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Best Sublimation Paper For Dark Shirts [How-to-use & Buyer’s Guide]

Do you have a unique design or product concept that you’ve never seen before, but you badly want it on a t-shirt? Whether you’re creating something for your own personal use or to market and sell, you should consider looking into sublimation paper designs. 

Sublimation is preferred by both beginners and experts, in part because of the lower cost as opposed to other methods. However, there are some drawbacks, particularly when using sublimation paper for dark t-shirts or other dark garments.

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that you need to compromise on quality or change your creative ideas in order to achieve your desired results. There are ways around the “dark t-shirt” sublimation dilemma, and we’re here to help you find your way.

Successfully using sublimation transfer paper to print on a dark shirt requires using a combination of tools: the sublimation paper and heat transfer paper. You’ll also need a heat press machine. This article will walk you through the process of what sublimation transfer paper, heat transfer paper, and fabrics can be used together to craft a design that is unique to you.

Read on to find the best sublimation paper for your needs as well as a full guide to making that t-shirt of your dreams actually happen.

Best Sublimation Paper For Dark Shirts 2022

What is a Sublimation Paper For Shirts?

Sublimation paper is the easiest and most simple way to create shirts and other items that are unique and personalized.

There’s no limit to how creative you can get once you find the best sublimation paper for you. Be it creating the perfect gifts for your family or starting a small business, using sublimation transfer paper combined with a good inkjet printer can do wonders.

The sublimation paper is created specifically to absorb ink and retain the design until you’re ready. Once you place the transfer paper on your chosen flat surface, and heat has been applied using a heat press machine, the sublimation process begins.

How Does Sublimation Paper Work?

Sublimation paper works in a fascinating way, and it all involves heat. Once heated, the transfer paper releases the ink that it has retained onto the surface that it has been placed on, transferring the printed design onto the material.

In many cases, that material will be one of the t-shirts you want to customize, but you can use this technique for hoodies, leggings, sheets, and many more fabrics! Getting creative with sublimation sheets is half the fun.

The heat transfer paper is able to complete such a process due to the fade-resistant coating of polyester that it is made with. It’s worth noting that this process for sublimation heat transfer paper differs from regular heat transfer. That is due to the chemical reaction it goes through to transfer the ink, infusing your fabric with it and creating a quality image made to last.

The Durability of Sublimation Printing

One thing you will likely want to avoid, particularly if you’re printing to sell, is producing a product that looks too homemade or that cannot withstand regular usage. Even if you’re just working on a thoughtful gift, you’ll want to achieve the best quality you possibly can, so this is equally important for personal use.

It’s possible to have a sublimation print that lasts, as long as you’re using the right combination of equipment and materials. You will need a quality sublimation printer, sublimation inks, and sublimation paper.

When choosing the right equipment, you need to consider the materials that you’re printing on and pay careful attention to the washing instructions that accompany your chosen paper and inks.

You should also make sure that you have your printer set to the highest quality image so that the transfer you print out has the best chance of sublimating to your material.

Each paper type will also come with specific instructions on the amount of time to apply heat, the temperature that your heat press machine should be set at, and what amount of pressure you should use when pressing. All of that is important, so make sure you read these instructions carefully!

Sublimation Paper vs. Heat Transfer Paper

On the surface, sublimation paper and heat transfer paper may seem like the same thing, but there are some differences to be mindful of when you choose the best option for you.

Regular transfer paper is much more susceptible to fading or being scratched. Because sublimation paper actually binds the ink to the fibers of the material instead of just overlaying the design on top of them, the ink will remain permanently embedded and will not fade over time with wear or washing. You can consider it a permanent part of your shirt once you’ve enlisted the help of some of the best sublimation printers.

The only exception to this is direct sunlight. There is a chance that UV rays can fade the ink if left in direct sunlight for an extended period of time. But, given that most of us do not store our clothing outside or in direct sunlight, that should not be a problem when printing on shirts to wear! 

Another benefit to sublimation printing is the shortened turnaround time. As soon as you have thought of a design and created it, you can begin the printing process. Last-minute birthday presents have never been easier and quicker to create.

Advantages of Using Sublimation Paper

Sublimation paper is a simple process that only uses two steps: printing the design using your inkjet printer, and transferring the design using a heat press machine. 

The process works not only for fabric material like shirts, but also on more rigid surface. You can use sublimation paper to print your own designs on items like mugs, mouse pads, key rings, plates, and more!

Unlike other printing processes, you are not limited to a small or specific set of colors. When you work with the best heat transfer papers, you can use the full range of CMYK ink, which results in thousands of color options. 

You can also print as few or as many designs as you want. When hiring a professional printing service, there is often a minimum order number required. By using sublimation paper and a heat press, you can create any numberas large or as smallof designs as you want! 

