How to Print and Apply Sublimation

How to Print and Apply Sublimation main article image
Posted on August 29, 2021 by Katie Jones
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There are many different ways to customize and create your own artwork, such as drawing, painting or digitally. One of the most popular ways today is through sublimation. You can sublimate onto different mediums however this article will display sublimating onto a t-shirt. As with anything, it takes effort and patience on your part because it is a process that needs practice. This article will help you get started with printing and applying sublimation so let your creative juices flow!

Step 1: Pick a Design

The amount of designs you can choose from is astronomical but don’t let that worry you. It can be overwhelming when you first start but always stick with your gut. If you come across a design that you absolutely love, then use that design! Your passion will always shine through your work. Now, when it comes to finding a design, you have many ways to find one. You can use various websites, such as Creative Fabrica, to get quality designs for your sublimation projects.

All you have to do is search for what you are looking for and go through the search results. If you have a monthly subscription to Creative Fabrica, then you will find that most designs you see will be offered to you for free or at a low cost. Sites like Etsy will most definitely charge you and depending on who the seller is, you could overpay so keep an eye out.

You can also create your own design through designing programs such as Canva. You can add your own elements, use your own fonts and make a design that you absolutely love. The trick to creating your own design is to make sure they are in PNG format and appropriate size to the medium you will be placing the design on.

Step 2: Print Your Design

Now that you have purchased your design, you will need to print it. In order to sublimate, you will need sublimation ink. Only this type of ink will allow you to transfer your design onto a t-shirt, for example. This specialty ink can be purchased in various places but the most common is off Amazon. Before you successfully print, you will need to have the right type of printer.

Shown in the image is an Epson ET-2720 printer. The “ET” part stands for Eco-Tank. Unless you have the money to shell out 1,000 dollars on an actual sublimation printer, it is much more feasible to convert a printer like the one shown in this article. You are able to convert it because of the eco-tank feature which allows you to fill it with sublimation ink. Other printers require ink cartridges which will not allow you to use sublimation ink.

You will also need sublimation paper to print off your designs. This can also be purchased at various places online but Amazon will be your friend! You can also use regular copy paper to start out with but sublimation paper will make your design brighter.

Another option is to buy your printed designs from a reputable source. Check the listing to see if it is a download or a physical item. Most of the time, you can tell by the price. To download a design, it will be roughly $4-$10 however getting the design printed and sent to you will be lower. The only downside is having to pay for shipping but you can avoid unnecessary shipping by combining purchases. This is a great option if you can’t afford a printer and helps other small businesses.

Step 3: Apply Your Design

Now, here comes the fun part! All your hard work is about to pay off! After you have printed or received your design, you will want to prep the piece it will go on. For example purposes, we still stick with a t-shirt. You will want your design to pop and in order to do so, you will want to get a t-shirt that is at least 50% polyester blend or higher. The higher the polyester blend, the better because the sublimation ink binds to the polyester. In order for your design to be applied properly, you will need a heat press.

A heat press will apply even amounts of pressure and heat; something a home iron or even a Cricut EasyPress can’t do. You can buy one off Amazon but make sure to go over the reviews so you can buy one that will last. Even if you can’t afford a printer, you should invest in a high-quality heat-press, since you can always get designs printed off for you. The picture shows a FancierStudio heat press, which is one of the better quality heat presses on the market. You can purchase a heat press for under $200 to get you started.

How to apply a sublimation design to a t-shirt

To effectively apply your design to your t-shirt, you will want to follow specific directions in order to get the best quality. Here they are:

  1. Lint roll your t-shirt to remove any excess debris. Your heat press will burn lint and it will not come off.
  2. Set your heat press to 400 degrees. Invest in a digital thermometer so that you can accurately tell if your heat-press runs hot.
  3. Pre-press your t-shirt under your heat press. This removes any wrinkles and moisture so that your design will go on better.
  4. Set your timer to 60 seconds. You can adjust this if your press runs hot however it is easier to adjust the temperature than the time. Most if not all sublimation designs require at least 60 seconds of even pressure for the design to adhere properly.
  5. Place your design on your t-shirt and secure it with heat tape. If you do not secure it with heat tape, you run the chance of your design lifting and causing “ghosting.” This means the image will have a shadow effect and thus, make your design look as if it has a ghostly background to it.
  6. Secure the heat press over your design and t-shirt and wait until the 60 seconds is up. Once the timer goes off, lift the handle of the heat press and immediately remove the sublimation print. You may use a lint roller at this time to remove any harsh lines from your sublimation paper.

It takes time and practice as with anything to learn a new craft, but sublimation is worth it! It is a lot of fun and making your own tangible pieces brings it to a new level of happiness. Follow this article to help get you started!


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