Can You Sublimate on Vinyl? How to Sublimate on Vinyl

The answer to “can you sublimate on vinyl” can be conditional. Sublimation on vinyl can be a miss or a hit, depending on the type of vinyl you’re using. There are various types of vinyl, and all react differently to how they carry and hold the sublimation. 

Can You Sublimate on Vinyl

As much as we’ve done sublimation on vinyl, we found it to be one of the most exciting and easiest substrates to sublimate on–just when your vinyl is correct. However, we’ve also encountered an alarming amount of failures which is why we decided to answer the most concerning questions about vinyl sublimation while further detailing how to sublimate a vinyl with tips to refrain from mistakes.

What Kind of Vinyl Can You Sublimate On?

You can sublimate vinyl, but here’s a spoiler alert: not all vinyl support sublimation. Only the permanent vinyl, printable vinyl, and Glitter HTV can be sublimated.

Types of vinyl that support sublimation:

Being into crafts, you’d know previously about how many vinyls are out there. There are printable vinyl, adhesive vinyl, permanent vinyl, and heat transfer vinyl. Except for the adhesive vinyl, all three support sublimation. But then comes the quality and procedure difference.

Permanent vinyl and HTV follow the standard sublimation process, i.e., transferring the design from paper to the substrate through heating. However, in the printable vinyl, you don’t use sublimation paper, and there’s no transferring. The vinyl sheet goes into the printer, and you can sublimate it directly to transfer later. Printable vinyl is the least suggested vinyl we’d ask you for; although it can be sublimated, the best vinyl for sublimation are permanent and HTV ones.

And why can’t we use the adhesive vinyl? Yes, we know you’d wonder. The reason is their sensitivity. Adhesive vinyl can’t withstand heavy temperatures and thus melts away. Also, it can’t hold the sublimation because of these properties.

How to sublimate on vinyl?

As much as you’re curious to know, we’re excited to tell you that the process is beyond simple. We’ve said that multiple times, and once again, it’s worth reminding you that the right material leads you to your destination of successful results. However, if you don’t want a lengthy and exaggerated method to read on, here’s a quick summary of how to sublimate on vinyl;

  • Take permanent or heat transfer vinyl sheets.
  • Prepare the design by sublimation design software.
  • Print the design on sublimation paper.
  • Adhere the printed paper mirrored onto the vinyl using heat-resistant tape.
  • Preheat the press for 3 minutes.
  • Sandwich the design in parchment paper and heat it under the press for 10 minutes at 350 F.
  • After it’s heated, remove the paper from the vinyl gently.
  • If there’s paper residue, use water spray and rub it off with a soft cloth to get it out.

Required supplies:

Now comes the detailing of the process we just explained above. First, we need everything ready on the table. Let’s checklist the list of equipment.

  • Clear heat transfer vinyl or permanent vinyl
  • Sublimation printer (Sawgrass or any converted Epson)
  • Sublimation paper (AA or Hiipoo)
  • Sublimation ink (any thick density ink)
  • Heat press or Cricut
  • Parchment tape
  • Heat-resistant tape
  • Water spray and a soft cloth

Method:

Many people have various opinions on starting off the process. Some people like to start the process by preparing the heat transfer, while others prioritize getting the design ready. For us, it’s the latter one.

Getting everything ready: 

Getting the design ready asks more effort than preparing the heat press. It’s also because we manually print the design instead of ordering from Fontsy or Etsy. So, we’ve both Epson and Sawgrass units of sublimation printer, and for the vinyl sublimation, we’re using Epson ET-2800. We took AA sheet of 8.5 x 11 inches and the ink we had on this printer is Hiipoo. That’s all about the printing specs and configuration. This is our recipe for a great print out with vivid colors.

Getting everything ready

Tip: if your design has texts and orientation, print it mirrored.

Now that we’ve our print out, let’s move to the…

Setting heat press and getting the vinyl ready

In the second step, we preheated the press for about 30 seconds at 350 F. However, the temperature settings depends upon the press you’re using. In our case, it’s TopDeep heat press machine but yours can be different. Maybe you’re using a Cricut, EasyPress, or any other heat source, so it depends on the manufacture for which temperature and at white you should set for preheating.

In the meantime, when your press machine is getting heated, prepare your vinyl. It’s nothing of a rocket science though, you just have to get your design and tape it to the vinyl. The tape must be heat resistant. We also like cutting off the excessive vinyl after we attach the design. This way, we save up the extra sheet for the second time use and sometimes, it just helps to get everything done cleanly.

Pressing the vinyl

Now we’re on the pressing stage–the press is heated enough, and the vinyl is ready. But before we place it, we’ll cover the press and design with parchment paper, because once we blew up the press and also got the substrate melted. It was when we sublimated the nylon without parchment papers.

