Can You Sublimate On Vinyl? (Learn the Best Way to Do It)

Are you looking for a way to customize your clothes and accessories with vibrant, long-lasting designs? If so, you may be wondering if you can sublimate on vinyl. Yes, you can!

Recently, sublimation on vinyl has gained significant popularity because of its ability to create vibrant designs that are waterproof and fade-resistant. This makes it a perfect choice for customizing cotton or dark shirts, as well as other items such as mugs, tumblers, phone cases, etc.

Imagine the thrill of transforming ordinary items into personalized works of art using vinyl. I have customized a few cotton t-shirts by sublimating on vinyl, and the journey was full of amazing results. Here, I’ll share my experience and provide instructions on how to successfully sublimate on vinyl.

Also, read a comparison between sublimation and vinyl printing.

can you sublimate on vinyl


Can You Sublimate on Vinyl?

Curiosity often arises when considering sublimation on vinyl. So, let’s address the burning question: Can you sublimate on vinyl? The answer is yes, you can sublimate on permanent vinyl whether it is white, clear, or glitter vinyl.

Sublimation is compatible with various types of vinyl, including white vinyl, iron-on vinyl (HTV), marine vinyl, printable vinyl, and even glitter vinyl. Each type of vinyl has its own characteristics and considerations when it comes to sublimation.

Here are tips to make sublimation brighter.


What Kind of Vinyl Can You Sublimate On?

When it comes to sublimation, not all vinyl is created equal. Some types of vinyl are more compatible with sublimation than others. Here are some of the most common types of vinyl that can be sublimated:


1. Permanent Vinyl

sublimation on permanent vinyl

This is the most common type of vinyl that can be sublimated. It is made of polyester and is heat-resistant. Permanent vinyl provides a reliable adhesive surface for vibrant sublimation transfers.

It’s perfect for creating long-lasting designs on several substrates, including shirts, mugs, and tumblers.


2. HTV Vinyl

can you sublimate on iron on vinyl

HTV vinyl (also known as iron-on vinyl) is also made of polyester and is heat-resistant. However, HTV vinyl is designed to be heat-transferred, so it is not as versatile as permanent vinyl.

HTV vinyl is a good choice for sublimating garments and textiles, such as shirts, bags, and tote bags.


3. Glitter Vinyl

sublimation on glitter vinylThis type of vinyl is made of polyester and has glitter embedded in it. Glitter vinyl is a fun and festive option for sublimation.

However, I have experienced that often the glitter does not sublimate completely, so the final image may have some glitter specks.


4. Puff Vinyl

sublimation on puff vinylThis is also made of polyester and has a raised, puffy texture. Puff vinyl is a unique and eye-catching option for sublimation.

However, puff vinyl is not as heat-resistant as other types of vinyl, so you should use a lower heat setting when sublimating on puff vinyl.


I have personally sublimated on all of the types of vinyl mentioned above and found that permanent vinyl is the best vinyl for sublimation and the most versatile. I also like to use HTV vinyl for items that will be worn or used often.


Can You Sublimate On Clear Vinyl?

Yes, you can sublimate on clear vinyl. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

The vinyl must be made of polyester. Not all vinyl is compatible with sublimation, so it is important to check the label to make sure the vinyl is made of polyester.

can you sublimate on clear vinyl

The design must be printed on sublimation transfer paper. Sublimation ink will not sublimate directly onto clear vinyl, so you need to print your design onto sublimation transfer paper first.

The heat press must be set to the correct temperature and pressure. The recommended temperature for sublimating on clear vinyl is 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit. The pressure should be firm but not too heavy.

The vinyl must be placed face down on the heat press. This will help to prevent the ink from bleeding.

The vinyl must be allowed to cool completely before it is peeled off the transfer paper. This will help to ensure that the ink is permanently bonded to the vinyl.


How to Sublimate on Cotton Shirt Using Vinyl?

Well, sublimating cotton isn’t as straight as sublimating polyester shirts, that’s where vinyl comes in handy. Below is the step by step guide to sublimate on cotton white or dark shirts using vinyl for vibrant results:


Essential Supplies

  • Sublimation printer
  • Sublimation ink
  • Cotton t-shirt
  • Sublimation paper
  • Vinyl
  • Heat press
  • Two protective cover sheets
  • Cricut machine
  • Heat-resistant tape
  • Heat-resistant gloves


Step 1: Designing Your Artwork

Start by designing your artwork using sublimation software. Ensure your design is sized appropriately for the area you wish to apply it to on the cotton shirt.

Remember to mirror or flip the design horizontally before printing, as sublimation transfers are applied face-down onto the fabric.


