Have you ever bought a custom hoodie or t-shirt from a design website to discover that after a few washes the lettering or design elements were cracking, fading or peeling? Have you bought a cute mug or tumbler only to have the image fade or peel after a few weeks of use? It’s such a disappointment when you’ve put time and thought into a custom order, followed the care instructions correctly, and the image still doesn’t last very long. As a crafter, this can be particularly frustrating, because you come away with the feeling that you probably could have DIY’d a tumbler or t-shirt yourself, you’d be right! While sublimation can fade, there are a few tips and tricks that you can incorporate on your own if you choose to go the DIY sublimation route. Sublimation is a popular hobby and for good reason. It’s super rewarding and a ton of fun!
The reason your designs have faded in the past is most likely due to the printing method used, a printer with clogged heads, the color of the fabric or the materials itself. If you’re looking for a printing method that will last a long time without fading or cracking, sublimation is the answer … but it needs to be done properly. Here’s what you need to know about sublimation according to Griffin Expressions, and how you can take your crafting to the next level with this style of printing.
If you’re considering a new hobby, sublimation may be just what you’re looking for. It’s important to consider the costs, equipment and dedication that a new hobby requires before you jump in.
If you’re considering trying your hand at sublimation we suggest you do a bit of research first.
So What Exactly Is Sublimation?
You may not remember this from any of your high school or college science classes, and that’s totally okay. The technical, scientific definition of sublimation is the “conversion of a substance from the solid to the gaseous state without it becoming liquid.” Basically, at a specific temperature and pressure, you can change a solid into a gas, skipping right over the usual part of the process where the material becomes a liquid.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a physics guru to use sublimation as a crafter. It’s just nice to understand the science behind the process. Knowing a bit about the science behind sublimation also may help you troubleshoot during the crafting process if something doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. For example, if your transfer ever comes out blurry, it could be due to your substrate getting too hot under your heat press.
How Is Sublimation Used In The Crafting World?
The projects you can make using the sublimation process are endless. Here is short list of popular custom sublimation projects that you can consider:
- Sublimation Tumblers
- Ceramic Tiles
You can use sublimation on pretty much anything as long as it comes with a sublimation coating or is made from polyester. Sublimation is going to take your crafting game to the next level.
What Are The Pros And Limitations Of Sublimation Printing?
The pros definitely outweigh any limitations when it comes to sublimation printing.
- Longevity (projects look good for years)
- Print full-color images onto hard surfaces
- Low learning curve (compares to other printing methods)
- Customization capabilities
- Avoid cracking, peeling and fading
- Less waste than other printing techniques
Also, unlike other printing methods, in sublimation only the ink is transferred, whereas in heat transfer printing a transfer layer also makes it onto your print. Printing onto lighter colors works best for sublimation printing in order for your image to show up.
It’s also important to note that the sublimation printing process uses CMYK colors which means with only four inks you can create thousands of colors!
While there are very few cons to the sublimation printing process, you will need to invest in some upfront tools. That said, many of the tools can be bought second-hand so as long as you’re willing to shop around you can often find a good deal.
You’ll also need to make sure you have all of the supplies that you need before starting the sublimation process. Here’s a list that you can use as a jumping off point:
- Sublimation printer (you can convert some regular printers to sublimation printers)
- Sublimation ink
- Sublimation paper
- Your favorite Griffin Blanks sublimation blanks
- Practice material (to practice your print before you put it on a real blank)
- Heat press or convection oven (Important note: Don’t use the oven that you cook in, because of the gases that are released during the sublimation process)
- Heat resistant gloves
- Lint roller
- Microfiber cloth
- Heat resistant tape
- Protective paper
- Pressing mat/pads
- Thermometer with a probe for checking temperature during your press
- Software to make your design fit on your blanks
Steps To Protect Your Projects From Fading, Cracking or Peeling
It’s important to take the proper steps to ensure all of your hard work, energy and money doesn’t go up in smoke while DIY-ing at home. Below we’ve outlined some simple rules of thumb for protecting your projects from peeling, cracking and fading over time. While some fading (especially on a garment) is normal, these steps will make sure you get the most from your sublimation projects.
- Make sure you’re using the proper material.
- Fabrics should be at least 60% polyester
- Use the proper temperature for the project at hand.
- Don’t sublimate on a dark material.
- If you’re using a converted inkjet printer, make sure you regularly clean the print heads.
- Limit washing the garment.
- Don’t dry your sublimated garments outdoors as UV rays can cause fading.
- Avoid polymer coatings whenever possible.
Sublimation Project Ideas
Have you started a brand new small business? If your team is small, you can make your own swag. Use sublimation printing techniques to make your team travel tumblers for their coffee. It’s a great way to boost morale and is free advertising when they take their coffee to other locations. You can print your own logo and save a lot of money rather than going through a printing company, which might use inferior printing techniques and upcharge you. Every penny counts when your business is getting off the ground.
This grandparents day, give the gift of your favorite memories by using sublimation to print on coffee table coasters. Print old family pictures to ensure that those memories literally never fade away. Your parents will love having their memories in easy to see places every day.
If you’re looking to embark on sublimation, visit the Griffin Blanks website for all of your sublimation needs. We offer a wide collection of sublimation craft supplies and are here to answer any of your questions.
Sublimation printing ensures that you can make creative customized crafts and goods. For the best quality, make sure you’re using sublimation blanks that are made with the consumer in mind.