Sublimation printing has gone viral over the years, with more and more people using it to create unique and personalized designs on various materials. Besides the most common substrates like fabrics and tumblers, there are actually more materials that can be applied.
Today's tutorial is designed to lead you to explore more about wood sublimation.
Can you sublimate on wood?
No matter whether you are an experienced craft lover or a craft novice, you may wonder whether or not you can sublimate on wood. Because that way, there will be more choices to engage in your fascinating creative activity!
The answer is: Yes, you can!
Sublimation on wood is getting increasingly prevalent nowadays. It is a process that involves transferring a colorful design onto a wooden item by applying heat and pressure. Typically, the design is first printed onto a special sublimation paper with sublimation ink whose color is vibrant and rich. The sublimation paper is then placed onto the material and heated, causing the ink to turn into a gas and bond with the material. This creates a permanent, bright design that won't peel or fade over time.
While sublimation printing is typically used on materials like polyester, ceramics, and metal, it can also be used on wood, especially when making some wooden frame decorations and keychains. And now, we're going to make a pretty sublimation keychain here! Let's roll the rock!
How to sublimate on wood?
First, you need to prepare the things below in advance:
1. Sublimation Keychain Blanks
2. Sublimation Paper
3. Sublimation Ink
4. An Inkjet Printer
5. Heat-resistant Tape
6. Heat Press
Before you literally dive into this process of sublimating on wood, also make sure that you keep a few tips in mind when following the steps below.
Ensure your wooden keychain is coated with a special sublimation or polyacrylic coating. This coating is essential for the sublimation ink to bond firmly and adequately with the wood. And if it's without the layer, the ink will just simply sit on top of the wood and won't create a permanent bond since it will get off quickly.
As to add such a particular coating top there are several methods for you to choose from. The most straightforward one is buying a sublimation keychain blank online, which has already been covered with the required coating.
And suppose you also want to know how to sublimate on uncoated wood. You can pick some regular keychain blanks and some thermal laminating sheets or polyacrylic online.
Note: There are a few different types of sublimation polyacrylic coatings available for wood, including clear coatings and white coatings. Clear coatings are typically used when you want the intrinsic pattern and texture of the wood to show through in the design. White coatings are used when you want a white base for your design, which can make colors appear more vibrant. Just make sure you apply the right one.
To combine the laminating sheet on your sublimation wood blanks, you only need to put the matte side of the sheet face to the wooden blank, apply the heat press at 375℉ for 15 seconds, trim away the excess parts, and then, the two sides will stick firmly. And for polyacrylic, you just use a paintbrush to paint a thin layer on the surface.
Remember to peel off the blue protective film first if you're using a sublimation keychain blank.
Once the sublimation wood is coated, you can then print your design onto sublimation paper using sublimation ink. You are allowed to adopt an inkjet printer or an exclusive sublimation printer. Be sure to mirror your design before printing and adjust your printer settings to accommodate the thickness of the paper and the coating on the wood.
After printing, you can then place the sublimation paper onto the wood and fix them with heat-resistant tape. Preheat the heat press to 375℉.
When the heat press machine gets to its set temperature, use it to transfer the design. Usually, the expected sublimation times and temperatures are around 375℉ for 90 seconds. But the temperature and pressure needed may vary sometimes, and they depend on the type of wood and coating you are using, so make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
You have to keep in mind that the natural texture and grain of the wood will show through in the design while sublimating on wood. This can add a unique and rustic look to your design, but it can also affect the color and clarity of the design. That's why you may notice that the colors on the sublimation wood can be a bit blurry or gray.
It's also important to note that sublimation printing works best on light-colored wood, as darker woods can cause the colors to appear muted or distorted. And some people ask, can you sublimate on painted wood? In fact, if you'd like, it would also be great to paint your wooden items in white before you put them on polyacrylic or apply a laminating sheet, which can surprise you with a brighter color effect!
What is the best way to sublimate on wood?
Suppose you ever try the several different ways mentioned above. In that case, you will find that the best way to sublimate onto wood is to use a thermal laminating sheet or a sublimation keychain blank directly. Both results can turn out brilliant and complete, displaying the most vibrant hues.
As for polyacrylic, it actually works, too. But once you engage with it, you will realize there is too much uncertainty while applying it. If you're unfamiliar with polyacrylic, it's better to just buy a piece of sublimation wood already coated and gain some joy and save your materials and time.
In conclusion, yes, you can sublimate on wood! With suitable sublimation coating and printing techniques, you can create beautiful and unique designs on wood that will last for years to come. Just make sure to do your research and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully to ensure the best results.