What’s the Difference Between Using Dark and Light Fabrics for Sublimation?

While the process of sublimation printing is fairly straightforward, the majority of the market for it caters to light fabrics.

If you ask professional sublimation printers, you may hear that it is impossible to use transfer paper for sublimation on dark shirts. This is because of the limitations of the ink, and the lack of an underbase that is a white or light color, to make the ink stand out. But good newsthere are steps you can take to print on dark fabrics!

Most of them involve a combination of printing on sublimation transfer paper and then using heat transfer paper. This magical combo will transfer your design from the media you’ve chosen onto the suitable fabric, leaving you with a high-quality finished product.

How to Use SublimationPrint on Dark Shirts

In this quick guide, we’ll walk you through the steps required to combine heat transfer paper with sublimation transfer paper in order to print on a dark shirt.

Step 1 – Prepare your image

Your first step is perhaps the most fun: acquire or create the design you want on your dark shirt.

Once you’ve picked your design, use high-quality settings and your printer to transfer the image onto the sublimation vinyl. Remember that with standard sublimation, you mirror the image, but when using sublimation vinyl you do not. Keeping this in mind will save you some mishaps.

Step 2 – Pick the right side of your paper

The next step is to identify which side of the sublimation paper you need to use. One will be shiny while the other has more of a textured, matte finish. For the purposes of applying this to dark garments, you want to use the rough side so that the ink will hold.

Step 3 – Press your shirt

Take the materials you are applying your design to and lint roll them on a hard surface to ensure that the materials are as smooth as possible. This is important for the quality of your future customized shirt!

With the heat press machine or even your regular household iron, set the temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Press the dark shirt for at least five seconds to allow for any humidity trapped in the material to escape.

Step 4 – Peel the vinyl away

Next, peel the shiny side of the vinyl away from the transfer paper, and position the transfer on the shirt. Once you’ve applied the design right where you want it and removed the backing, put a sheet of parchment paper over it and press at 360°F. Make sure you apply just a medium amount of pressure for fifteen seconds.

When the transfer is no longer warm to the touch, your design is finished! You now have a sublimated dark shirt.

Allow the design to sit for up to twenty-four hours and make sure that when you wash it in the future, you do so gently and according to the instructions provided.

10 Best Sublimation Papers For Dark Shirts Reviewed For 2022

Printing on dark fabrics is a fairly new addition to the field, but there are many brands of sublimation paper that are now perfecting this process. Printing on dark fabrics using a combination of sublimation paper and iron on heat transfer vinyl paper brings the greatest results when you use the correct tools.

To make save you some elbow grease, we’ve prepared a list of the best heat transfer papers and the best sublimation papers for you to choose from. Browse on and prepare for designing your own shirts!

Best Overall: A-Sub Sublimation Paper

A-SUB Sublimation Paper 8.5x11 Inch 110 Sheets for Any Inkjet Printer which Match Sublimation Ink 125g
  • Low cost and the best value on paper for your money
  • Can be used with a household iron
  • Works with inkjet printers if you use sublimation ink
  • Cannot be used to print on dark shirts by itself 
  • Cannot be used with water-based inks or inkjet ink

A-Sub is a low-cost sublimation paper that can be used in combination with inkjet printers, sublimation inks, vinyl heat transfers, and a design of your creation.

Combining all of these products with A-Sub will help you apply a printed image onto dark t-shirts or other dark fabrics. This is an 8.5 x 11-inch paper, and each package brings you 110 sheets to use for your designs.

One of the best things about this particular brand is that it has a transfer rate of over 98%. This means that no detail of your designs will go amiss during the transfers, and you’ll be able to enjoy sturdy designs for years to come.

Best For Creative Projects: Texprint Dye sublimation paper

Texprint Dye Sublimation Paper for Ricoh Printers 8.5'X11', Dye Sublimation Transfer Paper(Pack of 110 Sheets)Comes with Innosub Heat Tape Resistant
  • It’s very dense
  • Peels easily and leaves little to no residue
  • Thermal tape included
  • Requires a higher temp and longer press time than other papers

Texprint is a high-quality sublimation paper for all types of projects. You can use it together with vinyl heat transfer printing to create memorable dark shirts.

This paper, much like our A-Sub pick above, comes in a pack of 110 sheets sized at 8.5 x 11 and is the best-rated sublimation paper. It’s very flexible and adjustable, meaning that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one type of craftfeel free to stray from the t-shirt territory and try your hand at phone cases or puzzles instead!

It’s covered in a specialized coating that responds to sublimation inks. Once you combine it with iron on vinyl heat transfer paper, you’ll be able to achieve very bright, colorful, creative prints with little effort.

