Get started with sublimation printing using the Sawgrass Sublimation Printer. In this tutorial, I show you how I set up the Sawgrass SG500 Sublimation Printer and make my first sublimation project.
What is Sublimation Printing?
Sublimation printing is a chemical dye printing process that allows you to print practically any image. The image is then transferred using a heat press source onto a sublimation blank or product. Sublimation blanks are made for just about anything you want to create an image on however, in the crafting world shirts, tote bags, and mugs seem to be among the most popular.
Sublimation printing has been around for a very long time, however, it has gained popularity in recent years specifically among crafters. A few years ago I noticed that a lot of crafters were getting into sublimation and I honestly wasn’t interested in another crafting machine, system, or software. I also was content with my vinyl craft projects and wood painting signs.
Until recently, I hadn’t realized how easy it was to get started with sublimation, and how many ideas upon ideas you could actually do with sublimation. I was limiting myself to the possibilities I could create in my craft room.
The Sublimation Process
I decided to try out sublimation for myself to see what all the hype was about. Before investing in a printer, I knew that Cricut had recently come out with a Cricut Mug Press that uses a product called Infusible Ink – which is sort of a combination of an in-between pre-printed sublimation paper pattern or color that acts like a vinyl. It comes in a roll similar to vinyl, it can be cut and then pressed onto a surface with heat.
Sublimation printing is the process where a printer prints an image, pattern, or design on special sublimation paper that is then used to transfer the printed design to a surface with heat. The design is transferred using a high heat source such as a heat press. The printed image ink turns into a gas that transfers to the surface pores, thus infusing it permanently to the surface of the item all while maintaining the design and color printed.
In this post, I shared my Mug Press setup, and first-time I used it with Infusible Ink. While the mug press is a small investment itself, it is not as much of an investment as a sublimation printer, sublimation ink, and sublimation paper. The Mug Press allows you to try the process of sublimation without a huge expense to see how it works for yourself. But, because Cricut has done the “printing” part for you in their Infusible Ink products you are still somewhat limited to the designs you can make if you only use Infusible ink.
In fact, you don’t need the Mug Press at all to see it, you can just try Infusible Ink, and use it similarly to how you would any other heat transfer vinyl.
However, a sublimation printer makes the sky the limit allowing you to print any design, pattern, drawing, photograph, and literally anything you can create and print yourself.
After deciding that I wanted to go further than just using Cricut’s Infusible Ink for sublimating designs on mugs and shirts, I knew it was time to invest in a sublimation printer.
I watched a lot of you-tube videos and read a lot of reviews. I also looked up the pricing of sublimation-specific printers from several places.
Currently, crafters are converting Epson printers to sublimation printers because they are slightly less expensive than your entry-level sublimation printers. However, I felt that purchasing a sublimation printer would be easier to use from the beginning than troubleshooting a printer that was not originally designed for sublimation or sublimation inks.
I decided to get the Sawgrass SG500 printer with the Sawgrass brand of ink. You can also purchase Siser Easy Subli Ink instead to use with your Sawgrass printer, but based on my research there wasn’t a huge difference in inks. One may tend to be slightly brighter or more vibrant than the other, but in several tests done by users on YouTube, it also depended upon the blanks they may have used.
To save a few dollars I decided to go with the Sawgrass brand ink for the Sawgrass printer. I also purchased my printer from Swing Design and bought a bundle that included a pack of sublimation paper.
Sawgrass offers a free complimentary call to help you get set up. They have a live person walk through the entire setup process, using the easy (basic) software they have online to print your images and get you started in sublimation.
I chose not to do the call because I figured it couldn’t be that hard, which it wasn’t but thinking back, I recommend it because I let my printer sit in a box until I had to set it up, and there’s probably a few things I could’ve learned that I may not know yet.
Setting Up My Sublimation Printer
Below is a video of me setting up the Sawgrass SG500 Sublimation Printer and printing, and sublimating my first shirt project.
What Items Can You Sublimate On?
There truly are so many things you can apply the sublimation process to. Items such as shirts, mugs, tote bags, mousepads, coasters, key chains, and so much more can be sublimated. If you have a design you create or want to put an image on something, sublimation allows you to be able to do it. The only restriction is that the item is made of polyester or has a poly-coating in order to allow the sublimation process to work and actually transfer the design to the item. You can check out my full sublimation printing idealist of items here.
What do you think? Will you be trying sublimation out or adding it to your craft room repertoire? Leave a comment down below and let me know what you decide. Or if you have any questions, send me an email and I will be happy to answer what I know.
Want to Join The Crafty Life Mom Community?
I provide easy craft projects and DIYs plus tips and tricks for all of your crafting needs through the FREE Crafty Life email newsletter. Subscribers get access to my entire private craft resource library. I share printables for crafting projects and home decor DIYs. Plus, I have several SVG cut files that you can use with your Cricut or Silhouette cutting machine and there are also checklists and so much more!
Click the Pink Box below to get FREE Access!