Can You Sublimate Over Sublimation? Sublimation In Layers Guide

Sublimation is a quick and easy way to transform the look of t-shirts, mugs, or frames from plain to fun.

One of the most common questions regarding this process is “can you sublimate over sublimation”, which is particularly popular among folks wanting to combine two designs.

This is technically referred to as sublimation layering, which we’ll be discussing in the guide below.

Can You Sublimate Over Sublimation?

Technically, the answer is yes. Any material that already accepted sublimation paint before can accept it once again.

The issue isn’t whether or not it’s possible to sublimate over an existing sublimation, it’s whether or not it’ll come out looking like you intended.

The ideal situation for this to work properly is that you sublimate over a pre-printed design that’s only one color while the color of the material background is white and ensure you are using the best sublimation printer possible.

If you’re sublimating over a sublimated design that features multiple colors, the result may not come out looking good due to problems such as:

  • The old and new colors mix in a messy and unflattering blend when reheated.
  • The bleeding of color(s) from the old design to the new one.
  • The new design picks up some color from the old design upon heating the new layer for sublimation.

How to Sublimate in Layers

Whether it’s a mug, a t-shirt, a frame, or any other item you want to sublimate, you may want to layer more than one design on there. It could be a name or a picture against a fun background or two patterns that look cute together.

The following steps will show you how to easily sublimate more than one layer of heat transfer/ sublimation paper onto an item with as minimal unwanted interference as possible:

Step 1: Gather your tools and supplies

You’ll need your heat-press, heat transfer paper with the designs on it, scissors, regular duct tape, and some high-quality double-sided duct tape.

Step 2: Figure out the position of the layers

Grab your sublimation paper and plan where each layer should go. Figure out the position of the design relevant to one other and to the item you’re sublimating.

For example, let’s say you’re sublimating a t-shirt and you have a “Happy Holidays” design and a snow falling background design. We’ll assume the goal is for the final design to show “Happy Holidays” over the snowing background.

To achieve this, you should place the “Happy Holidays” sublimation paper on top of the paper with the snow design. Make sure you place the “Happy Holidays” precisely where you want to be over the background.

  • Tip: this is the step where you also should trim the margins of the top design paper.

If you’re looking for a high level of blending, trim very closely to the phrase. If you want the phrase to pop out from the background more, leave about a quarter of an inch of paper around the phrase.

Step 3: Tape the top layer(s) to the bottom layer

Once you’re sure about the positioning of the phrase paper over the background and the item, measure the position of the top paper relevant to the background paper.

Next, remove the heat transfer papers from the item and grab the double-sided duct tape. Cut a strip or two of the tape and place them on the backside of the top sublimation paper.

Then, grab the top sublimation paper and adhere it where you had measured it should be positioned on the background sublimation paper.

  • Tip: be as precise as possible about the measurements and the positioning of the top paper before you adhere it to the background paper.

This is because you probably won’t be able to remove it without ruining the design as the duct tape will pick up some color off of the background paper.

  • Tip: you can do this with multiple top layers, but be careful not to overdo it or the design will come out too noisy. 

Step 4: Tape the paper to the item

With your sublimation papers taped together, transfer them to the t-shirt and tape the background paper (now enclosing the top paper) to the shirt.

Step 5: Run the heat-press

Finally, run the heat-press as you’d normally do. After the time’s up, remove the paper from the t-shirt and you should see the two designs nicely layered without issues.

Wrap Up

The sublimation process is quite straightforward at the beginning when your designs are simple.

But as you try more complex designs, you’ll come across a whole lot of questions like “can you sublimate over sublimation?” and the rest of the inquiries in today’s article.

The good news is, we always have answers! You only need to look them up.

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