Sublimation or Vinyl?

Sublimation or Vinyl, which is the best to use? What is the difference between Sublimation printing and using your Cricut and HTV, you may ask? Well, it all depends on what finished product you are looking for. Let’s start with the Cricut and HTV. There are two ways of looking at this. The first is you can use single color HTV (Heat Transfer Vinyl) and layer one color on top of the other. Usually, 3 to 4 layers are the maximum as after that the t-shirt starts to become quite stiff and will be uncomfortable to wear. The second option is to use printable vinyl. This option is quicker and, of course, will be a single layer. You print your image with an inkjet printer onto the printable vinyl. Printable vinyl is usually white, so it works better on light colors. Both printable vinyl and HTV can be put on with a heat press, but if you are using more than one layer with HTV, you have to carefully line up each layer and, of course, wait till it has cooled before putting the next layer on.

best sublimation printer
Epson Sublimation Printer Kit.

Sublimation printing is slightly different. To start, you must have a dedicated printer that uses sublimation ink. You cannot use your inkjet printer and ink, although you can convert many inkjet printers to sublimation if you want to. You then print your design onto special sublimation paper, which can then be transferred to your t-shirt with your heat press. There are a few things you must remember with sublimation printing. 

Firstly, that it only really works on light fabric as you cannot print white, so if your image had a large area of white, you would have to put it on a white t-shirt. Second, the fabric must have a high polyester content. Over 50% works, but where possible 100% polyester is best. 

So, as you can see, each has its pros and cons.  

Sublimation Printing Pros

Excellent quality and color reproduction

Long-lasting prints  

Sublimation Printing Cons

Must use 100% polyester t-shirts

Only looks good on lighter colored t-shirts

0 3x30m 12inch x 100feet PU Heat Transfer Vinyl HTV Iron On Vinyl Starter Pack Heat 1
Rolls of HTV Colored Vinyl.

Vinyl Pros

Suitable for making basic designs

Vinyl Cons

Does not work well with complicated images

To make more complicated images, you need printable vinyl and an inkjet printer

So now you think which way I should go. If you are interested in making only t-shirts and nothing else, I would recommend sublimation printing. You get a better quality; the ink goes into the fabric, making it long-lasting and look like a shop-bought product. Alternatively, if you want to make t-shirts and other products like tumblers, personalised items, and you’re a beginner using HTV and vinyl might be a better way for you to go.  

Either way is going to need an investment to get you started, but overall, I would say neither one is more expensive than the other. 


You will either need a sublimation printer or a Cricut machine which are both available for around $250, and then a heat press. On top of this, you will need either vinyl or ink and paper. The price of this depends on brand and quantity.

Ultimately the choice is yours, but I hope the information I have given you will help you make an educated decision. Which provides you with the better quality and ease of use, sublimation printing or heat transfer vinyl?

Hopefully this article will now help you know Sublimation or Vinyl?

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