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How to Sublimate a Cap Step by Step: Everything You Need To Learn!

If you’re into DIY projects, then you’ve probably heard about sublimation. Unlike vinyl designs susceptible to peeling, sublimation involves using heat to transfer ink directly onto textiles. This enables you to personalize your clothes without worrying about peeling or fading designs!

Even though sublimation can seem complex at first, you’ll find that it’s actually a piece of cake once you understand the ins and outs of the process. So, whether you simply want to express your unique personality or want to cheer on your favorite team during their next game, follow our step-by-step on how to sublimate cap.

  1. Get All the Tools You Need

When it comes to any sublimation project, preparation is key to flawless designs. To get your project up and running, you’ll need a sublimation printer, heat press, and a sublimation-suitable cap. Here’s a complete breakdown of each of them.

Sublimation Printers

You may think that you can just switch out the ink cartridges in your regular inkjet printer with sublimation ink, and you’re good to go, but you’d be just setting yourself up for trouble! Sublimation inks aren’t compatible with most standard printers, so trying to transform yours into a sublimation printer wouldn’t only revoke your warranty, but it might also brick it.

For this reason, we recommend buying a dedicated 13” x 19” sublimation printer. You don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket by getting a top-of-the-line 8-color printer. A simple 4-color printer would do just fine for occasional sublimation projects.

Heat Presses

Fortunately, choosing a heat press is a lot easier than picking out a sublimation printer. Any clamshell heat press that goes up to 400°F is optimal for sublimation.

Good-quality heat presses cost anywhere from $300 to $3000. However, unless you plan to take on sublimation as a business, a 15” x 15” or 16” x 20” portable heat press makes for a cost-effective option.

Caps

It’s not possible to transfer designs using sublimation onto any type of fabric. Cotton, in particular, is incredibly hard to sublimate and requires a more involved process to ensure the quality of the designs.

So, to make sure the ink permeates the fabric, it’s better to stick to caps that are 100% polyester or have at least some polyester mixed with other materials.

  1. Choose and Print Your Design

Now that you have all the materials and equipment you need, it’s time to pick your design! If you want to get a vibrant design with no fuss, hundreds of websites offer sublimation designs for free, so make sure to take your time and choose one that catches your eye.

On the other hand, if you want a more personalized design with custom fonts and images, you can always create one yourself using special software. Adobe Illustrator is the best option out there for arts and crafts enthusiasts. However, it can be somewhat expensive.

Open-source programs like Inkscape are a great alternative to Adobe Illustrator and won’t cost you a dime! If you don’t feel like using dedicated software, some websites can also help you quickly create a design using templates.

Once you settle on a design, simply print it using your sublimation printer, but make sure to flip any sketch that contains words horizontally since you’ll be sublimating a mirror image of it.

  1. Prepare Your Cap

By now, you must be excited to bring your vision to life! Nonetheless, don’t let your excitement make you forget to prepare your cap for sublimation, as you need to ensure that your cap is spotless, with zero oils marring the fabric.

If you have pets, you may want to go over it a couple of times with a lint roller to be 100% sure it’s free of stray hairs or fuzz.

Pre-pressing is also a crucial step to guaranteeing that your cap is ready for sublimation; it eliminates moisture and wrinkles and helps you have an easier time peeling the design after pressing.

As a general rule of thumb, you only need to pre-press your cap for 10 seconds before proceeding to the next step.

  1. Press Away!

Now onto the main event! Follow these steps to transfer your design onto your cap.

  • Put your cap on the bottom platen of the heat press and make sure to adjust the placement so that the upper platen falls on the part you want to sublimate (visor, underbill, or panels) when clamped shut.
  • Place the design on the area you want to sublimate and cover it with a sheet of parchment paper to protect your top platen.
  • Press the machine shut for 60 seconds.
  • Pop the heat press open, and peel off the sublimation paper to reveal your design.

Here’s a simple example of cap sublimation:

Common Sublimation Mishaps and How to Solve Them

It’s definitely disappointing to pull open your heat-press only to notice that your design isn’t as professional-looking as you’ve imagined. Here are some issues most people face when attempting to sublimate designs for the first time.

Blurry or Fading Images

Most designs appear less vibrant before they actually get pressed onto the fabric. However, if you find that yours looks faded even after being pressed, there’s a big chance you’ve printed your design on the wrong side of the sublimation paper.

Always make sure that you’re printing on the bright white side of the paper and not pressing the design for more than 60 seconds to avoid fading. It’d help if you didn’t move your cap during the pressing process since this can cause ghosting.

Dotted Designs

Dotty transfers are usually a result of excess moisture. Put simply, moisture prevents the ink from penetrating the fabric, which results in patchy designs.

The only way to prevent this is to pre-press your cap for at least ten seconds and let it cool for another three before transferring your design.

Old Ink on New Transfers

If you own a used heat press or have tried your hand at sublimation before and it didn’t go as planned, your heat press might have some ink from previous designs on its top platen.

As we’ve previously mentioned, preventing this involves putting a sheet of parchment paper on the design before pressing.

However, if you’re in a pinch and need to clean your heat press quickly, wipe the platen with soapy water and a cloth. The older the ink is, the harder it’ll be to remove completely, so you need to act fast.

Bottom Line

Sublimation is a practical, permanent way of customizing your belongings. As you’ve probably noticed, the sky’s the limit when it comes to which design to choose, not to mention that you don’t need expensive tools to create fabulous transfers.

So, after you’re done with our guide on how to sublimate cap, we hope you’re ready to get your creative juices flowing and willing to start your first sublimation project!

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