How to Sublimation Print
Have you heard all the buzz about sublimation projects? Dye sublimation offers vibrant and long-lasting results. We’ve got everything you need to know in this sublimation printing tutorial.
Let’s start with a simple science lesson. Pull up a chair. Scientists (and Bill Nye) taught us that the world is pretty much exclusively made up of solids, liquids, and gases.
Still with us? Good.
We also know that heat can change a solid into a liquid (think melting ice) and even into a gas (steam). So…with the change in temperature, every material can change from one state to another.
Still, STILL with us? Thank you - we appreciate it! And, we’re getting somewhere, we promise.
Now, under certain specific conditions of temperature and pressure, a solid may directly change into a gas. This is the process known as Sublimation.
Don’t worry, you can still decorate apparel using sublimation without knowing how the science part works. All you really need to know is what this means for you as a decorator. When you
Products We Used
- Sport-Tek PosiCharge Tough Mesh Full-Button Jersey - ST220
As always, we encourage you to use the same products we’ve already tested and approved, but if you’d like to go your own way, we salute you! You may want to consider buying an extra blank for testing since sublimation can be a little tricky.
Additional blanks we recommend you use for this project are also listed at the bottom of the tutorial.
If you need help choosing a sublimation blank that we have already tested, Our team of in-house makers and support team are here to help you.
Call us at (855) 919-2467 or email us at email@example.com
Sublimation paper (or regular printer paper)
Sublimation printer or inkjet printer compatible with sublimation ink
Acrylic t-shirt ruler
Things To Know Before We Get Started
Before getting started, let’s discuss some important details of the supplies for sublimation.
Sublimation paper is designed to absorb and retain ink. However, sublimation also works with regular printer paper!
Remember how we got all Bill Nye and were talking about how sublimation turns ink into gas when activated by heat, and then how the gas then bonds to the synthetic fibers in the fabric? Sheesh. Well, that’s all good and well but it still falls flat if you use the wrong fabric. You want 100% synthetic white fabric here. It’s ideal for this process, as it allows for a crisp background to best showcase the preferred color. It’ll end up with bright, vibrant colors that pop like champagne corks on Nikki Minaj’s tour bus.
If you’re after a more muted look, you can test using lighter, non-white colors.
There are a couple of options available when choosing your heat source. A clamshell heat press is ideal but other heat press options like a handheld heat press or home iron will do the job. Whatever route you go, remember that the number one thing we are shooting for here is to evenly apply the same amount of heat and pressure throughout your design.
Sublimation Printer or Inkjet printer:
Okay, no shortcuts here. You absolutely will need a sublimation printer for this job, or an inkjet printer compatible with sublimation ink.
If you’re going for the inkjet printer route, just remember that you must use an inkjet printer that has not been used with inkjet. It has to use sublimation ink from the start and you will not be able to go back to regular printer ink after the fact.
Ready? Ready. Let's get into it.
Step 1: Create your sublimation design.
Download or create your own digital artwork design to fit your paper.
Whatever you go with, once you’re happy with the design, print it onto sublimation paper (or regular paper) using a sublimation printer, or using an inkjet printer compatible with sublimation ink.
Then, cut around the print out leaving a ½” - 1” border.
Step 2: Prepare your blank for sublimation.
Wash and dry your blank to remove any finishes leftover from manufacturing.
Then, remove excess fibers from the design area with a lint roller.
Step 3: Prepare your heat source.
If using a heat press, set the temperature to 395-400 degrees Fahrenheit and the timer for 15-20 seconds.
For an iron, turn it to the cotton/linen setting with the steam turned off.
Step 4: Pre-press your blank for 3-5 seconds.
This ensures that the surface is completely flat, and that all moisture is removed from the fabric.
Keep the blank on the heat press.
Step 1: Place your design.
Use an acrylic t-shirt ruler or other heat-safe tool to map out where you’d like to place your design.
Make sure there aren't any seams on the application site — we don’t want the design to transfer unevenly.
With the ink side faced down, place your printed sublimation design on the blank. Use a few pieces of heat-safe tape to keep your sublimation design in place.
Step 2: And press!
Place a clean piece of parchment paper over the design and all areas of the blank that will come in contact with the heat source.
Apply heat to the design for 15-20 seconds.
If you’re using an iron, try to keep the heating consistent across the design for the full amount of time. Do not move it around.
Step 3: Remove the heat from your blank after 15 - 20 seconds.
Reveal your finished product by removing the parchment paper, your sublimation design, and any heat-safe tape.
Holy customized, sublimated cow. Would ya look at that? Science and art, working together. Left-side-brain meets right-side-brain. Part Picasso. Part Pythagoras. Welcome to the world of Sublimation printing.