Can You Sublimate on Microfiber Towels?

Sublimation is an increasingly popular technique for customizing fabrics with vibrant, fade-resistant designs.

Can You Sublimate on Microfiber Towels

One common question is whether you can sublimate on microfiber towels to create personalized kitchen, cleaning, and bath towels.

The quick answer is yes – with the right preparation and supplies, sublimating designs onto microfiber towels is easy.

Supplies Needed to Sublimate Towels

Sublimating towels isn’t too different from sublimating apparel or other items. You’ll need these basic supplies:

  • White microfiber towels – Light colors work best as the base for sublimated designs.
  • Sublimation printer and ink – Special ink bonds with polyester fibers during heat transfer.
  • Sublimation paper – Ink transfers from this paper onto the microfiber.
  • Heat press – Applies heat and pressure to bond the design.
  • Parchment paper – Protects towels from direct contact with the heat press.
  • Designs – Custom graphics or purchased designs to transfer.

With the right gear and some practice, you’ll be customizing microfiber towels in no time!

Key Takeaway: Sublimating microfiber towels requires a sublimation printer, special paper and inks, heat press, designs, and white towels.

Choosing the Best Towels for Sublimation

While technically you can sublimate onto any towel with sufficient polyester content, some work better than others.

Light colors tend to yield more vibrant finished designs. Opt for white if possible.

The polyester percentage matters too. Polyester is what the sublimation ink bonds to, so higher percentages are ideal. Microfiber towels have a high polyester content blended with synthetics like nylon.

The fabric weight also makes a difference. Thin towels allow more ink saturation while thicker ones can restrict vaporization during the heat transfer step. Around 400 GSM weight tends to work well.

For easy folding and pressing, opt for a smaller hand towel size like 16 x 16 inches or 30 x 50 cm rather than a large bath sheet.

Waffle weave and velour microfiber fabrics provide enough texture without overly distorting designs. Terry cloth may show some loss of detail.

Key Takeaway: Choosing white, lightweight microfiber hand towels with a high polyester percentage leads to great sublimation results.

Step-by-Step Guide to Sublimating Towels

With your supplies gathered, let’s walk through the full sublimation process from start to finish:

1. Print Design

First, ensure your design is sized appropriately for the towel area you want to decorate. Then mirror or flip the image before printing onto sublimation paper. This reverses it so it transfers correctly.

2. Preheat Press

Set your heat press to 375°F to 400°F and let it fully preheat. Higher heat helps the ink properly gasify and absorb into the polyester fibers.

3. Pre-Press Towel

Pre-pressing does two important things:

  • Removes moisture which can block ink transfer
  • Sets pleats, folds, and seams to make lining up the design easier

Press for 10-20 seconds without anything on the lower platen.

4. Align Design on Towel

Once pre-pressed, use heat tape or specialty adhesive spray to secure the printed design in the desired position on the towel. This prevents shifting during the transfer.

Cover with parchment paper.

5. Apply Heat and Pressure

Lock the heat press shut for 60-90 seconds to transfer the design. Lift periodically to check progress.

Polyester fibers take longer to reach transfer temperature than cotton T-shirt blends. More pressure can help offset lower temperature settings.

Open the press and remove the paper backing once finished. Avoid pulling too quickly or it could distort the image before the fibers fully cool.

After cooling completely, the design should be fully bonded to the microfiber!

Repeat with additional towels, adjusting time, temperature, and pressure as needed. Consistently amazing results just takes some dialing in.

1Print design onto sublimation paper
2Preheat heat press to 375-400°F
3Pre-press towel to remove moisture
4Secure printed design onto towel
5Press at 60-90 secs with pressure

Key Takeaway: From printing to final reveal, sublimating towels takes 5 key steps – print design, preheat press, pre-press towel, align transfer, and press with heat and pressure.

Creative Sublimation Designs for Towels

Beyond basic monograms and initials, there are so many fun design ideas for sublimated towels:

  • Beach scenes with tropical motifs
  • Botanical prints and flower designs
  • Watercolor splashes and abstract patterns
  • Custom maps with important dates or locations
  • Pet portraits and paw prints
  • Holiday and seasonal themes
  • Typography quotes, lyrics, or mantras

Sublimation also excels at full-color photorealistic printing. Some creative ideas:

  • Family photos
  • Vacation images
  • Sports jerseys, race cars, or other “gear”
  • Food photos or recipe ingredients

The possibilities are truly endless! Use designs you create or purchase ready-to-print templates online.

Transferring Your Design Onto Towels

We already covered the key heat press steps earlier. Here are some additional tips for cleanly transferring sublimation prints during the pressing stage:

  • Use adhesive spray or tac powder to prevent paper movement
  • Cover with butcher paper or reusable parchment sheet
  • Press larger designs in sections for even heat distribution
  • Lift press periodically to check ink progress
  • Cool completely before removing backing

Proper technique comes with repetition. Don’t get discouraged if initial transfers have issues like ghosting or bleeding. Adjusting things like time, temp, and pressure will improve results.

And for best wash-fastness, wait 24 hours after the transfer for the ink to fully cure before first wash. Then launder as normal without fabric softener.

Caring for Sublimated Towels

The true magic of sublimation over other decoration methods is its permanent, fade-resistant nature. The design literally becomes part of the towel fibers rather than just sitting on the surface.

This means you can wash, dry, bleach, and use sublimated towels just like regular ones without special care. The designs will never crack, peel, or fade over time.

However, using fabric softener is not recommended as it can coat the fibers and cause muted colors over many washes. And consistent high heat drying can degrade fibers faster. But otherwise, feel free to use and abuse them like normal!

Key Takeaway: Thanks to sublimation’s permanent bonding process, finished towels can be washed, dried, and bleached without any special care or fear of design degradation.


Can you sublimate on cotton towels or other materials?

Sublimation only works on polyester fabrics because the ink chemically reacts and bonds with the polyester polymer structure. So cotton towels won’t work unless you buy special hybrid towels with a polyester coating or use a carrier like Chromaluxe aluminum sheeting.

Which is better – sublimation or screen printing on towels?

Both have pros and cons! Sublimation yields superior image quality and permanent soft-feel results. Screen printing offers larger sizing options and lower costs at volume. It depends on your priorities, order sizes, and decorating goals.

What’s the best design software for creating sublimation towel graphics?

Adobe products like Illustrator and Photoshop are the gold standard, along with other vector programs like CorelDRAW. But for beginners, Cricut Design Space has lots of easy templating options and integrates directly with some sublimation printers.

Can I use a mug wrap or other heat-resistant carrier to sublimate towels?

Yes, wraps and carriers prevent direct contact with the heat platen so you can sublimate onto fabrics like towels that would otherwise show press lines. Just confirm the material can handle extended exposure at 400°F temperatures.

How many times can you re-press the same towel design?

For polyester towels, the general guidance is you can successfully re-press up to 3 times without noticeable degradation in print quality. Just make sure to cover with butcher paper or parchment sheet to prevent contact friction scuffing.


Adding personalized flair to kitchen and bath towels is easy with sublimation. Microfiber fabrics are perfectly suited to permanently bonding with sublimation inks during the heat transfer process.

By preparing the towels properly, printing mirror-imaged designs onto sublimation paper, and applying adequate heat and pressure, stunning results are achievable right at home.

Sublimated towels also withstand regular machine washing without any special handling required. So customize away and decorate any room or occasion with these customizable fabric accessories!

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.