All y’all, in case you haven’t heard sublimation is the new vinyl 😉 Okay to be fair sublimation has been around for a long, long time in the business world, but within the last year it has really hit its stride with hobby crafters. A couple of years ago I invested in an Epson EcoTank printer that I ‘converted’ to a sublimation printer just by adding sublimation ink to it. I’ve been creating sublimation t-shirts and other projects with it. I haven’t really blogged about it since die cutting machines and using heat transfer vinyl has been more prevalent.
But now that more crafters are investing in sublimation set ups, I want to share a few fun things you can do with sublimation and Bulk Plain Tees from CheapesTees.com.
Basic sublimation t-shirts are going to be your most efficient (and likely most profitable, if you are selling them) method of a DIY t-shirt. Besides your printer and ink set up, you’ll also need sublimation paper, heat tape, blow out paper and of course a heat press or Easy Press.
The thing to know about sublimation t-shirts is that the fabric needs a high polyester count and it needs to be a light color. Sublimation ink only dyes synthetic fibers and it is transparent. To get a decent image press t-shirts should be minimum 65% polyester, but you’ll get the most vibrant and lasting results if you use 100% polyester. I love these Jerzees 100% Polyester Crewneck T-Shirts from CheapesTees.com. They are PERFECT for sublimating on.
Once you have mirrored and printed your image on your sublimation paper, tear the paper around the image to avoid harsh pressing lines.
Be sure to place some blow out paper (I recommend plain butcher paper, but you can use regular copy paper as well), inside your t-shirt. Heat your press to 385 degrees F and then prepress your t-shirt to remove any moisture. Place your image down (image toward the shirt, back of paper upwards), and tape it down so it won’t shift.
Then put another piece of blow out paper on top. You want to be sure to do this so any ink that does not dye the fabric gets absorbed by the blow out paper and doesn’t dye your platen. Then press for 60 seconds. Sublimation on fabric doesn’t need a lot of pressure, so if you are using an Easy Press, like I do, just set it on top of the image and leave it, no pressure needed.
When the time is up, take your press off, remove the blow out paper and tape and voila! A beautiful, bold image is now permanently on your t-shirt!
Round Two! So you want to sublimate a t-shirt that isn’t 100% polyester… and it’s a bit darker of a color. Well I kind of told you that doesn’t work so well, but there are some DIY hacks you can do to work around that! If you want a blended fabric shirt and a color other than white to sublimate on, CheapesTees.com has Gildan SoftStyle T-shirts that are great for that. ONE CAVEAT, you need to get the “heather” colors.
Here we have a Gildan SoftStyle T-shirt in Heather Navy. I know it doesn’t really look navy, but these heather colors are tough to get accurate pics with in some lighting!
So what we did with this one was sublimated our image on it and then …
wait for it…
painted gel bleach on the image to get it to show up brighter! The cotton in the t-shirt allows us to bleach those fibers out, while the polyester fibers still hold the dye. How cool is that?!
If you want to avoid the messiness of playing with bleach, you can also sublimate on any fiber blend of t-shirt from CheapesTees.com by using a product called Easy Subli. It’s a little pricey, but being able to use it on less expensive cotton t-shirts can offset the cost of what a 100% polyester t-shirt can cost. It’s basically a heat transfer vinyl that has a polyamide coating on it so the sublimation ink will dye it.
I use it by printing my sublimation image, cutting that out. Then tracing the outline of the image on to the Easy Subli using a Frixion pen. The Frixion pens erase with heat so when you press it any ink lines that are present will be removed.
You press the Easy Subli first, and then you proceed the same way you would with sublimation on a plain t-shirt.
And this is what it will look like when you’re done!
The Easy Subli does have a heavier hand than most matte vinyl, so it’s a bit stiffer. I also added a bit of vinyl text to the bottom, which these Gildan SoftStyle shirts take beautifully and if you have soft matte vinyl you can barely tell that it’s there, it adheres to the t-shirt so well.
So there you have it, 3 ways to DIY Sublimation T-shirts with plain bulk t-shirts from CheapesTees.com. If you’re a crafter or are buying bulk t-shirts for an event, I highly encourage you to check CheapesTees out. The brand name shirts are the same quality and styles that you can get at other retailers with competitive pricing and they offer free shipping on orders of over $69. Also if you sign up you can save 10%! Look for the banner on the top of their website to do that.