Top 10 Sublimation Ideas for DIY Shirts

Sublimation is a powerful method to use for printing specific designs on your tee-shirts. You can try out a range of different things for your DIY shirts. It is an easy and quick method of making custom permanent shirts. If you are new to sublimation and are looking for different sublimation ideas to sell that you can explore when it comes to your DIY shirts, this post is just right.

We will discuss everything associated with sublimation briefly and then will share some spectacular DIY sublimation shirt ideas.

What is Sublimation?

It is a process of transferring different types of sublimation dyes to transfer paper. From there, you will transfer it to your compatible materials with the help of heat transfer. With The heat transfer, the sublimation will infuse on the sublimates and into the materials permanently.

We will not dig down deep into this method and what type of ink or printer you can use. We covered all that in our previous posts. So instead, this post will focus on sublimation on shirts and some inspiring ideas.

How Does Sublimation Work on Shirts?

How Does Sublimation Work on Shirts

The sublimation dye infuses into the polyester coating to ensure that the color becomes permanent. With heat, you will open the pores in the fabric and turn the ink into gas.

It then turns back into solid form once it gets inside the material. It is a simple way of understanding how sublimation works. For your beginner sublimation projects remember, sublimation works the best with polyester.

Therefore, the best shirts that you can use for sublimation are 100 percent polyester. You can also go for polyester and cotton blends but with a higher polyester ratio. The higher the polyester content, the more permanent and vibrant your colors will be.

Nevertheless, if you look for a vintage look, you can go for a lower polyester ratio. However, the transfers you will get here will be a little faded, and your shorts will look a bit distressed and roughed up.

The Equipment that You Will Need

We will list down the equipment you will need to do sublimation on your shirts for your convenience. You will need,

  • A sublimation printer or a converted inkjet printer.
  • Sublimation ink and paper.
  • T-shirts for printing (can go with 100 percent polyester and 65 percent polyester or any other blend).
  • Lint roller.
  • Butcher paper.
  • Heat press.
  • Heat-resistant tape.

Doing Sublimation on Shirts

Doing Sublimation on Shirts

The entire sublimation process is the same for all fabrics, even if you use your shirts or pillowcases. You can work with polyester fabric or a blend based on your needs or preferences. The first thing you will need is to go for a design.

You can either create it from a designing software program or download a high-resolution version from the internet. But keep in mind that if it has letters or words or needs to be in a particular direction, you will have to print it in the mirror setting. Otherwise, the transfer will be flipped sideways.

You will notice that the printed image will look dull, and that is how it should be. Next, you will use a heat press and activate the dye to make those colors more vibrant.

Place your heat press on a complex table and put a piece of butcher paper right on top of it. You will need to put your butcher paper inside the shirt too. Doing this will prevent the design from bleeding through the back of the t-shirt. Make sure that your tee-shirt does not have any wrinkles on it. If there are any folds, your sublimation dye will be uneven.

Sublimating on a blend

We are going for a 65-35 polyester cotton blend first. You will need to lint roll your shirt, especially where the design will go. You will need the lint roller to get rid of any dust or pet hair. Otherwise, they will get caught under your design and cause a spot in the image.

Place your sublimation transfer sheet in a way that the image is facing down. It is better to tape it down with your heat-resistant tape. Doing this will prevent the design from displacing while using the press, causing ghosting in the design.

You will have to use a heat press because iron is not going to work. You will need constant and high heat. Just make sure that your heat press is bigger than the design you are transferring. Then, you will only have to press it down once.

Also, consider going through the instructions that come with your sublimation paper. Each paper needs to be worked with different temperatures and pressures. You will have to adjust accordingly.

You can place your butcher paper or a Teflon sheet right on top of your sublimation paper for the protection of your press. Place your press right over the image and do not move the apps around.

You can use medium to heavy pressure to press for 30 seconds. But go through the instructions that are mentioned for the type of sublimation paper you are using.

After 30 seconds, you can remove the press and make sure to pull it up straight, and do not slide anything around. Next, remove your butcher paper and then your transfer sheet. And you will have your sublimation design on your t-shirt.

Sublimation on dark shirts

Sublimation on dark shirts

Sublimation on dark shirts will not work well. This is because your sublimation ink will be darker on your shirt and become much harder to see. So, for example, if you have a blue-print shirt, it will not be visible with a dark blue or a black-colored shirt.

A good alternative for you to choose here is going for dark transfer papers. But you will have to keep in mind that the ink will not infuse into the shirt in this scenario. So, you will not be able to tell the difference between dark transfer paper and regular sublimation paper.

But they are not going to hold up well against multiple washes as sublimation papers do. There are some other sublimation hacks that you can try out to sublimate on dark shirts. However, the results will not be permanent, no matter what you do.

Sublimation on polyester

The entire process of sublimation is going to be the same. You will have to use the heat press to transfer your design to your t-shirt. For the best results, use temperature, time, and pressure settings according to the instructions that come with your sublimation paper.

Use your butcher paper and heat-resistant tape just like how you have used it in the above process. The only thing that changes here is your shirt, as you are using 100 percent polyester instead of a poly-cotton blend.

