How to Make Sublimation Tumblers: A Step-By-Step Guide
To make sublimation tumblers there are three things you need to remember. First, only use sublimation paper printed with sublimation ink. Second, only use sublimation tumblers, not just any tumbler. Lastly, use a heat press machine designed for tall tumblers, not for mugs.
As long as you take note of these three principles, sublimating on a tumbler is a no-brainer. However, just like any crafting work, you need to be familiarized with the process and of course practice. All of which you will learn in this post. Read on so you can learn how to make sublimation tumblers.
What is a sublimation tumbler?
A sublimation tumbler is made of stainless steel and printed using the sublimation process. If your aim is to sublimate on a tumbler, you cannot use any regular tumbler. You should only purchase products tagged as sublimation tumblers or that are compatible with sublimation. Why?
Sublimation tumblers have a special polyester coating that’s only designed for sublimation. Furthermore, sublimation tumblers are heat-resistant. You can use sublimation tumblers to customize with adhesive craft vinyl. However, you cannot use other regular tumblers for sublimation.
If you use regular blank tumblers without poly coating and are not designed for sublimation, two things will surely happen — the print won’t stick and parts of the tumbler, if not the whole, will likely melt. That’s why you should always check if the product is a sublimation tumbler, with no substitutions!
Do sublimation tumblers come in different colors?
Stainless steel tumblers for sublimation come in light-colored products only, usually white and silver. Why? Sublimation print is applicable for light or white products only. The same principle applies to garments, mugs, and other sublimation blanks as well. But don’t get confused because if you search for sublimation blanks they’re all likely white or light-colored.
You won’t find sublimation blanks that are dark-colored, that’s for sure! A word from the wise, don’t even attempt to directly sublimate on dark-colored garments. Most importantly, do not directly sublimate on cotton garments. You can indirectly sublimate on a cotton garment by pressing a heat transfer vinyl.
How do you sublimate on a tumbler?
To sublimate on a tumbler, you need to familiarize yourself with sublimation printing. You’ll need to invest in an inkjet printer with sublimation ink, a tumbler heat press machine, and of course a printed sublimation sheet.
To learn the step-by-step process and needed supplies in customizing a sublimation tumbler, read further. If you haven’t done sublimation before or have no experience in custom-printing on products, then expect to invest in machines and other supplies.
What do you need to sublimate on tumblers?
To sublimate on tumblers, you need to gather these supplies:
- Sublimation printer (with sublimation ink)
- Heat press machine for tall tumblers (you can use a heat press for mugs, but your prints will be limited)
- Heat-resistant tape
- Heat-resistant gloves
- Blank sublimation tumbler (white or silver)
- Sublimation paper
- For cleaning: Lint roller, clean cloth, and alcohol
- Scissors or cutter and cutting mat board
- Ruler or tape measure
- Sublimation wrap or sublimation shrink wrap
Step-By-Step Guide on How to Make Sublimation Tumblers
Before anything else, you must know that sublimation tumbler come in different sizes and designs. There are tall and skinny tumblers, travel mugs, and sports jugs, in a mason jar shape, and there are even glow-in-the-dark tumblers.
If you’re printing on a sublimation blank tumbler as a gift for a loved one, try purchasing one at your local art supply store. Or you can purchase wholesale sublimation tumblers online like on Amazon if you plan to make some money out of it.
Step 1: Create Your Design
First of all, you may want to decide on the design you want. You can go for a minimalist logo print or a name monogram. Or can go for a full sublimation wrap design. You can create your own sublimation designs using Adobe Photoshop, and Cricut Design Space, purchase designs from Canva or download free SVGs.
Just remember about copyright laws. If a design is for free download, then it’s most likely allowed for personal use. Some designs are not allowed for commercial use, which means you can sell or reproduce it. If you’ve got graphic design skills, then you can create your own design.
Step 2: Resize the Design
How big do you want the design to be? Do you want to cover the whole sublimation tumbler? Or do you print on just a certain portion like a company logo or name monogram? Whichever you decide on, before printing your sublimation paper, resize your design to how big you want the print to appear on the tumbler.
There is no backsies in sublimating, once you’ve sublimated on a surface, it’s permanent. If in case you had the wrong design sizing, you have to start all over again, which means you have to print on another tumbler.
