Get started with creating personalized sublimated gifts or start a home-based sublimation business with our List of the Basic Equipment You Need to Start Sublimation. All these sublimation equipment is available from reputable suppliers but the creativity, patience, and desire to learn will have to come from within yourself.
For Sublimation beginners, the process of creating sublimated products is easy, fun, and can be profitable with our guides so don’t be afraid to jump in and get started. Like most crafts, there will always be a learning curve but once you understand and get the hang of it, it will be a great way to express your creativity and can be profitable too.
What is Sublimation?
Let’s get down to the basics first so you know how sublimation really works. Sublimation is permanently adding a design to a specially coated sublimation product using high heat. Those designs are permanent when pressed on the correct sublimation blanks. Unlike vinyl cut with the vinyl cutters and pressed with an iron, these sublimated products have a full color design and are only limited by your creative imagination.
What you can do with Sublimation?
With Sublimation, you can create personalized gifts for your family and friends, home decor for your own home, or even start a home-based sublimation business.
Sublimation is a great side hustle or home-based business because you do not need a lot of money to get started. You just need some room in your home, be crafty, and have patience while you are learning the sublimation process.
List of Basic Equipment to Start Sublimation:
On the top of the list of equipment you need to start is a sublimation printer. This is actually optional because you can also buy sublimation transfers too. But if you want to print your own transfers, then you need to get a printer.
These are specialized printers that use sublimation inks to print your designs onto the paper. There are printers that are already made for sublimation and there are some printers that you can convert to sublimation printers. True sublimation printers start at less than $500 (prices can vary and fluctuate) and printers that you can convert start at $200 (prices can vary and fluctuate).
Sublimation printers can either print the regular sized papers, 8.5 x 11 (or 14) inches, or wide format that can print 13 x 19 inches. You can either get an Epson F170, a Sawgrass SG500, or convert an epson.
Learn more about What Is The Best Sublimation Printer and How To Choose The Right One in our complete guide.
And if your goal is to make larger items such as garden flags, shirts in sizes larger than XL, or doormats, then you need a large format printer. You can either buy a Sawgrass SG1000, an Epson F570 Pro, or one of these Large Format Epson Printers That You Can Convert To Sublimation.
2. Sublimation Ink
This is one of the most important things you need for sublimation: the Sublimation Ink. It is a special ink that turns to gas when heated and adheres to your sublimation blank. It is not the same as inkjet ink so double check that is made for sublimation before you add it to your printer.
With the true sublimation printers like the Epson F170/F570 Pro and Sawgrass SG500 and SG1000, the correct sublimation ink is included in your purchase (in most cases) from their authorized dealers. The sublimation ink for the Epson F170 and F570 Pro (T49M1) starts at $25 per color. The Sawgrass sublimation ink starts at $77 per color.
If you print using the Sawgrass Print Manager (SPM) software to a Sawgrass Printer, you will need an authentic Sawgrass Brand Sublimation Ink. Getting a non-branded Sawgrass sublimation ink will cause you to get hash marks on your prints if you print through their SPM.
If you go with converting an Epson printer to sublimation, there are many third party ink sellers where you can get the sublimation ink from. These sublimation ink start at $10 per color and are found on many website stores such as Amazon and the ink company’s individual websites, such as Cyclone Ink. Some include ICC profiles which are the set of instructions for your printer to use to get accurate printed color output.
3. Heat Source
In order for the sublimation ink to transfer to your sublimation blank, you will need a heat source such as a Heat Press, Mug Press, Tumbler Press, or Convection Oven.
Sublimation requires a high heat source (350°F and up) to turn the sublimation ink to gas and for it to adhere to your sublimation blank. The decision on which heat source to get depends on what type of sublimated products you want to make and how much you want to spend.
a. Heat Press
Heat presses can either be a swing away or clamshell and they come in different sizes too.
Most beginner sublimators choose a lower cost clamshell heat presses. With the clamshells, you are limited to thin sublimation blanks such as shirts, mouse pads, and the like.
If you want to sublimate cutting boards or slates, then you will need a swing away type of heat press as it allows you to open it a lot more to accommodate the thickness.
b. Mug Press & Tumbler Press
If you are only sublimating ceramic coffee mugs or drinkware, then you can get a combo Mug/Tumbler Heatpress specifically made for these. They can be found starting at a great value many retailers so make sure to shop around and read reviews.
Tumblers are popular and you can use a tumbler press for ease of use. These come in a few different sizes depending on the size of your tumbler. Some tumbler presses can also have an interchangeable press elements to accomodate all the sizes. This multifunction combo press is great as you can use it for both mugs and tumblers and you end up saving on the space too!
c. Convection Oven
Because the sublimation ink turns to gas, it is not a good idea to use your home’s conventional oven in a convection setting for sublimation. Those gases can stay in the oven so using it to cook food after sublimation is not a good idea. You will also need some type of a wrap to tightly hold the sublimation transfer onto your mug or tumbler. You can use a silicone wrap or a shrink wrap for this purpose.
