How to Add Sublimation to a Cotton T-Shirt
With all the excitement around sublimation, it can be a little difficult to navigate the ins and outs. One of the biggest questions people ask is ‘can I add sublimation to a cotton t-shirt?’ The answer is no.
But at the same time the answer is yes.
What in the world am I talking about?
“Yes, or no, Mrs. Craft Lady?!”
Let me break it down for you and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Then, I’ll show you exactly how to get “yes” from “no.”
What Is Sublimation?
Sublimation uses high heat and ink that is really a dye to transfer an image to a substrate.
“But how is this different from, say, heat transfer vinyl, Mrs. Craft Lady?”
Well, in sublimation, you are essentially dyeing the fibers of the garment you are using. When heated, the ink turns into a gas and it becomes one with the shirt. But, the sublimation ink doesn’t bond with, or adhere to natural fibers. Because of that, TECHNICALLY sublimation will not work with a cotton t-shirt. So that’s our “no.”
Not really! Notice I said ‘technically’. There is a work-around and I think you’re going to like it.
Remember we established that sublimation ink will not bond with natural, cotton fibers. But what if there was something you could add between the cotton and the ink to make it want to accept that dye? Even more, (and this is what I love) what if that something that you added between the two elements also gave your garment a little shimmer, a little glitz?
Well, there is!
You see, although the shirt may be cotton or a high cotton blend, your glitter or sparkle htv isn’t cotton!
Read that again: YOUR GLITTER OR SPARKLE HTV ISN’T COTTON.
That means that you can add sublimation to the glitter and then add the glitter to your shirt! Isn’t that sooooo cool? From my personal experience, a clear, white, or very light colored glitter htv will work best. My favorite HTV is Siser Easy Weed and that includes the glitter HTV as well. It cuts and weeds like buttah (butter). In the tutorial below, I used Siser Clear Sparkle HTV. But they also have a line specifically for sublimation. It’s called “Siser Dye-Sublimation Glitter HTV.” In the opening picture of this post, I used the Rainbow White as my base.
Isn’t its sparkly? I’ll post it here again just so you can check it out one more time.
AND… If you’d like to grab the FREE sublimation png file, you can do that by clicking the button below.
I know you’re ready to see this in action so you can try it yourself. So let’s get to it. Gather your supplies, turn on your Cricut, and meet me back here.
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My Favorite Sublimation Supply Sources
Just like most anything else, the quality of your project depends on the materials you use.
I’ve become extremely hooked on Heat Transfer Warehouse for my heat transfer vinyl. The shipping is fast, the products are well-known quality items, and there is a variety of brands to shop. They don’t just carry HTV, either. I’ve purchased sublimation blanks and sublimation markers, too. They also carry sublimation printers, sublimation ovens, and heat presses.
I also am loving Hayes Paper Co. for my sublimation paper. I get very crisp images. The paper is not super thin like some I have tried. In fact, I have not had any of my dye transfer through to the parchment or butcher paper.
What if you don’t have a sublimation printer? It’s not the end of the world. If you are a Cricut user (or even if you’re not) I have good news for you.
Cricut Infusible Ink sheets, markers, and pens will work the exact same way as the process I described above. That’s right! So you can cut a design from a solid or patterned Infusible Ink sheet and press it onto glitter HTV and it will work. Or you can draw a design using Infusible Ink markers or pens and do the same thing.
JUST DON’T FORGET TO MIRROR.
You may also want to try WALASub Patterns HTV. It’s comparable to Cricut’s Infusible Ink Sheets. Currently, there are over 20 patterns listed on Heat Transfer Warehouse’s site. I’ve got my eye on the Kente Cloth pattern and the Rose Gold Glitter Marble pattern. I can’t wait to show you what I make with them.
Along those same lines, the Artesprix Sublimation Markers are amazing! They are similar to Infusible Ink markers. I’ve been playing with them and I’ll have some cool inspirational projects to share using them soon.
So what do you think? Will you be adding sublimation to a cotton shirt or hoodie or scarf using either of the methods above? I’d love to see what you create. So be sure to tag me or email me. I am EJsFunCrafting on all platforms.
cricutcricut infusible inkhow to
Enjoyed the project?
- 1 cotton t-shirt any color works
- 1 12" sheet glitter htv white or very light color is best
- Select the image you want on your shirt and size it. For a full front image on an adult size shirt, I size my image at 10.5"-11"
- Mirror the image and send it to print on the sublimation printer
- Either by hand or on your cutting machine, cut out the shape of the image from the glitter HTV. This can easily be done using the "hide contour" or "offset" features in Cricut Design Space. (Don't forget to mirror)
- Follow the manufacture's instructions for the glitter HTV and set your heat press to the appropriate temperature. For Siser Glitter HTV, I set my heat press to 320° F.
- Lay your shirt on your press and use a lint roller to remove stray fibers, lint, and other debris
- Press your shirt for a few seconds to remove moisture and wrinkles
- Place the glitter piece on the shirt and press for just a few seconds. Your goal here is to simply tack it down. Peel warm.
- Place your printed design on top of the glitter HTV, ink side down. Use a couple of pieces of heat resistant tape to hold it down.
- Set your heat press a little higher, to about 385-400° F.
- Place the teflon sheet or parchment paper over the design.
- Press for 35-45 seconds.
- Carefully remove the transfer sheet.
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