Sublimation Black Looks Brown | How to Fix? (Effective Ways)

Sublimation printing provides custom design and enhances the grace of substrates. Like screen printing technique, sublimation printing also encounters some issues.

Many people have noticed that their black sublimation prints sometimes turn brown. It happens because using low-quality ink, putting too much ink, or setting the wrong temperature. All can lead to the problem of “sublimation black looks brown.”

After thoroughly researching sublimation issues, I’ve discovered some effective and simple techniques to avoid the issue. Following these instructions, you can prevent your black sublimation prints from turning brown.

Causes of Sublimation Black Looks Brown

You must be well aware of the causes which make the sublimation look brown. Let’s explore the reasons why sublimation black can sometimes appear brown. Here are a few of them:

Use of Expired Sublimation Inks

The primary reason your sublimation print is turning brown is the use of expired sublimation inks. Typically, sublimation inks have a shelf life of around 12 months. If you continue to use them after their expiry date, you might notice your black sublimation prints appearing with brownish shades.

It’s crucial to check the expiry date of your sublimation ink each time before starting your printing process. By being aware of the ink’s expiration date, you can ensure that your sublimation prints maintain their true colors and don’t turn brown.

Poor Quality of the Sublimation Papers

Another important factor that can lead to black-looking brown sublimation is the use of poor-quality papers. Using low-quality papers can affect how the ink interacts with the surface, causing the black color to appear dull and brownish.

To achieve vibrant and accurate colors in your sublimation prints, investing in high-quality sublimation papers specifically designed for this printing process is essential.

These papers are engineered to handle the sublimation ink effectively, resulting in better color retention and print quality.

Wrong Temperature Settings

When using a heat press for sublimation printing, it’s vital to pay close attention to the temperature settings, especially for different substrates. Each substrate material may have specific temperature requirements for the sublimation process.

If you exceed the recommended temperature limit for a particular substrate, you risk ending up with a sublimation print that appears brown.

To avoid this issue, always check the temperature requirements for the specific substrate you are working with. Set the heat press to the appropriate temperature, neither too high nor too low.

Following the correct temperature guidelines for each substrate, you can ensure that your sublimation prints retain their intended colors and do not turn brown.

Using Wrinkled Papers

Remember the sublimation paper itself once you’ve taken care of all the important aspects of your sublimation project. Ensuring the paper has a flat and clear surface is crucial. If the paper has wrinkles or imperfections, it can seriously affect the quality of your print.

How can you achieve a smooth, consistent, and even print when the paper surface is uneven?

Those wrinkles can cause the sublimation ink to distribute unevenly, leading to color variations in your print. And unfortunately, this can often result in the print looking brown instead of the desired colors.

Using White Background

When using a white substrate as the background for sublimation printing, there’s a chance it might absorb the sublimation ink, causing the print to appear brown. To avoid this issue, it’s recommended to use grey or other colored backgrounds instead.

Alternatively, you can apply a layer of blue color over the substrate surface before starting the sublimation print. This way, you won’t encounter the problem of your black sublimation print turning brown.

These simple adjustments can help you achieve vibrant and accurate colors in your sublimation prints, ensuring a successful and impressive result.

Related: How to Sublimate on Colored Shirts?

Sublimation Black is Turning Brown: How to Stop it?

There are various effective ways to solve the issue of black sublimation print looking brown. Here are some of them which you can follow and stop this problem.

Use Right Temperature Settings during Printing

Once you’ve finished designing and printing on the transfer paper, the next step is to set the heat press temperature correctly, considering the thickness and weight of the paper. If the paper is thick, remember that the black ink might not penetrate deeply enough.

To achieve a sharp and completely black color print on the substrate, it’s important to use a higher temperature. This allows the ink to move quickly and reach deeper levels, resulting in better saturation. When the transfer paper has adequate sublimation ink, the final print on the substrate will be sharp and black.

