sublimation printing problems

10 Most Common Sublimation Printing Problems | How to Fix Them?

If you’re a sublimation user, you know that occasionally you’ll run into problems with the process. In this blog, we will outline the 10 most common Sublimation Printing Problems and their fixes. Being aware of these issues can save you time and frustration in the future. Stay productive, and read on.

10 Sublimation Printing Problems & Their Solutions

1. Banding

sublimation printing problems

Banding or striping is the most common sublimation printing problem. You’ll notice these dark bands of color across your shirt (or another garment). They are usually evenly spaced and form a regular pattern. This is due to excess moisture and heat on areas of the design, which has caused colors to ‘burn’ together, causing an uneven appearance.

One fix for stripping is to wash the garment before you begin printing. It’s not recommended that you put it in the dryer, though, because you could set the colors in the garment. Another fix is to invest in a heat press with an adjustable temperature setting.

You can also learn about proper heat press settings for sublimation on specific materials.

2. Printing too dark or a ‘heavy’ design

Printing too dark or a 'heavy' design

If you’re using Photoshop’s default settings for your designs, chances are of printing much darker colors than necessary. Play around with the opacity and layer styles in Photoshop until the design is as light as possible.

The best way to fix this problem is to put the design on a different garment. Another option is to adjust your printer settings and decrease the darkness. You can also try washing the garment before you begin printing and drying it.

3. Black under base/white Ink

Black under base/white Ink

If using white ink, this is the second most common sublimation mistake. The design looks fine on screen, but when it’s printed, there’s just a faint outline of your design with a solid black background underneath. This can be very frustrating and make it seem like the sublimation process won’t work.

It’s an easy fix. First, you need to increase the amount of ink being used. By default, printers are set to use the minimum amount of ink possible. This will work fine if you’re printing text on sublimation paper, but not when printing onto plastic. Increase your printer’s ink density setting to get the coverage you need.

4. Moisture Issues

Moisture Issues

You’ll probably notice this when you make the shirt wet, the design will be all blurry or smudgy. This is due to water getting in between the sublimation ink and the plastic, causing a permanent smudging effect.

Ensure your humidity is low when using sublimation and your shirts are completely dry before moving them into a plastic bag. Also, make sure your design is as light as possible to reduce the amount of ink needing to be used.

5. Edge Fading

Edge Fading

This is another common problem caused by excess heat. You’ll see lighter areas of color output near the edges of your design, with solid colors in the center. This occurs when the heat has been applied unevenly and stretches out along the edges of your shirt.

This can be an easy fix, adjust your printer settings. Try reducing the heat by 10 degrees or more, then print again. You may also need to lower the amount of ink used in your design.

If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to invest in a heat press with an adjustable temperature setting.

6. Transfer Lines On Apparel

Transfer Lines On Apparel

This is the term used for designs that look fine on paper, but darker lines run through them when transferred onto an actual garment. This usually results in a zebra-like appearance. This is due to an uneven sublimation transfer of your design onto the sublimation paper, some ink will have transferred onto the paper but not the garment.

You can try washing and drying your garment, which will cause the sublimation ink to transfer from the paper onto the garment. However, this may not work and you may need to print it onto a different garment. You can also try adjusting your printer settings and ink density.

7. Incorrect Colors in the Output

Incorrect Colors in the Output

The colors in your output should be the same as they are on screen. This is a common issue when images have been saved at a lower quality. If you’ve already resized your files, there is no way to get the incorrect colors back precisely how they are on screen, but you can adjust the colors slightly to compensate for this.

8. Unwanted Pixels

Unwanted Pixels

If your design has pixels strewn about it, you will need to ensure your printer’s dpi is set to 300. This ensures that each pixel you see on the screen will print heads correctly, instead of having the printer automatically zoom in and ‘stretch’ your design.

9. Ghosting and Bleeding

Ghosting occurs when the design space becomes lighter and transparent, leaving a faint outline of the original image quality on your shirt. This is usually because your design was set to mirror or flip, and parts weren’t printed correctly.

Bleeding occurs when the ink spreads beyond the edges of your design and onto the shirt itself. This is a more common problem, and there is no easy way to fix it, you either have to edit your design or invest in a better printer manually.

10. Blue Specks on Fabric

Blue Specks on Fabric

Unfortunately, these specks are permanent and not the result of a setting on your sublimation printer. They usually occur when you leave your garment in storage without cleaning it properly. The ink from the dark fabric gets on your hands, and when you pick up the garment, you transfer a little bit of ink onto it. This ink then smears onto the shirt when it’s transferred.

To avoid this, make sure you wash and clean your garment before transferring it to ensure no ink is transferred.


How do you fix a sublimation mistake on a shirt?

If you’ve already put the garment through the sublimation process, there is no way to fix a mistake. You can reprint it, but this will probably result in the same problem as your first attempt.

What setting should I use on my printer?

Printing at 300 dpi ensures that each pixel on your screen prints correctly. Pixels will automatically be’ stretched and distorted if you set the dpi to anything lower than this. This can cause many problems and should be avoided.

How do you avoid over-inking?

You should only use the minimum amount of ink to get your design on the fabric. However, sometimes this does not work, and you will need to add a little more. For example, if you add too much ink, you will see a dark line of color space where the design is printed. To avoid this, use a damp cloth to gently remove some excess ink before placing it in the dryer.


Sublimation printing comes with its own set of unique problems. However, armed with this knowledge, you should be able to troubleshoot any sublimation printing problem that comes up and produce beautiful prints with the best of tactics.

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