4. Sublimation Blanks
You have hundreds of options of Sublimation Blanks to sublimate on. They can be found from many sources including your local Walmart, Dollar Store, and many Sublimation Blank suppliers such as Heat Press Nation and Conde (Dyetrans). Some of the wholesale suppliers require a business license in order for you to place an order with them.
Sublimation blanks can range from around $1 all the way up to $20+ each. The low cost blanks are the keychains, aluminum tags, mouse pads, dog tags, and ornaments. The mid-range blanks ($5+) would be your dry erase boards, tumblers, and tote bags. The more expensive blanks are the blankets, door mats, and slates.
5. Sublimation Designs and Software
You can design your own from scratch, buy already-made designs, or buy design elements to add to a design to use for sublimation. There are many reputable design sources so download from those trusted websites only.
CreativeFabrica is a trusthworthy source for graphic designs, elements, and fonts that you can use for your sublimation designs.
They have a low-cost monthly fee that allows you to download as much as you want! That’s a great thing to feed your font addiction (Yup, I’m speaking from personal experience).
There are misconceptions that you can just grab a design from google and use it as your own…please do not do that!
Images on the internet are often copyrighted or trademarked and stealing is never a good idea, even if it’s just for personal use.
You also need a sublimation design software in order to create and print these sublimation designs. There are softwares that are beginner friendly and some for more seasoned graphic artists. Canva, Cricut’s Design Space, Silhouette Studio, Affinity, and Adobe are among the softwares that are widely used for sublimation designs.
6. Sublimation Paper
Sublimation paper is not just an ordinary copy or printer paper. It is a specialty paper made for sublimation as it is designed to have the ink sit on top of the surface and release that ink once it is heated. There are many to choose from based on your budget, the blanks you’re sublimating, and
We recently did a write up on the differences between sublimation papers and you can see our results in this Comparison and Review of Sublimation Papers.
7. Miscellaneous Supplies
Technically, these are not equipment per se, but these are some of the basic supplies you need to start sublimation.
a. Butcher Paper
Uncoated butcher paper will keep your sublimation design from transferring to your heat plate on the heat press, mug press, or silicone wrap. You’ll also need an 18″ Horizontal Paper Dispenser to hold and cut this paper.
Useful paper holder and dispenser for your butcher paper
Make sure to use this paper below your sublimation blank and over your sublimation transfer to protect your heat press from the sublimation ink being transferred permanently onto it. It is also a good idea to only use the butcher paper once because there will be some ink that will transfer onto it and if you reuse it, it will get transferred to your next sublimation blank.
Do not use teflon paper instead of the butcher paper! Teflon traps residual moisture and these vapors will cause “ghosting” (blurry edges and lines) on your sublimation projects.
SAVE MONEY BY BEING GREEN
Do not throw away your used butcher paper.
It can be used as a packing material for the sublimated products you mail to your customers.
b. Heat Tape or Adhesive Spray
To keep your sublimation transfer from shifting and in the right place on your sublimation blank, you will need a way to keep it there. Here area few necessary accessories you need:
These 3″ Heat Tapes will hold your sublimation print to your blank during the heating process. These are great on the “hard substrates”.
Prospray Adhesive Spray
These work great on the “soft substrates” and do not leave a sticky residue
c. Heat Resistant Gloves
Because you are using a high heat from the sublimation press or convection oven, you need to protect your hands from burns when you take them out of the press or oven.
There are a variety to choose from but this particular pair fits like a glove. A size 7 fits a woman’s medium hands.
If you are using a convection oven, then you will need an oven thermometer. The temperature gauges on the convection ovens are very inaccurate so do not rely on it. Get yourself an oven thermometer to make sure you are using the right temperature to sublimate your tumblers and mugs.
Helps keep an eye on your convection oven’s temp when you’re sublimating tumblers and mugs.
e. Silicone Wrap or Shrink Wrap
In order to sublimate mugs and tumblers in a convection oven, you will need either a silicone wrap or shrink wrap to hold the sublimation transfer onto your sublimation blank. The transfer has to be on your mug or tumbler as tight as possible in order to prevent any vapors on the design that can cause ghosting during sublimation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Basic Sublimation Supplies
We’ve made it easy for you to get started on sublimating personalized gifts or start a small home-based business with our List of the Basic Equipment You Need to Start Sublimation. The hardest part is trying to narrow down which particular brand of equipment to choose and how much you want to stretch your budget. As for sublimation equipment cost, getting the lowest cost is not always a good idea because the quality of the equipment is important. You want to make sure that the equipment you are purchasing will last for more than a few weeks, come with a manufacturer warranty, and have technical support you can contact.