What Is the Best Sublimation Paper for Dark Shirts?

Sublimation printing has become 1st choice for custom apparel, allowing colorful designs to come to life on t-shirts, hoodies, and other garments. But behind every successful sublimation print lies a critical factor: sublimation paper. This specialized paper acts as the bridge between your digital designs and the fabric canvas, playing a critical role in achieving the desired results.

However, when it comes to dark fabrics, selecting the right sublimation paper becomes even more critical. Dark shirts, such as black or navy shirts, in particular, present a unique challenge due to their ability to absorb and reflect light differently than lighter materials. Using the wrong type of sublimation paper can lead to color bleeding, ghosting, or a washed-out appearance.

Therefore, in this guide, we’ll explore what is the best sublimation paper for dark shirts, to help you make the right choice for your next dark colored personalized apparel.

If you are looking for a quick answer – I experienced that the Forever Subli-Light (No-Cut) Glitter transferred the sublimation dyes completely on the black shirts and produced accurate colors as expected. Check out the complete guide to sublimate on black shirts.

what is the best sublimation paper for dark tshirts


Understanding Sublimation Paper

Sublimation paper is the unsung hero of the sublimation printing world. Its not your run-of-the-mill printing paper, at its core, its is a specialized transfer medium.

Sublimation involves a phase change, where ink transitions from a solid to a gaseous state upon exposure to high heat. This gaseous form of ink then bonds with the fibers of the fabric, creating a permanent, embedded design.

Sublimation paper is designed to facilitate this intricate process. Its specially formulated coating acts as a carrier, ensuring even ink distribution and preventing premature ink absorption. The paper’s heat-resistant properties allow it to withstand the high temperatures required for sublimation, ensuring optimal ink transfer and print quality.

The magic lies in its coating: a microporous layer that absorbs sublimation ink like a sponge. This ink-absorbing quality ensures that your design remains sharp and vibrant during the transfer process.

For light-colored fabrics (white, pastels), standard sublimation paper works well. The white base of the fabric allows colors to pop.

On the other hand, dark fabrics absorb light, making standard sublimation paper ineffective. Enter opaque transfer paper! This specialized paper has a white backing that prevents the shirt color from bleeding through. It ensures vibrant prints even on black shirts.

Read what color shirts can you sublimate on.


Types of Sublimation Paper and Their Features

There are different types of sublimation paper available in the market, each with its own features and advantages. Some of the common types of sublimation paper are:


1. Opaque Transfer Paper

Opaque transfer paper is a game-changer for dark-colored garments. It features a white backing layer that prevents the shirt color from bleeding through the print. When you press the paper onto the fabric, the white layer acts as a barrier, ensuring vibrant and non-see-through designs.

Opaque paper works well on both cotton and polyester blends, but it is advised to opt for 100% polyester fabric for sublimation printing. Cotton absorbs the ink, while the polyester blend provides stability during the sublimation process.


2. Regular Sublimation Paper

This is the most basic and widely used type of sublimation paper. It features a smooth and thin coating that allows the ink to absorb and dry quickly. It has a moderate transfer rate, which means it can release most of the ink onto the fabric.

Regular type of sublimation paper is compatible with most sublimation printers and inks, and works well for light and medium-colored fabrics. However, it may not be suitable for dark fabrics, as it may not provide enough opacity and color vibrancy.

A popular brand of regular sublimation paper is A-SUB, which offers various sizes and weights of paper for different sublimation applications.


3. High-Release Sublimation Paper

This type of sublimation paper has a thicker and rougher coating that can hold more ink and release it faster. As the name suggests, this type of paper can transfer almost all of the ink onto the fabric with high intensity, resulting in more vibrant and saturated colors.

This type of sublimation paper is ideal for large and detailed images, as it can produce higher resolution and quality prints. However, it may take longer to dry and require more heat and pressure to transfer. It may also be more expensive and less compatible with some printers and inks.

A popular brand of high-release sublimation paper is Koala, offering premium quality papers for professional sublimation printing.


4. Low-Temperature Sublimation Paper

One of the commonly used sublimation papers for inkjet printers. It features a special coating that can sublimate at lower temperatures than normal sublimation paper. With its low transfer rate, it can transfer only a small amount of ink onto the fabric, resulting in softer and lighter colors.

These papers are widely used for textile sublimation, especially suitable for heat-sensitive fabrics, such as polyester, nylon, and spandex, as it can prevent scorching and shrinking of the fabric. However, it may not work well for cotton and other natural fabrics, as it may not penetrate the fibers deeply enough.

