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Can You Sublimate on Cotton(2023)?

06-Jan-2023- 3 min read

Sublimation printing is the process of transferring designs to various garment materials using special sublimation printers and sublimation inks. Sublimation on clothing is traditionally limited to 100% polyester items in white or very light. But did you know that some products allow you to sublimate with colored or cotton fabrics? Each of these special transfer materials and ink arrangements has its processes, with pros and cons.

Sublimation on cotton has now become a reality and no longer limits your sublimation to white polyester. Usually, the sublimation process only works with polyester fabrics. It won't work with 100% cotton. But you can decorate light and dark-colored cotton-polyester and cotton-poly blend fabrics.

Sublimation of cotton is possible with special treatment. The first option is to use a special polyester surface coating on the cotton. Second, you can print on specially treated transfer paper. which can be transferred to the second stage on cotton. Printing results (rubbing, washing speed) are not so good.

Can you work on 100% cotton?

You can't top 100% cotton by yourself. But you can overcome this by applying a special treatment to the cotton to make the sublimation process efficient. These operations include using several types of heat transfer vinyl or applying a special coating to the surface of the cotton before using a heat press to begin the sublimation process.
So, why doesn't sublimation work on cotton? During the sublimation process, the sublimation dye is converted into gas due to heat. At the same time, the heat also causes the synthetic fibers in the polyester to open, allowing the gas to slip inside. When the synthetic fabric cools. So the dye returns to solid form and the polyester fibers are closed. which binds the dye and fabric chemically at the molecular level.
This process is only possible between true chemical sublimation - sublimation dyes and synthetic materials. The design will look great at first when you try it on pure cotton. Cotton has a high natural absorption capacity. So the color will look good with a little soaking. But the sublimation ink would wash off the cotton as soon as it touched the water because the chemical bonding process had not taken place.
For a long time, printers and home artists had no choice but to abandon cotton tees and hoodies because of this. But recent innovations in printing techniques have made many simple methods to successfully sublimate cotton shirts.

What is the best way to sublimate cotton?

Transferring your design to cotton fabric is a paper process. For best results, you can use a regular sublimation printer to print a full-tone project designed on our standard or glossy transfer media. Simply print in addition to increasing washability. Press on the cotton cloth. And press to fix it.

What happens if you sublimate on cotton?

The interaction of chemicals in the sublimation process is more successful below surfaces than at surfaces. Hence, the dye will not crack, peel or fade when washed. This is not the case with real sublimation bonding.
When it comes to the sublimation of cotton. So you may find that the resulting image will crack, peel, or fade over time instead of being flat. But this is not a bad thing. Traditional cotton fabric screening and direct-to-garment (DTG) printing are also considered similar.
This is great news because cotton fabrics often feel softer and more breathable than synthetics like polyester. For this reason, many t-shirt printers and small enterprise owner print on cotton.

Materials and equipment
• Cotton shirt
• Sublimation paper
• Sublimation fabric
• Heat-resistant tape
Sublimation printer
• Heat press or easy press (home ironing is not recommended)
• Shirt design (I used this one from Creative Fabrica)
• Cricut or other cutting machine (optional)
• Green or blue cricket cutting mat
• Teflon sheet and/or parchment paper
• Lint rollers
If you don't have a sublimation printer. So you can buy pre-printed sublimation prints.

Will sublimation wash out of cotton?

People cannot wear a shirt without washing it. Sublimation prints on cotton can easily fade in direct sunlight. If you wash decorated cotton shirts. So the image will crack, peel, or fade on the surface over time. What you can do is wash all the other parts of the shirt except the picture.

How do you wash a sublimated shirt?

• Wash the uniform inside out to prevent damage from other items in the load.
• Wash colored and white clothes separately.
• It is better to use cold/hot water.
• Use a mild soap or detergent.
• Remove the garment from the washer promptly.

Can you wash a shirt right after sublimation?

Make positive to clean it off with cold water. This is an important thing to consider when washing your dye-sublimated cotton shirts in the laundry machine. And you should remove them immediately after the washing cycle is complete and hang them to dry if needed.


Cotton sublimation is a type of printing that uses dyes that are transferred from a carrier sheet to the fabric. This is similar to the silk screen printing method used on t-shirts, hoodies, etc. Following my advice, with some experience and proper setup, you can print on 100% cotton at any time.


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