HOW TO Choose Sublimation Paper for Dark Shirts (2022)

It’s a well-known fact that sublimation printing works far better on light-colored garments.

With that said, it’s possible to achieve impressive results with dye sublimation on dark shirts if you use the correct ink and sublimation paper.

How do you choose sublimation paper for dark shirts? Generally, you have to know what types of sublimation paper will work.

You can try B-Flex Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl, Subli Flock Sublimation Paper, or Subli Flex 202 Sublimation Paper.

There are other things to consider when doing sublimation projects on dark shirts. Read on to learn how to choose sublimation paper for dark shirts!

Can You Use Sublimation Paper on Dark Shirts?

Black shirt with colorful SUMMER print
For dark-colored fabric, you need a transfer paper of the same color.

The first question to ask is whether you can even use sublimation paper directly on darker-colored shirts.

It’s definitely possible, but you have to choose the correct types of dye and sublimation paper.

As is always the case with sublimation printing, you’ll also want to make sure that you are printing on a shirt made from at least 50% polyester.

That said, it wouldn’t hurt to aim closer to 70% polyester as the sublimation process works better on a dark-colored shirt with a fabric blend that has a higher percentage of polyester.

How to Sublimation Print on a Dark Shirt

To make things easier, we’re going to quickly go over the steps you should follow if you’re planning to sublimation print on dark shirts.

Step 1

Prepare your design and load the appropriate dye sublimation ink into your inkjet printer.

Remember, to print on a dark-colored shirt, you’re going to have to use white ink and a high percentage polyester blend shirt.

Step 2

Place a piece of standard white printer paper under the black dye-sublimation polyurethane transfer paper you printed your design on.

Doing so helps with the printing process and is a necessary step when printing on a darker-colored garment.

Step 3

After placing a piece of printer paper under sublimation paper, lay both down onto the shirt you plan to print on.

Step 4

Heat your press to 392 degrees Fahrenheit, the required temperature for sublimation printing on a dark shirt.

Use moderate to heavy pressure for at least 30 seconds. 

The exact pressure and duration of the press depend on the type of sublimation paper you are using.

Most brands will explain this directly on the packaging for the paper, so make sure you read the instructions carefully.

Step 5

Once the sublimation paper has been pressed onto the shirt, inspect the design to make sure the dye is correctly fused to the garment.

If everything looks good, allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes, which will help the dye set.

Types of Sublimation Paper that Work for Dark Shirts

Sublimation Inks
Sublimation inks are needed to print on Transfer papers

You need to make sure that you’re choosing the correct type of sublimation paper if you’re working with a dark-colored shirt.

The following are the best options, as they offer the highest quality results:

B-Flex Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl

While this particular type of sublimation paper works best for all-over dye sublimation printing, it was designed to work with dark-colored fabrics.

One of the key advantages of this type of sublimation paper is that it can easily transfer small details to shirts.

While the color of the printed image will be fairly resilient and details within the print should hold up, these sublimated prints can be susceptible to cracking after the shirt has been machine-washed.

Always avoid drying these printed shirts in a dryer. Air drying will help preserve the design for much longer.

Subli Flock Sublimation Paper

This particular type of sublimation paper will work equally well on dark and light-colored shirts.

When done correctly, the prints tend to be bright and colorful, so it’s a good option if you’re hoping to print a bold design.

Unfortunately, there are durability issues when using Subli Flock Sublimation Paper on dark shirts, especially if the shirt is machine-washed regularly.

The printed design will be susceptible to cracking, which can also occur if the shirt is folded along the print.

Subli Flex 202 Sublimation Paper

This sublimation paper will also work on dark shirts. As the name suggests, the printed design will be more flexible, which means it will be less susceptible to cracking.

With that said, the colors will be less bright and pronounced than you would get with the Subli Flock Sublimation Paper. 

Essentially, you have to choose between the quality of the design and durability.

Mistakes to Avoid When Using Sublimation Paper for Dark Shirts

green heat press with black shirt printed queen
Avoiding common mistakes will ensure you get the highest quality print possible.

1. Not Using the Correct Type of Printer

No matter what type of sublimation paper you choose, the type of printer you are using will have a major impact on the quality of the print.

As is always the case with sublimation printing, you will want to choose a high-quality inkjet printer.

These printers are compatible with all three types of sublimation paper we highlighted above, so they will work if you are printing on a dark-colored shirt.

Read our related article on the Best Printers for Heat Transfer Paper for an in-depth review and guide to Inkjet printers.

2. Not Reading the Instructions on the Paper Packaging

Many people make the mistake of rushing into a printing project without reading the instructions before they start.

Each type of sublimation paper will have specific instructions regarding the temperature and pressure you should use during the pressing process. 

Even if you have plenty of experience with sublimation printing on garments, you should still take a few seconds to make sure you read the instructions outlined on the reverse side of the packaging. 

3. Not Purchasing Sublimation Paper in Bulk for Large-Scale Projects

Sublimation paper is sold in varying amounts. In most cases, the more sheets you purchase at a time, the lower the cost per page will be.

If you’re printing one or two T-shirts, you don’t have to worry about purchasing sublimation paper in bulk.

If you run a printing business and plan on filling large orders, you should always purchase supplies at a reduced cost by looking for bulk deals, as this will increase your overall profits when you sell your shirts.

4. Attempting to Print on Non-Polyester Shirts 

The quality of your prints is negatively impacted if you are attempting to print on a shirt that does not contain a high enough ratio of polyester.

While this is true for all types of sublimation printing projects, it’s particularly important if you are printing on a dark-colored fabric.