What is sublimation?
Sublimation is a process where a solid substance bypasses the liquid phase and directly converts into a gas when heated. In the context of sublimation printing, it involves transferring ink from a solid state to a gaseous state and then onto a substrate.
Basically, the ink gets so hot that it permeates the fiber or other material, creating an image that won’t come off.
It’s important to note that sublimation printing works best on polyester or polymer-coated substrates, as the ink bonds effectively with these materials. The higher the polyester content in the substrate, the more vibrant the colors will appear in the final print.
What is sublimation best for?
If you want to use full-color images, like photos, on your items.
A good example is mugs. Photo mugs are very popular and an amazing gift, but it’s just not possible to use vinyl for photos.
Materials needed to get started with sublimation:
Sublimation ink – you must have sublimation ink. Don’t use the ink that comes with the printer!
Sublimation paper – A-SUB is known as the best. It’s special paper that really soaks up the ink so more can be transferred to the blank.
Heat press – You can NOT use an iron. The heat press needs to be around 400 degrees F; an iron does not get hot enough. I have this HTVront heatpress; it takes NO pressure to close (unlike a clamshell press) and you don’t have to press down on it (like you do with an EasyPress.) I do have an EasyPress 2, but for the price point, the HTVront is much better.
You can also use an EasyPress Mini for very small pieces, like earrings.
Heat Press Mat – this one is 13 x 17 inches and inexpensive.
Protective gloves – You absolutely can not handle items without heat-resistant gloves! These are inexpensive and have silicon bumps for good grip.
Tweezers to peel the paper off the item – Reverse tweezers work really well, and this pack of three ensures you have one somewhere you can find it.
Blue heat tape – the Cricut brand seems to be the best. If the design moves at all, it will create ghosting and ruin the transfer.
Parchment paper – you always need to have a layer of paper over the design and under the design to prevent any transfer to the heat press or through the garment. You can also use butcher paper or cardstock.
Blanks – There’s a very wide variety of items you can sublimate. Fabric items need to be a high percentage of polyester.
Want to make mugs, tumblers, or other drinkware?
Cricut mug press – this is listed on Amazon.
Mugs with sublimation coating – this is a case of 12 mugs, 15 oz size. (This is the largest size the Cricut Mug Press allows.
My friend Jen has used both of these great-for-travel blanks:
– Stainless Steel Double Wall Sublimation Mugs with lids.
– Mason Jar Tumbler with Lid and Metal Straw, 17 oz Stainless Steel
There are many drinkware options available (they do not need to be Cricut-branded.)
They do need to:
– be straight-walled
– with a diameter between 3.2″ – 3.4″ (82 – 86 mm)
– have a maximum height of 4.72″ (120 mm)
* Links to products are for your convenience in finding tools and materials, however, they are affiliate links.
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I’ll be adding more and more to this post as I practice and do more with sublimation!
Questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll answer it!