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Can You Sublimate On White HTV?

It is quite well known that sublimation works with polymeric substrates such as polyester and acrylic. Natural fibers or other non-polymeric surfaces such as cotton, glass, metal, or wood cannot be sublimated directly. But how about HTV? What is HTV, and can you sublimate on white HTV?

You can sublimate on white HTV which stands for Heat Transfer Vinyl. It is used primarily as an intermediary layer between a non-sublimable surface such as cotton and the sublimation ink. It holds on to the sublimation ink on one surface and attaches itself to the substrate on the other.

Operating a heat press

Source: iStock

This post discusses whether you can sublimate on white HTV and answers other related questions about HTV that you might have. We also look into how you can perform sublimation on a sheet of white HTV. So read on till the end to discover more.

And just in case you’re new to sublimation printing, refer to this detailed guide on what is sublimation printing.

What Is White HTV?

White HTV stands for white Heat Transfer Vinyl. It is a special sheet of vinyl designed to be attached to many types of substrates, such as cotton, wood, metal, or concrete. You may see vinyl as stickers as well. HTVs can also be sublimated on, making it an excellent choice to perform indirect sublimation.

White HTV or heat transfer vinyl is made of polyvinyl chloride, better known as PVC. Manufacturers use hard PVCs in pipes and plastic products, while they use soft and pliable PVCs in vinyl flooring, siding, and vinyl sheets such as HTV.

HTV is a type of soft vinyl sheet that you can heat transfer to another surface. It essentially functions like a common sticker, except you must use heat to activate the adhesive to help it attach itself to the substrate (print surface).

When you look at a sheet of HTV, you will see two different sides. One side may appear slightly matted, while the other may appear a little glossy.

That’s because one side contains the adhesive while the other doesn’t, which means you may need to check with your HTV makers to confirm which side contains which.

White HTV is a polymeric material, meaning it can take in sublimation ink and be sublimated on. As a result, sublimation printers like using white HTV sheets to perform indirect sublimation with it. They will first sublimate designs onto the white HTV and then heat transfer the white HTV sheet to the non-polymeric surfaces. This method has been used on many cotton or wool garments.

Can I Sublimate On Glossy, Matte, or Glitter White HTVs?

Generally, you can sublimate on glossy, matte, or glitter white vinyl, because the surface difference does not affect the content of polymeric materials. So, they are sublimable. They do produce different final result – glitter vinyl may appear glittery, matted vinyl will give a matted effect, and so on.

When you look into white HTVs, you may encounter many types of them. You might find glossy HTVs, matted HTVs, or Glittery HTVs.

Many people feel a little unsure if they all are sublimable. In general, you can sublimate to all of them, because these surface differences do not affect the fact that they have a vinyl surface, on which you can sublimate.

These surface treatments are just cosmetic in nature. As a result, when you sublimate to these HTVs, you may see different effects. Some like the glittery effect glitter HTVs give, so they go with that.

These effects enhance the aesthetic quality of the sublimation, which can help your design to stand out.

However, suppose you want to be absolutely sure about the HTVs. In that case, you may first check on the packaging and see if they mention anything about being sublimable. If not, you may want to check with the maker before purchasing.

Why Should I Sublimate On White HTV?

You should sublimate on white HTV because the white background ensures that the color of your designs appears as intended. If the HTV sheet is not white, the color may interfere with the appearance of your design. With dark colored HTV sheet, it may even cause your designs to disappear and not be visible.

Man with Printed T-shirt

You may want to ensure your HTV sheets are white in color for two reasons. The first is to avoid the background color interfering with your design, and the second is because common sublimation printers do not print white.

Non-White Background Interferes with Your Design:

The first reason you want to use white HTV is that white is a neutral color. When you sublimate to a surface, you essentially transfer sublimation ink to a surface. The slightly translucent sublimation ink may reflect the color of the substrate.

If the substrate is white, then it will not change your design’s color. However, if you use a blue HTV sheet, and you sublimated a design with yellow color in it, the yellow area of your design may show a greenish color since combining yellow and blue produces green.

If your substrate is even darker, it may simply overpower many colors from your design, making them less visible. If your HTV sheet is black, you will not see any designs sublimated into it. The black background color overpowers all colors from your sublimation ink.

Sublimation Printers Cannot Print White:

If you think the problems above could be solved by using a printer that prints white, think again, because sublimation printers cannot print white. In fact, for inkjet printers, white ink does not exist. (See the best inkjet sublimation printers here).

Generally, sublimation printers use a CMYK ink configuration – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key/Black. The printer mixes these colors when printing to produce the right tone and hue. No combination of these four colors produces white.

Remember that along with everything, choosing the right equipment is crucial. If you ever wondered, can I use any printer for sublimation, it’s essential to understand the specifics of everything before proceeding in your printing journey.

How To Sublimate On White HTV?

The process of sublimating on white HTV would be similar to sublimating to a polymeric surface. You print your design on a sublimation paper, and then you sublimate the design to your HTV sheet using a heat press. The only thing to note is you must be sure about which side adheres and takes the sublimation ink.

HTV sheets come with a transparent sheet over the adhesive side, but just in case, check to determine which side you can sublimate on before performing the sublimation process.

To sublimate on a white HTV sheet, you need the following:

  • Sublimation printer
  • Heat press
  • Sublimation paper
  • Vinyl transfer sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Heat resistant tape
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  1. To start, print your design on your sublimation paper. Ensure to mirror the design before printing.
  2. While waiting for the printout to be ready, preheat your heat press to 350F° (177C°.)
  3. Now, place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the bottom plate of the heat press.
  4. Place the white HTV. Ensure to place the sublimation side facing up.
  5. Place your sublimation paper, with the printed side facing down, meeting the HTV sheet. Use heat-resistant tape to secure both papers if you think you need to.
  6. Place another parchment paper on top.
  7. Close the lock in your heat press. Allow up to 1 minute for the sublimation process to work.
  8. Remove everything and check the sublimation results.

Depending on your sublimation goal, you may need to cut up the HTV sheet and remove the unneeded background before your heat to transfer the design to your substrate of choice. You may perform this manually with a scissor or knife or use a cutting machine such as those from Cricut or Silhouette.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the type of sublimation ink used also plays a crucial role in the ultimate print output. And just as important as the ink is the choice of sublimation paper. Using the best sublimation papers ensures a smoother transfer process and top-notch results.

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