How To Do Sublimation On Acrylic Keychains Or Fabric

Whether you want to print on plastic sheets, keychains, or photo frames, the sublimation process is durable to embed beautiful designs on acrylic. Apart from sublimation on fabric, printing on acrylic is also a money-making niche to sell customized keychains and jewelry online. But before selling customized sublimation blanks you should know properly how to do sublimation on acrylic blanks with handy equipment.

Sublimation On Acrylic

Can You Sublimate On Acrylic Plastic (A Must Read)

Yes, you can sublimate on acrylic but there are some considerations that you need to keep in mind before getting started. Mainly, there are two types of acrylic material, one is extruded and the second one is cast acrylic. We’ll use cast acrylic because it can withstand heat transfers at a high temperature of more than 375F.

Apart from famous polyester which is known for absorbing sublimation ink, cast acrylic is the second synthetic material that can absorb the sublimation ink properly.

You can do sublimation on transparent or clear acrylic and white color acrylic too, however, you can use the white vinyl in the transparent background to show the vivid colors as clear acrylic doesn’t show vibrant color as with transparent background. The reason is sublimation ink will also become transparent on the clear acrylic hence you get low bright colors.

Additionally, if you don’t want to use white vinyl as a background then I would suggest using an acrylic blank coated with polyester, this way the acrylic background will be white and covered with a polymer coat. if you don’t get any poly-coated cast acrylic on the market, then simply use clear acrylic and paint the background of the acrylic after sublimating.

Usually in the sublimation process when we embed the image or text on the blank we mirror the image while printing. But in sublimating acrylic, we won’t mirror the image because the image will be embedded on the back side of the substrate so the image will be exactly what we printed. As we did in the sublimation on glass.


Supplies You’ll Need For Sublimation On Acrylic

  • A sublimation printer

A quality sublimation printer is an essential part of sublimation printing. The output colors mainly depend upon the quality of the sublimation printer and DPI resolution. If you’re using an old sublimation printer then make sure to clean the printhead thoroughly to eliminate the clogging. A cartridge-free printer is suggested use because it is affordable to run or buy.

  • Sublimation inks

A sublimation ink compatible with a sublimation printer will produce accurate colors providing you with the best experience of the sublimation process. Epson sublimation printers can be used with Hiipoo sublimation ink.

  • Sublimation papers

The importance of quality sublimation papers is equal to the quality of sublimation ink and the printer. The polymer coating quality will decide the brightness of the image on your blank. Hence, it is suggested to use well-known brand sublimation papers. A sub-paper can be used to ensure the quality. You can check how to make sublimation brighter.

  • A heat press machine 

We have two options for the heat press. One is for beginners and the second one can be used on the commercial level which is all-in-one. A Cricut Easypress is a portable and easy-to-use heat press for beginners. It is also affordable and handy.

While an all-in-one heat press has a wider heat press pad and can print several types and sizes of substrates including t-shirts, glass, acrylic, wood, metal, and much more. However, if you want to sublimate acrylic tumblers and mugs then you need to use a mug press or tumbler press.

  • Butcher paper

Butcher paper is used over the acrylic blanks while heat pressing. It protects the surface of the heat press and also prevents exposing direct heat to the blanks.

  • Heat resistant tape

Heat-resistant tape is used to bind the printed sublimation paper with the substrate so when we heat press the prepared black the image will be transferred properly.

  • Heat resistant gloves

After sublimation heat transfer, the acrylic blanks will be hot enough to burn your hands. Therefore, we recommend using heat-resistant gloves to remove the sublimation paper from the blank.

  • Lint roller (optional)

A Lint roller is a must-use before taping down the printed sublimation paper onto the substrate. It will remove the dust particles hence the sublimation printing will be crystal clear. If you observe the dust particles on the blank then clean the substrate properly.

  • Acrylic blanks (Cast acrylic)

As we mentioned above, cast material acrylic is recommended to use with sublimation heat transfer. Zindee.com here you’ll get all cast acrylic blanks with various shapes of acrylic. I’m using a transparent keychain acrylic with having of a thickness of 5mm.

  • White vinyl (optional)

If you want to print on clear acrylic then I would suggest using a background of white vinyl and zindee.com has the blanks with the white HTV background blanks too. However, if you want to sublimate the clear acrylic as it then skips this step.


