can you sublimate on vinyl?

Can You Sublimate on Vinyl? In-Depth Guide

While we could simply say that the answer to the question can you sublimate on vinyl is yes, we can absolutely sublimate on vinyl for sublimation, I would also like to talk more in-depth about this useful practice.

I actually touched on sublimating on vinyl and how the whole process goes when I covered other interesting subjects.

For example, when I wrote a guide on the best sublimation paper for dark shirts, I mentioned using vinyl as a layer on dark fabrics and then heat transferring the design from the sublimation paper onto the clear vinyl that was also heat pressed on the fabric.

And that’s one method to sublimate on dark shirts because a direct transfer, as we normally sublimate white or light color shirts, is not possible when we use sublimation inks. The other option for personalizing dark shirts is to use heat transfer with iron on heat transfer paper and inkjet inks into an inkjet printer but that’s completely different from sublimation.

The same method also applies if we want to sublimate on cotton. Direct sublimation on natural fibers is not possible, only on shirts with at least 65-70% polyester content so using vinyl for sublimation can make it possible to personalize cotton with this craft.

Thus, sublimation vinyl offers us a possible solution to that problem because the clear vinyl will absorb the inks properly and show our design in all its glory.

Another instance where I briefly touched on using vinyl and the sublimation on the clear vinyl layer was when I talked about sublimation on leather and faux leather.

Can You Sublimate on Vinyl? How It’s Done

As you can see from these two brief examples, the answer to the question can you sublimate on vinyl is not only in the affirmative but it also illustrates how helpful such a material can be to some of our sublimation projects.

However, there are some other things to talk about that revolve around vinyl and how it’s used to personalize a wide array of substrates, of objects.

Let’s make a distinction because things can get a bit confusing otherwise.

Let’s define what I understand by sublimation on vinyl. Also, we should also talk about what HTV means, since it’s an acronym for heat transfer vinyl. Thus, we should also cover a quick sublimation vs HTV in order to understand how they differ and what sublimating on vinyl actually means.

Sublimation on vinyl: tools

When it comes to answering the question can you sublimate on vinyl, I understand it to mean that a sublimation printer, sublimation inks, sublimation paper, a heat press, and clear vinyl for sublimation are involved.

Of course, we also need heat resistant tape. And when it comes to using a heat press we absolutely need butcher paper to protect the plates of our heat press and to prevent ink from smudging or running. Use regular copy printer paper if you don’t have any butcher paper.

Furthermore, the important thing that I should underline is that we might need a cutting machine, like those from Cricut (Cricut Maker, Cricut Explore) or Silhouette Cameo.

These cutter machines are necessary if you want to delve deeper into sublimating on vinyl because they come with software to adjust the size of the vinyl and the sublimation print.

How to sublimate on vinyl

If you want a visual guide, you’ll find a lot of useful YouTube tutorials, like this one that illustrates how it’s done on a mug.

Let’s assume that you’ve got your design printed on sublimation paper.

You can use the Cricut Design Space software to design your images or you can use other software. If you already own a Cricut cutting machine, you’ll be extremely familiar with their design software.

Next, the size of our clear vinyl sheet must match the size of our design.

Attach the vinyl to the substrate with heat resistant tape.

Sublimating on vinyl is similar to sublimation. With the addition that we have to heat press the clear vinyl onto the substrate (t-shirt, mugs, etc.) first.

That takes about 8-10-20 seconds at 392-400 degrees F.

Each sublimation vinyl should offer recommendations for temp and time for the heat press.

Once it’s done, remove the clear film from the vinyl that is now firmly attached to our shirt or object.

The vinyl has become a clear layer onto our substrate. It’s now a clear space that can be personalized with our designs. These designs are printed on sublimation paper with sublimation inks.

Thus, the final step is to transfer the design from paper onto the vinyl layer.

Of course, the heat press is once again used for this final step. The time and temp depend on the substrate we’re sublimating. That can be 400 degrees F for 25-40 sec. Or at 374 degrees F for 50 seconds for shirts.

What is HTV?

HTV stands for heat transfer vinyl.

Heat transfer printing consists of a few different techniques that have a few things in common as well as some differences:

  • inkjet transfers on inkjet heat transfer paper
  • digital applique transfers – direct-to-film (DTF) transfers
  • vinyl transfers, which is is also known as HTV (heat transfer vinyl printing)

Thus, HTV belongs to the heat transfer printing category, which is different from sublimation.

But we can also use sublimation vinyl for our sublimation craft, which is completely different from HTV.

HTV implies using vinyl polymer.

We design our images in a design software.

Then, a cutting machine designed specifically for HTV will cut the vinyl sheet according to our design.

And then we remove the excess vinyl with the help of a weeding hook.

Then, the vinyl sheet that now looks like the image we designed in the software is transferred onto the material we want by using a heat press.

Inkjet printers are used for printable vinyl, for HTV. So we use inkjet inks. That’s also the case for inkjet transfer when we use inkjet heat transfer paper.

Types of vinyl for sublimation

The easiest way is to search for “vinyl for sublimation”. You’ll come across a whole array of products that we can buy.

Types of vinyl that we can use for sublimation are products like:

  • HTVRONT Sublimation Vinyl for Cotton Shirts
  • HTVRONT Clear HTV Vinyl for Sublimation – 12″ X 5FT

It can be matte or glossy.

There are certainly many others but these are two of my favorites. And I also believe that they’re two of the most accessible.

We can buy it in roll form, which will last longer so the more price advantageous.

Or we can buy it in the form of sheets. These are already pre-cut. So you might not need a cutting machine for this part of the process. Or we can maybe get away with just using a pair of scissors.

If you are just playing around with a few designs and have no intention of delving deeper into HTV, I absolutely recommend trying to use a pair of scissors to cut the clear vinyl to match the size of your design.

Overall, if you want a clear answer to the question can you sublimate on vinyl, I feel it’s necessary to once again remind you that a cutting machine might be needed if you want to employ this method frequently, which will not be a problem for experienced practitioners of HTV.