These are MY specific processes and results may vary as every heat press is different (I have a Power Heat Press—-which I love) and every material presses a little different. These processes have worked very well for me on all the shirts I have pressed but find a process that works for you, your equipment and your fabric!

Dye sublimation is meant to be used on 100% polyester materials in light colors (white, gray, pastels). It is possible to sublimate on lower poly count materials but the lower the poly count, the less bright the image will be. I always say 100% poly gives you a 100% full color transfer and 50% poly will only give you 50% of the full color. 50% will offer more of a vintage look. Also be aware that if less than 100%, there will be wash out when laundered as well. And note that a colored shirt will affect the color of the final design as the design colors will ‘mix’ with the shirt color.

TRANSFER SHEETS: The dye sublimation transfer sheets do not always ‘match’ the colors or vibrancy of the design on the product listing. Please be aware that this does not mean there is anything wrong with your transfer sheet. Colors are always muted on the paper and the vibrancy comes out when the design is pressed. Many times I have noticed greens appearing gray, blues looking very pale, almost nonexistent but they do press in the correct colors. I have many photo examples on my Facebook group (PLT Wholesale) of transfer sheets prior to pressing and material after pressing (before/after) to give you an idea of what to expect.

*Set heat press for 60 seconds at 400 degrees with medium to high pressure. Allow heat press to preheat. Temperatures can vary between 385-400 degrees and time from 45-60 seconds depending on your equipment and material. Also dye sublimation cannot be used with a iron. The temp will not get hot enough, you cannot obtain even temperature or obtain the correct pressure. I also do not think that the process works with an Cricut Easy Press but I have yet to verify that.

*Prepress shirt for 5-10 seconds to smooth wrinkles in the shirt and remove any moisture that may be present. I like to take this time to press a center line in my shirt to insure a straight design. I do this by folding the shirt in half longways and pressing. This makes a nice straight line down the center of the shirt.

*Lint roll the shirt to remove any debris that could be present as this can interfere with the sublimation design adhesion and also cause blue looking dots to appear after pressing and they do not wash out so this step is very important!

*Place regular white copy paper in-between shirt layers to prevent bleed into the back side of the shirt.

*Crease sublimation transfer sheet in the center of the very top and very bottom (I don’t fold any part that has ink on it...just very top and very bottom). This is just to find the center of the design and mark it for proper alignment of the design. (If your design is not in the center of the sheet, you will need to find another method of alignment.)

*Align the center of the shirt crease line with the top and bottom center crease line on the transfer sheet. Transfer sheet should be face down on the shirt at this point. General rule for length from the collar collar is 3-4 fingers widths down.

*Place parchment paper or unwaxed butcher paper on top of the transfer sheet. Teflon is said to hold moisture so it is not recommended for use when doing dye sublimation. Honestly I have used a Teflon sheet with every shirt I have ever pressed and I have never had a problem but this is not the recommended practice. I think you may be able to use regular copy paper as well but I have never tried that. Also be careful with using the same sheet multiple times as the design/ink can transfer to the sheet and then to your next shirt! Be sure to check the sheet regularly for ink deposits.

*Press shirt for 60 seconds at 400 degrees with medium-high pressure. If the design is mostly black, I press up to 70 seconds but know your equipment and don’t do this if you find that your press runs hot.

*Open heat press and remove transfer sheet and repress for 2-3 seconds more.

*Remove shirt from press and shake it a few times to help remove press lines.

Transfer sheets are not recommended to be used more than one time. If you attempt it, you may get some type of result on the 2nd shirt but it will likely not be a good result. Once the transfer sheet is heated, it should be disposed of.

Helpful Hints:
PRESS LINES: If you are having problems with press lines, a few things you can try are: a) ripping the edges from the transfer prior to pressing to help soften the edges b) using a press pillow c) shaking the shirt several times immediately after pressing. If the lines are from the actual platen and not the transfer sheet, try using medium pressure rather than heavy pressure.

GHOSTING: If you are having problems with ghosting, make sure you are using enough pressure so the design does not move during the heating process. You can also use an adhesive spray that is designed for sublimation. This will help hold the sheet to the shirt. *Note: Do not use any type of spray adhesion on your transfer sheet if you are using dyepress spray. It will cause the design to not adhere properly to the shirt fibers.

BURNING/BROWNING: If you accidentally burn a shirt and it turned a brown color, try doing a 50/50 mix in a spray bottle of peroxide and water and spray liberally. Wash in washing machine as you normally would. If you are having a lot of issues with browning/burning shirts, you should get a temp gun and see if your heat press temperature is accurate. Also verify than your heat press has not accidentally been changed to Celsius.

LOW POLYESTER COUNT SHIRTS: If you are pressing a shirt that is less than 80% polyester, it is a good idea to add dyepress spray to the shirt to give the design better adhesion and improve wash out after laundering. More about that later.

SHIRT CHOICES: Dye Sublimation will have the best results on shirts that are 100% polyester. The results will be nice and bright and there will be no wash out after laundering. I would not use a shirt any lower than 50% polyester. A 50% polyester shirt will render a vintage look as dye sublimation adheres to polyester fabric (so if there is 50% polyester you will basically get 50% color adhesion. The design may look better initially after pressing but color will also wash out after laundering). There is a product on the market called dyepress spray that can help with this. More about that below. Dye sublimation will also have the best results on white or light pastel colors. I do sublimation on some darker colors but I personally prefer to only use those when the design is a black design with no other colors. There is a stigmata in the market about polyester shirt being ugly and/or uncomfortable against the skin. If you find this is an issue, you need to do more research in finding a different shirt. I promise you, there are 100% polyester shirts out there that have a cotton feel.

GENERAL INFO ON DYE SUBLIMATION; Dye sublimation is a permanent process and you will never have to worry about things like cracking and peeling (like with vinyl). The dye sublimation process actually turns the ink to gas and bonds to the fabric permanently. This leaves no heavy feel at all to the shirt. There is nothing that ‘sits’ on the shirt like vinyl or screen-print. The design basically cannot be felt at all. It is part of the shirt.

DYEPRESS SPRAY: If you choose to use a shirt that is less than 100% polyester and you want to retain as much color as possible, there is a product on the market to help with that. It is called dyepress spray. This spray adds poly to the shirt to yield better press results. If you are using the dyepress spray, there is no change to the press process but prior to the press instructions above, you should do the following:

*Spray a light mist of the dyepress spray on the shirt surface area. If the shirt is wet, you have used too much.

* Press the spray into the shirt fabric well. This can be accomplished by rubbing in with your hand or a clean paint brush. You want the spray to adhere to the shirt fibers as much as possible.

*Allow shirt to fully dry. You may air dry or throw it in the dryer. Pressing the shirt without allowing the spray to fully dry will result in burning the shirt so just don’t do it.

*Now you may return to the standard press instructions above.

*Do not use any type of spray adhesion on your transfer sheet if you are using dyepress spray. It will cause the design to not adhere properly to the shirt fibers.

Written by Christy Isbell

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