Sublimation printing is a great way to print intricate designs and images on different surfaces, such as clothes and glass. And by using suitable sublimation canvas and tools, you can print a beautiful picture to decorate your room or add to your art collection.
So if you want to learn more about sublimation printing on canvas, the tools you need to do it, and what methods you should follow, keep reading!
How Does Sublimation Printing Work?
Instead of coloring fabric like traditional printers do, sublimation printers use heat to “transfuse” the ink onto fabric and essentially merge them both into a single product.
The conventional way of sublimating ink onto fabric is by printing the image on a piece of paper and placing it above the sublimation canvas (or any other material, for that matter), and putting both under heat for a short duration.
As for the heat, it’s usually around 400°F (200°C), and you apply it for just under a minute, which is enough to open up pores in the fabric and allow the gaseous ink in. Afterward, the ink solidifies in the material.
“Sublimation” is actually a chemical process where an object transforms from a solid state to a gas state without turning into a liquid. And in our case, that object is ink.
Sublimation Printing vs. Traditional Printing
Sublimation printing on a canvas is, in a sense, similar to tattooing skin. So you can think of the sublimation vs. traditional printing in the same way you’d think of writing with a pen on your skin vs. tattooing it.
To clarify, sublimation printing produces permanent results; as the ink cools down and re-solidifies, it becomes one with the fabric and stays on it with no cracks/peels, and it doesn’t fade with time or washing either.
This is especially useful when printing an image with intricate designs that you don’t want to disappear over time.
What Tools Do I Need for Sublimation Printing on Canvas?
Are you excited to make a sublimation print on canvas? Then, let’s talk about the tools you’ll need for it.
1. Sublimation Printer
One of the most obvious requirements for sublimation printing is a sublimation printer. Thankfully, these aren’t as expensive as they used to be when they first came out, and you can easily find one on Amazon or in local shops.
2. Sublimation Paper and Ink
When using a sublimation printer, you want proper sublimation paper and ink alongside it; traditional paper and ink don’t work as well and will instead smear off the paper.
And even if you manage to get an image printed on a standard paper, you will have probably wasted a lot of ink and paper at that point, and it won’t even sublimate properly on your canvas.
So save yourself the hassle and get proper sublimation ink and paper. They’re made specifically for this process and will make your life easier during the whole process.
To make good designs for your sublimation job (or any other design job, for that matter), you need the right raster image processor. Some of the most popular picks in this area are Photoshop, CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, and Sketch. But if you’re looking for free software, you can use GIMP, which is pretty popular, too.
4. Polyester Canvas
Another obvious tool you need for this process is the canvas on which you’ll print your design. And one of the best materials for sublimation printing is polyester canvas since polyester is water-resistant, has no odor, no wax, and is dry finished.
We recommend canvases with at least 40% polyester content for high-quality results.
5. Cutter or Cutting Machine
Sometimes, your sublimation paper will be bigger than your canvas. And if you’re using laminating film over your canvas, you’ll also need to cut off extra bits so that it’s not dangling off the canvas’ edge.
And while you could theoretically use a pair of scissors, we don’t recommend this as the resulting edges are often jagged and uneven. Instead, we recommend you use a cutter or, even better, a cutting machine for seamless edges.
6. Heat Press
Finally, once you have your design printed on sublimation paper and have your canvas ready, you need a heat pressing machine to press the two against each other under high heat for the sublimation process to start.
And you can easily find these machines on Amazon or in your local shop.
7. Laminating Film (Optional)
We recommend you use laminate film (or a similar alternative like butcher paper) and wrap it around your canvas during the sublimation process to protect the canvas and help with ink absorption.
How to Print on Sublimation Canvas
Now that all your tools are ready, let’s walk you through the process of transferring your designs onto a sublimation canvas.
Step 1: Get Your Design on Sublimation Paper
First of all, pick/make the design you want, modify and rasterize it as needed, then print it onto a sheet of sublimation paper using your sublimation printer.
Also, don’t forget to note down your print size because it needs to be about an inch (2 cm) bigger than the canvas.
Step 2: Prepare Your Canvas
We recommend you use laminating film over the canvas before you heat it; place the film on your canvas and press them together in the heat press at 400°F (200°C) for 50 seconds.
Once you’re done, let them cool down for a few seconds before you trim the edges of the film so that it’s only slightly bigger than the canvas.
Step 3: Heat Press the Image Against the Canvas
Finally, place the image you printed onto sublimation paper against your canvas, and try to make them as centered against each other as possible. You can even use tape for this.
Next, place them in the heat press and press them against each other for 40-45 seconds. Make sure you don’t overdo it with heat pressing, or it might ruin the end product.
Afterward, you can get rid of the sublimation paper and let the canvas cool off. And be careful because it’ll be too hot to handle at this point!
Step 4: Enjoy Your Canvas
And that’s it! Once your canvas has cooled off, you can hang it somewhere, put it in a frame, or enjoy it in whichever way you like!
To wrap up, sublimation printing on canvas is an excellent way to make permanent designs to decorate your house or art room with.
The basic tools you’ll need are a sublimation printer, sublimation ink and paper, a polyester canvas, and a heat pressing machine.
Then, all you need to do is print your design onto the transfer paper, heat-press it against the canvas, and voilà, your sublimation print on canvas is ready to go!