Learn the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How to sublimation. Get the answers to the 6 Ws of Sublimation, a new crafting trend.
If you love to craft and find new things to make, you may have heard about sublimation but have no idea what it is. Well, I am here to help! We are going to be answering those questions!
Sublimation has been around for quite a while, but with the introduction of Cricut's Infusible Ink, this way of printing has become much more popular and easier to do at home.
Today we are answering the basic questions about sublimation. This is a very dense topic with lots of articles all over the web, so my goal is to give you a starting point to learning all about sublimation, and I will give article references on topics where you may want to dig a bit further.
Who Can Sublimate?
For a long time, the only people who could sublimate are those who ran a printing business. Sublimation printers and sublimation inks were very expensive making it less likely that someone could do it at home as a hobby.
But, times change and the supplies needed for sublimation have become more affordable and more easily accessible so that you can sublimate for a hobby or even turn it into a small business!
The basic needed supplies to be able to sublimate are a sublimation printer with sublimation ink, sublimation paper, and sublimation blanks. but we will get into that more in the next couple of questions.
What Do You Need to Get Started with Sublimation?
Getting started is easier than you might think. But I do recommend doing a little research before rushing out to buy your supplies. There are many different options, so it all depends on your budget and if you are planning on turning this into a business or use only as a hobby.
Here is what I use.
For a printer, I use an Epson EcoTank 2720. This is a home office printer that is pretty inexpensive as far as printers go. The EcoTanks are great because converting them to sublimation is pretty simple.
Sublimation inks don't come in printer cartridges for most home office printers. So when you hear someone say they have to convert a printer for sublimation, that means they are converting the ink over to sublimation ink instead of regular printer ink.
The sublimation ink I use is Printers Jack. It can be found on Amazon or Etsy. Printers Jack sublimation ink is made for Epson EcoTank printers, so you don't need to upload a special print profile. The inks print colors as intended and are vibrant and beautiful after sublimation.
The sublimation paper I like best is A-Sub 120 G. This is a mid-weight paper that is dense enough for the ink to soak into the paper, but not so thick you get paper jams with your printer. Plus, it is another product that is intended to be used in an Epson printer.
For the heat-press, I use different heat sources depending on the final product the sublimate will be applied to. For anything flat, like a shirt, or canvas, I use my Cricut EasyPress. If I am making a mug, I will use the Cricut Mug Press. For a tumbler or anything else with a shape, I use the attachments to my Heat Press.
To design my projects, I use Adobe Illustrator, but canva.com and other free editing software can be used as well. All you really need is the dimensions of your finished project and the ability to print to your sublimation printer.
The fun part of your project is your sublimation blank. There are so many things you can apply your design to. Tumblers, mugs, keychains, ornaments, shirts, and so much more! Seriously, the list goes on and on.
But, don't forget, the base has to be made of special material for the sublimation ink to transfer? So whenever sublimating make sure you are using a quality sublimation blank, or a material that is at least 50% polyester. The higher the polyester percentage the more vibrant the image will be.
I don't recommend shopping Amazon for sublimation blanks because there are many items marked as sublimation, but they are not. Try Etsy or an official sublimation shop like Johnson Plastics Plus or Coastal Business Supplies.
When Would You Use Sublimation?
The great thing about sublimation is the detail and image quality you can put onto a project. Vinyl and screen printing is somewhat limiting and can make adding different layers and colors difficult and time-consuming.
Sublimation is also a more permanent option. The print can fade over time from contact with high heat like from a dishwasher, but you don't have to worry about peeling like you do with vinyl.
A downside to sublimation is you need your project surface to be a very light color, but best if it is completely white. With sublimation inks you can only go darker, you cannot go lighter or whiter. There isn't even white sublimation ink.
The color is being infused to the surface of the material so think of it as adding two colors together. If you sublimate yellow on blue, it will become green. This also means that you cannot sublimate directly onto black items, because black mixed with any color is black, so you won't be able to see the image.
Here is a great video about colored shirts and sublimation inks.
Where Do You Get Sublimation Prints?
So you want to play around with sublimation before you get a printer? You can totally do that and test the waters! There are many sellers on Etsy that will print your design and send it to you in the size you are wanting!
I have personally dealt with HTVGuru and they are amazing. Even worked with me when I was on a tight timeline to get shirts done for a daughter's graduation party coming up!
Getting sublimation prints is a great way to play with sublimation before making the commitment with printers and all of the supplies.
As was stated in the "When" section, sublimation is a permanent design that can be added to your projects.
So these items make great gifts! I have made personalized mugs, tumblers, shirts, and even doormats. My favorite gift to give is Last Name doormats, they make a great wedding gift!
How Does Sublimation Work?
This is a very science-based question, and I never was good at science. But... here we go.
Sublimation is a chemical process where ink is transferred through heat and pressure. The sublimation ink used is turned into a gas when heat is applied and the pressure transfers the ink from the paper to the item you are sublimating on.
The tricky part is that the sublimation ink won't transfer to any material. So you need to make sure that you are using items that work with sublimation. These items are most often called sublimation blanks.
Later in this article, we will be going over different sublimation blanks.
If you are the nerdy type and trust me, there is nothing wrong with that. Read more about What Sublimation is in Chemistry. This really goes into depth.
If you love this easy tutorial, please give it a five-star review and help me share it on Facebook and Pinterest!
If I didn't answer your question, let me know and leave it below in the comments!
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WILL THE SUBLIMATION INK WORK WITH CRICUT MUG AND PRESS
Yes, it does! Thanks Robin
This is very helpful, I am wanting to get started with Sublimation and like anyone else I do my research before investing a lot of money into it. I appreciate your help.
Absolutely! I am happy to help.
I purchased the Epson work force and I tried to convert it to sublimation ink but now the ink doesn't come out at all it just prints blank paper. It seems like the ink needs to be charged but I can't figure out how. Any help you can offer would be great! Thank you!
I am sorry but I am not sure what you mean by the ink needs to be charged. I would reach out to the sublimation ink company for assistance.
This was super helpful. I have been doing research- that’s how I came across you and I was about to order then read this! I’m going to use your recommended supplies!! ( I’ve been seeing so many printers I can’t chose haha)Thank you so much!
Thank you Caitlyn! There is a lot of information out there so I understand how it can all be confusing. ❤️
Thank you. Your instructions are so clear.
You are welcome and thanks so much!
Thank you very much for recommending A-SUB®'s dye sublimation paper
You are welcome, it's my favorite!