How to Print Sublimation Mugs

Dye sublimation printers are used mainly for making prints on polyester fabric. The fabric can be used for clothing or advertising media, such as teardrop banners, “L” banners, hanging banners, flag banners, trade show displays, backdrops, X Banners, roll-up or pop-up banners, retractable banners, etc., etc.

Dye Sublimation Printing is different from other types of printing in that it uses dyes rather than ink as inkjet or LaserJet printers do. Inkjet printers use the CMYK color spectrum (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black), which is the print industry standard for most printing worldwide (RGB color spectrum is used for most video, in contrast).

The Process of Printing

The printing process uses the CMYO spectrum, where the “O” represents a clear overprint that becomes black when exposed to heat and pressure.

When printing using the sublimation process, also known as heat transfer vinyl dye sublimation, first, the image is printed to a transfer paper using the CMYO ink set, then, once the paper is removed from the printer, it is matched up to a polyester fabric and place on a pressure rolling machine with heated rollers (around 400 ºF / 204 ºC) and slowly rolled between the rollers until it comes out the backside with a perfect (hopefully) image sublimated to the fabric.

The term “sublimation” has to do with the chemistry of the dye, which, when reacting to the heat and pressure of the heated rollers, becomes a gas and infuses itself permanently into the fabric. Thus, the term most commonly used for this type of printing is sublimation printing or dye sublimation printing.

The sublimation process is very simple, making it popular for small businesses. Many people have also found ways to create their sublimation mugs out of their own homes. The materials you will need to personalize your mugs are coated sublimation coffee mugs, sublimation paper, dye-sub inks, heat-resistant tape, water, and a machine to heat the ceramic mugs in, preferably a sublimation heat press. Once your artwork is ready for printing, it is printed onto the specially coated paper, using dye-sub inks. after printing, you should cut off the excess paper for easy application. You will then be ready to begin the transfer process.

When it comes to customizing a coffee mug, be it for a gift, promotional item, or just a personal item, there are several different methods that people can use. To name a few, there is screen printing, in which the artwork is printed onto the item using screens and pressured ink, or laser engraving, which uses a laser to burn the design into the product itself. Another popular method people use is the process of sublimation. The benefits of using sublimation to personalize coffee mugs far outweigh many other printing methods. By choosing this process, you can use full-color, detailed artwork for your mug. Due to the way this printing method works, you will not have to worry about the artwork peeling or scratching off- it is permanent.

To transfer the design to the coffee mug, center your artwork on the coated sublimation mug, holding it in place with heat-resistant tape. Once centered and taped, it is ready to go into the heat press. Clamped into the machine, the mug is then heated to intense temperatures for 3-5 minutes. During this time, the magic of sublimation happens. Unlike other printing methods in which artwork is printed on top of a product, your design will be bonded to the product as one. When heated to such temperatures, the dye-sub inks become gas-like, which are then absorbed into the pores of the coated coffee mug. After the heating process, the mugs are taken out of the machine, the heat-resistant tape and paper are removed, then the personalized coffee mugs are placed into a bucket of water to cool the mug and bond the ink. Due to the ink being fused into the mug, it is permanent customization that will withstand wear and tear for years to come.

The results of sublimation mug printing are what is truly breathtaking. Most commonly used for photo mugs, the outcome is a glossy picture-like personalization. The process allows for full-color artwork with extreme detail, making it popular among high-end companies as well that are looking for promotional items able to display their multi-color logos. The material needed to create your sublimation mugs can be found at any printing supplier. If one is looking for the stunning results of sublimation, without having to create it themselves, the process is also offered by many promotional product manufacturers as well, that can create the mugs with the artwork of your choice. No matter what you use the sublimation mugs for, the vibrant outcome is sure to turn heads.

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