Dark Fabric Sublimation Paper: Enhancing Vibrant Designs on Dark Shirts

Generally, sublimation works wonders on white and light fabrics, producing vibrant colors without the need for white ink. Unlike other methods, sublimation dyes the fabric itself, eliminating the need for a layer of paper on top. However, sublimating dark shirts requires a few adjustments to the process. To fully grasp the concept, let’s start with the basics.

Types of Sublimation Transfer Paper

To choose the best sublimation paper for your dark shirts, it’s crucial to understand the different types available. Manufacturers often categorize sublimation papers by size, weight, or specific inkjet compatibility.

Inkjet Sublimation Paper

The most popular choice for sublimation is inkjet sublimation paper, also known as A-Sub. This type of paper is compatible with inkjet sublimation printers, with Brother and Epson printers being the favorites among users.

Quick-Drying Sublimation Paper

While most sublimation papers are quick-drying, it’s essential to select one with the highest drying rate. A-Sub sublimation paper is known for its quick-dry period, ensuring sharp and vibrant colors.

Sublimation Paper by Weight

Sublimation paper varies in weight, ranging from 50gsm to 150gsm. Thicker paper tends to produce better results by holding more ink, resulting in more vibrant colors when heat pressed onto your shirts.

For optimal results, aim for a 120gsm paper, but different fabrics may require specific gsm levels. For instance, a 50gsm paper is suitable for hard surfaces like ceramics, while high-speed industrial printers may require lower gsm.

Image from teckwrapcraft

How to Choose the Best Sublimation Papers for Dark Shirts

Sublimation printing is an incredible way to customize dark shirts. To achieve the best results, consider the following factors when selecting your sublimation paper:


For transferring designs onto shirts, common paper sizes like letter, legal, and A4 work perfectly. For more complex items like mugs and plates, special-sized papers, such as 4×9 mug sheets, are necessary.


The choice of inks depends on the printer you’re using. Water-based inks are best suited for inkjet printers, while sublimation printers require gel-based inks. Different papers may work better with specific ink types, offering more freedom and control over your projects.


Consider your artwork and graphics needs when selecting sublimation paper. If your design has many colors and details, opt for sturdier paper. However, if your design has plenty of white space, sublimation papers can suffice. The right combination of paper and design will result in impressive artwork.

Transfer Rate

The transfer rate is a crucial metric when buying sublimation paper. It determines the efficiency and accuracy of transferring the dye onto dark or light fabrics. Aim for a high transfer rate—around 95%—to achieve consistent coloring and flawless designs.

Drying Time

Quick-drying sublimation papers are essential for seamless transfers. Waiting for materials to dry can be counterproductive. With “quick-drying” papers, you can achieve professional results in record time, without compromising on quality.


Choosing the right weight is crucial for vibrant prints. Heavier papers with a higher gsm provide a thicker foundation that holds up better to deep color saturation. However, if cost-effectiveness is a priority and slight print softness is acceptable, opt for lighter papers within the 105-130gsm range.


Coating plays a significant role in achieving desirable results. Clay-coated paper works exceptionally well for transferring inks onto hard substrates like ceramics, while resin-coated paper offers superior stickiness, making it perfect for textiles. Having both coating options allows for unique and spectacular creations.

To sum up, effective sublimation heat transfer paper should hold the printed design without bleeding and withstand extreme heat during the transfer process. With the right amount of heat, these papers accurately release their contents, yielding flawless masterpieces.

Image from teckwrapcraft FB page

How to Get the Best Results with Your Sublimated Dark Shirt?

While dark shirts may not be ideal for sublimation printing, some techniques can make colors vibrant and dynamic. Follow these simple tips to achieve the best possible results:

  1. Pre-treat your fabric before printing to ensure colors stay true and prevent fading.
  2. Use high-quality sublimation transfer paper for sharp and vibrant colors.
  3. Reverse your design before printing it onto the fabric to ensure the image is printed correctly.
  4. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setting temperatures when pressing your design onto the fabric.
  5. Use an HTV as your white base. Experiment with white glitter HTV for darker fabrics to create a vibrant contrast.
  6. Allow your sublimated shirt to cure for at least twenty-four hours to extend the lifespan of the printed design.

How to Choose the Best Printer for Sublimation Paper?


Selecting the right printer for sublimation paper requires careful consideration. Here are some essential factors to keep in mind:


Ensure that the printer is compatible with your device, whether it’s a PC or Mac. Check if the printer has drivers that work with your operating system.

Print Quality

Pay attention to print quality. Many printers today offer high-quality printing capabilities. For the best results, invest in a printer that uses sublimation inks, as they resist fading and produce richer, more vibrant colors.


