How to sublimate on vinyl? A complete guide for beginners

Are you struggling to achieve crisp, vibrant designs with traditional printing on vinyl? Here’s an enlightening fact: sublimation on vinyl can offer superior results over regular printing, creating waterproof colors that truly pop.

In this blog post: How to sublimate on vinyl? we’ll guide you step-by-step through the process of how to sublimate on vinyl effectively. By doing so, you will take your design prowess from ordinary to extraordinary in no time!

Can you sublimate on vinyl?

Indeed, sublimation on vinyl is not only possible but can produce stunning results. The process involves the use of a special type of ink that turns into gas when heated and then permeates the vinyl to create vibrant, waterproof designs.

sublimate on vinyl
Image source: Corinne Blackstone

Contrary to standard printing methods where the design sits on top of the material, in sublimation, the ink melds with your vinyl making your designs last longer. However, bear in mind that it’s not as straightforward as regular vinyl printing.

A regular sublimation printer might struggle to print directly onto vinyl due to differences in material compatibility.

One must also consider that specific types of vinyl are better suited for this process than others. Each variant has unique characteristics catering to certain applications more effectively which we will be exploring further as we proceed into our guide towards mastering this technique rich in creativity potential.

What Kind of Vinyl Can You Sublimate On?

There are three main types of vinyl that you can sublimate on: adhesive vinyl, heat transfer vinyl (HTV), and clear vinyl.

1. Adhesive vinyl

Adhesive vinyl is a highly versatile material that offers an exciting platform for sublimation. This type of vinyl has a sticky backside, which allows it to adhere securely to different surfaces.

High-quality adhesive vinyl provides the perfect base for your vivid and waterproof designs achieved via sublimation on vinyl.

Sublimating on adhesive vinyl involves using heat to transfer dye directly into the material, resulting in flawless designs with perfect lines and vibrant colors. However, this process requires precision and a bit of skill as it’s more complex than standard printing onto vinyl.

The end result, though? Designs that are not just striking but also have remarkable longevity compared to regular printed graphics. Sublimating on adhesive vinyl truly brings full-color images and intricate artwork to life!

2. Heat transfer vinyl (HTV)

Heat transfer vinyl, otherwise known as HTV, is an excellent choice for sublimation. This type of vinyl absorbs the dye from your sublimation ink, creating beautifully vibrant designs that are waterproof and long-lasting.

It’s often used for apparel items like shirts or bags because it adheres to fabrics easily under pressure and heat. The process involves printing a mirror image of your artwork with sublimation inks onto specific transfer paper.

Then, you heat-press this image onto your HTV vinyl which results in perfect lines and bold colors unlike any other method can achieve. Particularly useful with full-color images or intricate designs, HTV allows for crisp edges without the use of weeding tools.

Sublimating on heat transfer vinyl gives you lasting results that indeed reflect the quality of both product and craftmanship involved.

3. Clear vinyl

Clear vinyl is a popular choice for sublimation printing due to its transparency, allowing your designs to show through. This type of vinyl is often used for creating window decals, stickers, or any application where you want the design to be visible from both sides.

Sublimating on clear vinyl ensures that colors come out vibrant and true to life. The waterproof nature of sublimated prints on clear vinyl also makes them durable and long-lasting. Whether you’re creating personalized gifts or promotional items, clear vinyl provides an excellent canvas for your sublimation projects.

How to Sublimate on Vinyl?

To sublimate on vinyl, follow these steps for stunning results.

Step 1: Print out your design

To start the sublimation process on vinyl, the first step is to print out your design. Using a high-quality sublimation printer and ink is crucial in achieving vibrant and long-lasting results.

Sublimation prints work best with full-color images and designs that have rough, faded, or feathered elements. The combination of sublimation and vinyl printing produces designs with perfect lines and vivid colors that are sure to stand out.

So take your time in selecting or creating the perfect design for your vinyl project before moving on to the next steps.

Step 2: Cut your vinyl

Now that you have your design printed out, it’s time to move on to step two: cutting your vinyl. This is an important step in the sublimation process as it ensures that your design fits perfectly onto your garment or surface.

When cutting your vinyl, make sure to use sharp scissors or a precision cutter for clean and precise edges. It’s also crucial to pay attention to the size and shape of your design so that it aligns correctly when pressed onto the garment.

By carefully cutting your vinyl, you’ll create a professional-looking finished product that will impress everyone who sees it. Remember, precision is key when it comes to sublimating on vinyl!

Step 3: Press your vinyl onto the garment

Pressing your vinyl onto the garment is a crucial step in the sublimation process. After cutting your vinyl and weeding out any excess material, carefully position it on your garment. Make sure to apply even pressure so that the design adheres properly.

This is where using a heat press comes in handy, as it ensures consistent temperature and pressure throughout the entire surface of the vinyl. By pressing your vinyl onto the garment with a heat press, you activate the adhesive properties and create a bond that will withstand washing and wearing.

It’s important to follow specific time, temperature, and pressure guidelines based on the type of vinyl you’re using to ensure optimal results.

Step 4: Sublimate your vinyl

To achieve the vibrant and long-lasting results of sublimation on vinyl, it’s time to move on to step four – the actual sublimation process. Once you have pressed your vinyl design onto the garment using heat, it’s now time to unleash the magic of sublimation.

