on different platforms, such as Fiverr.
- Now there are two ways to print the design; you will print it directly onto the vinyl sheet, and in seconds, the design is first printed on the sublimation paper and then onto the vinyl sheet. I noticed that the second option provides me with the best results, so I suggest you do some extra stuff if you want the best outcome.
- Cut the design outline from the paper using a cutting machine; you can also use scissors if you don’t have a cutting machine.
- Remove the wrinkle of the cotton t-shirt by preheating it in the heat press machine; you can also use the simple iron in this process.
- Put the vinyl sheet onto the cotton substrate and secure it with heat-resistant tape to avoid wrinkles during the heat press process.
- Now press your design in a heat press machine at 310 F for 15 seconds and make sure to use butcher paper or Teflon paper on both sides of your design; it will help you to get the best results.
- Open the heat press machine tilt and quickly keep the product from outside the machine to avoid overheating. Use heat-resistant gloves for safety.
This method is a little tricky, but it provides the best results. You can also sublimate the dark-colored cotton substrates with this technique. The design that is sublimated with vinyl is challenging to fade. Using the best fade and water-resistant sublimation ink, you can safely wash the products without hesitation.
How to Sublimate on Cotton Fabric With Sublimation Spray?
Sublimation with the spray is a very easy and simple way to sublimate the cotton substrates, even if you are a beginner. The sublimation spray contains liquid polyester, and when it sprays onto the cotton substrate, it makes a layer that helps the design stick with the cotton efficiently. In simple words, the sublimation coating spray creates heat and pressure-tolerant material onto the cotton substrate. Here are the steps to do it properly.
- Create your digital design with any software.
- Print it on the sublimation paper using mirror printing, and make sure to use the sublimation ink.
- Preheat the product to remove moisture and wrinkles.
- Put the butcher paper underneath the shirt.
- Now spray the area you want to sublimate, and be careful not to oversoak the shirt with the first coating; otherwise, it feels stiff and can damage the fabric.
- Dry the coating. There are 3 methods to dry it properly(1. Let it dry naturally, 2. You can use the hair dryer, 3. Set the heat press machine temperature at 380F to 400F and press it for 5 to 10 seconds). I love the third method because it gives a very smooth finish.
- Secure the design with heat-resistant tape on the coated area and press it for 30 to 40 seconds under the heat press machine at 380F-400F.
- Peel off the sublimation paper gently. Your design is ready to use.
Sublimation with the polyester spray is a quick method to transfer the design to many substrates, including Cotton T-Shirts, towels, socks, hoodies, tote bags, aprons, handbags, and on gift boxes. It is the best option for you if you are starting a business. This method can also be used to sublimate the fabric, a blend of cotton and polyester. The only drawback is that we can’t use this for the dark-colored fabric; if you want a method to transfer the designs to the dark-colored substrate, you can check the next.
How to Sublimate on Cotton Fabric With Glitter HTV?
As the name suggests, Glitter HTV is a shiny heat transfer vinyl used to sublimate cotton and other substrates. Most of the old designers already know this method. The glitter HTV comes in 12 different pieces to create a wide range of designs.
- First, create or edit your design in designing software and upload it on the circuit design space; you can also use the other software you are currently using.
- Select the complex option and hit the continue button. A new window will open with two options one for direct print and the other is print the cut image, go ahead and select the print, cut the image now, upload the main image again and match it with the overlay image.
- Next to this, select the offset button, and an outline will be created automatically around your image. You can also add the custom outline value.
- Go to print and cut the dropdown, and change it to basic. Make sure to check the mirror image settings. Put the shiny side of the HTV down on the grip mat and insert it into the cutting machine. This step is very important because if you cut the right side, then it will save you money.
- Print the actual design on the sublimation paper by using the sublimation printer.
- Cut the edges of the sublimation paper as closely as you can.
- Put the HTV into the cotton substrate and press it in a heat press machine at 320 for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Remove the transparent sheet from the HTV and put the actual design we have already printed with the sublimation printer onto the HTV. Secure it with the Teflon tape and heat it under the heat press at 385 for 45 seconds. Use the butcher paper between the heat transfer machine and the product.
The colors that came out with this method are very vibrant and amazing. We can also use this method to transfer the designs to the dark-colored cotton substrates. While the process is a little tricky for the beginner, once you learn it, you will enjoy it a lot. For a small business, I recommend this method because it is economical and provides the best results as compared to the other methods. Unfortunately, we can’t sublimate the 100% polyester dark and light substrates with the glitter HTV.
How to Sublimate on Cotton Fabric With Subli Mat Sheets?
Sublimation with the subli mat sheets is a new creative way to transfer the design to the cotton substrates. This process is very simple; the subli mat sheet is a polyester patch that we press on a cotton substrate. The sublimation paper and a cutting machine are unnecessary for this method; we print our designs directly onto the sublimat sheet. Most of the subli mat sheets come in an 8×11 size, but the cool thing is that you can cut it according to your design.
- Create bright and cheerful designs on the computer. If you need to improve your design, you can hire a designer from Fiverr.
