How to Get Started in Sublimation

How to Get Started in Sublimation main article image
Posted on May 29, 2021 by Desiree Gentile

Okay, so you’ve probably heard a lot about Sublimation in your many Facebook craft groups, or just happen to see something about sublimation ink while you searched for regular ink for your printer. You have no Idea what it is but now that you’ve heard about it, you just have to know what the heck is it…. Or you never heard of it before and this is the first thing you’ve ever seen about Sublimation. Either way this article here is just to give you a smidge of understanding on what it is and how you get started doing it. 

Sublimation is pretty much setting ink into a synthetic fabric, polyester, by using high heat from a heat press source, like a Cricut Easy Press of a T-shirt press. It really is a cool process in which this sublimation ink sets into the material. With this kind of process you can pretty much go wild in crafts. 

What you need to start

So now that we’ve done a basic description of what Sublimation is, you now want to know how to get started right? Well there are a couple of items you will need. First item you will need is a sublimation printer. Now you have two options when it comes to this, you can purchase an actual sublimation printer made specifically to sublimate, or you can convert a printer into a sublimation printer. 

One type of Sublimation printer you can get is a Sawgrass printer; now this isn’t the only one out there but it is a common one you can find. These printers are made specifically for sublimation as well as the ink they have. Since these are built specifically for sublimation you would have to make sure to purchase all supplies from them and they would be able to help you with any set up or instruction. These printers have all the instructions on how to get your printing going, and they even have a design program as well. So, if you’re looking for a one-stop shop this is definitely the way to go. If you do though, be prepared to pay for having everything in one. 

Now, if you don’t want to go that route you can always convert a printer with sublimation ink. Now to do this you definitely want to look at any printers with an Eco tank since they are easier to refill. Epson has a great line of Eco-tanks with the cheapest one being under $200. This is a great way to start out since the price is less than the sublimation printer. The downside is that you don’t really have the tech support to help you set up your printer. 

So, for the purpose of this article, let’s continue on the converting printer route. You can easily find sublimation ink on amazon, price range for these range from $20-$30 for the sets and they are definitely worth it. This is sublimation ink and it’s very important for converting that printer. Once you have picked out your ink, you will then need to  load it up in your printer before you plug in the printer. What’s kind of nice about using this ink is that your original printer instructions for loading the ink are still the same process. 

Almost Crafty time!

So, once you have set up your ink in your computer and have done the printer set up you’re almost ready to start creating. Now there are still a few items that are needed before you can get crafty. You’ll definitely need sublimation paper. This paper will be what you print your designs on and then transfer that to whatever item you choose. One type of this paper that is really good is A-Sub paper, again easily found on Amazon and really isn’t that expensive.

You will also need a really good heat press. You will need it so that you can transfer your design with the heat. Cricut Easy press is great for medium crafts as well as the Mini press for smaller crafts. But if you are planning on getting into the big sublimation crafts you probably want to look into getting a nice sized heat press or t-shirt press. As this has a larger area to press so that you get and even design.

Other smaller supplies include butcher paper, which helps with pressing your designs and prevents ink from staining heat surfaces in the process. You’ll also want to pick up some heat resistant tape to help hold your designs in place as well as heat resistant gloves as well to handle items too hot to touch. 

Another item you will need is some sort of design studio to do your crafting in. If you have a Cricut you can definitely use Design Space, or Sillhoutte’s design studio as well. Pretty much use the one you are most comfortable with. Photoshop is great if you are proficient in it or you could just use paint. Definitely do your research and know what program has limits and see what program will suit your needs. 

Now, once you’ve played around with your studio and created a design or two you probably have noticed you’re probably missing one big thing: your canvas. What are you going to put your art on? So, for your designs to transfer they need to be heated to a synthetic fabric, pretty much polyester. When you select your base make sure that it’s either 100% polyester or at least 65%. Anything lower and the ink won’t hold. When starting it’s also probably good to get polyester fabric and test pressing on it. That way when you are ready to put out your designs you know they will be the best because of your trial and errors. Some great Sublimation blanks you can find are keychains, puzzles, pillows, blankets, masks and many more! Again, the best place to look for these are on Amazon or a Sublimation based company. Just make sure the pieces you buy state that they are for sublimation. 

Need help? Look it up!

 Now that we have the basic tools, I’m sure you are still confused on what to do next. One recommendation is that you look up YouTube videos on sublimating, these will help you greatly in getting prepared to start your journey. You definitely don’t want to go into this blind and there are so many YouTube videos that are great starts and how to. These will pretty much be your instruction manual.

Also a great source is any Facebook groups. There are many groups with great people ready and willing to share their trials and errors and what has actually worked for them. And whenever you have questions or just need help in general these groups will really help you, especially when you feel like giving up and quitting. 

So, this was just a basic explanation on how to get started in sublimation and yes there is tons of info that wasn’t covered. There’s just so much that goes into starting and you definitely need to do your research, but once you’ve started you will probably go crazy making personalized crafts for family and friends and maybe even start your own small business. There is really so much you can do! Have fun and good luck! 

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