How To Sublimate On Metal & Which Mistakes You Should Avoid?

Can you do sublimation on metal? Yes, of course! You can easily perform sublimation printing on metallic surfaces. You just have to do polyester coating on them or you can buy already coated sublimation blanks, and they are ready to use for sublimation. 

However, there are certain aspects, risks as well as practices that need to be exact and right to have the best results. Whether it is choosing the right kind of sublimation coating for your metal or using metallic blanks, sublimation printing on metallic surfaces can be a little tricky, especially for beginners. 

But, there is nothing to worry about, as we are here to help you out! In this article, we will thoroughly discuss the required equipment and the process of sublimation printing on metallic goods. So, ensure that you give this article a detailed read until the end. So, let’s get started! 

What We Need For Sublimation Printing On Metals – A Complete List

  1. Sublimation printer
  2. Sublimation transfer papers
  3. Protective non-stick paper
  4. Heat Resistant tape
  5. Sublimation coating material
  6. Heat press
  7. Gloves
  8. Metal substrate

A Step-By-Step Guide To Sublimate On Metallic Surfaces


You might think that sublimation printing on metallic surfaces will be rocket science. But, surprisingly, it is as simple as baking a cake. Few things are to be handled correctly, and here you have a freshly-made metallic cup, frame or any other good with your own print.

So, for sublimating on metallic surfaces, follow the easy step-by-step guide below and get your own personalized design ready within a few minutes.

Step 1 – Prepare Your Metal By Coating Sublimation-Friendly Substances Or Get Metallic Sublimation Blanks 

Coatings are the most critical and expensive part of the whole sublimation process on metals. It is done in the following three ways:

Powder Coating: It is the most durable and commonly-used kind of coating. The metal is coated with sublimated-friendly powder, mostly polyurethanes, and then charged by applying heat. They help the metal’s surface in absorbing the dyes’ sublimation effectively.

PVD Coating: Physical Vapor Deposition coating is a process in which a very thin film of solid materials is placed on the metal’s surface. It is charged with high-energy ion beams. Although it is not very resistant to oxygen and moisture, it provides an excellent-quality image on the surface.

E-coating: It is similar to powder coating. It requires coating the metal’s surface with sublimation-friendly liquid and then charging with electric charges. It is also quite challenging, durable and gives out pleasing colors. It is thinner than powder coating, and so is its UV radiation-resisting power.

So, the above are the three kinds of metal surface coating you can do for the sublimation process. And if you don’t want to coat the metal by yourself, metallic sublimation blanks are a good option also. You can buy them!

Metallic Sublimation blanks are polyester-coated metallic items that are ready to use for sublimation. They are already coated with polyester layers.

Step 2 – Print The Design On Sublimation Paper

Now, set up your printer settings with your computer, fill in the inks and print your desired design, landscape, picture or text on the sublimation paper.

The image after printing might look a little faded on the paper. The reason is sublimation printing is not like a thick coating of ink on surfaces like other ordinary printings; it fills in the ink in the minute pores of the polyester paper.

However, when heat is applied, the colors will restore. Also, ensure that the print is perfectly aligned with the metal piece’s measurements and is a mirror image.

Step 3 – Stick The Printer Paper On The Metal Piece 

In this step, remove the protective covering from the surface of the metal and then place the printed side of the polyester-sublimated paper on the surface of the metal.

To keep the metal and design paper in place, secure its four sides with heat-resistant sublimation transfer tape.

Step 4 – Set The Metal Piece In the Heat Press 

Place the metal piece, stick with the design paper, into the heat press and place the non-stick transferring paper on top. You can use coffee paper or parchment paper also.

After setting the metal piece and paper, adjust the heat press and press it down for a suitable time and temperature to have the best results.

Step 5 – Remove The Metal Piece Carefully With Gloves 

As the metal gets heated up faster than other materials, you have to be really careful while handling it. After completing the heat press process, wear your thermal gloves and remove the metal piece and paper. Let it cool down.

Remove the protective paper first and separate the sublimation paper from the metal’s surface. And here you go, your metal is perfectly printed with your desired design, text or picture.

 Read More: Can You Sublimate On Aluminum?

Common Mistakes You Must Avoid In Metallic Sublimation Printing

Although sublimation printing on metallic surfaces now might look fun to you, there are certain aspects you must be careful with to have the best colors, quality and durability. So, let’s jump straight to our first one! 

The Right Type Of Sublimation Paper

There are two kinds of sublimation paper available on the market. One is the light sublimation paper, which is perfect for light-colored prints, especially those with light backgrounds. It is also a prior choice for sublimating aluminum surfaces. Another is dark-sublimation paper, which blends fine with dark background designs. However, getting the right color on a dark surface is a bit tricky, so it is not usually recommended.

The Time And Temperature Of Heat Press

The heat press’s time and temperature are critical to have the best results. If the time is less or the temperature is not high enough, not only the color of the image will be dull, but it will quickly fade, and their life span will be short. 90 to 120 seconds and 400 F are average time and temperature limits, but they can vary depending upon the type of metal. So, make sure that you adjust your machine accordingly. 

Also, you can press down the heat press for 10 seconds before placing the metal piece into the press. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can You Do Sublimation On Galvanized Metal?

Yes, you can do sublimation printing on galvanized metal. As long as you coat your metal surface with a sublimation-friendly substance, you can easily print your desired design or text on metal. 

2. Can You Do Sublimation Printing On Metal Surace Without Coating?

No, you can’t. Sublimation printing works on polyester surfaces only, and if you don’t coat the surface with a sublimation-friendly substance, the ink won’t be absorbed on the metallic surface, and there will be no printed design or text. So, a coating is an important and mandatory step. 

The Final Thoughts 

So, this is it. Sublimation printing is one of the best small business ideas, as well as a great way of collecting memories. If done rightly, the results of metallic sublimation are just exceptional and elegant. Make sure you choose the suitable coating materials and sublimation papers and adjust the heat press correctly. 

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