Best Value: StampColour Sublimation Paper

Sublimation Paper Heat Transfer Paper 8.5x11 inch A4 130 Sheets for Any Epson HP Canon Sawgrass Inkjet Printer with Sublimation Ink for Mug, T-Shirt,Light Fabric DIY 125gsm
  • Instant drying time
  • The transfer rate is over 98%
  • Endures repeat washings
  • It’s not the cheapest on our list

StampColour marks the next fantastic option on our list, and it arrives in a beautifully vibrant box that makes it unmistakable for any other brand.

This sublimation paper is the best middle of the line option. It’s not the cheapest on our list, but it’s not the most expensive option, either, so you can pick StampColour if you’re looking for a good mix of quality and value.

It comes in a pack of 130 sheets that measure 8.5 x 14, so you’re actually getting 20 more sheets than most competitor sublimation papers usually provide! It also has another great perk: you can use it with inkjet printers and sublimation ink.

Best Budget: Mecolour Sublimation Paper

MECOLOUR Sublimation Paper Heat Transfer Paper 8.5x11 Inch A4 100 Sheets 120gsm for Any Inkjet Printer with Sublimation Ink for Mug, T-shirt, Light Fabric DIY Gift
  • Comes in a variety of sizes and prices
  • Works with inkjet printers, Epson printers, and any brand of sublimation ink
  • Very affordable
  • Not recommended to use with a household iron

Mecolour sublimation paper is one of the more established brands on the market. It can be used with any inkjet printer for basic print on a light fabric or surface. For such a long-standing brand, this paper is really cheap, and despite the low price, you’re still getting 100 sheets of it when you order it.

To use it with dark garments, apply it to a vinyl heat transfer paper image already sublimated to your materials. On light fabrics, it will work beautifully on its own and will make such transfers a breeze.

This sublimation paper can be used with fabric that is made over more than 30% cotton or polyester, as well as a number of other items, so you can use it for all types of gifts and crafts you may have in mind!

Best Addition For Glittery Designs: Siser Glitter HTV

Siser Glitter HTV 11.8'x5ft Roll - Iron on Heat Transfer Vinyl (Rainbow White)
  • Vivid and vibrant colors atop the vinyl 
  • Achieves a fantastic glitter effect
  • The design may begin to crack after a long while

Sublimation can only do so much if you’re using it on dark shirts. For that reason, since you’re already shopping, make sure you pick up some heat transfer vinyl to make your designs a reality.

Siser Glitter HTV is your best bet if you want to achieve a glittery effect with your design. This product is an iron on heat transfer vinyl that comes in an 11.7” x 5ft roll.

The heat transfer vinyl can be applied for fifteen seconds at a heat of 320°F with a medium amount of pressure. The sticky and pressure-sensitive backing of the paper helps with lining up your design. While the finish does hold a glittery sparkle, the glitter does not transfer, so it’s not an annoyance the way some glittery products can be.

To use Siser Glitter HTV in combination with sublimation paper, you need to apply the Siser Glitter HTV to the dark fabric of the shirt, and then apply the design printed on your sublimation paper on top of the vinyl heat transfer. It’s really easyjust refer to our guidelines above!

Best For Cotton: Subli Flex

Sublimation Paper for Cotton Forever Subli-Flex 202 Dark T Shirts 8.5' X 11' (10 Sheets)
  • Can be matte or glossy
  • The colors are equally vibrant on dark and light colored fabrics
  • Involves a slightly more complicated process to apply
  • Requires heavy pressure that you will need a heat press for

Subli Flex is an elastic material that prints the same on any color of fabric. It’s resistant to washing, which means the design will not fade no matter how many times you put it in the wash. The image will also have a fantastic depth of color and vibrance. 

Subli Flex uses mirror image printing, which means you do not need any application tape in order to achieve the transfer. Images printed with Subli Flex have a photo-realistic effect and can be finished in matte or glossy, so it’s bound to fit all types of gifts.

To use Subli Flex, print and cut the design using a plotter-style cutting machine, such as a vinyl cutter, then apply a heat press to it. Double sided printing is also possible, but in order to achieve that, you’ll have to put one side on a lower heat press plate.

Best Addition Paper For T-shirts: Forever Flex

Forever Flex-Soft (No-Cut) Laser/LED Heat Transfer Paper 10/Sheets - Print Tshirts (8.5'x11', White)
  • Comes in a gorgeous range of colors
  • Works with a black and white printer, inkjet printers, or CMYK laser printers
  • Not the best value or number of sheets for the cost

This product is yet another must-have if you’ll be using your sublimation papers for dark shirts. Forever Flex is a laser printer heat transfer paper that comes at ten sheets per pack.

The A-Foil papers are covered in single colors in metallic, neon, or white and can be used with any printer on light-colored fabrics or dark colors. You won’t need to bother with cutting the design to shape, as the brand took care of that for you.

