best sublimation shirts

5 Best Shirts For Sublimation (My Personal Fav !)

Sublimation printing has become an extremely popular way to create customized, vibrant t-shirt designs that pop.

Unlike screen printing or iron-on transfers, the ink from sublimation printing becomes part of the shirt fabric rather than sitting on top.

This means the prints will never crack or peel, even after countless trips through the washing machine.

But the key to success with sublimation is choosing the right t-shirt. The fabric content and construction impact how well the ink adheres during the heat transfer process.

Choosing the wrong shirt can mean faded colors or losing vibrancy after washing.

This guide will explore the key factors that make a shirt ideal for sublimation printing. We’ll also recommend 5 of the best shirts for vibrant, lasting sublimation results.

Let’s dive in!

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What Makes A Shirt Ideal For Sublimation?

There are a few must-have features that determine if a t-shirt can be successfully sublimated. Keep these factors in mind as you choose shirts for your upcoming project:

1. Polyester Content

Polyester fibers bond with sublimation ink during heating to provide vivid colors that stand the test of time. Look for the following:

  • 100% Polyester: This is ideal for the brightest, longest-lasting prints.
  • Polyester Blends: At least 60% polyester content is recommended. Less than this can mean faded colors and ink rejection.
  • No Cotton: Sublimation ink won’t adhere well to natural fibers like cotton.

2. Fabric Quality

Along with polyester content, characteristics like weave density, surface texture, and treatments impact sublimation performance. Seek out:

  • Smooth & Consistent Weave: Provides even ink absorption for a sharp print.
  • Lightweight Construction: Ensures maximum comfort for the wearer.
  • No Special Coatings/Treatments: These can interfere with ink bonding.
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3. Garment Details

Details like seams, stitching, and tag placement can also affect your sublimation design. Consider:

  • Tagless: Eliminates obstruction under heat press.
  • Strategic Seams: Provides flexibility for design placement.
  • Reinforced Hems/Sleeves: Prevents early wear and tear.

Now that you know what to look for, let’s explore some stellar polyester shirt options!

5 Best shirts for sublimation In Terms of Products

After testing some of the most popular t-shirt options, here are my top 5 picks for the best shirts for sublimation printing.

1. Cricut V-Neck T-Shirt

My number one choice is the Cricut V-Neck T-Shirt. Even though it’s 95% polyester and 5% spandex, it feels almost like cotton due to its exceptional softness.

Unlike cheaper polyester shirts, the Cricut shirt has a nice substantial feel without being heavy or stiff.

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Image Credits: Cricut

Because Cricut designed these shirts specifically for use with their Infusible Ink (a type of sublimation), the fabric readily accepts dye with no outlines or boxiness around the image.

Sublimation designs transfer beautifully and remain vibrant wash after wash. Plus, the price is lower than most competitors.

For both comfort and optimal sublimation results, the Cricut V-Neck T-Shirt can’t be beaten!

2. Bella + Canvas Triblend T-Shirt

The popular Bella + Canvas Triblend is a 50/25/25 polyester/rayon/cotton blend.

While 50% polyester does mute the colors compared to 100% options, many sublimators prefer the vintage look on Triblend.

Right away this shirt feels wonderfully soft, the rayon and cotton make it drastically more comfy than 100% polyester. The fabric is lightweight and a bit sheer, great for layering.

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Image Credits: Bella Canvas

When pressing my test image, the colors transferred well but weren’t quite as bold as the Cricut shirt.

After washing, the colors remained nicely muted. While not ideal for super vibrant sublimation, the Bella + Canvas Triblend works great for a faded, worn-in look.

3. Gildan Performance T-Shirt

Gildan is one of the most widely available and affordable brands.

I tested their 100% polyester moisture-wicking performance shirt. While not as soft as a cotton blend, it has a nice smooth drape.

My test design popped beautifully on the bright white fabric. And the Gildan shirt didn’t develop any boxiness or outlines that cheaper shirts often get.

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Image Credits: Gildan

However, when washed the colors did fade slightly. Not terribly, but more than the Cricut shirt. The Gildan maintained its shape and size after washing and drying.

