As someone who loves apparel and printing techniques, sublimation is one of my favorite techniques. The reason is the unlimited design possibilities you can print on a t-shirt, sweatshirt, or other garments.
When you think about sublimation and where it is used most in apparel, you can look at American soccer or fútbol. These awesome jerseys use every square inch to display excellent sublimated colors and designs.
In addition, most camo hunting shirts you buy are also sublimated. Camouflage is a great sublimation design for brands.
When it comes to sublimation printing for sweatshirts, the type of sweatshirt you choose can make a big difference in the final product.
What is Sublimation Printing?
Sublimation is a printing process that involves transferring ink onto a garment using heat and pressure with a sublimation printer. The ink becomes a permanent part of the fabric, resulting in vibrant, long-lasting designs. Because sublimation involves a chemical process that bonds to the garment, only certain synthetic fabrics, like polyester, can be sublimated.
What to Look for in a Sublimation Sweatshirt
When looking for a suitable sweatshirt to sublimate, it’s best to use sweatshirt blanks that are 100% polyester or polyester blends. However, not all sweatshirts are created equal when it comes to sublimation printing. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best sweatshirts for sublimation:
As I said, polyester and other synthetic fabrics are the best choices for sublimation printing. While there are many different styles of sweatshirts, polyester fabric has a smooth, uniform surface that allows the ink to bond readily and evenly.
You can sublimate on sweatshirts and hoodies with as low as a 50/50 poly blend. The results on a blend will not be as rich and vibrant as 100% polyester. But for a distressed or vintage look, this is still a great option.
Sublimation inks will be the most vibrant on 100% polyester sweatshirts and hooded sweatshirts. For all-over prints (front, back, sleeves, etc.) I recommend 100% polyester for sublimating your sweatshirts and hoodies.
A white shirt or sweatshirt will give you the best results for an all-over sublimation design. While darker colors are my favorite to wear, to achieve dark colors with sublimation, you need to start with white, blank hoodies or sweatshirts and let the ink be the darker colors in the final design. If you want to print non-all-over sublimation shirts or sweatshirts, you can choose different colors in the lighter spectrum that will show your design well.
Choosing a sweatshirt or hoodie from a reputable brand with a good track record for producing high-quality garments is essential. Poorly made sweatshirts may fall apart or fade quickly, which is frustrating for you and your customers. You can get quality sublimation apparel at great prices, you just need to know where to look.
Best Sweatshirts for Sublimation
Sweatshirt Recommendations for Sublimation
I’ve tested hundreds of sweatshirts over the years, and a few stand the test of time. Some of my own personal favorite sublimation sweatshirt options are:
#1. Gildan 18000 sweatshirt, which is a 50% polyester and 50% cotton blend. Gildan sweatshirts are reasonably priced, high-quality sweatshirts perfect for streetwear sublimation.
#2. Port & Company PC590 sweatshirt. This is a 100% polyester sweatshirt that is perfect for sublimation. It is a high-quality product that your customers will love.
#3. AOP Unisex sweatshirt. This product is a crew-neck sweatshirt with an 86% polyester and 14% cotton blend. This blend will produce vibrant colors and is perfect for all-over prints. This sweatshirt is available at Printify for Print on Demand sublimation prints.
These are the best sublimation blanks for dye sub-printing at the best prices.
Hooded Sweatshirt Recommendations for Sublimation
Hooded sweatshirts are my favorite to wear. I’ve researched several brands, and these are my top sublimation hooded sweatshirt options:
#1. Gildan G185 Heavy Blend 50/50 Fleece Crew Neck Hooded Sweatshirt. This 50% polyester, 50% cotton blend is a low-cost, high-quality hooded sweatshirt for sublimation. These are the best hoodies all around for decoration.
#2. Sport-tek Sport-Wick Fleece Hooded Pullover is a 100% polyester hooded sweatshirt that is my favorite for all-over prints on a hoodie.
#3. Port and Company Unisex Performance Fleece Pullover Hooded Sweatshirt. This 100% polyester light hooded sweatshirt is a great option for sublimation. The silver and royal blue polyester hoodie colors are superb for sublimating.
Any of these pullover hoodies will take your dye sublimation project to the next level. Polyester hoodies are also great for moisture-wicking, which is one reason they are favorites for sports teams.
Other Recommendations for Sublimation Sweatshirts
While I haven’t personally tested many of the 100% polyester sweatshirts and hoodies on Etsy for sublimation projects, there are quite a few options if you are looking for 100% synthetic. I love Etsy because of the transparent reviews on the platform. Here are a few Sublimation Sweatshirts on Etsy.
What Color Sweatshirts Can You Sublimate?
It depends. If you want to do an all-over design, such as camo, you must print on a White sweatshirt or hoodie. The design makes up the color you see in a sublimated all-over sweatshirt.
If you want to sublimate only a portion of the sweatshirt, you want to use a lighter color. Medium gray is as dark as I would go, so your design will show up. I like white, light gray, royal blue, and military green the most as colors for a “partial” sublimation (not all-over).
If you are wondering how you’ve seen polyester shirts that are all black, with light colors on them, keep in mind those shirts or sweatshirts started all white. The black you see is the sublimation ink.
Can You Use Sublimation Transfers on Sweatshirts?
Yes. You can sublimate on transfer paper or buy sublimation transfers ready to heat press onto your sweatshirts. Our favorite source for sublimation paper is Heat Press Nation. They have affordable prices on sublimation paper and sublimation printers.
You can also order customized sublimation transfers for your sweatshirts at Stahls. The great thing about custom designs is that you can use them for a polyester shirt in the summer and a custom hoodie in the winter. We like Heat Transfer Source for already printed sublimation transfers you can buy.
Final Thoughts for Sublimation Sweatshirt Printing
Overall, when it comes to sublimation printing, it’s essential to choose a sweatshirt made of synthetic fabric, has a relaxed fit, is of medium to heavy weight, and is high quality. Blended Cotton shirts and sweatshirts can be sublimated. But the higher the percentage of synthetic fabric like polyester, the better the results.
Unlike screen printing, which is limited to print location, you can print all-over designs with sublimation. I recommend buying some great quality blanks and order a few custom transfer designs to test your first sweatshirts.
If you’re pleased with the quality, look into all-over designs for sweatshirts and hoodies. These make great streetwear apparel and can quickly help you build a brand that stands out from the crowd.
Bryan E. Robinson is the former owner of TshirtGrowth. He has sold t-shirts since 2006 through dropshipping, screen printing, vinyl printing, DTG, Print on Demand, and more. Bryan has created his own t-shirt designs through Photoshop, Canva, and other platforms, as well as worked with freelancers to create many of his designs. Besides t-shirts, Bryan has over 18 years of experience in online marketing with eCommerce, B2B SaaS, B2C products, and more.