The Sublimation Process – How To Do It? (July 2022)

Sublimation is becoming more and more popular amongst the masses as we speak. It is why you are here, right? Have you heard about it as well and are eager to learn how to do sublimation? Well, you have landed at the right spot because today in this post we are going to discuss the sublimation process, what it is and how you can do it.

So, whether you wish to transform your old t-shirt or create DIY home décor projects, we have got your back. From transferring images to textile items, PVC, and polyester to hard materials such as aluminum and ceramics, you can do it all once you understand the sublimation process in detail. Why wait then, let us jump right into it then.

What is Sublimation?

You might be wondering, what is sublimation? You might have heard of it in your chemistry class but never actually got around to testing it in actuality. Well, now is your chance! Even though it might not be an important process in chemistry but it for sure stands out in the world of artists.

Looking at it from a scientific point of view, it is the process in which a solid is converted into a gas without having to go through the liquid phase. Astonishing, right? Now looking at it from an artistic point of view, using heat and pressure over a controlled period of time you can bind solid ink colors to various materials to form your desired image.

Over the years, the sublimation process has become quite popular. Although there are various other methods to transfer images onto different materials, none are as smooth as sublimation. Superior quality images, cost-effective nature, and versatility – the sublimation process has it all!

What Do You Need For Sublimation?

Getting started with sublimation isn’t hard. It is a very simple process. Yes, you will need to invest in a few supplies, but they are highly affordable and widely available. So, let us go ahead and look at what you need.

1. Sublimation Printer

You need to invest in a sublimation printer. Many beginners also turn their regular inkjet printer that comes with piezo technology into a sublimation printer. Epson printers work great as they support sublimation dye as well so are the best option in the market.


2. Sublimation Ink

This is where it gets a little tricky. You need sublimation ink and not the regular pigment ink for sublimation transfer. Also, if you are converting an inkjet printer to a sublimation printer, make sure not to use the regular pigment ink as it will affect the quality of the resultant image.

3. Sublimation Paper

Yes, you can’t use the regular A4 paper for sublimation printing. You need a special paper which is commonly known as the sublimation paper for sublimation transfer. Remember, it is important that you get a high-quality paper as it plays a major role in the quality of the image.

4. Heat Press

Heat press comes in different designs, models, and sizes. So, before you get one, consider the type and size of the materials that you wish to sublimate on. Different heat and pressure settings are required for different materials and of course the size of the heat plate matters as well.

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5. Design Software

You can either get your images straight for Google or you can create your own designs and prints using sublimation software. As a beginner, we suggest that you go with free software such as Canva, Silhouette Studio, and Design Space.

How To Sublimate On Different Materials?

Now that you know what a sublimation transfer is, you might be wondering how to make a sublimation transfer. As said earlier, sublimation transfer isn’t hard so let us break up the process in simple steps for you. Furthermore, we will also look at ways in which you can sublimate to different materials.

Step By Step Approach

  1. Firstly, you need to create an image that you wish to sublimate. You can either purchase it from any of the design platforms/programs or you can create your own using software for sublimation. Not sure which software to use for sublimation? You can always go with Canva or Design Space.  
  2. Once your image is ready, next you need to set your printer. If you have a sublimation printer, that is great. But if you are wondering how to convert the printer for sublimation, then all you need to do is replace the cartridges with sublimation dyes.
  3. Next, you need your sublimation paper. If you are wondering how to use a sublimation paper, then it is as easy as using any regular paper for printing. Simply cut it to size (if not cut already) and place it in your printer to print the image.
  4. Now, adjust the heat press setting for sublimation as recommended for the specific material type and sublimation paper. You can search it online or you can read the instructions on the sublimation paper. And no, you can’t sublimate in a regular oven or use an iron for the matter.
  5. Next, place the material on the heat press place, and firmly lock it in place to avoid blurry or crooked designs.
  6. Now, place the sublimation paper on which the image is printed on the material, facing downwards, and close the lid of the heat press.
  7. Let it sit for the set time and once done, remove the sublimation paper. And you are all done!

Sublimating on Different Materials

Now that you understand the process, let us look at different materials that you can sublimate using various tips and tricks.

  • Wood/Tiles – If you are wondering how to sublimate on wood or titles, then you are in for a treat. The thing about wood and titles is that they need to be prepared before you can actually sublimate images on them. You can either use laminating sheets or you can coat them using a polymer to get the best results. Without it, you won’t be sublimate as the dyes won’t stick to the surface.
  • Glass – Can you sublimate on glass? For sure you can! But you will need a heat press that is explicitly manufactured for glass. Also, you will need to cover the glass and the sublimation paper with a Teflon sheet to protect it from wear and tear. Remember, sublimation on glass is risky so we suggest that you don’t do it at home.
  • Cotton – Many beginners ask how to sublimate on cotton, well it is one of the simplest materials to sublimate on. If you know how to sublimate a t-shirt, you can sublimate on any cotton item. Simply place follow the steps above and you should be good to go.

