Why Is My Sublimation Not Transferring?  Sublimation Facts &; More

Table of Contents

sublimation printing

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

There can be more than one reason why your sublimation is not transferring.  The most common ones are: (1) Your ink is not sublimation ink, or (2) your heat press is not hot enough to transfer the image.  But there can really be more than just these reasons.

Read on if you have more issues with sublimation printing.

To make things clear, let’s talk about what your final output in sublimation printing should be.  Of course, the exact image you printed is supposed to be the image you want to be transferred onto your material.  One of the various processes that will make this possible is sublimation printing.

What is Sublimation Printing

Sublimation is actually more than just the idea of using heat transfer vinyl.  Sublimation ink when heated transforms into a gas and embeds itself into anything with a surface that’s made of polyester.  This process is called sublimation printing.

Sublimation printing produces a cleaner, more professional look.  The image that is transferred onto the material is more detailed than what other transfer processes can offer,


Why Is My Sublimation Not Transferring

Photo by Angello Pro on Unsplash

Why My Sublimation Did Not Work

From incompatible materials to the wrong application, there can be so many reasons why sublimation may not work,  Here are the most common ones:


Sublimation ink will not work on just any type of fabric.  Here is a basic fabric guide:


sublimation printing


100% pure cotton fabrics are not suitable for sublimation ink so the sublimation process  will definitely not work

Poly Cotton blend fabrics may not have as bright colors and images.

92% and 96% Polyester shirts are perfect

65% polyester will have a vintage, washed-out image printing output

There is no white sublimation ink.  When you print a white design it will take on the color of the shirt or the material on which you transfer the design on.

If you do not have a polyester garment, worry no more.  You can still use a sublimation transfer by applying white or a light color glitter HTV.

heat transfer vinyl

Sublimation ink may not look vibrant on canvas

Why Is My Sublimation Not Transferring

When sublimation ink does not look vibrant on canvas, you may use a sublimation spray coating.  This spray may help keep the colors vibrant after heat-pressing the canvas for about 5 to 10 seconds thereafter.  Then, the sublimation paper follows.

Clogged print head

Have you experienced your sublimation ink not transferring yellow?  Maybe you’ve got a clogged print head!

Sublimation printing


Here’s what you may do to troubleshoot this problem:

  • Print some random pictures
  • Then, do a print purging
  • I hope this helps.  But if not, read on.

Incompatible Ink and Paper

If you get no print or just a yellow print on your material, it may not be a sublimation ink or the paper is not a sublimation paper.

How to check if you have sublimation ink:

To check if your ink is for sublimation, take your finger and smear some ink on the sublimation paper.  Then press it.  If you get no ink or just a yellow print, get a refund from your supplier.  Your ink is not sublimation ink.

Not enough time and temperature

The time and temperature of the heat press are one of the most important factors to consider.  It can make or break your sublimation.  Because there are different materials to sublimate on, there are also different requirements as to temperature and time.

To give you an idea, here are the required time and temperatures of the usual sublimation blanks:

Not firm heat press

Sublimation requires a firm heat press.  But how firm is a “firm” heat press?

Firm pressure is usually 40 psi or higher for an automatic heat press.  However, if you’re working with a manual heat press, you have to ensure that the upper platen is difficult to close with two hands and a lot of muscle.  And that is enough pressure to be firm.

The sublimation paper image is not taped down

If you have ghosting or gassing out this can also pose a serious threat to the beauty of your sublimation prints.

Here’s what you can do to prevent this:

Ensure that your sublimation paper is taped down.  The image should be facing the substrate using heat-safe tape.  The problem starts when the paper shifts or isn’t attached well to the substrate.

 Can you Sublimate Anything

No! You cannot sublimate just about anything. So, before you rush to order your fabrics for sublimation ensure they can absorb sublimation ink well.  Who wants a shirt with blurry prints, right?

Sublimation printing is often used for sports uniforms, banners, flags, and other items if you aim for more durable and vibrant prints.

A sublimation print can be compatible with these kinds of materials:

1. Light-colored polyester shirts


Why Is My Sublimation Not Transferring

The most sublimated material is shirts.  But not all shirts can be sublimated.  You can sublimate light-colored polyester shirts.  You cannot sublimate 100% cotton shirts.  And you cannot sublimate dark-colored fabrics.

And why can’t we sublimate on cotton fabrics?  It is because sublimation dye ink won’t react to natural cotton fibers.  It will still be printed after letting it run through a heat press machine but don’t expect the print to last.  It will eventually wear off after several washes.

And why does it go well with a polyester fabric?  Polyester is a synthetic fiber that absorbs sublimation dye ink perfectly.

So, if you still want to sublimate on cotton shirts, choose those with at least 40% polyester, although this does not assure the colors will be vibrant and longer-lasting.

2. Sublimation over Heat Transfer Vinyl

Sublimation projects don’t end when you don’t have polyester.  If you have a dark-colored shirt or 100% cotton, you can still work on it with sublimation.  You can print sublimation paper over heat transfer vinyl.  This ability to work with HTV sets sublimation apart from other printing applications.

Here’s how to do it:

Cut the vinyl into the exact design shape and size.  The next thing to do is to heat press the heat transfer vinyl.  It must be set on high temperatures..  Then, press the sublimation sheet above the heat transfer vinyl.

