In this article, we will be discussing sublimation for beginners. We'll take a look at what supplies you need, including printers and materials you can use. You can create final products with unbelievable detail and color.
The process fuses to a specially coated blank so it doesn't fade or lift. You are able to create high quality products for sale or gifts for family and friends.
Crafters usually start out with permanent and Heat Transfer Vinyl before moving onto sublimation. If you're familiar with Cricut Infusible Ink, it's a similar process.
What is Sublimation?
Sublimation ink, when heated, turns into a gas. It transfers from the sheet into your substrate (your blank or material). It then solidifies into the product you are working with.
Unlike vinyl, it doesn't sit on top of the substrate.
Instead, the ink fuses into the product material. This allows for long lasting designs! You will need to mirror your design when using this technique since the paper will be placed face down.
Sublimation is a special craft: it needs a specific printer, paper, and ink. We've listed our favorites down below to help you get started.
What Can I Use Sublimation On?
You can sublimate on polyester shirts, canvases, pillowcases, tumblers, tote bags, blankets, coasters, and more! As long as the blank has a coating designed for sublimation, you are good to go.
You can find these products from Walmart, Michael's, or sublimation blank retailers. You might want to check your favorite vinyl supplier's website as well! Do check the supplier's website for heat pressing instructions so that you avoid scorching your materials.
It's not recommended to sublimate on cotton or poly-cotton blends unless the polyester count is at least 60% or higher. Anything with a lower count may cause a faded or bleached look and not give the results you want.
What Do I Need to Get Started with Sublimation?
Designs - Design Bundles offers tons of Sublimation designs to choose from. Did you know about our FREE Sublimation Design section? There is something for everyone!
Sublimation Paper - TruePix Classic, TextPrint R, Starcraft. We've got a visual guide on sublimation paper comparison to make things a little easier.
Heat Press - The type of heat press would depend on what you intend to sublimate. A simple clamp or swing heat press works great for shirts. But for apparel such as hats, mugs/tumblers, and more, you would need a bigger system. For tumblers, why not check out how to use a 7 in 1 Sublimation tumbler press?
Graphics Program - The Sawgrass printer comes with its own software. You can also use software you already have like Silhouette Studio, Affinity Designer, Adobe Illustrator, Canva and so on. Pop on over to Design School for our helpful and totally FREE tutorials to get you started.
You don't need to be a designer, but you do need a program to use fonts and customize designs.
Butcher Paper/Blowout paper - when heat pressing, there is usually bleeding or residue from the ink. You can use Parchment paper, Butcher or copy paper to protect your equipment. Place one piece on the base of the heat press. Place a second piece on top of your material and design.
Blanks - for clothing, bags and apparel, a high polyester count of at least 60% is recommended. Coasters, mugs, tumblers and other items should have a special coating designed for this technique.
Heat Resistant Tape - heat resistant tape is used to secure the paper to the product. Sublimation paper is not like HTV, it does not have an adhesive side to help stay in place. You can't use normal tape as it will melt. So invest in some decent heat resistant tape.
Heat Resistant Gloves - if you are using a mug press, it can get extremely hot. You don't want to burn yourself! You definitely need to get yourself a pair of Heat Resistant Gloves.
Lint Roller - this will become an essential tool on your crafting list. Lint rollers are great for removing any bits of fluff or debris that might be left behind. It can interfere with the ink transfer. This is one step you don't want to miss.
When you print the design, there is something you will most likely notice. The print is going to look a bit dull, but don't let this worry you. Once the heat activates the process, the colors will be absolutely brilliant.
Important tip: You don't want to mess around with the transfer too much while it's still hot. The process is still working until it has fully cooled down. So if you accidentally move the paper you could end up with ghosting.
This amazing process allows for great details in designs that HTV and permanent vinyl can't otherwise offer. Gradients and realistic printed textures are vibrant and unbelievable. It's an awesome way to create customized, exciting gifts or products.
Don't forget, all of our designs include a dual license for commercial and personal use.