sublimate on stainless steel

Can You Sublimate On Stainless Steel? How to Do It

Let me tell you straight away that the answer to the question can you sublimate on stainless steel is yes. As long as we have the right tools and we’re using the proper substrates.

So, this guide about sublimating on stainless steel will first deal with the tools we need.

And the kind of stainless steel objects that we can personalize with our beautiful designs.

Once you have all that figured out, you can decide if you want to put everything into practice.

I love stainless steel as a substrate for sublimation because it’s heat-resistant, strong, durable, easy to clean, and the personalized objects will last a long time to come.

Of course, ceramic mugs and tiles are also amazing objects to personalize. And the same goes for glass cutting boards, acrylic objects or even leather pieces. Plus, T-shirts will always remain a favorite substrate for people around the world.

But stainless steel is amazing on its own due to its amazing strength and durability. Plus, It’s absolutely amazing to work with objects that can withstand temperatures up to 1,697 degrees F.

If you are interested in some particular stainless steel objects, check out my guide on how to sublimate stainless steel tumblers.

Can You Sublimate On Stainless Steel? What We Need

In order to do any sublimation on any substrate we need a few very important tools first.

Sublimation printer + inks + paper

Of course, everything starts with the printer.

You will find a number of recommendations in my reviews for the best sublimation printer for T-shirts or the best sublimation printer for beginners and other similar articles that I wrote.

There are many wonderful printers on the market.

Since you’re looking for an answer to the question can you sublimate on stainless steel, I will assume that you already own a very good printer. Converting Epson printers to sublimation is my personal choice.

And you are already familiar with the use of sublimation inks and the use of sublimation paper for our designs.

I would recommend using the A-Sub Sublimation Paper, 105g because the thinner paper can let us manipulate it more easily, although you can also use the A-Sub Sublimation Paper, 125g.

I will also assume that you already know about the use of heat resistant tape, butcher paper, and the fact that you need to have a pair of heat resistant gloves.

Heat press or countertop convection oven

This is a pretty important choice to make because it involves a good deal of money.

A heat press for tumblers, like the PYD Life Mug & Tumbler Heat Press Machine, can be an expensive acquisition.

Some people might not wish to buy a heat press designed specifically for tumblers if they don’t plan on personalizing a lot of them regularly.

The alternative is using a convection oven.

However, once you use the oven for sublimation, you can’t use it for cooking food anymore.

Thus, if you decide to sublimate in an oven then that oven only becomes good for sublimation. That means that you either have to buy a new oven to cook food or you choose to buy a tumbler heat press and leave your oven alone to cook food in. Either way, a good amount of money will have to be spent.

If you want a complete guide about sublimating stainless steel tumblers in the oven, I recommend checking out this guide.

In an oven, we’ll need to bake our tumblers at 375 degrees F for 5 or 6 minutes.

Type of Stainless Steel to Sublimate On

Can you sublimate on any stainless steel? No, we can’t just pick a random stainless steel object and assume that sublimation will work.

This is the area we must pay attention to in our quest to answer the question can you sublimate on stainless steel.

Basically, any stainless steel we want to sublimate on needs to have a sublimation coating.

While polyester T-shirts can be sublimated on directly, the same cannot be said for a whole range of objects.

If we want to personalize mugs, they need a poly coating.

If we want to sublimate on glass, the surfaces need a poly coating.

Plus, if we want to sublimate earrings, keychains, fridge magnets, etc. all these things need a poly coating in order for the designs to be transferable successfully in the heat press/oven.

We need that special coating for the ink to adhere to the surface in its entirety and be durable for a long time to come.

This clear coating, also known as poly coating or sublimation coating, converts any heat and pressure tolerant material into a sublimation substrate. It’s magic.

And so, if we want to sublimate on any stainless steel object, it absolutely needs a poly coating.

Here, we have two options. One is certainly easier to execute than the other.

Buy stainless steel objects ready for sublimation

We can directly buy stainless steel objects that are ready for sublimation.

In order to do that all we have to do is to search for stainless steel tumblers for sublimation. Or for sublimation blanks stainless steel tumblers.

