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How to Use Sublimation Markers

How to Use Sublimation Markers main article image
Posted on May 19, 2022 by Naomi Garcia
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Sublimation is so much fun and it’s still really popular.  It’s one of the biggest trends when it comes to crafting right now and so many people are doing it.  Did you know you don’t need a sublimation printer to enjoy the process? It’s true and in this article, I’ll show you an alternative to using a sublimation printer while still getting vibrant, lasting results.

sample completed towel

Sublimation Background

When you think of sublimation you probably think of the expensive printers and the sublimation paper and huge heat presses.  Sublimation uses special ink that actually turns into a gas when it is heated at a high temperature.  The temperature is usually about 400°. Because it turns into a gas, it becomes one with the blank that you’re using.  That may be a piece of clothing, some other cloth or fabric, specially treated ceramic, or even wood or metal. 

However, it can be really costly and it is an investment to purchase a sublimation printer. Sublimation printers can range anywhere from about $250 if you convert one, all the way up into the thousands.  This is especially true if you’re looking into a printer that is created, marketed, and intended for use for sublimation. I personally have done the route where I’ve converted printers. (OK, I did it more than once.)  Currently, I use a Sawgrass sublimation printer.

Sublimation Markers

That said, there is a more cost-effective way to jump into sublimation.  This will allow you to see how much you really like this process before you make a bigger investment.  The way to go is with sublimation markers.

What are sublimation markers?  Well, they’re just that: markers used for sublimation.   Sublimation markers have dye ink inside of them.  Instead of using a printer,  you use them just like you use plain markers.  In the same way as you would draw or write with markers from the school supply or art section, you can draw, sketch, doodle, and color with sublimation markers.

Brands of Sublimation Markers

If you are a Cricut user, you likely know about Infusible Ink markers.  These are basically the same.  They are essentially sublimation markers.  Siser sells sublimation markers but you can, of course, find and use other brands, such as Xinart, on Amazon.  For this project, I’ll be using Artesprix brand markers.  

Sublimation Blanks

As with regular sublimation ink, you will need to have the correct surface or substrate.  The dye will not bind to natural textiles, like cotton so if you’re transferring your design to a garment or fabric, it will need to be something with a high polyester count.  I usually look for a minimum of 65% polyester.  The higher the polyester, the more vibrant your transfer will be.  (Check out this article for tips on using cotton with sublimation.)

Things like wood, ceramic coasters, glass, and stainless steel, need to be compatible with sublimation.  In other words, you can’t just walk into the Dollar Store and pick up tumblers to sublimate.  Be sure to check the labels and the descriptions of the items you want to use.  The item should be intended for sublimation.  Anything from Cricut that says “Compatible with Infusible Ink” can be used for sublimation.

Sublimation Marker Advantages

The cool thing about using sublimation markers is that you can freehand.  It’s kind of like cutting out the “middle man.” If you’re an artist and you want to make your own designs that you can put on something, sublimation markers are probably your best bet. You can also use water with the markers to create a watercolor effect (Maybe another tutorial soon…). 

Another plus is that you can even let your children use your sublimation markers.  They can create their own pieces of art that you can transfer to a sublimation tumbler, plate, coaster, or shirt.  How cool would that be?!

Making Sublimation Hand Towels

My kids and I made the cutest hand towels.  We used Artesprix sublimation markers along with a couple of really cool coloring pages from Creative Fabrica.  I downloaded the coloring pages and we had a blast!  Let me show you how we did this.

Sublimation Markers Hand Towel (Naomi D. Garcia)

Materials and Supplies

  • Artesprix (or another brand) sublimation markers
  • Floral coloring pages from Creative Fabrica
  • Laser copier paper
  • Polyester hand towels (we got ours from Dollar Tree)
  • Heat resistant tape
  • Heat press or Easy Press (needs to get up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Blank sheet of white cardstock
  • Butcher paper or sublimation protective paper (also sold by Artesprix)
  • Lint roller

Artesprix sublimation markers and coloring page

The Process

Coloring the Design

  1. Download  Flower Coloring Pages from Creative Fabrica
  2. Print the design(s) on laser copier paper  NOTE:  if your design has text or is a design meant to go in a particular orientation, you may need to “mirror” to print.
  3. Place a sheet of blank paper under your coloring page to catch any bleeding
  4. Have fun coloring!  The colors may look dull, but don’t worry, the heating process will change all of that
  5. Let the coloring page dry so that no ink transfers to your hand when you touch it

coloring with sublimation markers

completed coloring page

protect the work surface

Pressing the Design

  1. Set your heat press to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 seconds
  2. Cut around the outside of your design, leaving about half an inch to an inch border 
  3. Use a lint roller to remove lint and stray, sneaky debris from the towel (If you don’t you may end up with surprise squiggles on your towel)
  4. Tape the design, face down, to the cloth using heat-resistant tape.
  5. Place a sheet of cardstock on the bottom of the heat press or pressing pad.  Put the cloth on top; cover with the butcher paper.
  6. Press for 40 seconds at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. CAREFULLY remove the cloth from the heat press.
  8. Remove the design from the cloth and reveal your beautiful design.

cut around design

lay out the design

layering on heat press

post-transfer

Did that surprise you?  I know the first time I used the markers, I did not know what to expect.  I thought that, at best, it would look like a child’s heartfelt attempt at a present for a loved one.  I certainly did not expect to fall in love!  The quality of the transfer and vibrancy of the colors is just stunning!

Wrap It Up

Aside from the cloth we created here, you can do so much more.  Hand-drawn coaster designs, cute makeup bags, personalized microfiber towels… All of these are gifts you can create with sublimation markers.

single sublimation marker towel

2 sublimation marker towels

If you’d like to learn more about sublimation, there are several articles here on The Artistry.  

Type “sublimation” in the search bar and check out the selection.  If you make anything using sublimation markers, let us know.  Leave a comment on this article.  We’d also love to see what you make.  So be sure to tag Creative Fabrica and me on social media.  I am EJ’s Fun Crafting everywhere.

Now, go make something bold and amazing!


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