The change you will notice here compared to using a blended material is that the final transfer will be extremely vibrant. All the hues will be much more prominent, and your design will look much fresher. So, using 100 percent polyester does change the overall results.

Sublimation on cotton

So, what will happen if you go for a 100 percent cotton shirt? We all know that sublimation does not work that well on cotton shirts. There is no medium or coating on these cotton shirts where the ink will infuse into.

The transfers will happen, but the colors will fade. But that is not the end of things, right there. The permanency of these colors will also change. If you put your short through three washes, you will notice that the ink will fade away quite a bit. If you are looking for a very faded look, this might work just fine for you. Your tee-shirt will look vintage, no doubt.

Top 10 Sublimation Ideas for DIY Shirts

There are some brilliant sublimation project ideas that you can try out and bring in more creativity in your DIY sublimation works. Here are some sublimation ideas for DIY shirts that are worthy enough to try.

1.   Sublimate anything

Sublimate anything

The best thing about sublimation is you can use it to transfer any design on your poly shirt. If it is 100 percent polyester, the designs will have vibrant colors and clarity.

The design will be permanent too. So, you can print artwork or print some life quotes or any text that holds some meaning to you. Just make sure that when tendering letters and words, you use the mirror setting, or it will transfer flipped on your shirt.

2.   Sublimating on your tank top for gym

How about sublimating on your favorite tank top that you like to wear to your gym. Have a catchy design, or go for the best gym quote to portray your dedication to your workout. You can even try out a funny quote if you want to keep things on the lighter side. It is one of the best sublimation ideas for DIY shirts.

3.   Sublimating an image

Another one of the best sublimation ideas for DIY shirts is using an image. The best thing about sublimation is that not only can you work with designs, you can also work with an image. But remember to go for a high-resolution image only. Have a brilliant memory that you want to keep close to you, sublimate it onto your shirt, and wear it proudly.

4.   Full shirt patterned sublimation

You have the choice of printing your design right in the middle of your shirt or printing it in a pattern. If you want to try something new, you can design a pattern and print it throughout your shirt.

5.   Fill your shirt with the design

Fill your shirt with the design

If you have a high-resolution design that you can print your entire shirt from front to back with that design, leaving no space behind. You will need a larger heat press for this as it will cover the entire tee-shirt, and you can print the design in one go on either side of the shirt.

6.   Just print on the front side, leaving the sleeves

Another one of the sublimation ideas for DIY shirts is just printing in the specific areas of your shirt. You can print your design the same way, leaving the sleeves out. For that, you will have to place a piece of butcher paper on both your sleeves so the design does not transfer onto them.

You will get a unique style that you can try out on the back too. Make sure to cut the butcher paper according to the shape of the sleeves and use heat-resistive tape to keep it there on your shirt.

7.   Sublimate on your kid shirts

You can sublimate some exciting designs or text based on the habits or hobbies of your kids. For example, they like playing some sport or love to participate in different activities. Then, you can use that to create the design and give them the shirt to wear.

8.   Sublimate using heat transfer vinyl (HTV) and Cricut

Another brilliant variation that you can bring in is heat transfer vinyl.  You can use this vinyl to add glitter to your designs and even print on dark or black fabrics. If you want to innovate with your creativity, this is where you should be heading.

9.   How about using a wall of text as your design?

If you do not want a design but want a unique look on your t-shirt, you can go for a wall of text design. You can take any text or specific one you want and print it on your shirt.

You can use it in a pattern if you are using a smaller image or increasing the resolution and printing a larger, more visible text in one go. Or you can fill your t-shirt with it from front to back.

10.  Bleaching and sublimation

You can even bleach your t-shirt and then use sublimation to transfer your design onto it. You can apply bleach on your t-shirts using a paintbrush or a spray bottle.

Just make sure to use a barrier (cardboard or trash bags) on the inside of your shirt so it does not saturate the backside. There is no particular way to bleach your shorts, and this is where your creativity comes in.

After you have got your design, it’s time to work with the transfers. It is by far among the best sublimation ideas for DIY shirts as it allows you to be creative.


What are the best shirts for sublimation?

For the best color quality and vibrancy, you should go for 100 percent polyester. However, if you want a faded or vintage look, you can work with 50 to 60 percent polyester. Also, make sure you go for white-colored shirts for the best results. If you are looking to go for black-colored shirts, use heat transfer vinyl or dark transfer paper.

Is heat transfer vinyl mandatory for Cricut design?

Yes, you will have to go for heat transfer vinyl if you look for the best Cricut output on your tee-shirt. You can later fill it with a design of your choice.

Can I use any glitter for sublimation?

Using glitter is one of the sublimation ideas for DIY shirts. It is better to use light-colored glitter for sublimation. Therefore, white-colored glitter is most common for this purpose. Light-colored glitter will make your design pop.


There are different sublimation ideas for DIY shirts that you can try out.  The important thing is that you need to have the right tools at your hand for the best results. For example, 100 percent poly shirts are best to provide you with permanent and vivid colors.

For faded looks, you can go with cotton blends. Follow the instructions carefully for your sublimation paper and follow the temperature and pressure settings accordingly for the best results. 

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