How to Do Sublimation with Cricut
Cricut sublimation printers have totally transformed the way that folks go about DIY creation at home.
Affordable, compact, and effortless to use, these sublimation printers are real game-changers. Never before has it been so easy to cut a variety of different materials with laser-like precision. The creative freedom you get with Cricut sublimation printers is unmatched!
You’ll be able to use your Cricut to cut out all your favorite designs and patterns, prepare them for sublimation printing, and knock out the whole project – from start to finish – faster than you ever thought possible, all from the comfort of your own home.
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What is Sublimation for Cricut?
The word sublimation means to pass directly from solid to vapor state, which is exactly what happens when you heat up your sublimated designs and press them onto a piece of fabric.
The heat forces the material to sublimate, transferring the design from the original piece of paper over to your fabric.
At the end of the day, all you’re really talking about with sublimation is transferring a printed design from specific materials (sublimation paper, usually) to a piece of fabric, or another material, through the use of heat.
Dye sublimation allows you to print full-color designs (beautiful, rich, HD designs) on pretty much any piece of fabric imaginable. It really works best with polyester, though – but if you want to sublimate with cotton or other materials you’ll be able to by adjusting the heat transfer settings on your hardware.
Cricut even has its very own version of dye sublimation equipment that you can use with their Cricut cutters and heat pressed machines. The Infusible Ink line of products from Cricut is really nothing more than dye-sublimation solutions.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Sublimation with Cricut
Before you take the plunge and start using Cricut sublimation to knock out your new design project (whether you’re using traditional sublimation printers or your using Infusible Ink), you should know the pros and cons of this kind of design solution.
On the plus side you have things like:
- Much more resilient and robust designs that are basically infused into the material that you are printing on
- Your designs aren’t going to crack, aren’t going to peel, and aren’t going to wrinkle the way that vinyl might
- The end result is really professional, with pieces looking like they rolled off of an assembly line rather than were made in the back bedroom
- The design has the freedom to stretch with the fabric as you wear it, giving a much more natural look
- Dye sublimation and infusible ink products are easier to “weed” with the negative part of the design, especially when you are using calibrated Cricut equipment
That being said, it’s not like these kinds of projects are not without their drawbacks.
You have to be aware of the fact that:
- Dye sublimation requires extreme heat for the transfer to be effective, meaning not all materials are going to work well with this design choice
- Infusible ink products are only designed to work with Cricut hardware specifically
- Your design can only be as large as your heat press is
- Traditional dye-sublimation printers are a little bit on the expensive side of things (even still today)
- You only get one shot at the heat transfer – If things don’t go right you have to throw the piece away and start from scratch
At the end of the day, though, the advantages of using a Cricut for sublimation printing far outweigh the downsides. There’s a reason why hundreds of thousands of people are cooking up all kinds of cool designs and projects at home right now – this minute – and making them possible with Cricut hardware!
What Do I Need to Do Sublimination Printing with a Cricut?
If you are going to do sublimation printing with Cricut hardware, there are a couple of different things you’re going to need to get your hands on.
For starters, you’re going to need a sublimation printer that can actually produce the sublimation prints that you are going to transfer.
There are a couple of different options available on the market today, but let’s run through three of our favorites right now:
HP Design Jet T210 Large Format Plotter Printer
One of the most impressive sublimation printers on the market today, this large-format plotter printer from HP isn’t exactly the least expensive option available – but it gives true professional-grade results from the comfort of your home with a little headache, little hassle, and almost no extra set up necessary whatsoever.
The beautiful thing about this printer in specific is not just that it can easily accept sublimation ink (as well as all kinds of other ink options from HP), but that it is such a large format printer, too.
You’ll be able to pump out oversized designs, run your Cricut through the design to “weed out” the negative spots, cutting things perfectly and preparing them for transfer.
Sawgrass Virtuoso SG 500
Another amazing sublimation printer, the best thing about this particular piece of hardware is that it comes bundled with some of the best sublimation ink options available on the market right out of the box.
You get SUBLIJET ultra high definition ink included in your printer purchase, as well as 330 sheets of sublimation paper (high quality, HD paper). Throw in the three roles of heat tape that are included, too, and this printer is a bit of a no-brainer.
The brand doesn’t have the same reputation as HP, but a big part of that is because this printer isn’t used for office purposes. This is strictly a 100% sublimation style printer, a purpose-built piece of hardware you’ll only want to use with these kinds of projects.
Epson Eco-Tank ET 2720 Sublimation Printer
Lightning-fast but still really efficient, this Epson unit takes advantage of refillable ink “tanks” that you can load up with sublimation ink anytime you’d like.
The versatility of this printer is really what makes it so special. You’ll be able to bounce from printing sublimation designs to printing out homework, reports, or photos – switching out the ink wells as necessary – and then back again with very little extra effort.
The print resolution out of this Epson is pretty solid, too. It isn’t quite as sharp as the other two options we highlighted above, but it’s usually more than enough to print out DIY designs you’re going to sublimate with your Cricut.
After you print out your designs on sublimation paper you’re going to need to cut that design out with real precision.
Anything that is left on the sublimation paper is going to get transferred over to your finished product – and you need to “weed” out the negative elements you don’t want to transfer.
Cricut Explore Air 2
The perfect entry-level DIY cutting machine, this Cricut has the ability to flawlessly cut more than 100+ different types of material.
