Can You Sublimate On Acrylic? (Step By Step Explained)
Yes, you can sublimate on acrylic; acrylic is an excellent material to use for custom sublimation printing projects as it takes the print well because of the ease of fabrication and bonding with adhesives and solvents, just like polyester. And they can be easily customized according to your preference. Moreover, sublimation on acrylic sheets and pre-cut acrylic blanks is possible in all colors and shades – from white to transparent and everything in between.
Let us tell you how easily you can sublimate on acrylic following just a few simple steps with the right material.
How To Sublimate On Acrylic
Materials Required For Sublimation On Acrylic
Following is the list of the necessary equipment required to proceed with sublimation on acrylic:
The first thing you need to do is choose the correct type of acrylic. There are mainly two types available, extruded and cast. You are looking for cast acrylic because it has a greater heat resistance and a higher melting point than extruded acrylic.
Please Note: If you plan to sublimate acrylic professionally, you may also want to invest in a laser cutter to cut various sizes and shapes of acrylic. The cast acrylic sheets are available in varying thicknesses, and laser cutters can be set to cut them to your desired shape. This aids in the bulk production of acrylic blanks for commercial use.
If it is for personal use or you are on a limited budget, then sublimation acrylic blanks are a better option. These are precut blank pieces of acrylic that are ready to use and can be bought from a vendor. They can also be customized and are available as different items depending on what you want to sublimate – keychains, tumblers, ornaments, etc.
Sublimation Printer And Sublimation Paper
Assuming that you are already into sublimating other materials like polyester, you will have a Sublimation printer and Sublimation paper. However, if it’s a new hobby, these two items go into the requirement list. The special sublimation ink (in the printer) is necessary for the procedure to work.
Heat Press Machine
You will need to use a heat press machine to get a printed design onto acrylic or any other surface. The standard heat press is the most recommended type of machine; however, if you don’t have access to one, you can also use an easy press with not much decline in the results. The only thing that matters is that the acrylic sublimation temperature should be achievable.
Butcher paper is an important accessory for heat press because it prevents the transfer paper or the acrylic surface from being damaged by high temperatures.
Designing and adjusting your print size requires software, which can be found online or through many software retailers if you’re looking to do stuff yourself. You can also get a ready-made print to save the hassle.
You May Also Need
Experts also recommend the use of heating tape and access to Vinyl. However, these are dependent accessories but can sometimes be handy.
The Procedure Of Sublimating On Clear Acrylic
Usually, sublimation is carried out on clear acrylic for vibrant and remarkable results. However, sublimating on any colored acrylic or the frosted one is also trending and the procedure is exactly the same as we carry out sublimation on clear acrylic. However, the results achieved on the clear one or a white one are more appreciable and outstanding. Moreover, you can use Vinyl to add any color, even white, to the clear background. Whereas with a pre-colored acrylic blank you have limited options.
The process of sublimation on clear acrylic is simple and easy to follow.
Step 1 – Ready Design
Decide the design and adjust it according to the size of the acrylic blank. Once you are happy with it, get a print of it using the sublimation ink and paper.
Please Note: Do not try to apply a small image/paper on a bigger acrylic blank. The paper should be bigger than the acrylic, or the borders will leave indentations on the surface.
Step 2 – Remove Masking
Remove the masking from the acrylic on both sides. For the printing, you don’t need to mirror the image, as it gets sublimated directly.
Please Note: Cleaning the acrylic with alcohol is recommended to remove any adhesive that may remain.
Step 3 – Adjust Acrylic Blank
If you want to have Vinyl on one side of your acrylic, then you have to cut it out to the exact size of the acrylic blank and place it on as the background.
If not, then skip it and tape the sublimation paper onto the acrylic using the heating tape. This keeps the paper from moving while being pressed.
Step 4 – Correctly Place On Heat Press
Place the acrylic onto the heat press between a Butcher sheet and place an extra Butcher or Teflon sheet on top. Keep the paper side facing up for better results and efficient heat transfer.
Please note: You can place different acrylic pieces on the heat press to cover the entire area and make more than one project simultaneously. But if you are working with sublimation on an acrylic sheet, tally the dimensions with the heat press.
Step 5 – Start Heatpressing
Turn on the heat press, place the standard heat press on the acrylic, and adjust the settings. It is ideal that for sublimation on acrylic, time and temperature should be 60 secs at 380℉.
Please Note: Do not stress to know how long to sublimate on acrylic if you are using various thicknesses. It is all the same because the transfer surface is on the top.
Step 6 – Remove And Dry
As soon as the time is up, remove the acrylic pieces. Be careful as they will be hot. You can use hot pads or heat-proof gloves.
Place the acrylic pieces under something heavy, as they are malleable and can curve if pressure is not applied while cooling.
Please Note: This is when you shape your acrylics if you want them to be curved.
Step 7 – Clean It
Once they are cooled, and you see any sublimation paper sticking to acrylic, you can soak it in warm or soapy water for some time and clean it with a cloth.
Tada!! Your acrylics are ready!
Can You Sublimate On Acrylic Tumblers And Acrylic Cups?
Yes, sublimating on acrylic tumblers and cups is possible and is, in fact, a very popular way of customizing and decorating them. They even make great gifts for friends and family. The process of sublimation on acrylic tumblers or cups is as follows:
- Get the printed image ready by making sure your image has the correct dimensions. It should correspond to the size of the tumbler, whether you are sublimating a 20oz. or a 16oz. one. Similarly, even for the cup, the size should be considered. This is important so that your final product does not have indentations or ugly borders.
- Tape the image well onto the object, sticking face down onto the outer surface as securely as possible for reliable results. Make sure there are no air pockets, and the sublimating paper is secure in place from all around.
- Place the tumbler or the cup in a convection oven or the mug press. The temperature setting will be 400 degrees for 6 minutes on a mug press. For sublimating in an oven, you will have to change sides after 3 minutes as it will be placed lying down. You can crank up the timer to 9 minutes and divide the tumbler into 3 sides, with 3 minutes for each side. If the oven is double-door, it can be placed in a standing-up position for 6 minutes.
- Once the heating process is done, you must remove them carefully as they will be hot. Place them in water to remove any remaining sublimating paper, and your tumbler or cup is ready.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can You Sublimate On Acrylic Keychains?
Yes, you can create personalized keychains by sublimating quotes, images, and text onto acrylic blanks. Remember to precut a hole for the chain before beginning the sublimation process. Also, remember that the image will not be mirrored when sublimating onto the keychain.
2. Can You Sublimate On Acrylic Ornaments?
Yes, sublimating and creating unique acrylic ornaments is possible. As long as it’s acrylic, you can sublimate the same way mentioned above. The ornaments can be sublimated as flat surfaces and shaped later. If they are already in a shape then use a convection oven for the heating process.
3. Can You Sublimate On White Acrylic Paint?
Yes, You can sublimate onto the white acrylic paint – the process is pretty similar to typical sublimation onto acrylic.
To Sum It Up
Acrylic has gained much popularity as a great base for sublimation. The procedure is quite easy to carry out giving you endless options. Whether for commercial use or personal achievement, you need a few essentials and a creative mind. Roll your sleeves and get ready to sublimate on acrylic like a pro!