So, keeping everything under controlled, we use 2 parchment papers; one on the press and one on the top of the vinyl. Close the cover and let the vinyl heated for about 30 seconds. This will be enough for a perfectly transferred vinyl–neither blurred nor bleed out. Again, keep a check on your press’ settings. If your design is blurred or not transferred properly, you can heat the vinyl for another 20-30 seconds. However, don’t exceed the temperature from 350 F, the tapes and vinyl itself starts melting at this high temperature and results can be a total disaster.

Removing the sublimation paper

Be patient at this stage. After the vinyl gets heated perfectly, let it cool for about 5 minutes. And unlike polyester and hard substrates, you’ve to be slightly gentle here. A quick pull off will take half of the vinyl in your hand with design utterly ruined. And you don’t want that, right? So, start pulling off the paper slowly and lightly.

Removing the sublimation paper

There are chances that there’ll be paper residue on the vinyl and the worst you could do to remove it is scratching. We know because that’s what we’ve done when it was our first time. Well, we’ve an easier and non-risky solution for it. Just spray some water on the vinyl and gently rub a soft cloth–fiber’s preferred. This way, you’ll remove all the paper while the design will stay still.

Tips for sublimating on vinyl:

Well, it’s time to call up some of the useful tips for vinyl sublimation, so when you’re actually performing, there’s no melting, distorted prints, ruined design, and jammed printers.

  • First, the type of vinyl. Leave adhesive and printable ones. If you really want to make vinyl sublimation hit, use clear permanent vinyl or HTV sheets.
  • Use HTV for darker substrates i.e. shirts, mats, etc; and transparent vinyl for lighter ones.
  • Take care of the temperatures. Vinyls ain’t polyester with which you can go as high as 400 F. The moderate the temperature the least are the risks of anything melting inside. The best temperature for vinyl sublimation is 350 F.
  • Timings are crucial too. Never heat the vinyl for over 2 minutes.
  • Always cover the press and vinyl with parchment paper before heating.
  • Use the best equipment combos. If you’re using Epson printer, take AA sublimation sheets and Hiipoo/Printer jack ink.For Sawgrass, use brand’s very own supplies. And for the Cricut, don’t intermix between software, designing, and heating with other essentials and tools.

Why is Sublimating Vinyl Better than Printable Vinyl?

In many areas, permanent and HTV vinyl holds an upper hand over printable vinyl. Well, it’s true that printable vinyl is more considered when it comes to sublimating substrates other than ceramic or polyester. It’s because the method is a bit demanding and you’ve to take care of little things. However, we believe it to be the normal case scenario with sublimation, i.e., you’ve to keep little to everything in order to attain quality results, haven’t you? Rest assured, with a little practice and the tips we just provided, you’ll absolutely nail vinyl sublimation.

For comparison, however, permanent vinyl is better because of its properties and quality. It’s waterproof and easy to store. Printable vinyl, on the other hand, is just paper and is highly prone to cracks and wrinkles, which means wasting your entire effort. Also, these papers have a thicker density which will 80% lead to the printer jam. Besides the risks of a printer jam, printable vinyl reduces the quality of prints. However, your printer can also get jammed when you’re using permanent vinyl because it’s purely a matter of paper and its quality. Don’t get us wrong here.

The printing outcome on both printable vinyl and HTV has massive differences. The color brightness and vividness may be sacrificed if your printer is direct printing on vinyl paper. While, with the permanent vinyl, the process is the same as sublimating a shirt or mug. Plus, permanent vinyl stays for a longer period in the same quality, while the second you’ll get your printable vinyl out of our printer its quality goes on diminish, and after 1 or 2 years, it won’t even be in a condition to be transferred to any substrate.

However, there’s a cost difference. Printable vinyl is cheaper than permanent ones, but of course, it has no value in the longer run, so expecting some active brain cells in your head, we can say, you know which one is the best for you, and it’s not something having “printable” in its name.

As key takeaways; permanent or HTV is better than printable vinyl because;

  • It’s waterproof.
  • Scratch and abrasion-resistant.
  • Has vibrant and bright colors.
  • No active printer jamming.
  • Has longer lifespans of storing sublimation within for transfers.

Ending note:

We agree that Vinyl sublimation isn’t the game of a beginner, but it’s also not that of a tricky task. It just depends upon your knowledge, materials, and methods you’re using that answers “can you sublimate on vinyl” in a yes or no for you. Since we ended everything by providing you with all the information for vinyl sublimation, we’re hoping that you’d use the right vinyl, set the press at the appropriate temperature, and don’t scratch the paper. Whatever you would or will do, let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Emily

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