What Materials Can You Sublimate On?

What Materials Can You Sublimate On?

Sublimation, also known as thermal transfer printing, has many benefits, such as vivid colors and great detail. However, you want to be careful when choosing your materials because not all of them will work well with this process. 

Some fabrics can melt during the printing process! To ensure you get the best results from your printer, we’ve put together a list of the best materials for sublimation, so you don’t have to waste time testing everything yourself. Below are the eleven best materials for sublimation printing.

11 Best Materials for Sublimation Printing

Can you sublimate on Wood?

Long a standard choice for furniture making, wood offers up a variety of ways to transform your images. However, wood burns, so it is not a great choice for material, if you plan to wash regularly. 

Use caution when choosing your lumber and refrain from using salvaged or recycled pieces, exposing you to hazardous chemicals. If you want an even more unique look, consider investing in burlwood.

Can you sublimate on Glass?

Glass is an excellent option when personalizing everyday objects like water bottles, mugs, and tumblers. It looks stylish, but it’s clean and transparent feature allows you to fully enjoy the sight of your favorite designs. 

If you’re looking to create a design that vividly showcases color gradients, sublimating on glass is ideal. That’s because glass won’t distort colors like plastic or ceramic often will.

Can you sublimate on Ceramic Tiles?

While many people aren’t aware of it, ceramic tiles are very good material for sublimation. They can withstand extremely high temperatures, perfect for high-temperature applications like sublimation. 

However, they have one significant drawback: they tend to crack when exposed to sudden temperature changes. 

This means that you might want to avoid using ceramic tiles as your primary design medium if you plan on exposing your final product to extreme temperature fluctuations (like leaving it outside during summer or winter). 

On the other hand, if you plan on displaying your design indoors, ceramic tiles could be an excellent choice for your project.

Can you sublimate on Metal?

This is typically used in conjunction with sublimation. The type of metal you use depends on what kind of item you are going to have printed on it and your budget. However, some metals work better than others and should be considered when shopping around. 

Aluminum is one of the best materials because it can withstand temperatures of up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit without deforming or cracking. It’s also lightweight, so you won’t have problems shipping items if necessary. 

Stainless steel is another great option but not quite as good as aluminum. However, stainless steel][has been shown to handle heat up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit before becoming warped or distorted. Another benefit of stainless steel is that it doesn’t rust, so you don’t have to worry about discoloration over time. 

Copper is another popular option for those who want aesthetically pleasing; however, copper does not hold up under high heat like aluminum and stainless steel.

Can you sublimate on Plastic (Bottles & Lighters)?

In these products, chemical dyes are applied to a polymer during manufacturing. When heated with air from a sublimation machine, both parts change to a solid color—no ink or other chemical is involved. 

Polymers used in plastic sublimation products include polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene (PS) and polycarbonate (PC). Because of their high melting points, PET, PP and PC plastics work best with sublimation transfer printing technology. 

Can you sublimate on Fabric?

In most cases, you want to use fabric (or other cloth-like materials) if you’re sublimating. Fabric is by far your best bet since it tends to be affordable and comes in various colors, sizes, and designs. In addition, if you’re trying to get an image onto clothing or other fabric items, it will also make that process much easier.

Can you sublimate on Cotton?

If you are looking to personalize garments, you should use cotton. Cotton is known to be one of the best materials on which sublimation can be printed, making it a perfect choice. Cotton will also not shrink after being washed, so you don’t have to worry about that. 

You can get your hands on 100% cotton or blended with polyester and spandex. The downside of using cotton is that it doesn’t last long and fades away over time. Nevertheless, this material has been used in all kinds of clothing, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, gym shorts etc.

Can you sublimate on Concrete?

This is a popular option because it’s affordable and durable. It also easily absorbs color. In addition, when used for sublimation, it has a low contrast, to begin with, so you don’t have to worry about whether your colors will look good on your final product. 

But keep in mind that concrete isn’t appropriate for every type of job; you may need something else if you want high contrast or something more subtle and low-profile. For example, if you wanted to use sublimation for a flower garden, then concrete might not be ideal because it could detract from the other details of your design.

Can you sublimate on Nylon & Teflon?

Nylon and Teflon are great materials to use if you want to create a high-quality, detailed, sublimated print. They’re both highly durable fabrics that will keep your design looking good for a long time. 

For example, Nylon is a great material because it doesn’t wrinkle easily and offers an elegant drape with a soft hand feel. However, if you’re looking for a more rigid fabric, consider using Teflon; although it has a bit of stretch, its durability makes up for any lack of flexibility.

Can you sublimate on Tyvek?

The problem with Tyvek is that it wrinkles easily, which isn’t ideal if you plan on printing onto it. However, you can smooth out wrinkles by ironing them or using a steamer to eliminate creases. This synthetic material also feels like paper, so prints look natural when printed onto Tyvek. 

Remember to pair with a thick substrate like felt or foam board—the thinner your substrate is, the less of your design will show through! Also, be sure to cover all edges of your design with ink before sending it off to be printed; otherwise, white may bleed through and ruin your print job. 

Remember that due to its stiffness and texture, Tyvek won’t feel as soft as cotton t-shirts. Therefore, we wouldn’t recommend printing directly onto Tyvek without first adhering it to another fabric or clothing item.

Can you sublimate on Coated Paper/Photo paper?

Just about any standard weight printer paper is coated to some degree, but only papers that are specifically labeled sublimation paper should be used with sublimation printing. The coating on these papers helps lock in color dyes, so they don’t bleed or change hue over time. 

Coated photo/printer paper should be treated as a temporary material; once it has been printed and heat processed, most coated papers will become faded and unreadable after just a few washes. 

You’ll want to invest in a better quality paper for anything other than short-term use. Some people have succeeded in using heavy cardstock (100 lb) as an alternative to coated photo/printer paper; however, we recommend using archival-quality materials instead if you plan on using your prints for long-term storage or display purposes.


While polyester is considered one of the best materials for sublimation, it isn’t necessarily true. After reading our helpful guide to sublimation, you should know that polyester can be a safe and economical choice, but there are other options too! 

The right choice depends on your design and how long you need it to last. You also want to think about how much sublimation experience you have. For example, polyester is an excellent option if you’re just starting because it requires less heat than some other fabrics. 

However, if you have more experience or a more complex design, using cotton or canvas might be better suited to your needs. Keep in mind that all of these materials will work with dye-sublimation printing; they require different amounts of heat and different times in front of the press.

About the author

Jemma Clinton is the Editor In Chief at Printer Wire. As a tech enthusiast, she always follows the latest technological trends especially those are related to printers. She is wired to write reviews and guides related to various kinds of printers.

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