How to sublimate on dark colors: best guide in 2022

A clear and detailed guide on how to sublimate on dark colors

In the modern world, more and more people prefer clothes with an interesting print, rather than the usual monotonous fabric and even the most popular classic brands are making clothes with modern prints to dilute their style and increase the targeted audience.

The print has long ceased to be just a colorful pattern, even ordinary inscriptions on dark T-shirts can have a hidden meaning, for example, a quote from your favorite game or series. Or just a custom T-shirt, seemingly with a regular photo, can be someone’s merchandise.

Previously, a printed T-shirt could only be bought in stores, spending much more money than on the item itself, as you are paying a percentage of shop rent and workers’ salary as well.

Now, creating your custom and unique things thanks to sublimation printing is quite possible with the help of a heat press.

However, the questions arises for those who have ever tried to create their own designer T-shirt: how to work with black fabric? How to sublimate on dark colors?

Sometimes a black fabric can absorb a pattern or, on the contrary, it seems more difficult to print on it, because of the habit of choosing a pattern on a white background.

In this article, we will fully analyze how exactly you can make a sublimation design on a black T-shirt.

What is sublimation?

Sublimation is a way of transferring a pattern or inscription to various materials and surfaces, such as ceramics, fabric, wood, or metal.

What is sublimation printing?

From this, we can conclude that sublimation printing is a way of transferring a design to a fabric using a heat press machine and ink, in which case we get a result like a design on a T-shirt.

Process of sublimation

It would be quite logical to understand the principle of operation of this type of printing.

Firstly, everyone uses special paper, which already has the desired design, and, under the influence of heat pressing, the ink changes its state of aggregation, soaking into the fabric of the T-shirt.

The process is quite fast, and it is almost impossible to follow how the ink turns from a liquid into a “gas” and later soaks into a T-shirt.

It should also be said that sublimation printing, unlike drawing or embroidery on fabric, is a permanent process.

What are the reasons to sublimate and not sublimate on dark shirts?

It is impossible to transfer the drawing to a black T-shirt right away. Moreover, sublimation printing only using paper, not vinyl, will be impossible for dark colors. The drawing will be corrupted. However, vinyl resources are great for this task, such as glitter white heat transfer with vinyl.

Moreover, you must understand the material of your item, for example, if it is cotton, or dye sublimation ink, even the highest quality can be a failed attempt.

However, on the other hand, now black is becoming a more and more popular color and remains a classic of all time, many drawings look more solid on a black background, so it’s still worth trying to sublimate on a dark shirt, even if there is a fear of failing.

Using the instructions in this article, you will understand that transferring a design to a T-shirt can be a daunting task, but it is doable.

Read more in the article – HOW TO SUBLIMATE ON DARK COLOR T-SHIRTS

How can I sublimate on black shirts? How to sublimate on dark colors?

Since we have already discussed how it is possible to make sublimation prints on black T-shirts, it is worthwhile to take a closer look at the instructions on how exactly it is possible to turn your black item into a custom one.

However, before starting, it is worth noting that if this is your first time, it is better to use a test dark fabric and pattern first, so as not to miscalculate and not be upset later because of an unsuccessful result.

To learn how to sublimate on a dark shirt, you first need to make sure that you are prepared for this printing process.


In the beginning, you should have a list of the following materials, which will be needed in every step of this guide:

  1. Heat press
  2. Shirts (in our case dark shirts) 
  3. Vinyl cutter or scissors
  4. Parchment paper or parchment sheet
  5. Inkjet printer or sublimation printer 
  6. Lint roller
  7. Heat transfer vinyl 
  8. Heat resistant tape

If you have made sure that you have all the necessary things, and you have prepared the time and place to start transferring the picture to your things, now you can read the detailed instructions.

Instruction on sublimation printing on dark shirts

The instructions for transferring a pattern to black t-shirts can be called quite long; however, you must understand all the security measures and that each step must be completed for a good result.

Below, you can see detailed tips, which will help you to customize dark shirts with prints:

  1. Sublimation print

First of all, you need to prepare your dark shirt for screen printing and the design you want to make sublimation with.

For the clothes themselves, you should use heat-resistant tape, as it will prevent unexpected consequences, such as damaged fabric. In any computer program, create the design or find a photo you want to print and make sure that the quality is high. 

If you are confident with heat-resistant tape and the design itself, you can read further.

  1. Sublimation printer and sublimation paper

Now, using an inkjet printer, you will have to create a physical version of the print, by loading vinyl to sublimation paper. 

On the sublimation paper are two sides: shiny and matte. You should print your design on the matte side.

If you print on the shiny side, the ink in your image will be looking bad. 

