How to Print Sublimation Images: A Beginner’s Guide
Table of Contents
- What is Sublimation Printing?
- Why Sublimation Printing?
- Can you sublimate anything?
- What you Need to Learn About a Sublimation Project
- The Layout
- The Sublimation Designs
- The Sublimation Printer
- The Sublimation Ink
- The Sublimation Transfer Papers
- Heat Press Machine
- The Sublimation Blank
- How to make Sublimation Designs?
- Paid Design Software
- Free Sublimation Program
- Can any printer be used for sublimation printing?
- What Printers to Use?
- What is the difference between a sublimation printer and a regular printer?
- Can you use Cricut Design Space for Sublimation?
- Printing your Images
Do you want to learn how to print sublimation images without stress? Do you want to know the different software available for you? You can learn all these and do sublimation the easy way. Read more to find out!
What is Sublimation Printing?
Sublimation printing is a method that transfers a design into a transfer sheet, most often fabric, using ink and heat. Heat and pressure are used to transfer at a molecular level.
This is a game changer in clothing because garments can be printed whole, from seam to seam. Aside from fabrics, the sublimation ink can also be infused into shirts, bags, mugs, phone cases, etc. Sublimation enables us to create a seamless design wherever you want it.
Learn how to create sublimated designs using your computer or laptop and then be guided on how to translate these designs to your material, fabric or not, using photo editing tools and software.
Read on, and you will never regret trying sublimation printing!
Why Sublimation Printing?
Why sublimation printing? There have been other methods for converting images into other materials, such as embroidery and screen printing.
Back in the old days, when screen-printing was the best way to do transfer printing, the quality of the designs was also less attractive than they are now.
Photo from Canva
With sublimation’s superior quality, you may think of many limitations to screen printing.
One of these limitations is that most screen printers are limited in the number of colors and the details of the designs.
Imagine each color needs to be run through a screen. So if you need more than 6 colors, it will be challenging and very time-consuming.
Can you sublimate anything?
No, you cannot sublimate everything, for sublimation does not work on all kinds of materials, but it can work on many.
However, there are materials specifically designed for sublimation ink. These products have a poly coating that the sublimation dye sublimates into.
Yes, Sublimation works on many materials. You will never grow out of ideas with a vast array of printing merchandise!
You may print on:
Image from TeckWrap Craft
Light-colored Polyester Garments are the best fiber choice, not cotton shirts. Sublimation prints do not stay long on 100% cotton and dark-colored fabrics.
Sad to say, sublimation dye ink won’t react to natural cotton fibers when pressed. You may print on 100% cotton but expect it to fade after several washes.
Polyester's synthetic characteristic is why it absorbs sublimation ink perfectly.
You may still use dark shirts or 100% cotton for sublimation. But you have to print sublimation over heat transfer. It is like layering your design.
This is great about sublimation; you may combine it with other printing applications.
Cut the vinyl onto the exact shape and size of the design. First, heat press the HTV.
Then, press the sheet above the heat transfer vinyl.
Read more: How to Sublimate on Dark Shirts
There are plenty of polyester-coated blanks for sublimation in the market now, and you’ll be surprised to read this list! Here are some products you can sublimate:
- Face mask
- Cup coasters
- Baby’s bib
- Ceramic plate
- ID lanyard
And so much more!
- Mugs and tumblers
- Canvas Pillowcase
- Canvas Bags
Images from Canva
What you Need to Learn About a Sublimation Project
After choosing the software and thinking of the design, you will now move on to the layout.
Once you have your software, you can download, edit or create your design.
The Sublimation Designs
You may put your creativity in the spotlight on how you create sublimation designs; just make sure to stick to these file types that are best for sublimation.
Make sure your file and the image are good. If you need to do a large print, ensure the photo is high resolution.
And don’t forget to double-check margins and the other settings to prepare your image for sublimation.
The Sublimation Printer
You cannot proceed with the rest of your design projects without your sublimation printer.
The Sawgrass SG500 and the SG1000 sublimation printers are highly recommended to give you the complete bundle of printers and software.
The Sawgrass systems are user-friendly and intuitive for beginners, taking you on a smooth journey in sublimation printing.
These printers, the SG500 and SG1000, are powerful and affordable so you can customize your designs for plaques, T-shirts, mugs, coasters, mouse pads, and so much more.
Yes, the sublimation printer can make or break your designs. So, make sure to choose the best one to meet your needs.
The Sublimation Ink
The sublimation dyes or sublimation ink is the window of your designs. No matter how beautiful your sublimation designs are, if the image quality through the colors is not vivid, your sublimation is futile.
It also needs to match your printer.
The Sublimation Transfer Papers
The design you laid out on your software will be replicated on the sublimation paper using the sublimation ink.
Once the design has been transferred onto this special paper, it is placed into a heatpress with the materials.
