3 types of fabric for dye sublimation printing & which ones to avoid

Well, firstly, we’re assuming you’d like to know a bit about dye sublimation printing… only one of the most popular printing methods in the world (no biggie) and a service we offer here at Mereton Textile’s HQ in Sydney, NSW. 

What is dye sublimation printing and does it live up to all the hype?

Designers and artists in the fabric world are hooked on dye sublimation printing. And for good reason. They often struggle to find printing methods that accurately showcase their vibrant designs while ensuring durability and versatility. Traditional techniques can lead to faded colours, limited options, and slow production, making it difficult to meet deadlines and fulfill orders efficiently.

But with dye sublimation printing you can say goodbye to all of that.

Advantages of dye sublimation printing, include:

  • High colour vibrancy and durability
  • Excellent for all-over prints
  • Ideal for synthetic fabrics
  • Fast, perfect for bulk production

How does dye sublimation actually work?

Dye sublimation works by printing specific inks onto specially formulated papers. Those papers are then fed through a calendar press machine using heat and pressure, which transforms the inks into a gaseous state. That gas penetrates the fabric fibres and then solidifies, leaving a perfectly vibrant design permanently on the fabric. Impressive, huh?

So with that being said, exactly what fabrics are suitable for dye sublimation printing? 


Coming in at number one for fabrics most suitable for dye sublimation printing is polyester. Why? Well, polyester’s unique properties, like being able to open up under heat, allow dye in its gaseous form to penetrate its fibers and become permanently printed once cooled. 

Not to mention, polyester’s durability and wrinkle resistance make it perfect for apparel and home decor. It’s worth noting that the higher the polyester content, the better the results will be. 

There is much debate about the effect polyester has on the environment, which we also covered here.

Spandex, Lycra and Elastane

Other great fabric types when blended with polyester that work well for dye sublimation printing are Spandex, Lycra and Elastane. They are all synthetic fabrics that are often used in activewear due to their stretch and ability to keep their shape well. 

It’s common to find polyester fabrics blended with these synthetic materials for optimal fabric results.

Poly Cotton Blends

Lastly, a blend of poly cotton fabric, with most of the content being polyester is perfectly suitable for dye sublimation printing. Unlike pure cotton fabrics, these blends are perfectly suited for vibrant, long-lasting prints. With more polyester in the mix, you’ll achieve optimal colour vibrancy, as cotton doesn’t absorb ink like polyester does.

Below are some of our fabrics that are perfectly suited for dye sublimation

Now you know what fabrics work well for dye sublimation printing… What fabrics are NOT suitable for dye sublimation?

While there are alternative printing methods available for these fabrics, dye sublimation is not one you want to use if you’re looking for high-quality results. 

Natural fibres such as Linen, Cotton, Silk, Bamboo, Wool

What happens with natural fibers like Linen, Cotton, Silk, Bamboo, and Wool when you print on them using dye sublimation? Unlike synthetic materials, these fibers lack the necessary structure for optimal ink bonding, resulting in a washed-out and faded print.

Unlike polymer-based fibers, natural fibers don’t open and close, causing sublimation ink to merely bind to the surface instead of penetrating the fibers. As a result, the printed design may disappear when washed. No one wants this!


So, what about Nylon?  

Although on many websites they deem Nylon a good choice for dye sublimation, it needs to be noted that Nylon has a low melting point, and there are so many different variations of nylon out there that there is no real one-size-fits all rule around it. 

At Mereton we choose not to press onto Nylon due to this reason as we have seen it before – the fabric has melted in our machines and caused a huge headache. It is always a good idea to check just how much nylon is in your fabric, and then do tests with any printer to check before a batch run.

Now that you’re a dye sublimation convert, contact us today to see how we can bring your designs to life with unparalleled quality and durability.

Interested in more fabric tips from Mereton? Why not check out our blog on How to print on fabric in 4 so-simple steps or 3 Reasons Fabric Colours Can Print Differently and How We’re Changing That