Sublimating on vinyl isn’t as simple as printing vinyl, but it isn’t impossible, and the sublimated vinyl lasts much longer than the former one. That is why many people now prefer sublimation printing, as it is a sustainable method and can also be relatively more affordable.
Types of Vinyl Suitable for Sublimation
Yes, indeed you can, but not on all types of vinyl. There are a few specified types that can withstand the sublimation process. Therefore, before heading on to how to sublimate the vinyl, it is essential to know which types of vinyl can be subjected to sublimation.
Only permanent vinyl that is either clear or white glitter HTV can only be sublimed. You can either subject heat transfer vinyl or a few other types of adhesive vinyl to sublimation among permanent vinyl. Subliming onto other types of vinyl won’t be productive, as the vinyl will not be able to hold the sublimation.
5 Steps That Enable How Can You Sublimate On Vinyl
Subliming on vinyl can be a tricky and challenging process, but you can create beautiful sublimation on vinyl if done systematically. The following are a few steps to help you sublime aptly onto a permanent vinyl.
1: Get the Require Materials
The first thing you need for subliming vinyl is to get all the required materials. Collecting all the materials will hold as much importance as setting up the apparatus for an experiment.
Unlike the common misconception, subliming vinyl is not an expensive task, and you will not require an extensive set of apparatus for it. Below are a few materials that you will require for the sublimation process.
- Light-colored, white, or transparent permanent vinyl
- Sublimation design and sublimation paper
- Heat-resistant tape
- Butcher tape
- HeatPress or EasyPress
- Water spray bottle
2: Set Up the Heat Press
The second thing you need to do in the sublimation process is set up the heat press. Since permanent vinyl is solely made with polyester; therefore, it has to be subjected to high-temperature sublimation. The ideal temperature for subliming vinyl is around 345-350 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you go above this temperature, then the butcher tape may burn out, and the coloring of the sublimation may get distorted. That is why strictly ensure that the heat press or EasyPress does not exceed this temperature.
After thirty seconds of setting up the HeatPress, check the color of the sublime. If the color is not according to your choice, leave the heat press on for another thirty seconds. Once your desired color is achieved, you should turn off the HeatPress and let the machine cool off.
3: Print Out the Sublime Design
After setting up the heat press machine on preheating, it is time to print out the sublime design. I used a Cricut printer for this purpose. Cricut is one of the most-used printers for sublimation. Besides sublimating vinyl, it can also be used to sublimate tons of other materials.
You also get to operate the Cricut Design Space and Cricut Access with the Cricut printer. On Cricut Design Space, you can create your designs and size them according to your need. While from the Cricut Access app, you get to choose multiple different images as designs.
I picked a design from the Cricut Access, and after sizing it out from the Cricut design space, I printed it out through the Cricut sublimation printer for a vinyl sticker. The best part about Cricut products is that they are versatile in their features, but functionality-wise they are also pretty optimal.
4: Prepare the Vinyl and Sublime Design
Usually, a precisely cut and shaped vinyl is required in the printing method. But fortunately, there is no such requirement in the sublimation process. You can cut the vinyl in an irregular oval or circle shape. However, make sure that your cut piece is larger than the design you want to sublime onto the vinyl.
Next, take the design and attach it to vinyl using heat-resistant tape. I want to remind you that the design you have chosen should be MIRRORED. Otherwise, a haphazard and opposite design may get sublimed onto the vinyl.
5: Place the Vinyl in HeatPress Machine
The next step is to put the vinyl with sublimed design in the preheated HeatPress machine. Before putting the vinyl into the machine, place a cardstock beneath it. By doing so, the risk of bleeding and burnout can be avoided.
I would also advise you to place two parchment sublimation papers between the vinyl and the heat plate to prevent a blowout from the machine. Once the vinyl is perfectly aligned, press the heat plate onto it for about thirty seconds. The pressure you will apply should be firm but not too strong, as it may cause a burn or blowout.
After this duration, pull out the sublimation paper and analyze if the design shows through. The heat press will be perfect if the design isn’t too dark or too bright. If it isn’t like that, then put it back into the machine and press it again for another thirty seconds.
Usually, one minute is more than enough for heat pressing the design. If you press for too long, the design may bleed out, or the vinyl may get damaged. Now take the vinyl out of the machine and place it on a table for a few minutes.