Step 2: Preparing Your Vinyl

Cut your chosen vinyl to match the dimensions of your design and the desired placement on the cotton shirt. I prefer cutting vinyl using a Cricut machine for accurate cutting.

can you sublimate on cricut vinyl

Does the Cricut machine seem easier? Here’s a guide on how to do sublimation with Cricut.


Step 3: Printing Your Design

Load sublimation paper into your sublimation printer. Adjust the printer settings to ensure optimal print quality, including color saturation and sharpness.

I use a Sawgrass SG500 sublimation printer because it is especially designed for sublimation printing and compatible with sublimation ink.


Step 4: Pressing Vinyl onto the Fabric

Once the vinyl piece has been cut according to the design, now it’s time to make the cotton shirt ready for sublimation.

Preheat the heat press machine to 350°F, place the shirt on a plate of heat press, and align the vinyl on the area where you want to sublimate the design. Make sure to put the adhesive side downwards. Place a protective sheet on top and press for 15 seconds.

Once the time is over, remove the protective sheet and carefully peel the vinyl sheet once the shirt is cooled completely.


Step 5: Applying the Design to the Vinyl

Preheat your heat press to a temperature of around 380°F (190°C). Place the shirt on the heat press again and smooth out any wrinkles.

Now, position the printed sublimation paper onto the area where the vinyl adhesive was attached. Secure the paper in place using heat-resistant tape to prevent any movement during the heat press process.


Step 6: Sublimation Transfer Process

Place one protective cover sheet over the sublimation paper and the other in between the shirt to prevent any ink from transferring onto the backside of the shirt. Close the heat press and apply firm, even pressure. The recommended time for sublimating on cotton shirts is usually around 50-60 seconds.


Step 7: Cooling and Finishing Touches

Once the designated sublimation time has elapsed, carefully lift the heat press and remove the protective cover sheets. Use heat-resistant gloves to handle the hot cotton shirt.

Allow the cotton shirt to cool completely before peeling off the paper. Take your time to ensure clean and precise removal, revealing your vibrant sublimated design on the fabric.

Also, read the step by step guide on acrylic sublimation.


Can a Sublimation Printer Print on Vinyl?

Yes, a sublimation printer can print on certain types of vinyl. Sublimation printers are primarily designed for sublimation paper, but they can also print directly onto compatible printable vinyl.

I have successfully printed on specific types of vinyl designed for sublimation purposes using Sawgrass SG500.

When selecting vinyl for sublimation printing, it’s crucial to choose ones specifically labeled as “sublimation vinyl” or “printable vinyl for sublimation.” These types of vinyl have a coating that allows them to bond with the sublimation ink.


Can You Sublimate on Printable Vinyl?

Yes, you can sublimate on printable vinyl. Printable vinyl is specially designed to be compatible with sublimation printing. It has a coating that allows it to absorb sublimation ink during the transfer process.

When using printable vinyl for sublimation, make sure to adjust the printer settings for optimal color saturation and print quality. After printing your design onto the printable vinyl, you can proceed with the sublimation transfer process using a heat press.


Final Words

Indeed, you can sublimate on vinyl. Sublimating on vinyl is an exciting and versatile method for adding vibrant designs to various vinyl surfaces.

Whether you are designing t-shirts, creating stickers, or exploring various projects, sublimation on vinyl opens up a world of possibilities to express your unique style and transform ordinary objects into personalized works of art.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can sublimation be done on vinyl for shirts?

Yes, sublimation can be done on vinyl for shirts. Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) is specifically designed for sublimation onto fabrics.


What heat transfer vinyl can you sublimate on?

You can sublimate on heat transfer vinyl (HTV) that is especially designed for sublimation. Sublimation-compatible HTV allows the sublimation ink to penetrate and bond with the vinyl, resulting in vibrant and durable designs. Look for HTV brands that clearly indicate compatibility with sublimation.


How do you sublimate heat vinyl?

To sublimate on heat transfer vinyl (HTV), follow these steps:

  • Prepare your design using graphic design software.
  • Print the design onto sublimation paper using a sublimation printer and ink.
  • Preheat your heat press machine to the recommended temperature for sublimating on HTV.
  • Cut the HTV to the desired shape and size.
  • Position the HTV on the fabric, ensuring it is properly aligned.
  • Place the sublimation paper on top of the HTV, ensuring the design aligns correctly.
  • Close the heat press and apply the recommended pressure and time settings.
  • Once the sublimation process is complete, carefully remove the paper and peel off the transfer liner from the HTV.


How long do I press sublimation on vinyl?

The recommended press time for sublimating on vinyl can vary depending on factors such as the specific vinyl type and the sublimation paper being used. As a general guideline, a press time of around 45 to 60 seconds is often recommended.


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