Starting sublimation is an expensive journey. My goal is to help you discover what supplies you really need to start sublimating and supply some links that you might find useful. Let’s dive right in!
Part 1: Do your research
Before you look into supplies, buy a printer, and buy designs, do your research. Watch videos, read tutorials, and scan websites to find the best deals. Set a realistic budget for what you are willing to spend, because sublimation can be an expensive hobby. I’ll link some of my favorite resources at the end of this article, and I will do my best to link my favorite products as we go.
Part 2: Choose your software
You cannot do sublimation without graphic design software, or at least a program like Microsoft Word that you can print from. It might take some time to find something you click with. You also might find that sublimation isn’t for you, but at least you came to that conclusion before a huge financial investment. You will find that some programs are not as user friendly as others, so be sure to try out different programs.
Some free software options:
Professional Subscription Software:
My personal software of choice is Canva Pro. The paid version has a ton to offer, but the free version is great for getting your feet wet in a new hobby. I also like GIMP for graphic editing that I can’t do in Canva, plus it’s free and a good tool to have in your tool box.
Do you already pay for Cricut Design Space? You can definitely start there. A lot of Cricut users transition to sublimation after working with vinyl.
Part 3: Choose your sublimation printer
This is where you find sublimation gets very expensive fast. Not all printers can be used for sublimation. You have to choose between a printer designed specifically for sublimation and an Inkjet printer to convert for sublimation.
- The most popular sublimation printer is the Sawgrass printer. It was designed for sublimation, so it comes with ink and doesn’t need to be converted to use. Unfortunately, these come at a pretty hefty price- $600+.
- The most common Inkjet printers are Epson Ecotank ET-2803 (what I have), ET-2769, ET- 2760, and ET-15000. The 2803 is the model I run into most often and is pretty easy to convert. If you choose a printer that you need to convert, DO NOT put the ink that comes with the printer into the printer. You have to purchase sublimation ink (linked below).
Jennifer Maker has incredible tutorials and review videos. I’ll add her links below. Make sure you do a ton of research prior to investing in your printer of choice.
If you convert a printer, know that it will void its warranty– you’ll be out of luck if it breaks. This happened to me after about 6 months using my first converted printer. Trust me…$200 down the drain doesn’t sit well. Lesson learned. I still like my converted printer, but would definitely consider upgrading if I were doing more frequent projects.
Part 4: Choose your method of sublimation
- Flat Heat Press.
- A popular press would be any of the Cricut EasyPresses. I don’t have experience with the auto press and have read that, while it’s great, its price point is too high.
- The HTVront heat press is very popular. There are plenty of presses on Amazon that advertise as having multiple uses- I would look into this if you’re looking at making a wide array of projects.
- Tumbler Heat Press.
- This press is meant specifically for sublimation tumblers. Many tumbler presses come with different attachments for mugs or other projects. If your goal is to exclusively sublimate drinkware, this is the route I would go. It will save you time and money to buy a press made specifically for cup making. The PYD Press is popular in the sublimation community.
- Convection oven.
- I chose this route because I couldn’t afford an expensive press and I didn’t want to limit myself to drinkware. In hindsight, I would have chosen a tumbler press to save the extra steps needed to make projects in the oven. I haven’t been able to find the link for the one that I have, but this model is similar.
- These ovens cannot be used for sublimation AND food!!
- Mug Press.
- Similar to the tumbler press, the mug press is made specifically for mugs. I like my Cricut mug press. I have much better results making a mug in my press than in my over.
Part 5: Order supplies and blanks
The following supplies are either my favorite supplies or supplies that have been highly recommended to me. I follow quite a few sublimation groups on facebook and these products are often the most discussed.
- HIIPOO Sublimation ink is one of the most popular inks in the sublimation world. Not only is it affordable, but the spouts make filling/refilling cartridges a breeze.
- There are so many options to choose from. Asub is by far one of the most commonly used brands. I have also used Sawgrass paper and HTVront.
- For a beginner, I would say any paper that is 8.5 x 11 and is advertised as sublimation paper would work well. You can be picky after you get the hang of things. You will likely waste a lot of ink and Paper while setting up your printer anyway.
Heat resistant tape
- You can use whatever dispenser you prefer, but I got this one by scotch. It’s affordable and works very well.
Heat resistant gloves
- Please, please, please use heat resistant gloves. These are the ones I use. They are inexpensive and ship quickly.
Heat resistant mat
- I like using my Cricut easy press mat for sublimation flat blanks. These tend to be pretty expensive and you can find much more affordable off-brand mats on Amazon. I recommend buying the biggest mat in your budget. I like having the extra space.
- If I am making tumblers or mugs, a simple silicone hot pad will do. I bought some cheap, square silicone hot pads at hobby lobby and they’re great!
- Every sublimation crafter will tell you their favorite brand/store to purchase blanks. You can buy them on Amazon, Etsy, Facebook, or even at craft stores. You will find that there are stores you like more than others. I love Hogg for bulk tumblers, PYD Life on Amazon for small orders of tumblers, Target for sublimation mugs, Michaels for ornaments, and even hobby lobby has a line of products now.
- My recommendation: most small suppliers will have bundles of allll kinds of sublimation goodies. Order a bundle and test the blanks out! You’ll never know what you might find.
I hope that this article brought you some direction as you journey into the world of sublimation. I will include a list of resources/websites that can help you decide the best printer, how to set it up, and how to get going once you have your supplies. I recommend that you look up “sublimation for beginners” groups on facebook and instagram. They will be a lot of help when you run into issues and questions.