I would suggest you not remove the sublime from the vinyl for at least five minutes. If you remove the sublime too soon, the design may bleed or be distorted as it will still be too hot. Let it cool down to get attached to the vinyl properly.
Slowly peel off the sublimation paper from the vinyl. Typically, after you remove the sublime, paper residue is left behind. Do not scratch it off; instead, use the water spray bottle and a towel to wipe off the residue. Be gentle with this sublimation paper process, as any harshness can destroy the sublimation print design.
Once the residue is removed from the sublimation print, let the vinyl rest again for another five minutes. After that, the vinyl is ready to be used. Permanent adhesive Vinyl is mainly polyester; thus, it cannot be used on all objects. However, sublimed vinyl is heavily used on clothing, as it is not only a durable option but is also quite affordable.
How does Sublimation on Vinyl work?
Understanding the work behind vinyl sublimation prints will help you in mastering the process. By acknowledging the theory behind this process, you will be able to analyze the sublimation process. The adhesive vinyl used in this process is majorly made with polyester.
In this sublimating vinyl process, a particular type of ink called ‘sublimation ink‘ is used. When this sublimation ink is heated over a specific temperature, its particles transform into gaseous molecules. These gaseous molecules then get infused into the clear vinyl fibers, and their dye leaves its impression within the fabric the process is also called the “sublimation transfer.”
The impression is the same design that the ink initially had. In this way, whatever design was printed with sublimation inks gets imprinted onto the fabric. Unlike printable vinyl, the sublimation isn’t done only on the clear vinyl surface. Instead, it leaves an impression within the fibers. That is why the sublimation vinyl lasts much longer.
Things to Consider Before Sublimating on Vinyl
As mentioned multiple times, sublimating on vinyl is quite a complicated process. Thus, to understand the sublimation concept aptly, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.
- To sublimate vinyl onto white glitter HTV or transparent objects, you should use clear or transparent permanent vinyl.
- But if you want to sublimate vinyl on dark-colored surfaces or clothing, then prefer HTV over the clear adhesive vinyl. The quality of sublimation will be much better this way.
- For light-colored surfaces, both clear vinyl and HTV can be used.
- Use sublimation ink for better print, you can also watch the video tutorials to sublimate directly.
- For using heat transfer vinyl, the optimal temperature of HeatPress will be increased. I prefer to set the machine up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Other than that, all the HeatPress instructions for HTV will remain the same as that for vinyl sublimation.
- When you’ve done printing via Cricut machine, used special ink, glitter htv at high heat, use transfer paper, and make sure to cool completely the final vinyl product.
Why Sumblimating Vinyl is Better Than Printable Vinyl?
There are tons of factors that make sublimation vinyl better than printable vinyl. First, the sublimed vinyl has a better appearance than the latter ones.
People have just assumed this method to be an elevated one, which is why they avoid it. But in actuality, once you know how to do it, sublimating onto vinyl, the process can become more manageable.
Moreover, the sublimed vinyl is waterproof, whereas the printable vinyl is not water-resistant. Besides, this vinyl can last much longer, as quality-wise, it is more robust and optimal than printable vinyl.
If you allow the sublimed vinyl to rest over four days or 72 hours before using it, it may last for years. But the printable ones have a pretty short life span. Most of them can hardly last over a year or two.
Though the vinyl sublimation process is not that expensive, it is still pricer than the printable vinyl. The reason is that the cost of permanent adhesive vinyl, which is a necessity in the sublimation process, is higher than the typical types of vinyl.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does sublimation work on any fabric?
No, the sublimation process can only be subjected to polyester coating and its associated products, such as vinyl. However, the vinyl, which is heat-proof, can also be sublimated onto cotton and leather.
Does Cricut help in sublimation?
Though the Cricut is not directly involved in the sublimation process, it can be used for printing and cutting out desired designs for sublimation. The circuit can drastically aid in the sublimation process and can be a beneficial addition to the process. Moreover, with the Cricut printer, you can access multiple Apps that can provide you with versatile sublimation designs.
Sublimation printing can be quite a tricky and challenging to initiate method. But once it is set up, it can be pretty profitable. Owing to the wide range of benefits, many companies are opting for this printing technique. Anyone who wants quality-wise better textile or polyester printing should try this method.