Affordable, efficient, and almost unbelievably accurate, the kinds of designs you’ll be able to produce with the Explore Air 2 are incredible. The learning curve is really low, and the versatility of this machine make it a great option for those that want to design all kinds of different projects.
Custom designs can be uploaded to carefully match the sublimation print prepared for transfer. This guarantees a real 1:1 precision-cut to swap over to your fabric, replicating your design exactly!
Read on our detailed review of the Cricut Explore Air 2.
The real workforce of the Cricut product family, if you’re only going to buy one Cricut from here on out it’s not a bad idea to make this one – the Maker – the right pick.
You get everything you need to hit the ground running with DIY crafting right out of the box with this unit. We are talking about a huge (and expandable) range of different tools, including blades, pens, scoring tools, and more.
Rotary blades are specifically designed with the Maker in mind, allowing you to cut through all kinds of papers and fabrics (and other materials) that are extremely delicate without ever ripping through the backing material.
Knife blade options, pen options, and other accessories extend the versatility of this hardware even more!
Combine all of that with a still pretty affordable price point and the Maker from Cricut is a bit of a no-brainer if you’re serious about crafting.
Learn more about Cricut Maker here.
Cricut Maker 3
Of course, if you have the budget to step up to the latest version of the Maker – the Maker 3 – you’ll want to take a good, long, hard look at this upgrade.
For starters, the new version of the Maker allows you to cut with extreme precision twice as fast as the older version and 10 times as fast as the Explore Air 2. Projects are going to get done a whole lot faster (without losing any accuracy) when you step up to this particular unit.
On top of that, you’ll now be able to cut and carve through more than 300+ different types of materials. There are dozens and dozens of different tools and cutting solutions available (some of them sold separately) that can handle your cutting, your embellishing, and your scoring needs.
Working with sublimation paper is going to be a breeze when you are rocking and rolling with the Maker 3, that’s for sure.
As if that wasn’t reason enough to go with this upgraded unit, the inclusion of Cricut Access (the premium proprietary software from Cricut to unlock the full range of tools from this hardware) should tip you over the edge.
You’ll find that your Cricut becomes a whole lot easier to use when you are taking advantage of the Access software!
Okay, now we have taken care of printing out the designed to be sublimated and have cut it perfectly to remove all negative spots so that the transfer is 100% accurate.
The only thing left to do is actually transfer the design from the paper over to the fabric that you are working with, and Cricut makes some amazing hardware to help you knock that out of the park as well.
Cricut EasyPress 2
One of the easiest to use heating press options on the planet today, this Cricut unit comes in two different sizes (9” x 9” or 12” x 10”) to provide you with plenty of workable space to transfer oversized designs.
Designed to be a real “plug and play” kind of option, there’s not a lot to master with this particular piece of hardware.
All you really have to do is fire it up, allow it to come to temperature, and then pop and press the printed design and the fabric you want the transfer to “live on” together between these two component pieces.
The heat press goes up to 400°F (more than enough to guarantee an effective first-time transfer), and you’ll be able to apply just the right amount of pressure to sort of cement that design in place, too.
The end result is perfect sublimation designs every time, all without any headache, hassle, or extra cleanup.
On top of all that, you can also use this specific heat press from Cricut to transfer heat vinyl designs as well. There’s a little bit of extra versatility here that gives you more creative freedom!
Cricut Mug Press
Those that don’t want to pigeonhole themselves into only being able to sublimate on fabric will want to snap up one of these Mug Presses.
Cricut has designed one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use sublimation heat transfer units specifically for coffee mugs of all shapes and sizes with this piece of hardware.
All you really have to do is drop your mug in place, make sure that the design is properly oriented, snap on the lid, and then hit a single button. Heat and pressure are applied uniformly around the mug, transferring the design perfectly and accurately, all faster than you ever would have thought possible.
Included with your purchase are some really cool design applications, too. You’ll be able to layout and customize your designs (from your phone or your computer), transferring them over to the Cricut Mug Press when you’re done.
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How Well Does Cricut Sublimination Hold Up?
A big part of the popularity of sublimation (compared to other design choices, like heat transfer vinyl for example) is how durable the finished result really is.
Unlike with traditional heat transfers, you’re not going to have to worry about your designs chipping away, peeling, or becoming wrinkled over time – especially if you throw your designed fabrics into the wash on a regular basis.
The sublimation is going to fuse itself with the actual fabrics of the material that you have heat-pressed the design into.
Those pigments and those colors are going to chemically attach themselves to the fibers of the material, changing them permanently.
Sure, over time the design may fade a little bit (especially if the fabric is being washed on a regular basis or being exposed to a lot of sunlight). But that’s going to take years and years to happen – and there are ways to prevent and prolong that dulling process, too.
At the end of the day, these designs are going to be incredibly robust and as permanent as can be.
Thanks to the Cricut hardware you’ll be able to cut them with precision, transfer them effortlessly, and then lock them into place so that you can enjoy the finished results for years to come.
So there you have it, a detailed breakdown of how to do sublimation with Cricut hardware.
You have a couple of different options available (especially if you want to tinker with traditional sublimation printers or Cricut’s proprietary Infusible Ink products) – but that just means there’s a lot of freedom of choice to find the perfect set up for your goals and your budget.
Just know that you can’t go wrong getting your hands on Cricut crafting hardware.
There’s a reason why this is the most trusted and beloved name in the DIY and hobby space right now, and that’s because it doesn’t just live up to expectations – it exceeds them in almost every single way.
You’re going to love your new Cricut setup!
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