How to Start with Sublimation

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Posted on August 24, 2021 by Katie Jones
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Learning how to start any craft or hobby can seem daunting at first. There’s the list of supplies, equipment, and time that you have to account for when you first begin. However, if you are passionate about what you are doing, then the creativity and fun will never stop. Sublimation is a fun way to be creative and is quite the hot ticket right now in the small business world. With this article, you’ll learn how to start with sublimation so that it is cost-friendly and enjoyable!

Step 1: To Be Printed or Not to be Printed – That is the Question!

In order for you to properly sublimate, you will need a tangible design that you can place on a t-shirt, tote bag, etc. So, you will need to decide at the beginning of your sublimation journey if you want to invest in a printer or have the designs printed and mailed to you. If you are looking at this creative outlet as a way to supplement your income, I would suggest investing in a high-quality printer. Down the road, you won’t incur as many costs and your turn-around time will be much quicker than having designs mailed to you.

However, with that being said, you may not be able to afford such an investment when you are first starting out. That’s quite okay! You can buy printed designs from reputable sources. There are usually two kinds of designs you can use via the Internet so it’s important to pay attention. Some sources sell digital downloads, which allow you to purchase the file and print from your own printing source. On Creative Fabrica you can find quality sublimation designs and you can always be sure they include commercial license. Note how I say “your own printing source.” This means you can’t download the digital file and then share it via someone else who can print for you. You must read the licensing regarding this because some may allow it but most do not.

This is why it is important to consider the details of the design. Usually, the ones that are higher in price will result in a digital download. When you find designs that are cheaper, this will most likely mean you are buying a print of that design to be mailed to you. Look out for sales and coupons to use via the source you are getting your designs from. If you are receiving printed designs, the more you buy, the less money you end up spending on shipping costs.

Step 2: What Will You Sublimate On?

The sublimation world is topping over with people making their own t-shirts and cups. As long as your medium is at least 50% polyester, you can sublimate on it! This is why t-shirts and specially coated cups have become quite popular. With t-shirts, you can personalize them in so many fun and unique ways. The higher the polyester count, the better your designs will pop because of how the sublimation ink binds to the thread.
If you want to sublimate on cotton, this is possible with this easy trick!

Specially coated cups are quite the rave as well. These mainly arrive white but you can also receive them as stainless steel cups. It takes special measurements in order to get a whole design around a cup, so it is always important to know these dimensions before printing out or receiving your designs. You will find that most people sublimate on 20 and 30 oz cups as most cup heat-presses or convection ovens fit these sizes. With cups, you really make bold statements and it’s so fast and easy!

As you continue on with your sublimation journey, you begin to find other things you can sublimate on that might not be so highly sought after. Many sublimation companies will sell what they call “blanks” which are items specially made just for sublimation. These items can range from dog tags, bandanas, garden flags, or even underwear! Remember not to forget to consider the size of your designs and heat-press!

Step 3: How Do You Sublimate?

As mentioned above, it’s important to consider the size of your designs and most importantly, your heat-press. One of the first pieces of equipment you’ll want to consider getting when you start sublimation is a high-quality heat press. Without it, you are stuck with printed designs and no way of getting them onto your items. They range in cost, usually, the more expensive ones will offer better qualities. There are also mainly two types of heat-presses. The first being a swing away, where the top clamps down but then is able to be swung away when finished pressing. The second is called a clamshell, which is a fully attachable heat-press that clams its top half down over the item.

Deciding what qualities of the heat-press will be up to you and what you project your use with it will be. Personally, I chose the clamshell because it offers a bit more assurance of my item staying in place. They also have heat-presses with pull-out slides, which allow you to pull it towards you to adjust your item without risking the possibility of getting burnt. There are also different sizes, typically ranging from 12 to 24 inches squares. I suggest going with the largest you can afford because you will soon find that working with a smaller heat-press causes more headaches than anything. But again, it will be up to your use with it and what you plan to do with your heat-press.

Conclusion: Should you get started?

It is relatively an easy process to get started with sublimation. I believe the most important step to think about is deciding on what you want to sublimate on and why. Is it to make extra money? Is it to make cute clothes for yourself or your family? This will factor into the kind of heat-press you’ll purchase. It will also influence your decision on if buying a printer is viable at the moment or down the line as things start to pick up. Even though it is a fast and upcoming art form, you can absolutely stand out from the rest with original ideas and dedication to the craft. Stop being scared and dip your foot into the sublimation world!

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