Here are several tips when resizing the design:
- If you want to cover the whole tumbler with print, you don’t need to manually measure the tumbler. Simply take a look at the product description and list down its size (length and width).
- For simple logo or name monogram print, 2x2” or 3x3” sizes are standard.
- If you want to have precise sizing, manually measure against the tumbler how big you want the design size should be using a ruler or tape measure.
From YouTube Tutorial: Sublimation Tumbler in Convection Oven with Shrink Wrap by Kim and Garrett make it
Step 3: Print Out the Design
On your photo editing software, may it be Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Publisher, print out the design on your sublimation paper. There are several tips that MUST be remembered when printing out your sublimation paper.
- Always MIRROR the design! For all sublimation prints, always mirror your design.
- Print with the HIGHEST QUALITY SETTINGS of your printer. If you’re using Microsoft Publisher and have an Epson sublimation printer, go to Printer Properties → Quality → More Settings → Increase Quality.
- Choose the best quality sublimation paper. Preferably a fast-drying and with a high transfer rate for bright and vivid print transfers. TeckWrap Craft’s sublimation paper is all of the above. Plus, expect great ink-saving performance, fade-proof, smudge-proof, and crack-proof.
Step 4: Cut Out the Sides of the Printed Sublimation Sheet
This step is applicable whether you’ll fully print on the tumbler or just a portion of it. Remember, that the print output of your printer is out of your control. The tendency of old printers is to print streaks or rollers that may leave unwanted marks. In case this happens, your printer needs to be maintained properly.
That’s why you always have to check the sides and unwanted prints on the sublimation paper. If it doesn’t affect the design, simply cut out unwanted streaks. If there are unwanted marks on the design itself, don’t even bother using the sublimation paper. Print a new one! These unwanted marks or streaks will also transfer on the sublimated tumbler. You don’t want that!
Have a hawk's eye when spotting these unwanted prints. Also, make it a habit to cut the corners of a sublimation paper. It may not be visible at first glance, but there may be ink marks, especially in the corners. When sublimating printing, do everything you can to have fewer errors to avoid wasting sublimation blanks.
After cutting out the sides, get your sublimation tumbler, and try to measure the sublimation design against it to see if the size correctly fits, or if the size is the way you want it. If you think the size does not fit properly, go back to Step 2 and resize the design. If otherwise, then you’re good to go.
Step 5: Turn on the Heat Press Machine
In order to save time and for continuous work, turn on the heat press machine so it can start to heat up. Remember that the time and temperature settings may vary depending on the sublimation tumbler you have.
Always check the product description and heating instructions. Sublimation blanks always have heat and temperature instructions that come with them. However to give you an idea, here's the usual temperature range of sublimation tumblers made of stainless steel.
- Heat: 330 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Time: 50 to 60 seconds
Step 6: Clean the Tumbler
Never skip this step! Always clean the sublimation tumbler. It must be free of dust, dirt, and even fingerprints. Thumb marks may leave on the stainless steel tumbler that’s why you always have to clean the whole surface. Use a lint roller first to remove dust and dirt. Then finish off with alcohol and a clean cloth.
Step 7: Place the Sublimation Paper on the Tumbler
Right after cleaning the tumbler, it’s printing time! Prepare the sublimation paper you cut out earlier, it’s time to place it on the sublimation tumbler. Granting the heat press machine also reached its full desired temperature, then you’re good to go!
- Tape the design: Using heat-resistant tape, securely tape the design around the tumbler. If you have a full sublimation design, make sure the sublimation paper is tightly wrapped around the tumbler. Be generous when placing that heat-resistant tape as you don’t want this to result in ghosting of the print.
- Use a sublimation shrink wrap tape: If you want to be extra sure that the sublimation paper tightly conforms to the tumbler, after taping the design, you can use a sublimation shrink wrap. Then use a heat gun over the shrink-wrap sleeve.
Step 8: Printing Time!
The next step is to place the tumbler on the heat press machine. Make sure the tumbler is tightly exposed to the heating plate of the heat press machine. You want those colors to pop out vividly. Also, don’t forget to remove the clear lid!