  1. Vinyl cutter 

You have to check that vinyl and paper have the same sizes. 

You can use a special vinyl cutter or scissors, it depends on what is more comfortable for you. 

  1. Lint roller and heat press

Now you will have to work with a lint roller. 

With a lint roller, you will have to make the surface of clothes flatter and “smooth”, to create the perfect base for the design. 

Then, you can use a heat press or iron, it depends on what is more useful for you. 

  1. Settings of heat press

The temperature of the heat press should be around 360 Fahrenheit.


The pressure should be medium or 2-3 bar, depending on your machine

Then you should do the following:

Put your clothes under a heat press, then on the top, put heat resistant sheet and parchment paper, this will help you to prevent a situation, where vinyl may be destroyed by high temperature. You should press it for about 15 seconds. 

  1. Vinyl “Sticker” backing off

You need to wait until the dark shirt will cool off. 

After this, you can just back off the vinyl part as a sticker. 

  1. Check the result of the sublimation vinyl 

Now you should see, how the design was sublimated on your dark shirts.

But, even if it doesn’t end up perfect, don’t get upset as it is your first try, try to look at the instructions again and understand, what you might do wrong. 

Don’t forget about safety, as the temperature used here is hazardous, so you should be confident about having everything, that will prevent any physical damage. 

Differences between heat transfer paper and heat transfer vinyl:

Some people don’t know what to choose “heat transfer paper” and “heat transfer vinyl” and then they may damage clothes by choosing the wrong type of sublimation printing, so we will help to get deeper into sublimation with a heat press using paper and vinyl. 

  1. Dye sublimation printing process of heat transfer paper

We will talk about heat transfer with the sublimation paper.

In fact, in this method, you have a two-stage process of transferring the design to clothes.

First of all, you print the drawing on transfer paper.

Then you transfer it with heat to the adhesive sheet from the transfer paper and heat bond it again to the clothing.

This method is suitable for black things, but it will be looking much better on light-colored fabrics. 

  1. Getting a sublimation print by heat transfer vinyl

After we talked about the sublimation paper, we can discuss the method of sublimation vinyl or heat transfer vinyl process. 

Firstly, you will have to cut the vinyl to transfer it to your clothes, unlike paper.

What’s more, the heat transfer vinyl is folded with a plastic surface on the top side and adhesive on the back.

In this case, we can say that you are physically attaching the design to the clothes, and not mixing the ink with the fabric.

Also, heat transfer vinyl is perfect for black clothes.

What is better: heat transfer paper or heat transfer vinyl?

Let’s start with the fact that it is difficult to say exactly and objectively what is better than heat transfer vinyl or paper since both methods have their advantages.

If we are talking about usability, then this is heat transfer paper, since you do not need to cut out the design, which is convenient, especially if the design is very small.

On the other hand, heat transfer vinyl is better to sublimate on dark clothes, since you are gluing the finished design, so it cannot be smeared with ink.

The best answer would be that for the topic of this article, the design of black T-shirts, vinyl is more suitable.

How long can my sublimation on dark clothes last?

Sublimation dark color shirts are permanent.  

So, we can conclude that print on dark garments should last as long as possible and as long as the clothes themselves wouldn’t beware.

But, on the other hand, it, of course, depends on the material and type of washing, as some might have wash resistance, and others could be more affected by it. 

Also read: Detailed and clear instructions on how to sublimate on wood

How do you get dark black sublimation?

The dye sublimation process with sublimation ink with dark colors on the light-colored shirt is very easy.

All you have to do is to have sublimation ink in your inkjet printers.

However, dark sublimation ink would be hard to use on dark fabrics, so it would be better to have light-colored shirts as the base. 

Read also: Difference between screen printing and sublimation.

Can I use sublimation paper on dark fabric?

This question may appear after discussing the differences between sublimation paper and sublimation vinyl, using heat transfer. 

And it would be fair to say that yes you can use sublimation paper, but not without vinyl part, as ink on dark garments will not just be held. 

The usage of sublimation paper is compulsory for any type of clothing in printing with sublimation, to get a perfect print on dark clothes, you need to add vinyl.


To sum everything up, we can say that transferring a design to a black T-shirt using a heat press machine and sublimation paper is quite realistic, the main thing is to keep the correct instruction“dye sublimation on dark T-shirts” so as not to spoil the quality of the drawing or the quality of the T-shirt.

Moreover, now you understand the difference between heat transfer vinyl and heat transfer paper.

We hope that after reading this article question “how to sublimate on dark fabrics?” will not be problematic for you, and now you can enjoy making custom and unique clothes, without limiting yourself by their colors and the peculiarities of sublimation printing. 

Also, you may be interested in – Sublimation for beginners: easy and fun!






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