Are you curious about sublimation, but not sure where to start? Maybe you are looking for a side hustle and need ideas on what to sell? Maybe you volunteer at church or school and need to make a bunch of shirts or tumblers quickly? Well, let me help you with this beginner’s guide to sublimation. I’m sharing everything I’ve learned along with my favorite substrates and techniques to get you on your way, so let’s get started!
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Last week, we looked at the Cricut Mug Press and a Sublimation Oven and in that post I also shared some basic sublimation which we will review here again.
Beginner’s Guide to Sublimation – What is Sublimation?
Sublimation is a type of printing that allows for images to be transferred onto objects made of polymers. This is done by using special inks and a heat press. The inks are heated to a high temperature and then transferred onto the object. The object is then placed in a heat press, where it is heated to a high temperature again. This causes the inks to actually become gas and bond with the polymers in the object. Once the object has cooled, the image is permanent.
What is the difference between sublimation and heat transfer?
The main difference between sublimation and heat transfer is that sublimation actually changes the molecules of the fabric, whereas heat transfer only applies the design to the surface of the fabric. Additionally, sublimation requires a polyester fabric to work properly, whereas heat transfer can be used on various fabrics.
What kind of fabric works best for sublimation?
Polyester fabric works best for sublimation because it is specifically designed to withstand the high temperatures involved in the process. However, you can also sublimate onto other materials like cotton and canvas by first adhering to a thermal laminate sheet or sublimation coating. You can also sublimate rigid substrates like frosted glass, wood, coated ceramics and coated stainless steel to name a few.
What do I need to get started with Sublimation?
To get started with sublimation, you’ll need a few things. First, you’ll need a substrate that is polyester-coated or has a special polymer coating. This is because the dyes used in sublimation are activated by heat, and need a material that can withstand high temperatures. without damage. You’ll also need a sublimation printer, which uses special inks that are designed to turn into gas when heated. If you do not have a sublimation printer or do not want to invest in one just yet, you can use products such as Infusible Ink transfer sheets. Finally, you’ll need a heat press, which applies the necessary heat and pressure to transfer the design onto the substrate.
I created a short video going over basic sublimation substrates and supplies…check it out below…
To review, these are the basic items I use for Sublimation:
- Sublimation Printer – I use an Epson Sure Color F170 sublimation printer
- Heat Press – I use the HTVRONT Heat Press and Cricut AutoPress for larger items such as T-shirts and tote bags.
- Mug Press or Sublimation Oven (you will need shrink wrap and a heat gun for items sublimated in the oven)
- Sublimation Paper – A-SUB brand is my favorite, check out my paper comparison here.
- Butcher Paper
- Heat Resistant Tape
- Heat Resistant Tape Dispenser
- Tape Measure
- Heat Resistant Gloves
Where Can I get Designs for Sublimation?
Ok, so now you have all your supplies and you’re ready to start sublimating t-shirts, coasters, mugs, tumblers, and more. So now what? Now you’ll want to get some designs for your projects. Here are my top 3 sources for design elements: (If you are planning on selling your creations, be sure to read the licensing agreement on any services/graphics you purchase.)
- Creative Fabrica – There are hundreds of thousands of graphics to choose from. Everything you need to start designing mugs, shirts, and tumblers. Any theme you can think of! You can enroll in a membership with access to all the elements in their catalog or purchase designs a la carte at a reasonable price.
- Canva – I use Canva daily to design my projects. You can use the free version or upgrade to the professional membership which allows access to more designs and features. (Check out this tutorial for a sample of how I use Canva for sublimation)
- Etsy – This is a great resource for ready-made graphics in all genres. When I can’t find what I need at the two other sources listed above, I usually find what I need on Etsy.
How to Prepare Sublimation Blanks – Guide to Sublimation Tips & Tricks
Preparing your blanks for sublimation will depend on the material. For all surfaces, you’ll want to remove any dust particles with a link roller. For glass and stainless steel tumblers, you’ll want to also use an alcohol wipe to make sure the surface is clean. When sublimating textiles, it’s best if you warm up the fabric to remove moisture from the material. Butcher paper is great for not only protecting the heat press pads and heat plates, but it is good to place inside t-shirts , bags, etc to prevent the ink from bleeding through. Heat-resistant tape will help ensure that your materials and prints are secure and don’t move while sublimating. Any movement of the paper while sublimating will result in ghosting or uneven results.
Guide to Sublimation – Project Inspiration
Now that you have what you need to kick-start your sublimation journey, how about some inspiration to get the creative juices flowing? As part of your guide to sublimatino, here are some easy projects for beginners…
I share daily videos on my TikTok channel, many of which are sublimation projects. So be sure to follow me there for a daily inspiration!
PIN FOR LATER!
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