Troubleshooting Sublimation Printing
Why is my sublimation print not transferring?

Sublimation printing is a popular method for creating vibrant, long-lasting designs on a variety of substrates. However, newcomers to this technique may sometimes find that their sublimation prints are not transferring as expected. This can be frustrating, but most issues have straightforward solutions. In this detailed guide, we'll explore the common reasons why sublimation prints may not transfer correctly and provide tips on how to fix these issues.

1. Incorrect Heat Press Settings

One of the most common reasons for sublimation transfer issues is incorrect heat press settings. Sublimation requires precise temperature, pressure, and time settings to ensure the ink turns into gas and permeates the substrate effectively.

Solution: Check the recommended settings for your specific substrate and sublimation paper. Most require a temperature range of 380°F to 400°F (193°C to 204°C), medium to high pressure, and a time setting of around 60 seconds. Adjust your heat press accordingly.

2. Low-Quality Sublimation Ink or Paper

Using low-quality sublimation ink or paper can lead to poor transfer results. Inferior inks may not sublimate properly, and low-grade papers might not release the ink efficiently onto the substrate.

Solution: Invest in high-quality sublimation ink and paper from reputable suppliers. This ensures that the ink can sublimate effectively and the paper releases the ink as expected.

3. Wrong Type of Substrate

Not all materials are suitable for sublimation printing. Sublimation ink can only bond with polyester materials or coatings. If the substrate is cotton or uncoated, the ink will not transfer properly.

Solution: Ensure your substrate is suitable for sublimation. For fabrics, look for items with a high polyester content (at least 65%, though 100% is ideal). For hard goods, use products specifically coated for sublimation.

4. Inadequate Pressure

Even with the correct temperature and time, insufficient pressure can prevent the sublimation ink from making proper contact with the substrate, leading to incomplete transfers.

Solution: Adjust your heat press to apply medium to high pressure during the transfer process. The exact pressure may vary depending on your heat press and the substrate, so experimentation may be necessary.

5. Moisture in the Paper or Substrate

Moisture is a common culprit behind sublimation transfer issues. If there's moisture in the sublimation paper or substrate, it can cause the ink to spread or not transfer correctly.

Solution: Pre-press your substrate for a few seconds to eliminate any moisture. Store your sublimation paper in a dry, airtight container to keep it moisture-free.

6. Using the Wrong Side of Sublimation Paper

Sublimation paper has a specific side that's coated to hold the ink. Printing on the wrong side can result in the ink not transferring to the substrate.

Solution: Ensure you're printing on the correct side of the sublimation paper. The coated side is usually brighter or has a logo/watermark indicating it's the side to print on.

7. Printer Issues

Finally, issues with your sublimation printer, such as clogged nozzles or using the wrong type of ink, can affect the quality of your prints and their ability to transfer.

Solution: Regularly maintain your printer, perform nozzle checks, and cleanings, and ensure you're using the correct sublimation ink for your printer model.


If your sublimation print is not transferring correctly, don't despair. By troubleshooting common issues related to heat press settings, materials, and equipment, you can identify and solve most problems. Remember, sublimation printing is as much an art as it is a science, requiring patience and practice to perfect. Keep experimenting, and soon you'll be creating stunning, vibrant transfers with ease.