Can You Sublimate on Rayon? What Works, and What Doesn’t

Being in the printing business, we can testify that the sublimation technique is filled with endless possibilities. It allows us to breathe life into polyester and a few other fabrics, but can you sublimate on rayon too?

You cannot sublimate on 100% rayon fabric, however, you can sublimate on poly-blended rayon fabric that contains polyester. Or, you can use a polyester coating to sublimate on rayon.

Now, let’s find out the possibilities of sublimation on rayon fabric, and find out what works splendidly and what might not deliver the desired results.

can you sublimate on rayon


Can You Sublimate on Rayon Fabric?

Technically, sublimation is not successful on 100% rayon, but you can sublimate on polymer-blended rayon fabrics containing at least 40-50% polyester. I’ve experienced that images often fade or crack after a few washes on pure rayon fabric.

The main reason why sublimating on rayon is tricky is because of its natural composition. It’s derived from that regenerated cellulose fiber, which is derived from wood pulp or cotton linter, and that makes it a bit of a moisture magnet. Cellulose is a polymer but not as heat-resistant as some other polymers.

Yeah, it loves to soak up moisture like a sponge. And that spells trouble for sublimation because it needs a fabric that can hold onto the ink and not let it bleed away. The porous nature of rayon can lead to ink bleed, resulting in less sharp and defined prints.

Plus, rayon has a lower melting point compared to fabrics like polyester. You need high heat to turn the ink into gas and infuse it into the fabric, but rayon might end up scorched or even shrink under all that pressure.

And let me not forget to mention the lack of that polymer coating that polyester has. You see, that coating helps the ink stick around and keeps the colors popping for a long time. But Rayon doesn’t have that luxury, making the prints less vibrant and not as durable in the long run.

However, if you are keen to customize your luxurious and soft rayon garment, you can use a polyester coating designed for sublimation on a rayon substrate. As a result, it will create a layer of the coating that is highly receptive to sublimation ink.


Sublimation on 100% Rayon and Rayon Blends

When it comes to sublimating on 100% rayon fabric, it’s important to approach it with a bit of caution, you might encounter some challenges.

Remember, as we discussed earlier, rayon’s natural fibers don’t hold sublimation as strongly as synthetic fabrics like polyester.

As for rayon-polyester blends, like in a 60% rayon and 40% polyester blend, the sublimation process becomes more promising. The presence of polyester in the blend improves the sublimation results, as polyester has a higher bonding for sublimation inks. This means you can expect brighter colors and sharper prints when working with rayon-polyester blends.

But wait, there’s more! Rayon-spandex blends, such as 95% rayon and 5% spandex, offer another exciting avenue for your sublimation adventures. The spandex brings a touch of stretchiness to the fabric, making it comfortable to wear and allowing your designs to flex with movement.

Learn how to make sublimation brighter and more vibrant.


Guide to Successfully Sublimate on Rayon

Rayon is a natural fiber that is made from cellulose. Cellulose is a polymer but not as heat-resistant as some other polymers. This means that it is difficult to sublimate on 100% rayon fabric.

However, it is possible to sublimate on rayon fabric if you use a rayon-polyester blend or if you apply a poly coat to the fabric.


Method 1: Sublimation without Poly-Coating

This method is the most difficult, but it can be successful if you use a rayon-polyester blend with a high percentage of polyester.


Supplies Needed

  • Sublimation printer
  • Sublimation inks
  • White or light-colored Rayon fabric (recommended polyester blend: 40% polyester, 60% rayon)
  • Sublimation paper
  • Heat press
  • Protective paper
  • Heat-resistant tape
  • Fabric marker (optional, but handy!)


Step-by-Step Instruction

1. Get your design game on: Fire up your creative juices and design your artwork on your favorite graphic software. This is where your unique style shines, so make it special. I recommend using sublimation software for higher resolution and best results.

2. Print your masterpiece: Load that sublimation paper into your printer and get your design printed. Remember, only sublimation inks will do the trick!

3. Prep the fabric: Lay your rayon fabric flat and give it a quick pre-press for a few seconds. This helps remove any moisture and pesky wrinkles, getting it ready for the sublimation process. If required, pre-wash the fabric to remove any sizing or impurities that may hinder ink absorption.

4. Place your design: Now, carefully position your printed sublimation paper on the rayon fabric, the design facing down. Use heat-resistant tape to keep everything in place, so you don’t have any slip-ups during pressing.

5. Heat press time: Dial in the right temperature and time on your heat press. For rayon, around 360°F (182°C) and 30 seconds usually do the trick. Cover it all up with a protective paper or Teflon sheet to avoid any ink-bleeding mishaps.

Remember to keep the temperature low because rayon fabric is not very heat resistant, higher temperature may cause it to melt away or de-shape.

7. The sublimation magic: It’s time to work that heat press! Press down gently but firmly, and when the timer goes off, lift it up slowly. Like unwrapping a gift, you’ll reveal your sublimated masterpiece on the rayon fabric!

8. Finishing touches: Let your artwork cool down a bit before carefully peeling off the sublimation paper. And there you have it – a vibrant, beautifully transferred design on rayon!


Method 2: Sublimation using a Poly-Coat

This method is easier than the first method, and it is more likely to be successful. In this method, we coat the rayon surface with a polymer coating to accept sublimation dyes and produce vibrant designs.


Supplies Needed

  • Sublimation printer
  • Sublimation ink
  • White or light-colored rayon fabric
  • Poly-coating spray or liquid
  • Heat press machine
  • Protective paper
  • Heat resistant tape
  • A clean flat surface, preferably a cutting mat


Step-by-Step Guide

1. Design and Print: Again, start by creating your stunning artwork using graphic software. Make it unique and expressive! Once you are satisfied with your design, print it on sublimation paper using sublimation inks.

