Sublimation on faux leather | 5 leather blanks & 2 Methods

Winters are around the corner and it’d be quite unfair for your curious and adventurous nature to not try sublimation on faux leather. Although sublimation can be done on literally anything after a little polymer treatment, there are certain barriers and challenges with each new material type., And guess what? We’re exactly going to break down faux leather sublimation challenges, the right method, and important keynotes that ensures your leather won’t melt down. 

Sublimation on faux leather

Faux leather is available in many different types. The shape of the leather requires specialized treatment. Plus, leather quality varies depending if it’s a keychain or a jacket. In our previous blog, we sublimated faux leather keychains, but you can’t use the same method for a wide variety of leather items. This is where this blog comes to the rescue. We’ll cover pillowcases, patches, earrings, wallets, and journal covers. 

Can you sublimate leather? 

Leather can be sublimated into incredible patches, wallets, keychains, cases, and a variety of customized covers for precious and holy artifacts. However, not every leather is the same. There are two types of leather, i.e., genuine and synthetic (Faux) leather, provided that a huge variety exists between synthetic leather. These synthetic leather are treated leather with various materials count, predominantly plastic. These are called plastic-based leather, imitation leather, vegan leather, pleather leather, Leatherette leather, or man-made leather. All these are the various names of one thing: PU (Faux Leather). 

For sublimation, genuine leather will work fine, but you need Polyurethane treated leather because it accepts the ink much better than genuine leather. 

Which leather is best for Sublimation?

Which leather is best for Sublimation
PU leather

Consistent results with sublimation on leather depend on the type of leather you’re using. Typically, for sublimation, you’ll get faux leather blanks at affordable rates. These blanks end all of the confusion and since they’re made to accept sublimation ink, your method won’t fail by using them. However, you still need to consider the surface of the leather. There are two types of blank: pebbled and plain. A pebbled surface results in an inaccurate and ghosted design, while a plain surface is what you want to look for if you need a smooth and clear design. 

Leather Color vs. Sublimation Color:

Ideally, lighter shades are much preferred because sublimation works best in lighter shades only. You can choose fawn, lavender, white, yellow, coffee, or rose gold for the leather, and alternatively, select darker shades for the design to achieve vibrant and vivid colors. Besides, dark leather will have lighter colors even if the sublimation colors are darker. They won’t look much appealing unless you use a vinyl sheet in between and that’s an unnecessarily long process (don’t worry we’ve covered that too, later in this article). 

How to sublimate faux leather:

Sublimation on faux leather is divided into two major steps – printing and pressing. Printing is the same throughout any sublimation method. You need sublimation paper printed through a specialized sublimation printer. Make sure the design is mirrored. 

However, selecting the design is difficult for every material type. For example, for a keychain, you’d rather prefer a seamless design than an image. Similarly, for journal covers, an image or painting JPEG would be a much better option. Nevertheless, it’s your personal preference. What’s more important for you is the pressing for each type of material. 

Breaking down the entire 5 faux leather items we’ll sublimate. For each of them, we took different designs and separated sublimation transfers. Also, the blanks are from Amazon and Etsy. We’ve mentioned the links across each blank. 

For pressing, you’ll need the following essentials

  • Heat press or Cricut Press 
  • Heat-resistant tapes and gloves 
  • Butcher papers 
  • Lint roller 
  • Foam pad 

Before pressing, preheat your press to 150-180 Fahrenheit. You want the temperature low for pressing as well. High temperature burns the leather, just like in plastic sublimation.

Pillowcase

pilowcase

Preparation: Normally, we press the substrate as it is but with the pillowcase, we recommend getting the pillow inside first. You can also fill it up with a foam pad to protect the zipper and the back of the case from getting ghosted colors. Secure the mirror printer design firmly with heat-resistant tape. Make sure the design has adhered very snugly. Now, place two butcher papers on the bottom of the press so the entire area is covered, then place the blank, and on top cover the entire case with two papers. The heat shouldn’t have direct contact with the press or it’ll stick. 

Temperature for heating: Heat the case for 40 seconds at 350 Fahrenheit. 

If you’re printing on both sides, use the same method and repeat the process twice, heating each side separately. 

Patch

Patch

Preparation: We got brown patches that are ideal to stitch on hats, caps, pockets, or any custom garment. Both sides on the patches look pretty much the same, however, the side with the outer stitching and more shine is where you’ll place the sheet The preparation is the same as for the pillowcase. You need your press machine covered with Teflon/butcher papers and faux leather blank in between. Using a foam pad or not is a personal choice. You’ll get the same results with/without it. 

Temperature for heating: Patches are thicker so you may need 50-60 seconds to get a completely transferred design. 

