dark t-shirt

Best Sublimation Paper for Dark Shirts (Buying Guide)

As a rule, we are well aware that sublimation is best done on white or very light colors so what are we going to do if we’re looking for the best sublimation paper for dark shirts?

I already wrote an article recommending the best sublimation paper. However, those products that I reviewed, like the A-Sub Sublimation Paper, 125g and many other products like that have no part in this search for the best sublimation paper for dark shirts.

When we look at A-Sub Sublimation Paper, we get some instructions, like choosing a light color and polyester T-shirt with less than 30% cotton.

Thus, it’s totally obvious that the regular sublimation paper that we use on white or light colors has no business with our search for paper for dark shirts.

Whenever the topic of dark fabric T-shirts comes up, I mention two things:

  • use inkjet heat transfer paper
  • or use HTV (heat transfer vinyl)

Under the heat transfer printing umbrella, we’ll find 3 techniques that have some things in common but they also have a lot of differences:

  • dye-sublimation transfers
  • inkjet transfers on inkjet heat transfer paper
  • and vinyl transfers using vinyl polymer

These 3 techniques have a few things in common but they’re also significantly different.

The main difference is that sublimation is the most durable personalization method. That’s because the dyes become part of the fibers. Sublimation inks become part of the print media so they last for many years during multiple washes.

On the other hand, with both heat transfer and vinyl, the image becomes an additional layer on top of the print media, which means that it won’t last as long.

Best Sublimation Paper for Dark Shirts Reviews

However, let’s make one thing clear: if we’re looking for the best sublimation paper for dark shirts, we’re not actually doing sublimation in the way we’re used to.

That especially applies to using inkjet heat transfer paper.

As the name suggests, if we use heat transfer paper, we’re going to need to print using inkjet inks and not sublimation dyes. That means that we’re actually going to need to use a regular printer that works with regular inkjet inks. It’s totally different.

If we consider using HTV, we’ll still be doing sublimation but with an extra step. We first heat press white heat transfer vinyl on the dark shirt. And then sublimate on top of the vinyl. Thus, we combine vinyl with sublimation. Which is the method that some of you might prefer adopting if you want to sublimate on dark shirts.

Also, these two methods that I mentioned for personalizing dark shirts also apply to sublimation on cotton.

We can use inkjet heat transfer paper or HTV (heat transfer vinyl) if we want to sublimate on 100% cotton.

For regular sublimation with regular sublimation paper we need less than 30% cotton and over 70% polyester for successful heat transferred designs.

1. HTVRONT Heat Transfer Paper for T-Shirts Dark Fabric

Before mentioning anything else about this dark fabrics transfer paper, I just want to remind you what heat transfer means.

It means that we’re using an inkjet printer with inkjet inks and printing on heat transfer paper. Paper like this one from HTVRONT.

Moreover, we can use an iron or a heat press to transfer the designs from paper onto fabrics.

Thus, this is not sublimation but it works for dark fabrics.

And it’s a simple method as long as you have a functional inkjet printer.

And that’s why I decided to recommend the HTVRONT Heat Transfer Paper for T-Shirts Dark Fabric as my first pick for the best sublimation paper for dark shirts. Even though it has nothing to do with sublimation.

But sublimation on paper shirts can only be done through a combination with HTV. We’re going to cover that method, too.

As you might notice from the name of the HTVRONT Heat Transfer Paper for T-Shirts Dark Fabric , it really seems to be exactly what we’re looking for.


We get 20 sheets, each measuring 8.5 x 11 inch.

So this paper will work with all printers, whether you own a 8.5 max print size printer or you’re using a 13 x 19 printer.

The price is pretty decent given that we get 20 sheets per pack.

It is to be used only with inkjet printers.

The manufacturer advertises it as being durable and washable, without fading, cracking or peeling. It’s indeed washable but heat transfer designs absolutely don’t last as long as sublimation prints.

It is designed for dark colored cotton or cotton/poly blend fabric.

We can also use it on any other fabrics if we want so we can personalize more than our shirts.

If you’re using a heat press, set it to 320-338 degrees F for 8-12 seconds.

If you’re using a home iron, use the cotton setting and firm pressure. It will take a few minutes, 2 to 5 minutes, until the design has been completely transferred onto the fabric so have patience.

2. Printers Jack Iron-On Heat Transfer Paper for Dark Fabric

I don’t like this one as much as the one from HTVRONT that I reviewed above.