2. Apply Poly-Coat on Rayon Fabric: Here’s where the magic happens! Apply a poly coat to the fabric and let it dry completely before proceeding. The poly-coat acts as a receptive layer, improving ink retention during sublimation.

Or, you can look for a rayon fabric that’s been pre-coated with a poly-coating specifically for sublimation.

3. Pre-Press: Lay your coated rayon fabric on a flat, clean surface. Before sublimating, give it a quick pre-press with your heat press for a few seconds (5 to 10 seconds are enough). This step removes any moisture or wrinkles.

4. Position the Design: Carefully place your sublimation paper with the printed design facing down onto the poly-coated rayon fabric. Align it precisely to achieve the desired placement of your artwork. Use heat-resistant tape to secure the paper in place, making sure it doesn’t shift during the sublimation process.

5. Set the Heat Press: Set your heat press to the appropriate temperature and time for sublimating on rayon. A temperature of around 360°F and a pressing time of about 30 seconds works well for me.

However, you can do your own testing on spare rayon pieces to find the best heat and time setting.

6. Protective Layer: To protect your design and prevent any ink bleeding, place protective paper over the sublimation paper and the rayon fabric. This extra layer ensures that any excess ink stays contained, keeping your prints crisp and clean.

7. Pressing Time: It’s time to unleash the power of sublimation! Gently close the heat press, applying just the right amount of pressure (as mentioned above), and let the heat cause sublimation inks to transform into a gas and bind with the fibers of the pre-coated rayon.

Once the pressing time is up, carefully lift the heat press to reveal your spectacular sublimated design on the rayon fabric.

8. Cooling Down: Allow the fabric to cool down before removing the sublimation paper. Be patient, as this cooling process ensures that the sublimation process is complete and that the ink has fully adhered to the fabric.

You can also try designing rayon using sublimation on vinyl technique.


Rayon Sublimation vs. Polyester Sublimation

Alright, let’s talk about the difference between sublimating on rayon and polyester fabrics. It’s like comparing two fascinating worlds of creativity!

When it comes to the sublimation results, polyester fabrics have a clear advantage. You see, polyester is synthetic, and it just loves those sublimation inks! The colors on polyester fabric come out super vibrant and eye-catching. The prints are sharp, and the details really pop, making your designs stand out in a crowd.

Now, let’s shift our focus to rayon sublimation. While rayon can be a bit trickier, it still offers its unique charm. The results on rayon might not be as bold as polyester, but they have a certain elegance and softness that polyester can’t quite match.

The colors on rayon might be a bit more subdued, but they blend beautifully with the fabric’s texture, giving it a refined and sophisticated look.

As for the sublimation process, there are some key differences to consider. Polyester sublimation is like a breeze – it’s straightforward. The ink quickly binds with the polyester fibers, and your design comes to life in no time.

On the other hand, rayon sublimation demands a bit more finesse. Rayon is a natural fabric, and its fibers don’t bond with the sublimation inks as easily as polyester does. So, you might need a polymer coating to achieve the desired results on rayon.

Plus, the heat press temperature should be controlled to avoid scorching or shrinking the rayon fabric.


Case Studies: Sublimating on Rayon Shirts

Now, let me share some fascinating case studies of sublimating on rayon shirts. These real-life examples will give you valuable insights into the process and results.


1. Sublimating on a Polyester-Rayon Shirt

I had the opportunity to sublimate on a shirt made of a blend of polyester and rayon, the fabric composition was 60% polyester and 40% rayon (as mentioned on the tag).

The polyester part of the fabric worked like magic, enhancing the sublimation process. The colors turned out so vibrant and lively, while the design details were impressively sharp.

The polyester’s affinity for sublimation inks made the entire print stand out with incredible clarity. If you are looking for eye-catching designs with rich colors, I can confidently say that the polyester-rayon blend is a winner!


2. Sublimating on a 25% Rayon Shirt

Now, I also wanted to test sublimating on a shirt with only 25% rayon in its fabric composition. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about how well it would hold the sublimation inks compared to a higher rayon content or polyester.

However, I was pleasantly surprised! While the colors may not have been as bold as on polyester, the design still looked pretty impressive. The rayon brought its own touch of softness and subtlety to the fabric, giving the shirt a unique and charming appeal.

If your design is more subdued and with less bright colors, this combination would be a perfect choice to showcase your calm personality.


Final Thoughts

So, we have concluded that sublimation on rayon fabric is absolutely possible, but it may not be as simple as working with polyester or polyester-blend fabrics. Rayon’s natural cellulose fibers can present some challenges while transferring sublimation dyes.

Whether it’s sublimating on 100% rayon, rayon-polyester blends, or rayon-spandex blends, each fabric composition offers its own unique beauty. Embrace the learning process, experiment with different methods, and fine-tune your sublimation skills.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can you heat press rayon?

Absolutely! You can heat-press rayon for sublimation. Just remember to set the heat press to a low temperature, and set time for a relatively shorter period, and use a protective layer to ensure a smooth and successful sublimation process. This is because the rayon fabric may melt under high heat.


Can you sublimate on 90% rayon?

While it is possible to sublimate on 90% rayon, but results will not be very bright and vibrant. Or, you can apply a polymer coating to create a layer on top of the fabric surface for sublimation.


Can you sublimate on 50 polyester 25 cotton 25 rayon?

Yes, you can sublimate on a fabric that is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon. The polyester content in the fabric makes it suitable for sublimation as it has a high affinity for sublimation inks, resulting in vibrant and long-lasting prints.

However, keep in mind that the presence of cotton and rayon may slightly affect the final sublimation results compared to pure polyester fabrics.


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