Also, these blanks that are ready for sublimation will also come with instructions for temp and time.

I gave tumblers as an example because they’re some of the most popular stainless steel objects that people want to personalize with the help of this wonderful craft.

We can also look for sublimations water bottle blanks.

Or for sublimation stainless steel travel mug blanks.

I should also mention that pretty much everything we talk about as we delve deeper into answering the question can you sublimate on stainless steel also applies to aluminum.

We can take this guide and apply the same guidelines if we want to sublimate on aluminum objects. And we can do so as long as they have the much needed poly coating. In fact, the most common type of sublimation metal might be aluminum, although stainless steel certainly is becoming more and more popular.

Apply the poly coating at home

The second option involves a bit more work on our part.

It involves buying a product that will let us apply the needed poly coating at home.

And thus, we can choose whatever stainless steel or other hard material we want, apply this coating and then get it ready for sublimation.

One of my favorites is the Dyepress PolyGloss Sublimation Coating for All Hard Substrates. It’s not a cheap product but it can last a while so I think we get a very good deal.

The Dyepress PolyGloss Sublimation Coating for All Hard Substrates is a high-gloss, water-based, sublimation coating for hard substrates.

It comes with two bottles.

PolyGloss sublimation coating for hard surfaces that is water based is the much larger bottle.

And the second much smaller bottle is the catalyst.

The catalyst is added at a ratio of 1 ml for every ounce of PolyGloss so that’s why there’s such a huge difference between bottle sizes.

We can use it on the following surfaces:

  • Metal: stainless steel mugs, aluminum signs, license plates, Zippo lighter, key chains, dog tags, Christmas ornaments, etc.
  • Polished marble & stone
  • FRp (fiberglass reinforced plastic)
  • Hardboard
  • Ceramic mugs & tiles
  • Glass
  • Wood

You can find more about it here.

If you visit the manufacturer’s website you’ll also find detailed instructions.

Application is easy, it just takes a while until the whole process is complete because we have to wait for the coating to dry for 2-3 hours and then we have to cure it in the oven or convection oven for 22 minutes.

So, if you’re using the oven to apply this poly coating at home, then you can use that same oven to transfer the designs from sublimation paper onto our stainless steel objects. Just forget about cooking food in that countertop oven ever again.

How to sublimate stainless steel tumblers

The process is quite easy in that the printing of the design follows the usual steps of sublimation for T-shirts, mugs, and other substrates.

Creating the design

As I’ve mentioned, we need to use a printer that works with sublimation inks and to print on sublimation paper.

For tumblers, I recommend using a thinner paper, 105g, for easier handling. But thicker sublimation paper of 125g will also work.

Regarding the design, we will need to use a design software.

That can be whatever we prefer: Canva, GIMP, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Gravit, Affinity, CoreIDrew, Cricut Design Space, Sawgrass Creative Studio.

We must always remember to mirror the image. Never forget that.

Heat pressing

In order to secure the paper with the design to the stainless steel tumbler, we can use heat resistant tape. Don’t be afraid to use plenty because we need the paper not to move at all.

Regarding the stainless steel tumblers we can use for sublimation, there are blanks that we can buy and they come directly with a poly coating on, ready for the heat press or the oven.

The PYD Life Sublimation Blanks Skinny Tumbler Cups Silver 20 oz recommend setting up the heat press at 360 degrees F for 50 seconds.

Of course, if you’re using an oven, you can bake it at 375 degrees F for 5-6 minutes.

However, you must also check out the instructions for whatever blanks you end up purchasing because each will come with its own instructions.

Another example is the SubliCraft by HeatPressNation 20 oz Stainless Steel Sublimation Skinny Tumbler that you can find here. Their instructions are for 385 degrees F for 190 seconds. In the oven, we are recommended to use 400 degrees F for 10-13 min.

We must always pay attention to the instructions that come with the blanks we buy, no matter which substrate we want to personalize.

Overall, while the answer to the question can you sublimate on stainless steel is definitely yes, there are still some important things to consider, as you’ve already gathered from this guide.