TeckWrap Craft's sublimation paper has a 98% sublimation transfer rate. This means 98% of the design from a sublimation printer, transfers to the garment with bright and vivid colors. You can use this sublimation paper on white or light-colored garments.
Heat Press Machine
Photo from Canva
The heat press machine makes sublimation possible. The sublimation transfers happen once the material and the sublimation paper are exposed to extreme temperatures, generally between 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit.
At this point, the transfer of material and ink transform from their solid state into gas. Then, the sublimation transfers happen as ink permeates the fibers, becomes solid, and is eventually locked onto the print.
The Sublimation Blank
The sublimation blank, also called the sublimation paper, must be considered in choosing the time and temperature in printing the project through the heatpress.
Generally, you may choose 400 degrees and 60 seconds for most blanks. Just don’t forget to check specific instructions about your materials.
How to make Sublimation Designs?
Image from Canva
It all starts with the sublimation design software. You could have the most beautiful design in mind, but without software that will guide you through the entire process, your finished product will be something you are not expecting.
Like many printed items, the graphic design process and drawing tools do more to reveal the beauty of your designs!
Most software available flaunt their ready-made designs, sometimes at a higher cost, but when you’re resourceful, you may just find one - free of cost.
Paid Design Software
When you want to have a vast array of tools, you’ll need paid software. Create images with no limitations that you can use from website graphics to t-shirt prints and video games. The paid ones have them all!
Software costs, yes, but will help you attain the full color of your business.
- Adobe Illustrator
- Cricut DesignSpace
What sublimation designs do you want? Even a sublimation beginner will love this.
Like the rest of the Illustrator Suite, Adobe Illustrator has become the standard for design programs. Yes, this software is expensive yet rich in the necessary features for vector graphics or to work with raster images and produce prints that stand out.
Fret not if you are a beginner in this kind of graphic design. Although at first, you may find this software overwhelming, it is not hard to cope with. There are lots of tutorials and how-to guides for this advanced software.
It is an advantage that the program you want to use many professional companies and art students also use!Cons
With its high monthly subscription fee, buying this software will have you weighing the benefits. They always give out bundle options that may sometimes be unreasonable for you to buy as you may not need the others at the same time.
Affinity Designer is another professional graphic design software suite that lets you explore your creativity with photo editing pieces and various graphic design tools.
CorelDraw has design options comparable to Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. You will enjoy its designs, fonts, and images inventory- they have a library!
CorelDRAW is another excellent design software.
What this software flaunts is that it can customize the design interface according to how you like it.
What more? It can interface with many different file types, so you may download and edit 48 different kinds of files!
Sublimation printing through this sublimation software can be so much fun!
Cricut Design Space
Cricut Design Space is a free program; you may use it without a Cricut machine. Download and pull up the program on your computer.
There are benefits to using Cricut Design Space, this includes changing the color right in design space by highlighting your object and picking a new color.
You may also use the system dialogue to correct your printer settings.
Photoshop has become almost every graphic artist’s way of life. It is part of Adobe Illustrator’s design suite and the number one design tool for sublimation prints.
Sawgrass printer is a package deal. You can have both the printer and the design software to start your sublimation printing. This is called Sawgrass Creative Studio.
You will be walked through the learning academy and a vast array of graphic design tools to help you create your own sublimation prints with a monthly subscription.
Sketch is known for its graphic design tools that help web designers and app makers worldwide.
Not only that, but it also has many graphic design features that can be used for any design project.
It is user-friendly and provides users with guides and helpful tips to make their graphic design smooth. What more? There are also additional plug-ins for additional features. What a treat!
Free Sublimation Program
Canva is one of the widely used graphics designing tools. Who wouldn’t want it? It’s free and easy to use. Plus, many tutorial videos and more tips can be found on YouTube that can help you along the process.
Although the pro account can give you the freedom and the convenient image editing tools, their free account will help you start out your small business of sublimation printing.
Can any printer be used for sublimation printing?
To print your images, you need a sublimation printer. There are printers specially made for sublimation and there aren't those that may be converted.
What Printers to Use?
The printhead type generally determines a printer's capability to print sublimation images. Printers such as Epson, Roland, and Sawgrass have a piezo printhead.
This type of printhead is used for sublimation. Although some brands still have this kind of printhead, they have no sublimation inks.
What is the difference between a sublimation printer and a regular printer?
Inkjet printers print liquid ink on top of the paper. On the other hand, a sublimation printer spreads the ink on the paper using ink vapors.
The best substrate for this kind of graphic printing is plastic. Hence, a sublimation printer is different from any other kind of printer.
Can you use Cricut Design Space for Sublimation?
Cricut Designspace can also be used for creating sublimated designs. You may access their online software editor which will allow you to edit your digital and print file.
DesignSpace offers free design and templates. You may use the designs because they are functional and easy to use. You may even layer your designs with multiple fonts.