For an affordable 100% polyester sublimation shirt, Gildan delivers excellent vibrancy. Just expect some minor fading over time.

4. Jerzees 29M T-Shirt

The Jerzees 29M is a 50/50 polyester/cotton blend, so less poly than other options. But it’s also one of the softest shirts tested! Right away this felt like an old favorite t-shirt.

Because of the cotton content, my test print came out more muted and vintage-looking.

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Image Credits: Jerzees

But that’s normal for a 50/50 shirt. After washing, the shirt maintained its worn-in softness without shrinking.

For a super soft shirt and a faded sublimation look, the Jerzees 29M blended tee performed admirably. The colors won’t pop as much as 100% polyester, but the fabric feels so cozy!

5. George Men’s Short Sleeve T-Shirt

Since brand-name shirts aren’t always easy to find locally, I picked up a George short-sleeved tee from Walmart to test. This basic 65/35 poly/cotton tee only comes in standard sizes.

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Image Credits: Wallmart

This shirt is dyed well with decently bold colors. However, the fabric is very thin and a bit scratchy. Washing helped soften it up, but it still feels cheap compared to other options.

Pros for the George tee are accessibility and low cost. But the fabric leaves much to be desired. For a few dollars more, the Gildan or Jerzees shirts are vastly more comfortable options.

  • Pro Tip: Always check shirt tags to confirm the actual polyester percentage, as it varies by color with most major brands.

Tips For Better Sublimation Results

Below are the tips that you can follow for better sublimation results:

  • You must have a professional sublimation printer and compatible sublimation ink. Because when heat is applied, the inkjet ink will not gasify and bond with the polyester like sublimation ink does.
  • Always use high quality paper made specifically for sublimation transfers. The coating helps release the printed image from the paper and onto the shirt when heat is applied.
  • Choose light colored shirts. White or light shirts show the colors best. Dark shirts make the colors look faded.
  • Before applying the transfer, use your heat press to pre-press the shirt for 5-10 seconds. This removes creases and moisture that could impact the transfer.
  • After removing from the heat press, allow the transfer to cool and set before peeling off the paper. Never peel it hot.
  • Turn the shirt inside out and wash in COLD water to preserve the colors. Avoid bleach or fabric softener. Polyester ink bonds best in lower heat.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Finding the right t-shirt is crucial for quality sublimation results. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about sublimation fabric.

Which T-Shirt Color Works Best for Sublimation?

White or very light-colored shirts work best because sublimation ink is translucent. The color of the shirt impacts the final design. For accurate colors, white is best. Dark shirts make colors appear dull and muted.

Are Gildan Shirts Good for Sublimation?

Yes, Gildan performance shirts with adequate polyester content sublimate nicely.
They tend to be very affordable but aren’t as soft as cotton blends. Vibrancy is excellent but expect some minor fading over time.

Can You Sublimate on Any T-Shirt?

You can sublimate on any shirt with at least 50% polyester. But more polyester equals better results. And certain fabrics, especially cheaper shirts, may develop a boxed appearance around designs.

For best results, choose high-quality shirts with soft fabric and 65% or more polyester.

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed this comparison of the best shirts for vibrant sublimation printing.

It’s amazing how much the fabric content impacts the final print quality and longevity. The Cricut V-Neck T-Shirt took first place for its exceptionally soft hand feel and enduring pop of color despite multiple washes.

For a super soft tri-blend look, the Bella + Canvas shirt created a nicely faded vintage print. For widely available and affordable options, the Gildan and Jerzees polyester blend tees performed admirably.

Have you tried sublimating shirts before? Which brand and style works best for your designs? Share your experiences in the comments below! I’d love to hear what shirts you’ve found that yield stunning prints.

And if you found this article helpful, make sure to share it with friends interested in dye sublimation.

Bella Williams

I'm Bella, a mom of 3 cuties. With 7 years of sublimation experience, my blog dyethrive.com focuses on all things sublimation and printing. Join me for tips, tutorials, and inspiration to enhance your sublimation journey. Let's create and thrive together!
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