If you have been looking into sublimation craft ideas and do not really know where to start, the you are in the right place! I will show you 3 easy and affordable ways to introduce yourself to the world of sublimation and determine if it is the right craft for you!
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Before I dive into the projects, I want to do a HUGE Thank You and shout out to my friend Kat Chelstrom who partnered with me on this project. She is an amazing artist and you should follow her! Her links are listed below.
Once you see what she created with the products I sent her, you will be scrolling back up to these links!
What is sublimation?
Now to put that into plain English and explain it in the relation to the world of crafting!
Sublimation crafts are the process of transferring an image or design onto a blank item through the use of heat. When shopping for sublimation supplies like paper, ink, paints or markers and the items that you will transfer these design on to, make sure that all items say that they are for use with sublimation. If any one of the products used are not specifically made for this unique craft, the project may fail.
When done correctly, the end result are more vibrant colors, images and design that have become part of the material you applied them to. The inks and colors become a part of the object you pressed it on to, instead of sitting on top of the item like vinyl. This means that the design will not peel off in the wash or crack and fade.
One big thing to remember is that anything you create will then be reversed when you press it on to your finished project. This is because when you press it, you will flip the design so it is facing down touching whatever you are pressing it on to. This is really important if your design includes wording. If you do not take this into consideration then your letters will be backwards.
Is the heat source important?
The short answer to this is yes. Typically you would NOT want to use a household iron for these projects since they do not get hot enough. Additionally, if you try to use a household iron you run the risk of the iron moving around on your design, which can create a shadow like effect on the design. This shadow like effect from the colors drifting or moving is called ghosting.
This is why I believe having a heat press is very important. With a heat press, the heat source will come straight down on the design and the only movement would be in an up and down fashion, so less of a chance for ghosting to occur. I also recommend using a heat resistant tape to hold your design in place.
One tip I have is to make sure you have parchment paper over the top of and below your design when you are pressing it. This will protect your heat source. If any of that ink gets on the heat source it could be hard to remove, and then it could transfer over to the next project you press, so it is better to be safe than sorry!
When you decide to get into a new craft, the start up cost of getting the right supplies can sometimes be overwhelming! What if you spend all of that money and then decide that this specific craft is not really for you!
When you start looking at the cost of sublimation supplies, the printer is probably the most expensive item on the list, especially if you already own a heat press like I do. If you are not ready to invest in a whole new printer that will only be used for this craft, then I hope that one of the options I list below will work for you.
Sublimation markers are a great low cost way to experiment with this whole process. These markers are filled with the sublimation ink so that anything you draw can then be transferred onto the finished project. You will still need to make sure that you are using the correct type of paper and blank item to press your design on to.
Since I do not consider myself an artist, I enlisted the help of my friend Kat Chelstrom for this process. We both tested two different brands of sublimation markers and I have to admit, we both had the same experience, which I will go into more detail about after you take a look at the finished projects. My artwork looks like a child drew it compared to her beautiful creation!
While working with these markers, they would seem to be drawing just fine, and then suddenly they would start acting like they had run out of ink! After letting them rest for a while some of them would seem to start working again, but other colors were hard to get any color out of. We did both find that if you tapped the marker into some water, it would sometimes get the color flowing again.
You can see, in order to try and work with the makers, Kat did some short pen strokes. I on the other hand went with a “scribble it in” sort of method. I think for these markers to work even better, it would be great if the companies that make them would partner with a true artist and have more of a brush like tip.
While we were both disappointed with the results of the project with the markers, it was actually the idea of tapping the marker into water that gave me the idea for the NEXT option we tried, which was painting directly with the inks.
Paint with Inks
Another more affordable option for sublimation craft ideas would be to only purchase the sublimation inks and then use those like you would water color paints to create designs! That is exactly what I did in collaboration with my friend and artist Kat Chelstrom. She has done a lot of other artwork with paints so I knew this would be right up her alley!
Artist Kat Chelstrom used the StarCraft Sublimation Inks which you can purchase at MyCraftSource.com and used them like watercolor paints. She painted her design on sublimation paper and then I pressed it onto a sublimation mouse pad. I show the whole process in the video below, which you can also view on my YouTube channel. You can follow Kat on TikTok by clicking HERE.
Sublimation Supplies used in this video –
To make things easy for you, you can just click on the links below and hit add to cart!
Mousepad: use coupon code ShawnMosch to save 15%
Koala Sublimation Paper: use coupon code ShawnMosch to save 15%
StarCraft Ink: Use code ShawnMosch for 5% off your order
Heat resistant tape
Heat Press: Click HERE for a review of the heat press I own
Purchase Pre-Printed Designs
My final option I want to share with you for a more affordable sublimation craft ideas is to purchase a pre-printed design from someone who has a sublimation printer. You can find some seller on Etsy. I would read the product description VERY CAREFULLY! What you are looking for is something that says you are purchasing the pre-printed design, ready to press and not a digital download. The digital downloads that are for sale are just the jpg or png image file. Those are being sold to people who own a sublimation printer so they just have to print them out at home.
My very first sublimation project was done with a pre-printed design. I pressed a sloth image onto a coffee mug, and you can see that tutorial HERE.
I found a few sellers on Etsy who sold pre-printed ready to press designs. Since I am a huge Disney fan, I purchased one of the castle for myself, and then I purchased a Harry Potter inspired one for a gift for someone else. For reference I purchased the castle design from AMN Sublimation which you can find by clicking HERE. The Harry Potter Design was purchased from Coleman Lane Designs which you can find by clicking HERE.
With both of these Etsy stores, after you pick the design you want to purchase there will be options for the size of the print. The seller has already determined the correct size for different items or garment types. Since there was not an option for a mouse pad, I picked the Youth size print which is about 7.5 inches in height.
When the print out arrived at my house, all I had to do was tape it down to the mouse pad and press it. It was really that simple!
I do want to mention that I am well aware that legally no one selling on Etsy has the right to sell a copy right projected image. I do not want to debate the legality of the issue, but if you want to read up on that you can do so HERE.
Sublimation and Cricut Design Space
If you do want to get a sublimation printer, you probably do not want to print out anything you designed directy from Cricut Design Space. There are some pretty limited print settings when you print directly from Cricut Design Space.
My suggestion would be to go and find where the PNG is saved on your computer and use that to print from a program that will allow you to make your design any size you want. Some people will call this a hack or work around since you cannot export designs from Cricut Design Space.