It’s slightly more expensive and it comes with quite a high number of negative reviews so this is my second choice.

I still chose to review it because it’s really popular and a lot of people really love it. Including business owners that use it to personalize shirts. So, we can’t dismiss the Printers Jack Iron-On Heat Transfer Paper for Dark Fabric.


We get 20 sheets per pack and each measures 8.3 x 11.7 inches.

It is compatible with all inkjet printers and we must use inkjet inks.

More importantly, it works with dark color cotton or nylon fabrics.

We can use it to personalize: T-shirts, tote bags, tiles, pillow cases, aprons, bags, etc.

I must warn you that some buyers mention that the instructions are pretty awful. There are a number of user reviews that describe how they chose to do the whole process. I recommend checking out those helpful user reviews if you want some clarifications.

3. HTVRONT Sublimation Vinyl for Cotton Shirts

I actually like the HTVRONT Sublimation Vinyl for Cotton Shirts quite a lot. However, it’s not a cheap product. But it can be quite easy to use.

Even though it’s created for sublimation on cotton, I believe that it can be used just as well as the best sublimation paper for dark shirts.

Of course, the vinyl sheet is heat pressed blank onto the fabric. Then, we sublimate the design from the sublimation paper onto the vinyl sheet that is now a layer onto our shirts. And that’s how we achieve sublimation on dark shirts.

I guess it could be argued that using heat transfer paper to personalize dark fabrics is easier, requiring less steps.

If you also need recommendations regarding which sublimation paper you should use in this vinyl method, I recommend the A-Sub Sublimation Paper, 125g. Or the A-Sub Sublimation Paper, 105g. Or the more affordable A-Sub Sublimation Paper Eco, 125g.


The HTVRONT Sublimation Vinyl for Cotton Shirts only comes in a package of 10 sheets, each measuring 12 x 12 inch.

Given that we only get 10 sheets, the price is not cheap but I like this product.

If you print a 12 x 12 design on sublimation paper that means that you won’t have to cut the vinyl sheet. If the design is smaller, you must cut the vinyl to match the exact size of the design, they must be identical in size.

There are two options to choose from: matte and glossy. Both work for sublimating on dark shirts.

In order to personalize our dark shirts with the HTVRONT Sublimation Vinyl for Cotton Shirts, we must first heat press the vinyl sheet at 392-400 degrees F for 8-10 seconds. Peel off the clear film.

Then heat press the sublimation paper onto the vinyl layer at 374-400 degrees F for 40 seconds.

These steps also apply to all the other HTVRONT vinyl for sublimation products, the ones that come in the form of a roll.

4. HTVRONT Clear HTV Vinyl for Sublimation – 12″ X 5FT

If the 12 x 5 size doesn’t work out for you, the same manufacturer also has a 12 x 10 option that is not that much more expensive but we get a bigger quantity.

These products come in the form of rolls and they’re cheaper than the vinyl sheets that I recommended above.

They’re pretty much identical, the difference is that the rolls are a bit cheaper so they’re much more popular.

How to use heat transfer paper for dark shirts

As we’ve established, there are two main methods we can use if we’re looking for the best sublimation paper for dark shirts.

We can use dark fabrics transfer paper or white/clear heat transfer vinyl.

For now, let’s focus on dark fabrics transfer paper.

What I want to make completely clear is that this is not sublimation. We’re not using a sublimation printer, sublimation inks, sublimation paper.

What we need

If we decide to do heat transfer in order to personalize dark shirts or cotton shirts, we’re going to need:

  • a regular printer – you can check out my reviews for the best sublimation printer for heat transfer if you need some recommendations
  • inkjet inks – a regular printer will work with inkjet inks if we choose to use heat transfer for dark shirts, which is completely different from sublimation
  • heat transfer paper – this is also called iron on transfer paper and we can actually transfer the designs from the sheets of heat transfer paper onto our fabrics or objects by using either an iron or a heat press, while for sublimation we can only use a heat press

Using heat transfer paper to personalize dark shirts is actually quite easy as long as we have these tools that I mentioned.

It can be a plus for those who are total beginners and who already own a good inkjet printer with some nice inkjet inks.

We don’t even need a heat press, we can just iron our heat transfer paper until the design transfers onto the fabric.

The whole thing won’t take long. Here’s a guide on how to transfer images from heat transfer paper onto shirts by using just an iron.

However, you should keep in mind that inkjet heat transfer is a lot less durable than sublimation designs, which can last for years to come.