Forever Flex is known for its durability. Once you get it onto a shirt, you’ll be able to wash it over and over and see it remain high-quality for a long time.

Best Addition Paper For Dark Fabrics: EasySubli

Siser EasySubli Sublimation Heat Transfer Vinyl 8.4' x 11' - 15 Pack
  • Feels great when printed on a dark shirt
  • Holds color well
  • Cannot print directly on the material with Epson inkjet printers

We’re back to vinyl with the Siser EasySubli HTV, which you will need if you want to get your sublimation sheets onto a dark shirt. It works well for adhering the printed image onto dark fabrics as long as you use steps similar to the Siser Glitter heat transfer paper described above.

When trying to print directly on dark t shirts using Epson printers and sublimation ink, there can be issues with the ink drying time. You can avoid this by cutting your design from the EasySubli sheet and then using a printed image mirrored on the sublimation paper. Remember that you can use vinyl cutters for this: something like Cricut is probably your best bet.

This sublimation paper HTV vinyl comes in a pack of fifteen sheets sized 8.5 x 11, so it fits perfectly with all the other sheets we’ve got on our list.

Best Budget Addition Paper: Koala Printable Vinyl Heat Transfer

Koala Printable Vinyl Heat Transfer Paper for Dark & Light Fabric 10 Sheets 8.5X11 Inch Iron-on T-shirt Transfer Paper for Inkjet Printer
  • Clear instructions
  • Handles multiple washings
  • Image does not need to be mirrored
  • Must hang to dry
  • Does not have the highest quality feel to the image on fabric

Koala is a printable vinyl/heat transfer paper that comes in packages of ten for the lowest cost of any paper on this list. It is highly recommended if you are looking for budget options that will still get the job done.

Of course, the low cost comes at a small decrease in quality, but if you’re just looking to make some personalized presents, you’ll be more than fine with Koala. However, if you’re starting your own business you may have to think about a slightly more expensive option.

This transfer paper was specifically made for dark fabrics, so it’ll show up beautifully on your clothes and grant full-color expression regardless of the background.

Best 13×19 Sublimation Paper: HTVRONT sublimation paper 13×19

HTVRONT Sublimation Paper 13x19 Inch - 120 Sheets Easy to Transfer Sublimation Paper for T-shirts, Tumblers, Mugs (A3+)
  • Large 13×19 sheets
  • Huge set of 120
  • Quick dry
  • May not fit every printer

If you’re working on a larger design, it’s good to get your hands on commercial grade transfer paper that meets your needs. Enter: HTVRONT. You can use this to create mouse pads, huge sweatshirts, or personalized mugs suitable for any occasion.

Measuring 13×19 inches and coming in a set of 120 sheets, this is a huge set of sublimation sheets that comes out almost dry by the time you’re finished printing it. This makes for quick & easy crafts that are fun and efficient.

Use it in combination with some of the heat transfer papers we recommended above if you’re working with darker fabrics, and you’ll find that it shows up beautifully. However, if there are any issues, you can always contact HTVRONT to take advantage of its money back guarantee.

Buying Sublimation Paper – Things to Consider

The most important factor to remember when buying sublimation paper for dark t-shirts or other garments is that the process differs from sublimation printing on light colors.

Even the best paper that may be suitable for transferring on light-colored fabrics will often not have the same quality when used on dark shirts, so make sure you’ve got the extra tools we talked about above before you take a knack at sublimating a dark shirt.

In order to get the best experience and transfer your dream image onto a shirt in just one sheet, it’s important to also know the tools that will help you along the way.

There are many types of printers that can be used in tandem with the best sublimation paper. Regular Epson printers are known to be a good choice for this: one such example is the Epson EcoTank. However, there are also specialized tools such as the Sawgrass Virtuoso that were specifically made for sublimation.

When printing a design to transfer onto a shirt, you should also use sublimation inks in your inkjet printer. This is because the sublimation ink turns from a solid into a gas when heated. This gas then binds itself to the material or fabric it is being pressed onto, and when the heat source is removed and the item begins to cool, the gas reforms as a solid onto the fabric. It’s a fun process that feels a little bit like magic. 

This process ensures that the item will retain colors, look high-quality, and last as long as the shirt itself does. Not using specialized inks will bring a risk that the design will not transfer appropriately, so it’s best to get some proper ink before you get started.


If you want to print your own design onto a t shirt that is darker in color, you should consider combining sublimation paper with a vinyl heat transfer paper! This lets you take advantage of the best features of both.

You can find both of these recommended above to fit any price or level of experience you may have. While the process may sound lengthy, it’s both easy and fun, so go ahead and indulge in your design-related workflows right away!

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Last update on 2022-03-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. Disclaimer

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