Finished Sublimated Shirt

How to Dye Sublimate on Bleached and Light-Colored T-Shirts

Using the sublimation process, learn how to dye sublimate on bleached and light-colored t-shirts. This tutorial will show you how to use bleach on white or light-colored t-shirts.

Sublimation is an easy and affordable way to customize a bleached or light-colored t-shirt to make it your own.

Sublimating on white garments doesn’t require extra steps like pre-treatment or pretesting—create your artwork, print, and sublimate!

You can create beautiful and unique designs with minimal effort with sublimation techniques and tools.

If you are new to sublimation, you can check out my sublimation for beginners post here first.

The Benefits of Sublimation Printing Over Traditional Methods

Understand the benefits of sublimation when you learn how to dye sublimate on bleached and light-colored t-shirts using the sublimation process. Sublimation printing is a relatively new method of decorating apparel or items made of polymers. It’s different than other traditional methods, like screen printing or heat transfer vinyl (HTV), because there is no need to cut out the design you want before applying it to the material.

Instead, the ink is applied and then heated until it binds with the fabric, resulting in a smooth, vibrant finish. It’s especially ideal for designs that contain gradients, multiple colors, and fine details since they come out looking very accurate and clear.

How to Sublimate Light-Colored T-Shirts

Make sure you have all the supplies needed to dye sublimate on bleached and light colored t-shirts.

  1. Design
  2. Sublimation Printer
  3. T-Shirt
  4. Transfer Paper
  5. Heat Press

Pick Your Design

Love You More design

Finding the right design is paramount when using dye sublimation on bleached and light colored t-shirts. Find your design, I use Creative Fabrica for the sheer quantity and quality of the sublimation designs and images or choose your own electronic image. Creative Fabrica offers options to buy individual images or offers an unlimited access subscription service. Etsy also has a broad variety of images to purchase.

Using Adobe Illustrator, Cricut Design Space, or other image software to resize the sublimation print to fit the t-shirt. Depending on the size of the t-shirt, size the image accordingly. I size my images from 6″X6″ to 10″X10″ from small to extra large t-shirts.

Setting up your sublimation printer

Printer Settings for Sublimation

For the Epson 7710, using Cosmos Ink, change your printer settings as follows:

  • Click on Print/Printer Icon
  • Highlight your printer
  • Click on the preferences tab
  • Set Paper Source
  • Set Document Size (I set this to Super B 13X9)
  • Set Paper Type to Premium Presentation Matte
  • Set Quality to High
  • Select the Options Tab
  • Uncheck High Speed
  • Check the Mirror Image
  • Color Correction, click on Custom, Advanced tab, Color Management, Color Controls, click on Adobe RGB, then set Gamma to 2.2. Click on OK
  • Printing Presets, select Add/Remove Presets, Name your settings, select OK, Apply

Print Design

Printed transfer paper

Using Sublimation Transfer Paper, print your design, and make sure your design is mirrored

Choosing and Preparing the T-Shirt

Buying the Right T-Shirt

First things first, you need the right tools for the job, and in this case, you need to look at the fabric composition of the shirt.

The higher the percentage of polyester in the fabric, the more vibrant the colors. If you are looking for a distressed look, purchase a cotton/poly blend – the lower the poly, the more distressed the look.

In the last few years, treatments have been developed to apply coatings to t-shirts of different fiber make-ups, most notably, cotton fabrics.

I purchase my poly/cotton blends from Jiffy T-shirts and 100% poly shirts from Cosmos Ink.

Preparing Cotton T-Shirts

Tee Sol Cleaner

I start with TeeSol fabric cleaner, which is optional. TeeSol removes the sizing from fabrics that is added to prevent fiber breakage during manufacturing.

  • Mix 1 part TeeSol with 4 parts purified/bottled water (2 oz TeeSol with 8 oz water)
  • Spray TeeSol is a little larger than the image area
PolyTPro

Next, I apply a PolyTpro coating so the sublimation ink can adhere to the t-shirt.

  • PolyTpro – mix 1 part PolyTpro with 1 part purified/bottled water in a spray bottle (For example, use 2oz PolyTpro with 2oz purified/bottled water)
  • Spray PolyTpro on the image area until damp
  • Toss the shirt into the dryer with 2 dry towels for 20 minutes
  • (if prepping 5 or more shirts, towels are not needed)

Preparing Poly/Cotton Blends (distressed image)

Tee Sol Cleaner
Tee Sol Cleaner

I start with TeeSol fabric cleaner, which is optional. TeeSol removes the sizing from fabrics that is added to prevent fiber breakage during manufacturing.