Step By Step Guide On How To Sublimate On Acrylic (With Picture)

Step 1: Prepare The Design

Measure your design using inch tape or use a sublimation printer with a scanner to scan the design. Also do not mirror the image as we mentioned above. Set the design on the block of any designing software. If you’re using sawgrass then use the Creative studio.

Printed design for acrylic substrates
Printed design for acrylic substrates.

Step 2: Cut The Printed Paper

Cut the excessive sides of the printed sublimation paper and make sure to leave the half-inch or 5mm excessive as this will help to tape down the image. After that, clean the surface with a lint roller and place the printed sublimation paper over the white side of the sublimation acrylic blank, and tape it down with heat-resistant tape.

tape it down with heat-resistant tape
Taped down the printed image

Step 3: Prepare The Heat Press Machine

Now place the parchment or butcher paper beneath the heat press and place the prepared acrylic blanks over the butcher paper. Now place another piece of butcher paper to protect the acrylic blank and heat press pad.

place another piece of butcher paper to protect the acrylic blank and heat press pad
Another parchment paper is placed over the top

Step 4: Press for 385F to 400F

Press the blanks for 385F to 400F at medium light pressure for 60 seconds. You can use Cricut Easypress too. After 60 seconds, pull over the heat press handle and make sure to use heat-resistant gloves. Remove the acrylic blanks and take a bowl of water because the sublimation paper will be stuck with the acrylic blank, and to remove the paper from the back, we’ll use water to take off the paper as shown in the image below:

soaking-subimated-substrate-in-water.
Soaking in water

Step 5: Peel Off The Paper

Make sure they are fully submerged in the water, you can use a toothbrush or you can remove the sublimation paper by hand too. The paper will be wet enough so it will be peeled off easily.

Removing sublimation paper

Step 6: Clean The Blanks

After peeling off the blanks, use a clean piece of fabric to wipe off the water from the blanks, and here are the stunning results.

final results of sublimated acrylic
Final Result!

A Great Tip For Making The Blanks More Vibrant

After sublimating, if you feel the clear acrylic is dull and doesn’t show vibrant colors then you can use the paint spray or any paint with a brush on the printed side or you can put the heat transfer glitter vinyl. Check out the image below:

painting the back
final result after painting
Final result after painting!

Can You Sublimate On Acrylic Fabric

Yes, you can sublimate acrylic fabric because it is a synthetic fabric that is made in a similar way the polyester is made. Acrylic is made from a polymer substance called acrylonitrile which is highly compatible with the sublimation process.

Acrylonitrile contains two main chemicals that are coal and petroleum which help to produce acrylic pallets. Later on, the acrylic yarns are produced with several steps that are used in knitting the acrylic fabric.

Acrylic fabric is widely used for making hoodies, sofa covers, curtains, and also sweatshirts, and for the winter season too. Because acrylic fabric is durable and stiff and is usually used in designing furniture and outdoors too.

Due to the presence of plastic yarns, acrylic is also a less air circulation fabric so the main uses of this fabric are suited for cold weather to retain the heat.


Faqs

Can you sublimate 100% acrylic?

Yes, you can sublimate 100% acrylic but there are some considerations. You cannot use any type of acrylic with dye sublimation. Cast acrylic is suitable for sublimation because of the polymers present in the making substance of cast acrylic, it can withstand the heat process.

What kind of plastic can you sublimate on?

You need to use plastic that has been made from synthetic fibers like petroleum and coal. These substances help the plastic to absorb the sublimation ink easily due to polymer in nature.

Is acrylic a plastic material?

Yes, acrylic is a plastic material that is stiff and transparent. Acrylic is used to make various types of items including, PVC sheets, acrylic nails, LCD screens, keychains, jewelry, furniture, and much more.

Is acrylic a natural fiber?

No, acrylic is not a natural fiber. In fact, is purely made from synthetic polymers. Unlike cotton, acrylic is stiff and recommended to use outdoors and in winter weather because it can warm up easily.

Conclusion

So here was the full guide to sublimation on acrylic. I completely understand investing the bucks in the new business to get quick results. But if you kick-start with the right piece of equipment you will get the return within no time. The process is easy to apply yet tricky sometimes. But I’ve described each and every aspect thoroughly with images to guide start your profitable business.

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