- Open your printer’s paper tray and insert the subli mat sheet. One side of the sheet has a glossy finish, and the other is rough. Place sheet with dull fabric side to pint.
- Let it cure for 2 to 24 hours. Your design looks faded after drying out; don’t worry; it will provide amazing colors after the heat transfer process.
- Now remove the lint from the garment using the lint roller and heat it under the heat press machine for 10 seconds at 385.
- Put the shiny side of the subli glaze down to the fabric you want to sublimate. If you are trying to sublimate the t-shirt, use the butcher paper on the midland top of the shirt.
- Press it for 20 seconds under a heat press machine at 380 degrees. Wait 24 hours and wash the fabric.
Sublimation on the cotton with this process is easy but time-consuming. You can transfer the 8.5”x11.5″ designs on both dark&light color cotton substrates. After washing the product, it will give you a very smooth finish. If your printer doesn’t print the borderless prints, I suggest you cut the white border from the subliglaze before the heat pressing process.
Note: Do not overheat the product because it can create a problem with the adhesive.
How to Sublimate on Cotton Fabric With Forever Subliflex 202?
Sublimation with the Forever Subliflex 202 provides a 100% ink transfer rate. You can try this method if you want a perfect, smooth, glossy finish. It provides a very thin design compared to the other methods I have discussed, and it is suitable for dark&light color cotton products. So, you are no longer limited to single-color designs. An automatic cutting machine is necessary to cut the designs on the transfer sheet. Try the sublimation spray method if you don’t have a cutting machine.
- Print your designs in the mirror image mode on the white side of the transfer sheet, and make sure to use the sublimation ink&printer for this process.
- Now cut the contours with the automatic paper-cutting machine and weed away the excess sheet.
- Set your heat press to 360F and press the product that you want to sublimate for five seconds to remove the wrinkles and humidity from the cotton.
- Position the glassy side of the transfer paper up on the product, and to avoid humidity bubbles, press it for 15 seconds with 10 sheets of regular copy paper on top.
- Peel the film once it is completely cold put the fabric under the heat press machine, and repress it for 30 seconds at 360F; it will help the colors diffuse properly. Cover the fabric with regular butcher paper before heat pressing.
This process will give you unique colors with an ultra-high ink transfer rate. The products that are sublimated in this way have a high wash and fade resistance. If you are starting a sublimation business, I recommend using this method because it is very economical and quick. But remember that an automatic cutting machine is necessary to cut the designs before pressing.
How to Sublimate on Cotton Fabric with Polymeride Powder?
Polymeride is a synthetic material and it consists of nylon particles. Sublimation with the polymeride powder is a new and innovative way to transfer the designs on the cotton substrates. The automatic paper-cutting machine is optional to do sublimation with this method. If you follow the steps I have discussed below, you will get a high transfer rate and vibrant and cheerful colors on the fabric.
- First, print your design with mirror mode on silicon or slow-drying paper.
- Apply the polymeride powder immediately after the printing. Spread the powder on the printed side of the paper. Make sure to use only fine-grinded powder; otherwise, the design will get a little grainy.
- Now cure the dust, use the heat press machine at 350F for this process and give the heat to the paper at a distance of 3 centimeters for 30 seconds. You can also heat the polymeride dust at the same temperature in the oven for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Prepress the fabric at 360F for 5 seconds to remove the wrinkles and humidity.
- Place the garment you will customize on the heat-press machine, place the design face down, use the butcher paper on the top, and heat it for 34 seconds at 185 c.
- After cooling the fabric, remove the paper gently.
This process is very simple and affordable, and it will amaze you with the results. You can reuse the polymeride powder for the next projects. We can also make the complicated design with this method because it prints directly from paper to the fabric. But we can’t use this method to transfer the designs to dark-colored cotton fabric because it works only with light-colored cotton products.
How to Sublimate on Cotton Fabric With Heat n’ Bond?
This method is useful for dark color cotton garments. We need a white polyester fabric, haet n’bond and sublimation paper. Sublimation on cotton with this method is much cheaper than the HTV or polyester spray. The sublimated products with this method are completely washable and fade-resistant.
- Print your design on the sublimation paper. I am using the A sub-sublimation paper for this method.
- First, we will transfer the design to a piece of polyester fabric. Make sure to clean the fabric with a lean scroller before transferring the design.
- Put the sublimation paper onto the fabric and secure it with heat-resistant tape. Press it under the heat press for 40 seconds at 400F.
- Place the heat n’ bond on the back of the polyester fabric and ensure that the glossy part goes to the fabric and the second part to the back.
- Cover it with butcher paper and press it under the heat press for 5 seconds only.
- Cut the extra part of the design using scissors; you can also use the automatic cutting machine.
- Peel off the paper, align it to the material you want to sublimate and press it for 10 at 400. Place a piece of Teflon paper on top before heat pressing.
The process is affordable and simple, giving a smooth and excellent design on the t-shirts, pillows and other cotton products. You can also use the same method to transfer the designs to light-coloured cotton substrates.