  • Mix 1 part TeeSol with 4 parts purified/bottled water (2 oz TeeSol with 8 oz water)
  • Spray TeeSol is a little larger than the image area
  • Lightly spray water on the edge of the image area
  • Toss the t-shirt into the dryer with 2 dry towels for 20 minutes
  • (if prepping 5 or more shirts, towels are not needed)

Preparing Poly/Cotton Blends (vibrant image)

Same as Preparing Cotton T-Shirts

Print Design

Printed transfer paper

Using Sublimation Transfer Paper, print your design, and make sure your design is mirrored

Transfer Your Design

centered transfer paper on shirt

Center your design and lay the transfer paper on the t-shirt image side down. Using heat-resistant tape, tape the transfer paper to the t-shirt. Heat press the shirt for 60 seconds at 350 degrees F.

Finished Sublimated Shirt

Using heat gloves, remove the transfer paper and your creation is complete.

How to Sublimate on Bleached T-Shirts

Make sure you have all materials needed to sublimate the t-shirt.

  1. Design
  2. Sublimation Printer
  3. T-Shirt
  4. Bleach
  5. Hydrogen Peroxide
  6. Water
  7. 2 Spray Bottles, or 1 Spray Bottle, 1 Paint Brush
  8. Plastic Trash Bag
  9. Clothes Hanger
  10. Transfer Paper
  11. Heat Press

Pick the design and set up the Sublimation Printer as above

See Pick Your Design and Setting up Your Sublimation Printer in the How to Sublimate Light Colored T-Shirts section above.

Buying the Right T-Shirt

As with light-colored t-shirts, you need to look at the fabric composition of the shirt. The t-shirts must have at least 35% cotton to bleach. I purchase my t-shirts from Jiffy t-shirts and look for “heather” t-shirts to achieve the best bleach results.

I like to use Bella Canvas shirts, they bleach a beautiful white, but with 48% polyester, these t-shirts are better for a distressed look. The higher the percentage of polyester in the fabric, the more vibrant the colors.

If you are looking for a distressed look, purchase a cotton/poly blend – the lower the poly, the more distressed the look. In the last few years, treatments have been developed to apply coatings to t-shirts of different fiber make-ups, most notably, cotton fabrics.

Bleaching the T-shirt

trash bag over t-shirt
Trash Bag/Hanger
Tshirt over trash bag over hanger
painting tshirt
bleached tshirt

  • Mix a spray bottle with 1:1 bleach and water (eg, 1 cup bleach, 1 cup water) or mix in a container if using a paintbrush
  • Mix a spray bottle with 1:10 hydrogen peroxide and water (1oz hydrogen peroxide 10oz water)
  • Poke a hole through the bottom of the trash bag and put the hanger through the hole
  • Put the t-shirt over the hanger/trash bag. (this prevents the bleach from soaking through)
  • Spray the image area thoroughly and then mist the rest of the t-shirt
  • Check every 15 minutes until the t-shirt is bleached to the desired color
  • Once you achieve the desired color, spray the hydrogen peroxide mixture over the entire shirt
  • Launder
Printed transfer paper

Print Design

Using Sublimation Transfer Paper, print your design, and make sure your design is mirrored.

Transfer Your Design

taped transfer picture to tshirt

Center your design over the bleached area and lay the transfer paper on the t-shirt image side down. Using heat-resistant tape, tape the transfer paper to the t-shirt. Heat press the shirt for 60 seconds at 350 degrees F.

cropped bleached sublimated tshirt

Using heat gloves, remove the transfer paper and your creation is complete.

FAQ

What is sublimation printing, and how does it work?

Sublimation printing is a unique and vibrant way to add personality to anything! It captures bright and long-lasting ink, making it the perfect choice for fabric printing. It uses heat to transfer dye onto polyester or polymer-coated substrates.

Paper forms a part of this process, too; a special type of sublimation paper absorbs the ink and then releases it when heated up against the material receiving the design.

Why choose sublimation over other methods?

Sublimation is a great choice if you want to make long-lasting, professional-quality products that stand out. Sublimation offers the benefits of durability, affordability, scratch resistance, and vivid colors.

How to get started with sublimation printing?

Check out my Dye Sublimation for Beginners blog here.

What materials do you need for sublimation printing, and where can you find them?

Some of my favorite sources

Blanks

Conversion Kits and Ink

Transfer Paper

T-Shirts

This post contains affiliate links to help support my crafting habit

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