Can You Sublimate on Vinyl? -A Complete Guide

Sublimation has become increasingly popular among crafters, allowing them to create vibrant, durable, and colorful designs on various materials.

But what about vinyl? Can you sublimate on vinyl to achieve the same effect? The answer is yes

In this blog, I am going to explain the ins and outs of sublimating on vinyl, from techniques to considerations and useful tips for perfecting this unique process.

Quick Summary

  • Yes, you can sublimate on vinyl by using clear, heat transfer, or adhesive vinyl and sublimation ink with a heat press.
  • Make sure that the vinyl material is either polyester or polymer-coated before attempting to sublimate. Temperature control and high-quality ink are crucial in achieving quality results.
  • Selecting the right pressure settings for your design is also important when sublimating on vinyl. 

Sublimating On Vinyl: Possibility And Techniques

Sublimating on vinyl is a popular trend in the crafting industry, but not all vinyl types are suitable for this technique. The most commonly used vinyl materials are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

However, PVC-based vinyl cannot handle the high temperature required for sublimation.

Therefore, you will need to use specially formulated heat-resistant vinyl like Siser easy weed adhesive or ThermoFlex Plus. These types of vinyl have been specifically designed to withstand the high temperatures necessary for sublimation.

Also read: How to sublimate on dark shirts using HTV

Sublimating On Clear, Heat Transfer, And Adhesive Vinyls

Sublimation on vinyl offers a versatile method for creating vibrant, waterproof designs that can be applied to various surfaces. To achieve great results, apply the following techniques for sublimating on different types of vinyl:

  1. Clear Vinyl: Use transparent adhesive vinyl or polyester film as a base and apply a thin layer of white ink before printing the sublimation design. This will ensure the design maintains its vibrancy.
  2. Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV): Select a high-quality HTV compatible with sublimation inks. Plain white HTV, Cricut vinyl, and even permanent vinyl are suitable options for this process. Be sure to mirror your design before pressing it onto the HTV using a heat press.
  3. Adhesive Vinyl: Choose polyester or polymer-coated adhesive vinyl designed specifically for sublimation printing. Apply the sublimation print to the adhesive side and transfer using heat and pressure.

Remember, temperature control is crucial when working with different types of types of vinyl to avoid melting or damage during the pressing process. By exploring these techniques, you’ll create eye-catching designs that last on various surfaces, from stickers to shirts and beyond!

Note: not sure which sublimation printer to purchase, we have a guide on the best sublimation printers right here.

Using Sublimation Ink And Heat Press

Utilizing sublimation ink and a heat press is crucial when attempting to sublimate on vinyl, as this method produces the most vibrant and long-lasting designs. In the world of sublimation crafting, quality matters; hence, selecting a high-grade sublimation ink plays an essential role in 

Selecting the correct temperatures and pressure settings is crucial—typically around 25 seconds—this ensures that your design transfers seamlessly onto the selected substrate.

The process may be different depending on whether you’re using white glitter HTV, holographic material, or other kinds of HTVs but practice makes it perfect!

Always use parchment paper for protection to achieve optimal results without damaging either substrate or equipment during pressing.

Related: Sublimation vs HTV

Choose a Polyester Or Polymer-coated Vinyl

To successfully sublimate on vinyl, it’s crucial to ensure that the vinyl material is either polyester or polymer-coated. This type of coating allows the sublimation ink to bond with the vinyl effectively, ensuring long-lasting and vibrant prints.

For example, when working with heat transfer vinyl (HTV) for apparel items such as shirts, using a printable HTV specially designed for sublimation printing will yield impressive results.

Some popular options include Cricut Infusible Ink sheets and Siser EasySubli – both are engineered specifically for use with sublimation printers and inks.

Vinyl Type, Temperature, And Pressure Settings

Temperature and pressure settings are essential considerations when sublimating on vinyl. Here are some tips to ensure a successful outcome:

  1. Choose the right vinyl type: Only polyester or polymer-coated vinyl is suitable for sublimation printing.
  2. Set the temperature: Normally, the recommended temperature for sublimating on vinyl is between 385°F and 400°F.
  3. Apply adequate pressure: Adjust your heat press to apply firm pressure with consistent heat distribution across the design area.
  4. Be mindful of ink type: Dye-sublimation ink works best with vinyl, but it’s crucial to use high-quality ink to achieve great results.
  5. Avoid washing immediately: Allow at least 24 hours before washing your finished product.

By following these tips, you can produce vibrant designs that look amazing on any substrate using sublimation printing techniques on vinyl. Don’t forget to experiment with different variables until you have perfected your process!

Ink Type And Quality Selection

Selecting the right ink for sublimation on vinyl is crucial in achieving a successful outcome. Sublimation ink is specially formulated to infuse polyester fibers, so it’s important to ensure that the ink you choose matches your vinyl material.