On the other hand, if there is a shortage of sublimation ink in the transfer, the print will appear less sharp and may even take on a brownish tint.

To avoid this, ensure the transfer paper has enough ink for a vibrant and flawless print on your chosen substrate. Paying attention to the temperature and ink saturation can produce impressive sublimation prints with rich and true black colors.

Using a Printer with High Resolution

The next technique to solve the issue of black sublimation looking brown is the usage of high-resolution printers.

A high-resolution printer imparts accurate color sublimation ink on the substrate. As a result, the sublimation print is highly consistent and sharp.

The recommended resolution for a sublimation printer is 600 dpi or higher. Lower resolution than this may result in dull images; most of the time, it appears brown.

Now, let us go deep and talk about using a high-resolution printer to fix the problem of black sublimation turning brown.

A high-resolution printer is like a super accurate artist. It carefully puts the right colors on the material, making the prints look awesome. The best part is the sublimation prints come out super consistent and sharp.

Therefore, we recommend using a printer with a resolution of 600 dpi or higher for the best results. When the resolution is too low, the prints may turn out dull, and sadly, they sometimes look brown.

Use Thick and Heavy Paper

In sublimation printing, a special type of paper is required, which contains polyester products. It will give a dull print if it has less polyester content. This will result in the color transformation from black to brownish. Each sublimation paper has a coating on one of its sides, which helps in the even distribution of sublimation ink.

This coating makes the sublimation transfer paper-heavy and thick. Most of the experts recommend using a paper weight of 80 grams. Lower-weight papers will cause color complications and inconsistency in image printing.

Increase the Amount of Toner

Toner is like the key ingredient! If you use the right settings for your toner, your prints will turn out super clear and vibrant.

If you’re running a sublimation printing business and work in batches, check the quality of your toner regularly. High-quality toner is highly recommended for your sublimation prints! It adds beautiful colors to your images and makes them look sharp and awesome.

Substrate Compatibility

If you are facing the issue of black sublimations turning brown, then you are using the wrong substrate. The substrate’s quality and properties can significantly impact the final color output for black sublimation printing.

Sublimation ink works best as it forms bonds with polyester fibers. Therefore, for optimal results substrate must have a high content of polyester.

Also, sublimation printing gives better results with a tight weave or smooth surface, such as polyester fabrics, ceramic tiles, or coated metal. Therefore, avoiding using textured or heavily textured materials is highly recommended.

Bonus Tips

Here are some practical and effective tips to stop black sublimation from turning to brown;

  • Regularly clean your sublimation printer’s print heads, capping station, and other relevant parts.
  • Keep your heat press clean and free from debris, dust, or ink residues.
  • If you’re using fabric as a substrate, ensure it’s clean and free from any contaminants that could interfere with ink absorption.

Related: How to Eliminate Heat Press Lines?


Various reasons cause the issue of black sublimation to turn to brown. So, choose the accurate quality of the substrate, the correct sublimation printer, the accurate weight of sublimation transfer paper, and the improved toner quality. In this way, you will eliminate black sublimation prints shifting to brown.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why my black sublimation print is not black?

It is due to wrong printer settings, high heat for a longer time, and wrong substrate selection. So, choose the right settings during sublimation image printing, keep the temp in the recommended range, and choose the right substrate to avoid this issue.

Why is my sublimation printer printing dark?

It occurs when the printer head is clogged or worn out. Or you are not using the right quality sublimation paper and sublimation ink. Applying the wrong temperature and pressure settings will cause low-resolution prints, which appear dark and burnt.

Why Is My Black Sublimation Ink Dull?

You may be using low-quality sublimation ink or expired one. Also, check the printer’s functionality before printing on regular paper.

Why Is My Sublimation Printer Not Printing Correct Colors?

Either you have set the wrong settings in your sublimation printer, or the sublimation has expired. So, verify both of these issues and then start sublimation to have the correct printing colors.

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