A popular brand of low-temperature sublimation paper is Printers Jack. The brand offers eco-friendly and fast-drying paper for low-temperature sublimation printing.

Read the difference between sublimation paper vs heat transfer paper.


5. Hybrid Sublimation Paper

This type of sublimation paper is a combination of regular and high-release sublimation paper. It features a dual-layer coating that can adjust the ink absorption and release according to the type and color of the fabric.

With its variable transfer rate, it can transfer more ink for dark fabrics and less ink for light fabrics, resulting in optimal color balance and contrast.

Indeed, it is the most convenient and versatile sublimation paper because it can work for both light and dark fabrics, as well as for both sublimation and white toner printers. However, it may be more complex and expensive than other types of sublimation paper.

A popular brand of hybrid sublimation paper is Forever Subli-Flex.


How to Choose the Right Sublimation Paper for Dark Shirts

Choosing the right sublimation paper for dark shirts is not as easy as it may seem. There are several factors to consider when selecting the best sublimation paper for your dark shirt project, such as:

1. Color Vibrancy and Opacity

Dark shirts require specialized sublimation paper that can provide enough opacity and color intensity to overcome the dark background of the fabric. Opacity is the measure of how much light can pass through the paper, and it affects the quality and brightness of the print.

Regular sublimation paper has low opacity, which means it allows more light to pass through and reduces the color vibrancy of the image. High-release sublimation paper has high opacity, which means it blocks more light and enhances the color vibrancy of the image.

Hybrid sublimation paper has variable opacity, meaning it adjusts the amount of light and color according to the type and color of the fabric. Therefore, you should choose a sublimation paper with high or variable opacity for dark shirts, as it will produce more vivid and contrasted prints.

Choose the best sublimation ink to produce great results.


2. Compatibility with Dark Fabrics

Dark fabrics pose some challenges for sublimation printing, such as color bleed-through, image fading, and ink wastage. Thicker sublimation paper with rougher coating that can hold more ink and release it faster for dark fabrics is specially designed to overcome these challenges.


3. Drying Time and Ink Absorption

Quick-drying paper is important for sublimation printing, as it minimizes the risk of ink smudging or bleeding during the heat transfer process, ensuring sharp, detailed prints.

Ink absorption, on the other hand, determines the amount of ink the paper can hold, influencing color vibrancy and transfer rate.

High-release sublimation paper takes the lead in this factor because it has a high ink absorption rate, which means it can retain almost all of the ink on the paper.


Best Sublimation Paper for Dark Shirts

Now comes the time to reveal the secret. Below are some recommendations that we have tested on multiple dark fabrics. These are also some of the top-rated and most-reviewed sublimation paper for dark shirts.


1. Forever Sublimation Paper

Sublimation paper for dark fabricsOne of the best sublimation paper brands for dark shirts is Forever, a German company that specializes in sublimation paper and other transfer media for various applications.

Forever offers a wide range of sublimation paper products, such as Forever Subli-Flex, Forever Subli-Light, Subli-Light (No-Cut) Glitter, and Forever Subli-Dark. These products are designed to work for both light and dark fabrics, as well as for both sublimation and white toner printers.

We recommend Subli-Light (No-Cut) Glitter for sublimation on dark shirts because it delivers vibrant prints on dark background (especially black).

  • Brilliant Colors + Intensive Black: Subli-Flex 202 combines vibrant and indestructible sublimation colors with the high washability and stretchability of standard Flex.
  • Innovation: Their 1-Paper System simplifies the sublimation process.
  • Opacity: Exceptional opacity for flawless dark shirt printing.
  • Versatility: From cotton to polyester, Forever has solutions for various fabrics.


2. TexPrint R Sublimation Paper

High-quality transfer paper for dark garmentsTexPrint R is a powerhouse when it comes to color transfer. Its ability to capture and showcase the full spectrum of hues is an advantage for creators seeking vibrant, true-to-life prints on dark shirts.

  • High Color Transfer: TexPrint R delivers exceptional color vibrancy. Your designs will pop off the fabric, whether it’s a midnight-black tee or a navy-blue hoodie.
  • Fast Drying Time: Efficiency matters. TexPrint R dries quickly, allowing you to move swiftly through your production process.
  • Wide Compatibility: It plays well with various printers and sublimation inks, making it a versatile choice.
  • Ideal For: Artists, hobbyists, and businesses seeking reliable results.


3. A-Sub Sublimation Paper

sublimation paper for black garmentsA-Sub Sublimation Paper is renowned for its exceptional color vibrancy, ensuring that your designs come to life with stunning clarity and richness.

This durable paper is also known for its resistance to fading, cracking, and washing, to keep your sublimated shirt vibrant even after repeated wear and tear.