High-quality sublimation ink will produce vibrant and long-lasting designs that won’t fade or peel over time.

It’s also important to consider factors like cost and availability when selecting an ink type. While some brands may be more expensive than others, they may offer better color saturation or longer-lasting prints.

Potential Issues 

The Problem of Bleeding

One of the most common issues people face when they try to sublimate on vinyl is bleeding. This problem occurs when the colors from the design transfer onto the vinyl’s adhesive layer, creating a blurry or messy appearance.

The result is often something that looks like a bad tie-dye job. This issue usually happens because of inadequate heat and pressure or low-quality vinyl.

To avoid bleeding, it’s essential to ensure that your heat press is operating at the correct temperature and pressure. In addition, you may need to adjust your transfer paper’s timing and/or use high-quality vinyl that can withstand high temperatures.


When you expose certain types of thin or poorly made vinyl to high temperatures for an extended period of time, it may melt or distort. This issue can ruin your project and even damage your equipment.

To avoid melting, make sure you’re using a quality vinyl that’s recommended for sublimation purposes, such as Siser EasySubli HTV or Forever Subli-Flex 202. Additionally, always double-check to ensure that your heat press isn’t set too hot before applying any vinyl material.

Protective Sheets Can Save The Day

If you’re having issues with either bleeding or melting during a sublimation project on vinyl, consider using a protective sheet between your design and the surface is pressed.

A protective sheet acts as a barrier between the sublimation paper and the adhesive layer in contact with it – preventing any ink from seeping through onto other parts of the design while also protecting against melting plastic. Protective sheets come in various materials such as Teflon Sheets or Silicone Pads and are available in varying thicknesses depending on the thickness of your vinyl material.

They can be easily trimmed to size to fit any project and are reusable. With a protective sheet in place, you’ll be able to sublimate your vinyl without worrying about bleeding or melting issues.

Alternative Methods for Sublimating on Vinyl

Adhesive Vinyl

One popular alternative to sublimating on vinyl is using adhesive vinyl. It is a type of vinyl that has a sticky backing, which allows it to be applied directly onto surfaces like walls, windows, and even vehicles. Adhesive vinyl comes in a variety of colors and finishes, including matte, glossy, and metallic.

This makes it perfect for creating personalized decals or stickers. One advantage of using adhesive vinyl over sublimation is that it requires less equipment and materials.

All you need is the adhesive vinyl itself, a cutting machine like a Cricut or Silhouette, and transfer tape to apply the decal onto your surface. Another advantage is that adhesive vinyl can be more durable than sublimated designs since the color is directly applied onto the surface rather than being infused into the material.

Heat Transfer Vinyl

Another popular alternative method for decorating vinyl is using heat transfer vinyl (HTV). HTV works by cutting out designs on a special type of vinyl that has an adhesive backing.

The design is then transferred onto the surface by using heat from a press or even an iron. One advantage of using HTV over sublimation or adhesive vinyl is that it allows you to create multi-colored designs easily without worrying about registration marks or bleeding colors.

HTV also works well on fabrics like t-shirts, hats and bags. However, one potential disadvantage of using HTV on non-fabric surfaces like glass or metal is that it may not adhere as well as adhesive vinyl would.

Comparing Alternative Methods with Sublimation

While each alternative method has its own unique advantages over sublimating on vinyl, they also have some drawbacks when compared to sublimation. Sublimating allows for more vibrant colors since the ink becomes one with the material, rather than sitting on top of it like adhesive vinyl or HTV.

Sublimation also allows for full-color designs without worrying about registration marks or layering colors like with HTV. In terms of durability, sublimation can potentially last longer than adhesive vinyl since the design is infused into the material rather than sitting on top of it.

However, this may depend on the specific type of vinyl used and how well it is prepared for sublimation. Ultimately, each method has its own unique advantages and disadvantages depending on your specific project needs.


1. Can vinyl be sublimated directly?

No, direct sublimation onto vinyl is not recommended as the high heat and pressure involved in the process could damage or melt the material.

2. How can I apply sublimation to vinyl then?

The best way to add sublimated designs onto vinyl materials is by using a transfer paper that has been specially designed for use with heat-transfer materials like vinyl, which allows you to produce high-quality images while protecting your substrate from damage.

3. What kind of vinyl material works best for sublimation transfers?

Most standard types of adhesive-backed vinyl are compatible with heat transfer processes, but it’s important to make sure that your chosen product has been approved for use with dye-sub inks specifically so that colorfastness and image quality is retained over time.

4. Are there any drawbacks to using sublimation on vinyl?

Some common challenges associated with using this method include difficulty achieving full-color saturation (especially when working with lighter colors), limited availability of transfer papers sized appropriately for large-scale projects, and potential issues with durability over time if not properly applied or cared for after installation. As always, proper testing and preparation are key elements in ensuring success when transferring dyes onto other substrates like these!

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