With high-quality sublimation ink and a compatible printer, you’ll be able to transfer your design onto the vinyl with perfect lines and vivid colors.

During this step, it’s crucial to ensure that you have set the correct temperature and pressure during pressing. This will allow for optimal ink transfer onto the vinyl surface. You can also consider pre-pressing your vinyl before applying sublimation, as this helps eliminate any moisture or wrinkles that could affect image quality.

To protect your vinyl design from unwanted smudging or fading, use heat-resistant tape around the edges before placing it into a heat press machine. This additional precaution helps ensure that only your intended design is transferred onto the finished product.

Tips for successful sublimation on vinyl

To achieve successful sublimation on vinyl, use a high-quality sublimation printer and ink for vibrant and long-lasting results.

1. Use a high-quality sublimation printer and ink

To achieve the best results when sublimating on vinyl, it is crucial to use a high-quality sublimation printer and ink. This ensures that your designs come out with perfect lines and vibrant colors that won’t fade easily.

A top-notch printer will have the capability to produce high-resolution images, allowing you to create intricate designs with sharp details. Additionally, investing in quality sublimation ink ensures that your prints are durable and waterproof, making them suitable for various applications.

By using reliable equipment and materials, you can ensure that your sublimated vinyl creations stand out from the rest with their exceptional quality and longevity.

2. Ensure proper temperature and pressure during pressing

To achieve successful sublimation on vinyl, it is crucial to maintain the proper temperature and pressure during the pressing process. This ensures that your design transfers smoothly onto the vinyl without any imperfections.

Using a heat press machine set at the recommended temperature for sublimation (typically around 380°F to 400°F), apply even and consistent pressure for the specified duration.

Applying too little pressure can result in incomplete transfer or uneven colors, while excessive pressure may cause distortion or damage to both the vinyl and your design. Similarly, using incorrect temperatures can lead to poor image quality or even scorching of the vinyl.

3. Pre-press the vinyl before sublimating

Before sublimating on vinyl, it’s important to pre-press the vinyl. This step helps remove any moisture or wrinkles in the material, ensuring a smooth and even surface for your sublimation transfer.

By applying heat and pressure to the vinyl before sublimating, you can also prevent any imperfections or bubbling that may occur during the process. Pre-pressing helps activate the adhesive properties of the vinyl as well, allowing for better adhesion of your design.

So don’t forget this crucial step in achieving professional and long-lasting results with sublimation on vinyl.

4. Protect the vinyl design with heat-resistant tape

To ensure that your sublimated vinyl design stays in place during the heat press process, it’s important to protect it with heat-resistant tape. This special tape helps to hold down the edges of the vinyl and prevent any movement or shifting while applying heat.

By securing the vinyl with heat-resistant tape, you can achieve clean and precise results without worrying about smudges or misalignment.

Heat-resistant tape is designed to withstand high temperatures without melting or leaving residue on your materials. It creates a barrier between the vinyl and the pressing surface, ensuring that only the desired area gets heated during sublimation.

This not only protects your design but also prevents any unwanted transfer of ink onto other parts of your project.


1. Does sublimation on vinyl last?

Sublimation on vinyl is a great way to create long-lasting designs with vibrant colors. Unlike regular printed vinyl, sublimated vinyl designs are waterproof and have exceptional durability.

The sublimation process allows the ink to penetrate the surface of the vinyl, resulting in designs that won’t fade or peel over time. Whether you’re using adhesive vinyl, heat transfer vinyl (HTV), or clear vinyl, sublimating on vinyl ensures that your creations will stand the test of time.

So go ahead and explore the world of sublimation on vinyl for stunning and lasting results!

2. Can you sublimate on vinyl for shirts?

Yes, you can definitely sublimate on vinyl for shirts. Sublimation on vinyl allows you to create vibrant and long-lasting designs that are waterproof as well. Unlike regular printed vinyl, sublimated vinyl offers perfect lines and vivid colors, making it ideal for creating eye-catching shirt designs.

When sublimating on vinyl for shirts, it is essential to use a high-quality sublimation printer and ink to ensure the best results. Additionally, proper temperature and pressure during pressing are crucial for successful sublimation.

Pre-pressing the vinyl before applying heat helps to eliminate any moisture or wrinkles that may affect the final result. To protect your design while applying heat, you can use heat-resistant tape around the edges of the vinyl.

3. How long should I press sublimation on HTV vinyl?

To achieve the best results when sublimating on heat transfer vinyl (HTV), it is crucial to pay attention to the pressing time. The recommended time for pressing sublimation on HTV vinyl is typically around 30-40 seconds at a temperature of approximately 385-400 degrees Fahrenheit.

This ensures that the ink fully transfers onto the vinyl, creating vibrant and durable designs. It’s important not to overpress or underpress, as this can affect the quality and longevity of your sublimated design.

By following these guidelines, you can confidently create stunning and long-lasting creations with sublimation on HTV vinyl.


Sublimating on vinyl opens up a world of possibilities for vibrant and long-lasting designs. While it may require some extra steps, the results are well worth it. With the right materials and techniques, you can create stunning sublimated vinyl projects that withstand time and wear.

So go ahead, unleash your creativity and explore the endless potential of sublimation on vinyl!

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