- Tighten the tumbler on the heat press plate: Most heat press machines for tumblers can be manually tightened or loosened around the print blank. So even when you’re using a travel mug or a skinny tumbler, you can manually adjust the tightness of the product on the heat press heating plate.
- Printing time! The next step is to close the machine, wait for it to finish, and see your wonderful creation. It is best to wear heat-resistant gloves as you remove the tumbler from the heat press machine. The next step is to remove the tumbler, then remove the sublimation paper. Viola! You now have a sublimated tumbler.
The same process applies if you want to make a sublimation mug. Aside from sublimation dye, you can also print heat transfer vinyl and use an infusible ink transfer sheet. However, with infusible ink transfer sheets, you’ll be needing a cutting machine, which will add up to your workload.
How long do you sublimate a tumbler in a convection oven?
Bet you didn’t know this, but you can sublimate a tumbler in a convection oven. That’s if the budget is tight at the moment and investing in a tumbler press machine is too expensive. You’ll be surprised at how creative crafters could be in finding alternatives.
But what about the result? Is it as good as a heat press sublimation tumbler? To be honest, the colors are not as vivid as compared to heat press sublimation tumblers. However, it does the work, does it? That’s good enough!
If you come to think of it, sublimating tumblers on a convection oven is a much faster option as compared to a standalone tumbler press machine because you can fit several tumblers in convection at a time.
So how do you sublimate on tumblers using the convection oven? Follow these steps:
- Follow Steps 1 to Step 7 mentioned above
- You can fit at least three tumblers on the convection oven at the same time (depending on the size of your convection oven)
- Warning! Use heat-resistant gloves when handling the convection oven
- Using a sublimation shrink wrap is a must
- Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes (Rotate to the other side after 3 minutes)
- Cool off quickly by dipping the tumbler into the bucket of cold water so the sublimation process stops
- Remove the shrink wrap and sublimation design
- It’s done!
Remember to only use stainless steel sublimation tumblers for this process. Plastic and regular tumblers will melt inside the convection oven. Some printers even attest to using air fryers when sublimating tumblers. Although at this point, this is not yet proven as a fact or a myth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you mirror sublimation transfers?
Yes, always mirror when printing out tumbler sublimation designs, or for any sublimation crafts for that matter including shirts or ref magnets.
Can you epoxy over a sublimation tumbler?
Yes, you can epoxy over a sublimation tumbler. After the entire tumbler has completely cooled off, you can add epoxy or even glitter around it. Epoxy helps with long-term and enhanced color stability.
Can you sublimate tumblers with Cricut Mug Press?
Yes, you can sublimate tumblers using the Cricut Mug Press. The challenge, however, when using the Cricut Mug Press for sublimation tumblers is its size. As you can see, tumblers are typically taller and skinnier compared to regular mugs. That’s why if you intend to sublimate on tumblers, it’s recommended to use a tumbler press, not a standalone mug press.
Can you use a convection oven to sublimate tumblers?
Yes, you can use a convection oven to sublimate on tumblers. If investing in a tumbler heat press machine or even a Cricut Mug Press is out of your budget, you can use a convection oven instead when sublimating tumblers. Some even use the air fryer, but the print is not as vivid.
What are the best sublimation printers?
The best sublimation printers are continuous inkjet printers, like Epson SureColor, the Sawgrass SG500, and HP Stitch S500. Printers with six tanks are preferred to deliver high-quality colors and plenty of color tones available.
There We Have It!
Easy, huh? With the steps you learned above, you can now create sublimated tumblers as gifts for loved ones, for the whole family’s personal use (so as to stop confusion on who owns what), and who knows perhaps a business idea in the future.
Is entering the sublimation world worth it? It definitely is! With the low overhead expense of materials and plenty of sublimation blanks available, you can offer different products and services especially if you want to enter the printing business.
Sublimation tumblers are just one of the many crafts you can customize using sublimation. Of course, don’t forget your printing partners, TeckWrap Craft for your printing needs. From sublimation papers, Inkjet Heat Transfer Paper, Inkjet Printable Sticker Vinyl, heat transfer vinyl, adhesive craft vinyl, and plenty of printing accessories, TeckWrap Craft is your printing partner!