These inkjet designs have the advantage of being used on dark shirts and on cotton, which sublimation doesn’t allow. But they won’t last long so there’s a complete downside to this method.

How to sublimate on dark shirts with vinyl

If you have ever used a Cricut cutting machine, like the Cricut Maker or Cricut Explore, you are all aware of how vinyl can be used to personalize various objects and surfaces.

We can use vinyl in this way, by allowing a cutting machine to cut the vinyl in the objects and designs that we design.

And we can create stickers, decals, home decorations, designs for t-shirts, for mugs, tumblers, labels, etc.

HTV is absolutely versatile and many people love it.

However, since we’re looking for the best sublimation paper for dark shirts we’re here to talk about another use for vinyl.

Unfortunately, this might also involve the need for a cutting machine because the size of the vinyl must exactly match the size of the design printed on sublimation paper.

Overall, it’s not a very easy or a very cheap process. If you’re looking for simplicity or cost saving, I recommend going for inkjet heat transfer paper for dark shirts.

We’re actually going to be using vinyl as a layer on top of our dark shirts.

And on this vinyl layer on our dark shirts we’re actually going to heat transfer our images and designs from the sublimation paper.

Thus, we need to use two things:

  • white/clear heat transfer vinyl – it is stuck to our dark shirts in the heat press, I also mentioned this technique of transferring images from sublimation paper onto vinyl when I wrote my guide about sublimation on leather and faux leather
  • sublimation paper – we print the design on sublimation paper using sublimation inks and a sublimation printer and then we transfer the image from the paper onto the vinyl layer in the heat press

Step 1. Prepare your tools

Let’s go over everything that we need so you can determine if you want to pursue the option of using sublimation vinyl as part of the best sublimation paper for dark shirts or if you just want to try experimenting with heat transfer paper for now.

Certainly, of the two, heat transfer is the one requiring less work and less expenditure.

For sublimating on dark shirts with vinyl we need:

  • sublimation printer that uses sublimation dyes
  • sublimation paper – once we design our image in whatever design software we prefer using, we will print it on sublimation paper so we need to buy both sublimation paper and sublimation vinyl
  • heat press – it has a dual purpose, first attaching the clear vinyl onto the dark shirt and then to transfer the design from the sublimation paper onto the clear vinyl that is now a layer on our fabric
  • sublimation vinyl – I recommended a few options above and I consider them to be some of the best
  • cutting machine – you’re most likely going to need a cutting machine, which can be an asset if you’re looking to delve deeper into HTV and transferring directly from iron on vinyl but it’s a pretty big expenditure if you’re looking to personalize just a few dark shirts

Step 2. Preparing the vinyl

Let’s assume that you’ve printed your design onto sublimation paper. Don’t forget about mirroring your images. This part of the process should be totally familiar to you if you’re not a complete beginner.

Now, it’s time to prepare our vinyl.

If you’re buying it as a roll, you’ll obviously need to cut it to match your design, its shape and size.

You can use a pair of scissors.

But you’ll most likely need to use a cutting machine, like those from Cricut or Silhouette Cameo that come with software to adjust the size of the vinyl and the sublimation print. These can also be a good acquisition if you’re looking to expand your HTV horizon.

On the other hand, for some simplicity, you can choose to use a product like the HTVRONT Sublimation Vinyl for Cotton Shirts that already comes in sheets of 12 x 12 so you might be able to even match the sheet with the design perfectly, without any cutting being done.

Still, if we choose this method to do sublimation for dark shirts using sublimation vinyl, there’s a high possibility that we’ll need a cutting machine.

Step 3. Heat press the vinyl

This is the first part of what happens in the heat press.

First, we need to add the vinyl layer to our dark shirts. Simply add the vinyl on the part of the shirt where you want to add the design.

Each sublimation vinyl will come with recommendations for time and temp. Usually, it’s recommended to press it for 20-30s at 190-200 degrees C (374-392 degrees F). Others prefer pressing at 395 degrees F for 20s. Or pressing it for 10 seconds at 400 degrees F.

It depends on which product you’re using so make sure to always check out those instructions.

Attach the vinyl to the shirt with heat resistant tape. Remove the clear film when it’s cooled down.

Step 4. Heat press the sublimation paper

The last step of this entire process of using vinyl + sublimation paper as the best sublimation paper for dark shirts is to transfer the design from the paper onto the vinyl layer by heat pressing the paper on top of the vinyl at 400 degrees F for 25-40 sec or at 374 degrees F for 50 seconds.