Wallet

Wallet

Preparation: The wallet can be sublimated on a single side as well as on a dual—depending on your blank type. Pressing a single-side wallet is the same as pressing the patches. In fact, the time and temperature will remain the same. However, when you’re pressing the dual side, you need two sheets for both sides or a single wallet-specific sublimation design. Typically, the wallet will be plain from the mid—where it’s folded, and the design will go on the front and back. Prepare the press and wallet with the sublimation sheet adhered on the blank and Teflon sheet on the bottom and top. 

Temperature for heating: Heat the wallet for 50 seconds at 360 F. 

Journal Cover

Journal Cover

Preparation: Journal covers usually come in white color, which allows printing personal photos or pastel shades in great vibrancy. You need a larger printer sheet than the cover or print in sections for sublimating leather faux journal covers. Secure the sheet with thermal tape and wrap the design in butcher paper to be placed in the press. 

Temperature for heating: For pressing the journal cover, you need 30-40 seconds at 350 Fahrenheit. 

Earrings

Earrings

Preparation: There are round and tear-drop shapes available in leather earring blanks. The sublimation in these tiny blanks can be easy and complex both, depending on your design. That’s why we recommend going with a seamless design when sublimating earrings. Also, use plenty of tape with earrings, because their outer design is a big edge, which makes room for air and error both. As with everything, cover your whole setup with butcher paper. 

Temperature for heating: Heat the earrings at 320 Fahrenheit for not more than 25 seconds. 

We also got an earring pair from Etsy. it’s the brown color leather, but the method was the same as in white except that we used much darker shades on brown leather to make sublimation visible. 

Post-Pressing Note for all leather faux sublimation blanks:

Never peel off the transfer paper just after pressing. After pressing, let the faux leather blank cool for twenty to twenty-five minutes before you peel off the paper. If you unwrap it while it’s hot, the design will become messy and drip away because the leather get’s a little warped. 

How to sublimate faux leather using HTV:

Other than regular sublimation, here’s one trick you can use with the earrings. This is called the heat transfer vinyl method and it’s more popular and commonly used than the regular sublimation method. Vinyl techniques are mostly used with keychains, earrings, and leather apparel. Simple vinyl and glitter vinyl both give a professional look to the leather substrate, and this is what gift shops and small businesses use for fine and beautiful printed leather. Here are the steps for printing leather faux blanks using : 

  • Get the design printed from your printer. 
  • Cut the vinyl sheet of the same size as the design. You can use a cutting machine. 
  • Using Cricut or EasySubli, cut the design and press it onto the vinyl following the time and temperature recommended by the manufacturer. 
  • Now place the printed vinyl on the faux leather blank face down, and secure it with heat-resistant tape. 
  • Cover the press and blank with Teflon sheets and heat it at low temperature, i.e., 330 F max for 30 seconds. 
  • Let the blank cool down completely. 

You can also heat the vinyl with leather first. In this, you’ll cut the vinyl of the same size as the leather blank and then heat it to make that one. Now, transfer the design from the sublimation sheet to the blank via heat press. In this way, you’ll be saved from cutting the sheet, and hence one additional step will be eliminated. 

Can you print leather jackets and shoes with sublimation ink?

We know sublimating all these faux leather blanks might be overwhelming and you want to try out the same art on your jackets and leather boots. Well, here’s a bummer. You can’t print the leather stuff you already own because of the color. The boots and jackets typically have dark colors, so sublimation won’t be visible on them. The second reason is the leather is genuine and hard. The chemical bonds in them are so tightly packed that the ink won’t penetrate them. And third, the leather will burn out immediately. You can dry digital printing or DTG. Sawgrass SG 1000 is a great DTG printer that works for leather as well. 

However, if you strictly want sublimation printing, you can try a UV printer or embed a vinyl sheet in between, just like how we did with the earrings. As a result, the vinyl becomes a part of the leather which alters the leather combination and increases the material’s density. But of course, you’ll have great results with vinyl on leather. 

Going to Sublimate Faux Leather? Here’s our Final Note:

Now that you learned how to sublimate faux leather, it’s time to take action steps. If you’re trying leather sublimation for the first time, don’t panic–remember what Melchizedek said about Beginner’s luck? “It’s called the principle of favorability. When you play cards for the first time, you’re almost sure to win” – The Alchemist.

Sublimation on faux leather will probably turn good the first time and if you follow all the tips and tricks given in this article, you’ll definitely have consistent results every time you do it. Have enough room for trial and error, test different things, and stick to what works for you the best. And yes, don’t forget to share your faux leather sublimation experience with us.

Emily

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