Sublimation for Beginners – What Supplies, Printer, and Blanks You Need to Get Started

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A guide to sublimation supplies for beginners. What it means to sublimate and where you can find the best sublimation supplies for your projects!

So you stumbled upon sublimation and want to learn what all the buzz is about?! In this post, I will explain exactly what sublimation is, how it differs from iron-on vinyl with a heat press, and what supplies you need to get started. Plus, I will share all my favorite resources for sublimation blanks!

What is sublimation printing?

So what exactly is sublimation? In basic terms, sublimation is the process of transferring ink dyes printed from a sublimation printer onto a blank canvas or fabric surface with heat.

A guide to sublimation supplies for beginners. What it means to sublimate and where you can find the best sublimation supplies for your projects!
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How is sublimation different from iron-on vinyl or screen printing?

To clarify the concept further, sublimation is the act of printing ink onto a garment or blank by turning the substance from the solid to the gaseous state. The sublimation dye (or ink) transfers to the surface it is applied to with heat. Moreover, sublimation printing bonds best with polyester or specifically created sublimation blanks to produce bright, vibrantly printed colors, and life-proof results!

So how is sublimation different from using a craft iron-on vinyl, also known as heat transfer vinyl? With iron-on vinyl, you add the material to the surface of a shirt and lives on top of the fabric. In other words, sublimation means the design is permanently printed into the fabric and becomes a part of the shirt. As a result, there is no cracking, peeling, or fading to your final project!

Best sublimation printers to get started with.

The best sublimation printers to get started

Okay, so now that we know what sublimation is, you may be wondering what printer do I need to get started with sublimation printing?

There are a lot of sublimation printer options out there, but I will get you my top two choices here. 

  1. Epson Ecotank printer converted for sublimation – Technically, this is not a sublimation printer, but for crafters who want to get started sublimating without spending thousands of dollars, this is a great option. The Epson Ecotank is an everyday inkjet printer that can be converted into a sublimation printer. The key is to buy a new Ecotank and only add sublimation ink from the first print.
  2. Sawgrass Virtuoso SG1000 sublimation printer – this printer is one of the best sublimation printers on the market. It can print up to 11 x17 inches. This printer will be a hefty cost investment, but the results and quality are well worth it. If you are serious about running a small business, this may be the one you want to consider. 

Check out other sublimation printer options here!

Which is the best sublimation ink?

I’ve tested a few different sublimation inks, and by far, my favorite has been the Happy Toner inks or the Hiipoo inks – they make a great product. As a secondary option, Printer Jack also makes a great dye ink that is very popular. 

Sublimation Paper

Besides ink transfer paper is one of the most important sublimation supplies to have on hand. There are many sublimation papers to choose from but my favorite sublimation paper to print on is the A-SUB sublimation heat transfer sheets. 

Heat Press for Sublimation

There are loads of heat presses that work for sublimation. My top three favorites are the large Cricut EasyPress, Cricut Autopress, or the Craft Heat Press by Heat Press Nation. 

Check out my review of the Cricut EasyPresses here!

Easypress heat press for sublimation

Where can I find sublimation blanks?

Now the magic of sublimation is not just in the sublimation printer but what blanks you get to apply your design. Fortunately, with the popularity of sublimation, there are new blanks and clothing popping up all the time!

Below are some of my favorite sublimation blanks resources. 

Sublimation on shirts.
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T-shirts for Sublimation

Firstly, clothing, shirts being the most popular sublimation blank. The good part about sublimation is the shirts are soft blanks, which make them very comfy. However, be mindful that you are only purchasing shirts that have at least 80% polyester count for best results. 

T-shirts and clothing sublimation blanks

  1. Heat Transfer Warehouse – they have fantastic customer service!
  2. Next Level Shirts – these shirts are comfy and very flattering. 
  3. Threadsy – there are loads of brands and styles to choose from here!
  4. Bella Canvas – is one of the most popular shirt brands on the market!
  5. Dry fit shirts (Fun fact: most dry-fit shirts are high polyester counts, so you can usually use these for sublimation!). 
  6. Socks
Floral designs on sublimated mugs.
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Coffee Mugs and Tumblers Blanks

  1. Sublimation tumblers – these come in loads of shapes and sizes
  2. Coffee ceramic mugs 
  3. Can covers
  4. Skinny tumblers – I listed this one separately because they are one of the most popular sublimation tumbler blanks that crafters search for!

Accessory Blanks

  1. Earrings – you can find earrings in many shapes and sizes for the perfect custom accessories. 
  2. Mobile phone cases – if you love to change out your phone case frequently, this one is for you!
  3. Key chains – square, circle, and heart keychains are all easy to find for sublimation blanks. 
  4. Pet bandana – how cute would your furbaby look in a custom pet bandana!
  5. Makeup bags – perfect for adding personality to your makeup bag
  6. Dog tags – no more faded colored metal dog tags!
  7. Tote bags
Sublimation on pillows

Decorative Sublimation Blanks

The sublimation supplies don’t stop with blanks; there are loads of ways, you can decorate your space or home with sublimation projects!

  1. Pillowcases
  2. Coasters
  3. Garden flags
  4. Mouse pads
  5. Oven mitts
  6. Puzzles

What other sublimation supplies do I need?

Aside from a sublimation printer, dye ink, and blanks to sublimate on, there are a few other supplies you will need to collect, depending on what you intend to create. 

  1. Lint roller – a lint roller is important for fabric projects to remove any small loose pieces on the fabric which may disrupt the transferred image design. 
  2. Butcher paper or Teflon sheets – Having uncoated butcher paper or reusable Teflon sheets is important to protect your heat press and garments from the image transferring in locations you do not want. 
  3. Heat-safe tape – for almost all sublimation projects, you will need heat-safe tape to hold your printed design in place while applying your heat. 
  4. Heat-safe gloves – sublimation requires heat but that doesn’t mean you need to get burned! So safety first, with some heat-protective gloves.
  5. Alcohol swaps – there are perfect for cleaning the surfaces of mugs and tumblers.
  6. Mug press – if you are going to press on tumblers or mugs, you have to have a mug press to accomplish this. Some good mug press options include the Cricut Mug Press or PYD Life tumbler press.
  7. T-shirt guide – While I usually just measure and eyeball my design placement, it can be prudent to have a t-shirt guide to help you get things on straight and centered. 

Get Community Support

To sum up, sublimation is an incredible way to step up your craft game whether you decide to make things just for yourself and your friends or start a small business!

What other questions do you have about getting started with sublimation? Do you have your own list of favorite sublimation supplies that I should add to this list? Tell me below in the comments!

If you are looking for community support, be sure to join my Facebook group here to ask your questions! You also may want to join my fellow blogger’s sublimation Facebook group full of sublimating knowledge!

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A guide to sublimation supplies for beginners. What it means to sublimate and where you can find the best sublimation supplies for your projects!

About Abbi Kirsten

Welcome to my colorful corner of the internet, where we play with vibrant crafts and unlock your creative magic! Hang out with me and get lost in a fun array of projects, tutorials, and products, from stunning papercraft ideas to flower templates, Cricut help for beginners, and endless crafter’s hacks. 

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2 Comments

  1. I have an Epson printer but I would have to buy extra tanks to store my sublimation inks in so I could use my printer for regular printing, correct? Is this feasible? I use my printer several times a day to print patterns.

    1. You do not want to switch between inks in the printer because you would have to clean your ink heads each time (not a quick or easy task). I recommend having one printer for sublimation and one for inkjet printing. 🙂

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