Read on to find out about the specific temperature for each fabric material.

sublimation printing on shirts

3. Perfect on Canvas

sublimation printing on canvas

You can also work on canvas materials and have vibrant-colored bags, aprons, pouches, and anything that’s made of canvas and is not dark.  Remember that sublimation only works perfectly on light-colored materials.

4. Sublimation pouches

Other projects such as sublimation pouches are also good with sublimation.

5. Sublimation pillowcases

sublimation printing on cotton

Image from Canva

Sublimation ink looks vibrant on pillowcases!  If you want a colorful print on pillow cases sublimation is the answer.  Remember, polyester is the best fabric match for this, but it can also work well with canvas.

6. Sublimation caps

Have you seen a trucker cap that you can customize through sublimation printing?  It looks like this.

sublimation printing on caps

You can buy a trucker cap online and they’re sublimation friendly!

So, the next time you’re thinking of designing your own caps, you know there is always a trucker cap that fits into your goal.

7. Sublimation mugs and tumblers

sublimation printing on mugs


Yes!  You can sublimate mugs and tumblers with the help of polyester, still.  

There are poly-coated mugs and tumblers specifically made for sublimation. The ordinary mugs and tumblers won’t give you a final product that won’t transfer or the design fading out after a few washes.

So, for a full-color design on your tumblers, never settle for anything less than sublimation.

8. Sublimation blanks

There are also sublimation blanks that let you experiment with your ideas for various purposes.  These sublimation blanks are poly-coated.  Since they come in a vast array of designs and sizes, you will need an inkjet printer for sublimation and a heat press that’s going to match the size of your material.

  • Umbrella
  • Face mask
  • Cup coasters
  • Mousepad
  • Keychain
  • Baby’s bib
  • Ceramic plate
  • Ballpens
  • Backpacks
  • ID lanyard
sublimation printing on puches

Image from Katsa Atbp Iloilo by Lynsel de la Banda

For instance, for an ID lanyard, you’ll need a longer heat press.

Sublimation Printing Project Supplies

A sublimation project cannot be done with the following supplies:

Sublimation Transfers

sublimation paper

The quality of your prints depends on many factors. And one of them is the transfer sheet you’re using.

TeckWrap Craft’s Transfer Paper dries fast compared to other sublimation papers where you have to wait for hours to dry the sublimation ink before putting it under the heat press machine.

TeckWrap Craft’s sublimation transfer papers have a 98% sublimation transfer rate. This means 98% of the design printed from a sublimation printer, transfers to the garment or sublimation blanks with bright and vivid colors.

You can use this sublimation transfer paper on white or light-colored garments. Even on garments that contain 30% cotton, the sublimation ink will still be a good match.

Unlike other sublimation transfers, TeckWrap Craft's sublimation sheet does not fade, smudge, or crack at all. Most importantly, it's a great ink-saving type of sublimation sheet compared to other sublimation transfers in the market, which every crafter would surely love.

Sublimation Printer

Using sublimation to print your designs into your material also means using a special sublimation printer.

There are special printers made for sublimation. In fact, you can convert an ordinary printer into a sublimation printer, just like what Epson printers or Ricoh printers are capable of doing.  As TechRadar presented them, they are the following:

  • Epson SureColor F170. Desktop dye-sub makes home printing possible. ...
  • HP Stitch S500. Efficient and flexible dye-sub design. ...
  • Epson SureColor F570 Pro. Simplified and supersized sublimation. ...
  • Sawgrass SG500. A perfected design for this dye-sub printer. ...
  • Mimaki TS100-1600.

Heat Resistant Tape or Transfer Tape

Heat-resistant tape is used for sublimation and other procedures that require heat.  It can withstand extreme temperatures and so, it can help hold your sublimation transfers in place when transferring..

Heat Press Machine

When you are a newbie in using sublimation transfers, you need to learn the best settings for your heat press.  Doing trial and error is still the best training you can get.

Tips for Perfect Sublimation Prints

As mentioned previously, there are many factors contributing to the beauty of the sublimation print.  Now, here are some tips that can also help you ace your sublimation projects.

Remember to Print on a Flat Surface When Printing Garments

Printing on a flat surface ensures the image is transferred perfectly without any missing prints.  This is the reason why a silicone rubber mat is a must.  Heat press machines for shirts and caps usually come with a silicone rubber mat.

Use Teflon Sheet or Butcher Paper

A Teflon sheet or butcher paper serves as the barrier that protects the material from the hot surface.  A Teflon sheet protects the garments from getting scorch marks and prevents the ink from transferring to the heat press itself.

Use Thermal Tape or to Hold the Design in Place

Another must-have when sublimation printing is thermal tape or heat-resistant tape. Use thermal tape to stick the sublimation sheet to the merchandise you want to print. This is to ensure the design stays in place and won’t keep moving which can lead to ‘ghosting print’.

A ghost print looks like a shadow of the actual design printed on the merchandise, and you don’t want that! Use thermal tape when printing on shirts, mugs, caps, and all sublimation blanks.

Pre-press Garments!

Pre-press garments to prevent folds.  This is another reason for ‘ghost printing’, so you want to prevent that as well. After pre-pressing and placing a thermal tape to position the design, it’s time to press the design. When the time’s up, you can remove the sublimation transfer while it's still hot. See the magic unfold! You will love sublimation printing.

Related article:  Sublimation Sheets at TeckWrap Craft

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

What are you looking for?

Your cart