Printing your Images
With the tools readily available for designers, printing images is easy.
Sublimation Printing Project Supplies
Before anything else, of course, you need to gather the supplies needed. Each of these supplies serves a purpose in the entire project.
Prepare these supplies before you start with your project:
- Inkjet printer with sublimation ink
- Search for Sublimation sheets from TeckWrap Craft
- Sublimation blank or garment as your transfer material: You can print on many blanks. As for garments, you can print on polyester or garments that contain less than 30% cotton.
- Heat press machine: Remember that heat press machines are available in different forms, and search for the kinds that cater to caps, shirts, or mugs are different, so better think about investing in all.
- Teflon sheet: Teflon sheets are heat-resistant and non-stick sheets that serve as a protective barrier between the machine and the garment.
- Thermal tape on a dispenser: You’ll need thermal tape to keep the paper in place when pressing. You don’t want your print to shift around and scatter its print (or ghost print) while pressing.
- Silicone rubber pad: The silicone rubber pad is the gray-colored mat placed below garments or caps on the machine. You need a silicone pad placed beneath a shirt or cap to ensure the garment is flat and the sublimated design transfers properly. Without a silicone pad, chances are, the garment may look wrinkled and won’t transfer properly.
- Transfer gloves: Use the transfer gloves to handle hot items like freshly pressed paper or merchandise.
- Scissors or cutter: You’ll need scissors or cutter to cut the surrounding white background outside the design.
- Lint Roller: Fabric Fibers may contain dirt or debris that needs to be cleaned before applying sublimation. Doing lint roll will ensure a much higher quality transfer. And a lint roller helps clean this debris from
- Ruler or measuring tape
Print Your Design
As soon as you gather all your supplies, it’s time to set up your workstation and get the printing on!
First of all, you want to print your design. Make sure the image is of the highest quality.
For instance, if you use pixelated designs, it will show on the garment when printed. You can use software like Microsoft Publisher, Adobe, or your cutting machine’s design studio.
Before printing, you need to change several settings on your printer. Here’s what you need to remember:
- Resize the design and ensure the image fits perfectly where you want to print it.
- In the ‘Printer Properties’, change the document size to A4.
- Choose the highest quality print settings, not the ‘Standard’ or ‘Normal’ print settings.
- Choose the highest quality settings and the slowest speed settings. You don’t want the ink to print too fast on your sheet.
- Don’t forget to mirror the image.
- Print on the white side of the sheet.
Refine the Edges
Double-check and refine the edges by cutting and then pressing the material. When using TeckWrap Craft’s sublimation sheet, you may press it right away because it’s fast-drying.
The white blank space surrounding the design needs to be cut for two reasons:
- The placement of the design on the material will be easier.
- The ink may spread onto the unrefined edges when the printer needs head cleaning.
Simply cut the edges using a pair of scissors. You don’t need a paper-perfect cut. The sublimation sheet does not transfer to the material, only the design.
Image from TeckWrap Craft
- Sublimation requires printing on a flat surface. You need a silicone rubber mat for this. Heatpress machines usually come with a silicone rubber mat.
- You may use some heat-resistant tape or adhesive and some kraft paper to protect your workplace.
- Another must-have when sublimation printing is thermal tape. Use thermal tape to stick the sublimation sheet to the merchandise you want to print. This ensures the design stays in place and won’t keep moving, leading to a ‘ghosting print.’
- A ghost print looks like a shadow of the actual design printed on the merchandise, and you don’t want that! Use thermal tape when applied on shirts, mugs, caps, and all sublimation blanks.
- Now, the most important part is the time and temperature of the machine. As you may have learned by now, there are many sublimation blanks you can print on. This means the temperature and time differ for each.
- The heating, pressing time, and temperature will vary depending on the type of material or garment you want to print on (polyester, poly-cotton blend, canvas, ceramic, etc.).
How Does Printing Work?
First, your sublimation printer imprints the design you have laid out onto a sheet of special high-release paper.
Then, using a machine for heating and pressing, transfer the dye design onto your substrate (surface or material). These could be on t-shirts, mugs, banners, plaques, and so much more.
The dye turns from solid to gas without passing into liquid. This is then what we call sublimation. The dye penetrates the material leaving a print that won’t crack or wash out.
It doesn’t work well with natural fibers. If you want vivid and permanent results, use materials with a high polyester mix.
TeckWrap Craft’s Sublimation Sheets to the Rescue!
TeckWrap Craft’s Sublimation Sheets will let you do your sublimation fast and easy. Choosing your kind of sublimation sheets is not a problem.
The package comes in 100 sheets. The sheet size is 8.3”x11.7” (A4 size) sublimation transfer paper. It’s best used in inkjets with sublimation ink. Remember to print on the white side, and mirror the design.