When we talk about printing, rayon has quickly emerged as a popular fabric choice because of its fine quality, durability and strength. While rayon is an artificial fabric, it does have a cellulose structure that resembles cotton, making its ability to be sublimated fairly questionable.
However, despite all the red flags, the truth is that sublimation printing on rayon is 100% possible. Although, not before the rayon is properly treated, to make sure that the resulting prints are bright and long-lasting.
In this article, I will talk about the two main ways in which rayon must be treated before it undergoes sublimation printing and also the entire step-by-step process of sublimating rayon.
How To Treat Rayon Before Sublimation Printing
As mentioned earlier, there are two different ways in which rayon can be prepared for sublimation printing. The principle of each of these treatments is to incorporate polyester into the rayon fabric, as polyester is a staple for sublimation printing on any textile material. These two ways are as follows:
- Creating or using rayon blended polyester substrate. This would consist of 30% rayon and 70% polyester.
- Applying a polyester coating on the rayon substrate.
Now that we know what rayon must be treated with to prepare it for sublimation printing, let’s talk about how it should be done. As for the first method, the only option is to purchase a pre-made rayon blended, polyester fabric as it cannot be manufactured at home. Therefore, in this article I will focus on the second method which is layering the rayon with polyester, as this process can easily be performed at home, using household tools and supplies.
How To Do Sublimation Printing On Rayon
From polyester layering to heat-pressing, here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to sublimate on rayon and get stunning, vibrant designs.
Step 1 – Preparing Desizer Solution & Polyester Solution
In the first step, you must prepare a desizer solution for the fabric. A single solution contains 1 ounce of desizer concentrate, followed by 7 ounces of water. After mixing these ingredients well in a bowl, they can be transferred to a spray bottle so the solution can be spritzed onto the fabric conveniently. Using the same proportions and method the polyester solution can also be prepared.
Step 2 – Applying the Desizer Solution
Next, the desizer solution must be sprayed onto the fabric until it is soaking wet. Press with your hands, to make sure any surface that will come in contact with the heat press is completely covered with the solution.
Step 3 – Steaming Out The Desizer From The Rayon
Set your heat press to 385 degrees Fahrenheit and press on the fabric for approximately 35 seconds. Stop pressing as soon as you see steam being discharged from the heat press. Once the desizer is steamed out, the fabric is ready for polyester coating.
As a pro-tip wrap the fabric in a light-weight towel or cotton cloth before pressing, so it doesn’t wear away and the moisture is absorbed better.
Step 4 – Applying The Polyester Coating
Place the polyester solution in a spray bottle and spritz it onto the rayon substrate. Make sure you cover all the necessary printing areas, especially those where the desizer solution was applied previously.
Step 5 – Drying
Once the polyester solution is applied, fold the fabric over and press it gently with your hands, to allow the polyester to bond with the rayon fibers. Unfold the fabric and use a hand dryer to dry it. You can also use a heat press, but make sure the polyester-coated, wet fabric is only hovering over the platen and not touching it. This drying process will take only 5-7 minutes.
Step 6 – Applying Heat Press
Once the fabric is dried, it is covered with butcher paper and placed in the heat press for 10 seconds at 385 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the last step in applying the first polyester coating.
Step 7 – Applying The Second Polyester Coat
Repeat steps 4-7 to apply a second, lighter polyester coating on the fabric. Now the rayon is all set for sublimation printing.
Step 8 – Printing Design
Use a sublimation printer and sublimation ink to print the desired design on sublimation paper. Make sure you protect your fabric from burning or scorching in the press, by placing a silicone mat right underneath it. The mat must be bigger than the image you want printed on the fabric, so it covers the printing area completely.
Step 9 – Applying Heat Press
Set the heat press at 385 degrees Fahrenheit, place the fabric and the transfer paper on the platen and cover it with butcher paper. Heat the fabric for approximately 70-90 seconds so that the print is transferred onto the fabric, completely.
Step 10 – Cooling The Fabric
Lastly, remove the butcher paper and the transfer paper and allow the rayon fabric to cool down. Your sublimated rayon fabric is all ready and good to go! If you follow the above steps diligently, you will get a print that is sharp, vibrant and will last you a lifetime.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why rayon cannot be sublimated without polyester?
There are multiple reasons.
Firstly, direct sublimation would produce poor-quality prints that would fade away easily after 1-2 washes.
Secondly, without a polyester coating, it is highly likely that the rayon substrate would burn and scorch during sublimation printing.
Thirdly, rayon is a fine fabric that has a smooth, silk-like finish. Without a polyester coating, chances are that the sublimation ink molecules will keep floating around and not bond firmly with the fabric.
2. Can you sublimate on spandex?
Yes, it is possible to sublimate on spandex. However, just like rayon, spandex must be treated with a polyester layer/coating before the sublimation printing process is carried out.
3. How long does sublimation ink last on rayon?
If treated and printed correctly, a sublimation ink design can last on rayon for up to 10 years. Therefore, chances are that your fabric wears out way sooner than the print fades, peels or cracks.
4. Can you remove a sublimation ink print from rayon?
Here are 3 common ways to remove sublimation ink from rayon:
1. Soak the fabric in soap water and then heat it in a heat press.
2. Using household chemicals like rubbing alcohol or bleach to remove the print.
3. Dipping the fabric in soda water for 30-45 minutes
5. Is it better to use a rayon blended polyester substrate for sublimation printing or prepare a polyester-coated rayon fabric?
As far as the quality and longevity of the sublimation print are concerned, using a rayon blended polyester substrate is definitely a better option. However, if you are using a rayon blended polyester substrate, make sure it consists of at least 70% polyester and 30% rayon. This is because any lower percentage of polyester would produce a poor-quality faded print.
Whether you are printing daisies on your favorite summer dress, or customizing your mom’s most precious curtains, it is important to treat rayon before it undergoes sublimation printing. In this article, I have broken down the step-by-step process of sublimating on rayon so your next printing project is nothing less than a huge success!