Frequently Asked Questions

The good thing about the sublimation process is that it is quite affordable. Here is the list of items that you will need to invest in, and you should be all set to get your business or DIY projects running.

  • Heat Press
  • Sublimation printer (Any Piezo printer)
  • Computer with a design software
  • Sublimation paper
  • Printing material of your choice

You should have most of these items at home. But if you don’t, you can easily get your hands on them from the nearest stationery store.

No, unfortunately, you can’t use any printer for sublimation. Since the sublimation process requires heat and pressure therefore you need printers that come with the piezo technology. Furthermore, sublimation inks are not available for all printers. Therefore, you need a printer that comes with piezo technology and sublimation inks.

No, you can do sublimation with just any regular printer. Not all regular printers come with piezo technology. We suggest that you go with Epson, Roland, or Sawgrass as they come with a piezo printing head and compatible sublimation inks.

Yes, you can use a Cricut for sublimation. The best thing about circuit machines is that they come with their own version of dyes which go side by side with the various cutter sand heat press to support the process of sublimation.

It is not necessary to have a Cricut machine for sublimation. You can easily cut the materials using other tools and use regular piezo technology printers to print the images. Since images printed on sublimation printers are self-weeding, therefore there is no need for one to contour cut those images – hence eliminating the need for a circuit. 

No, you cannot use iron for sublimation transfer. Sublimation transfer requires heat and pressure over a controlled time period. Iron can’t provide firm pressure and constant temperature over a flat surface hence leading to ghosting of the image on the item.

Although, many DIY users tend to use a flat iron for transferring images to t-shirts. It works, but it is not the most suitable option. The resultant image will be distorted and blurry. For your DIY projects, it might work but if you are going to be starting a business then you need to invest in a heat press.

No! Epson printers are compatible with both pigment inks and sublimation dye inks. Initially, the cartridges come with pigment inks that are fade- and water-resistant but not as vibrant and eco-friendly as dye inks. The difference between them is that dye inks do not contain any kind of colorants. They simply create colors onto the material using heat instead of transferring the color as done in the case of pigment inks.

The answer to this question is, yes and no! In short, it depends on the size and type of the material. If you are planning on transferring images to various materials, then a heat press is necessary. Furthermore, if your images are larger than an A4 paper, then you will for sure need a heat press.

The only scenario in which you might get away with using an iron instead of a heat press is when transferring images to your clothing. But we suggest that you use a heat press as iron isn’t safe to use and is also not as effective as a heat press.

The internet! You can use numerous websites to look for images that you wish to sublimate. But if you enjoy customizing images then we suggest that you check out the various sublimation software and programs that are available on the internet such as;

  • Design Space
  • Silhouette Studio
  • Inkscape
  • Etsy Designs
  • Canva

Sadly, no! You won’t be able to use a regular HP printer for the sublimation transfer process. The reason is that most HP printers come with thermal heat technology and not piezo technology. So, it is contingent to the type of HP printer that you have. Make sure to check the embedded technology before converting your HP printer to a sublimation printer. 

As discussed in the previous questions, piezo technology makes a printer suitable for sublimation transfer. We have learned that sublimation requires heat, pressure, and time. Most printers however come with thermal printing technology which isn’t suitable for the process.

Therefore, you need the specific piezo technology which uses electric current to direct droplets of sublimation dye onto the substrate. The pressure, time, and heat remain constant during the process, resulting in high-end image quality.

No, you can’t just use any mug for sublimation. You need mugs that are coated with poly-coating to ensure the transfer of sublimation dyes from the image to the ceramic mug. If you don’t know which mugs to get, check the label for ‘sublimation’ or ask the guy at the store.

You need a specialized heat press for sublimation. Look for the one that allows you to adjust the temperature and pressure to sublimate on different substrates. The more versatile the heat press, the better.

Inkjet printers that come with a Micro Piezo printing head are compatible with the sublimation transfer process. Most inkjet printers however come with thermal printing technology, so they are not at all suited for sublimation.

There is no clear winner here since both heat transfer and sublimation come with their own set of advantages and drawbacks. Heat transfer is cost-effective whereas sublimation is long-lasting and offers better image quality. Plus, you can use heat transfer for only a specific set of materials whereas sublimation works for almost all material types.


By now you should have a pretty good idea as to what is sublimation and how to do sublimation. If you were to compare it with other image transferring methods, you will notice that it is much more convenient, simpler, and cost-effective. Plus, it allows you to transfer images to a wide range of materials including wood, fabric, ceramic, plastic, and more.

Plus, the best thing about sublimation is that you don’t need high-end machinery. All you need is a computer, some printing supplies, and a heat press to create your DIY projects. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your items, design your prints, and start transferring.

Don’t forget to let us know how it turned out for you. Looking forward to your positive comments.

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