  • Color Vibrancy: A-Sub ensures your designs burst with life. Say goodbye to dull prints on dark shirts.
  • Durability: It holds up well even after multiple washes, maintaining its brilliance and eye-catching vibrance.
  • Versatility: Whether you are creating T-shirts, hoodies, mugs, tumbler, or phone cases, A-Sub delivers.
  • Recommended For: Crafters who demand quality and longevity.


4. HTVRONT Sublimation Paper

best sublimation paper for dark cotton shirtsFor those who seek an affordable yet high-performing sublimation paper, HTVRONT is a shining choice. This cost-effective paper delivers impressive results, producing vibrant colors and sharp details without breaking the bank.

Best of all, it’s user-friendly design makes it ideal for beginners and seasoned enthusiasts alike, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free printing experience.

  • Affordability: HTVRONT won’t break the bank. Perfect for small businesses and DIY enthusiasts.
  • Ease of Use: No fuss—just print, transfer, and admire the results.
  • Dark Fabric Compatibility: It’s designed for those moody black shirts and richly colored fabrics.
  • Great For: Beginners and anyone on a budget.


5. KOALA Sublimation Paper

KOALA Sublimation Paper shines with its exceptional ink absorption properties, ensuring that your designs are transferred with impeccable clarity and precision, even on dark fabric. This smooth-finish paper produces high-resolution images, capturing even the finest details of your artwork.

  • Ink Absorption: KOALA slurps up ink like a pro, ensuring sharp, high-resolution images.
  • Smooth Finish: Your prints will glide seamlessly onto the dark colored
  • Professional-Grade Results: It’s a favorite among serious sublimators, who sell their printed wearables.
  • Perfect Match For: Artists, photographers, and businesses aiming for perfection.


6. Godora Sublimation Paper

This is another multipurpose sublimation paper that can work well for both light and dark garments, as well as for various substrates, such as wood, metal, glass, and ceramic. It has a high-quality coating that can hold and release the ink efficiently and effectively.

With its excellent color spectrum, it can produce a wide range of colors and shades. Best of all, this sublimation paper is compatible with various substrates, such as cotton, polyester, nylon, spandex, and leather.

  • Color Gamut: Godora covers the entire spectrum. Your reds will be fiery, and your blues oceanic.
  • Substrate Compatibility: It’s not picky—use it on shirts, caps, wood, or even ceramic tiles.
  • Home and Professional Use: Whether you are printing at home or running a sublimation printing shop, Godora is your reliable ally.
  • Versatile Choice For: Creatives who want options without compromising quality.


Top Brands and Their Comparison

BrandTypeOpacityTransfer RateDrying TimeCompatibilityDurability
ForeverHybridVariableVariableFastLight and dark fabrics, sublimation and white toner printersHigh
TexPrintMultipurposeHighHighFastLight and dark fabrics, various substratesHigh
A-SubRegularLowModerateFastLight and medium-colored fabricsModerate
HTVRONTLow-temperatureLowLowFastHeat-sensitive fabrics, dark materialsModerate
KoalaHigh-releaseHighHighSlowLarge and detailed imagesHigh
GodoraMultipurposeHighHighFastLight and dark fabrics, various substratesHigh



Sublimation on dark shirts with regular sublimation paper may lead to color bleeding, ghosting, or a washed-out appearance. That’s why, you need an especially engineered sublimation paper for dark shirts to achieve flawless prints.

We have reviewed the top rated brands after multiple testing, each with its unique strengths and suitability for different needs.

Our first choice is – Subli-Light (No-Cut) Glitter, it is a bit on costly side but definitely amaze you with stunning results. Our second recommendation is the versatile TexPrint because of its high opacity and fast drying time.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use sublimation paper on dark shirts?

Yes, you can use sublimation paper on dark shirts, but you need to use opaque sublimation paper that is specialized designed for dark fabrics. Opaque sublimation paper has a special coating that prevents the shirt color from showing through, so you can achieve vibrant prints on dark shirts.


What sublimation paper should I use for shirts?

The best sublimation paper for shirts depends on the type of shirt you are printing on. If you are printing on a light-colored shirt, you can use regular sublimation paper. However, if you are printing on a dark-colored shirt, you need to use opaque sublimation paper with high opacity, high transfer rate and fast drying.


Can I use transfer paper on black shirts?

No, you cannot use regular transfer paper on black shirts. Regular transfer paper is not opaque, so the shirt color will show through the print. You need to use a specialized type of transfer paper called dark transfer paper. Dark transfer paper has a special coating that prevents the shirt color from showing through.

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