Updated: May 8
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Happy February! I can't believe we are already in the second month of the year. My goal for this year is continue to get back to the basics, so today I want to chat about one of the most popular options for tumbler making: sublimation. In this post I'm going to chat about how to create a sublimation tumbler so that you can start creating some amazing projects for your customers. So let's dive in.
What is sublimation?
Sublimation, according to inkwellprinting.com, is the transition of a substance directly from a solid state to a gas state. It does not pass through the usual liquid state, and only occurs at specific temperatures and pressures.
In layman terms, it basically means that we are transferring the ink from a printed graphic from one medium to another (i.e., sublimation paper to a tumbler), using high temperatures and pressure.
Sublimation is a popular option among tumbler makers as well as other designers like apparel designers, because the process offers bright, vibrant colors on their medium. The designs also become part of the medium, in this case, the tumbler, instead of just placed on top, giving it a cleaner look. You don't have to risk the graphic peeling off or fading because it has become one with the tumbler (a good ol' ohhhmmmmmm is fitting here).
What you need to create a sublimation tumbler
You do nee some specific items to create a sublimation tumbler. Namely, you will need a sublimation printer or a printer that has been converted to a sublimation printer. This is very important- the way you print your graphic will depend on how it transfers to your tumbler. Using any old printer won't work. Here is one that I have that works really well.
The other thing you are going to need is sublimation ink and sublimation paper. You might also want a tumbler heat press. You can visit my Amazon store to see my top recommendations, or click here:
Tumblers- you all know I LOVE my Mother Tumblers!
Heat resistant tape to tape on your design
You can check out my entire Amazon store for sublimation here.
How to create a sublimation tumbler
Ok, now that we have everything we need to create our first sublimation tumbler, let's get to creating.
The first thing you are going to need is a design. I love creating custom designs in Canva but if you're just getting your food in the door, you can find or purchase graphics or flat surface designs in a variety of places like Creative Market.
Once you have your design...designed...you will get ready to print. Be sure to use your sublimation printer with sublimation ink and sublimation paper.
When you first print out your design, it's going to look dull. Like, oh my gosh I did this wrong dull. But don't worry- the vibrancy comes out when you transfer it to the tumbler.
You are also going to want to have your prepped tumbler. Again, I love me some Mother Tumbler so I'm going to always and forever suggest those to you. The one I used in this photo is the brand new BLUETOOTH SPEAKER Mother Tumbler. Yes, you read that right. These puppies have an actual Bluetooth speaker that you can unscrew from the bottom. But any of Mother Tumbler sublimation tumblers will do.
Once you have your design printed and your tumbler prepped (check out this post to see how to create your first epoxy free tumbler- it will explain how to prep your tumblers!),
you are going to carefully tape your design around your tumbler using the heat resistant tape. Tape your design onto your tumbler with a tiny overlap over the top so the paper is easier to remove when the design is complete. Make sure this is nice and tight!
Now let's place the transfer paper. Simply wrap your transfer paper around your tumbler- not too tight but not too loose either. Use a heat gun to shrink wrap the paper onto the sublimation tumbler.
Now it's time to lay down the heat. Again, you can use a tumbler press or even a toaster oven (but this toaster oven should NOT be used for food, too- ONLY tumbler making!). You can also use a convection oven if you have it (usually toaster ovens have that option) but again, I wouldn't be using your kitchen oven because you can't cook food in it after you use it on a tumbler. With my tumbler heat press, I go to about 385 degrees. I place it in the press for 45 seconds at this heat, and then turn and let to sit again for 45 seconds. But all heat times vary, so I highly suggest creating a few "practice" tumblers to see how long it takes your heat press or oven to do the trick. I keep doing this until all the sides of my tumbler have been turned.
Once the heat has been laid, you need to let your tumbler cool before removing the paper. You can place it in a bowl of cool water or allow it to cool off in the air. Once it is cooled off, you can start peeling off the paper!
Creating more intricate designs for sublimation tumblers
Now this is just the basics of creating a sublimation tumbler. But you can, of course, create more intricate designs like adding glitter, painting your tumbler, or other design aspects to your sublimation tumbler if you want to create some amazing designs. And I teach all of these things in my Creative Community, an exclusive membership group for tumbler creators.