Consider the price of the printer. While great deals are available, it’s important to ensure you’re getting good value for your money. Compare features and costs among different models to find the best printer for your budget.

With thorough research and thoughtful consideration, you can find the perfect printer for your sublimation printing needs.

Sublimation Paper Vs. Heat Transfer Paper

The process of printing on both sublimation and heat transfer papers is similar, involving printing the design on specialty paper and using a heat press to transfer the design. However, key differences lie in the paper, printer, and inks used.

Heat transfer paper works with both inkjet and laserjet printers, but results may vary between the two. Sublimation paper, on the other hand, is exclusively compatible with printers using dye-based or sublimation ink. It has a special coating that allows ink adherence and should be kept away from moisture.

While sublimation inks blend with the fabric, dyeing it, heat transfer paper acts like an additional layer adhered to the fabric.

Heat Press vs. Domestic Iron for Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing requires high temperatures, making a home iron ineffective and incapable of achieving the desired results. The process demands heavy pressure and consistent temperature, which ordinary irons cannot provide. Investing in a heat press machine, like a mini heat press, is essential for successful sublimation projects due to its higher temperatures and consistent performance.

Image from teckwrapcraft

So, Which is Better: Dark or Light Transfer Paper?

To determine the better option between dark and light transfer paper, let’s understand their differences. While the classification primarily applies to iron-on heat transfer paper, it also holds true for sublimation. In sublimation, however, there is only light transfer paper with a transparent background.

For white or light-colored shirts, both dark and light transfer papers work well. But for dark shirts, dark transfer paper with its white backing is necessary. Printing on light transfer paper requires reversing the image, while no reversal is needed for dark transfer paper.

Ultimately, both dark and light transfer papers are great choices. Choosing the right high-quality paper depends on the color of your fabric or material.

Tips for Handling Sublimation Paper

To ensure smooth printing and flawless results, keep these tips in mind when working with sublimation paper:

  • Use protective paper specifically made for sublimation. Avoid using parchment paper, as it is not suitable for this project. Instead, opt for blowout paper or butcher paper. If you don’t have either, copy paper can serve as temporary protection during printing.
  • Beware of excessive humidity, as it can damage your project. Moisture in the air and on the paper can cause image bleeding, uneven transfers, and color shifting. Take extra care to manage humidity levels and preserve the quality of your work.

FAQ Answered

Is it possible to use sublimation paper on dark t-shirts?

Yes, but with a few tweaks. To achieve exceptional results, combine sublimation vinyl and sublimation paper.

What is the right sublimation paper to use for dark shirts?

A-sub sublimation paper is excellent for dark garments. Combining it with heat transfer vinyl allows for high-quality images on fabric.

Is it easy to use heat transfer papers on shirts with dark colors?

Yes, it’s relatively easy. Print your design on the transfer paper, transfer it onto your chosen dark fabric using a heat press machine, and either let it cool before peeling or peel it while warm.

How can I sublimate a black shirt?

With the right sublimation paper, heat transfer vinyl, and a creative design, you can successfully sublimate a black shirt. Refer to our guides on how to sublimate dark colors for more details.

What is the recommended heat transfer paper?

The recommended paper depends on your material. Light or dark transfer paper works for white backgrounds, while dark transfer paper with an opaque backing paper is suitable for dark-colored fabrics.

How important is it to select the right transfer paper?

Selecting the right transfer paper is crucial for achieving desired results. The right paper ensures vibrant colors on dark fabrics and guarantees the quality you desire.

Can I use pigment-based inks on sublimation paper?

No, sublimation paper cannot hold pigment-based inks.

Can I use dark transfer paper on light-colored fabrics?

Yes, dark transfer paper can be used on light-colored fabrics, and the results will still be excellent.

What are wheel marks in sublimation paper?

Wheel marks refer to marks left by the printer on the paper. If you encounter wheel marks, it indicates that the paper may be too thick. Consider using thinner paper to achieve better results.

Can I sublimate cotton fabric?

Sublimation works best on polyester fabric, but it is possible to sublimate cotton. However, for cotton, you will need to incorporate heat transfer vinyl as a base for your sublimation paper designs.

In conclusion, the best sublimation paper for dark shirts has a quick drying time and a high transfer rate. While most sublimation papers are intended for white and light-colored fabrics, sublimation vinyl techniques can achieve outstanding results on dark fabrics. By following our guide, you can create remarkable sublimated shirts.

Learn more about sublimation and unleash your creativity at Quill And Fox.