can you sublimate acrylic

Can You Sublimate Acrylic? (Yes You Can, But…)

I see a lot of beginners asking if you can you sublimate acrylic.

And I totally get it – acrylic has that smooth, sleek look that would be so awesome with custom prints and designs!

Well, I have good news for you – you absolutely can sublimate dye onto acrylic! However, there are some special tricks to getting it just right.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about sublimating on acrylic. You’ll learn:

  • What type of acrylic works best
  • Step-by-step tips for perfect transfers
  • How to troubleshoot common issues
  • Creative ways to use sublimated acrylic

Let’s start with the basics…

What is Acrylic and How is it Used?

First, a quick overview of acrylic itself.

Acrylic is a type of plastic made from the polymer polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). It goes by a few other names including Plexiglas, Lucite, and Perspex.

Acrylic offers many desirable properties:

  • Clarity – It transmits light better than glass.
  • Strength – More impact resistant than glass.
  • Weather resistance – Stands up to sun, rain, snow.
  • Workability – Easy to cut, bend, mold, and shape.
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Because of these characteristics, acrylic is commonly used for:

  • Windows, skylights
  • Signage, displays, point-of-purchase ads
  • Exhibit cases, aquariums
  • Lamps, lighting fixtures
  • Art and Crafts
  • In Printing Industry
  • And much more!

Can You Sublimate Acrylic?

The short answer is yes, you can sublimate on acrylic! However, not all acrylic is sublimation-friendly.

For the best results, you must use a special sublimation-ready acrylic designed to bond with dispersed dyes at the molecular level.

Standard acrylic sheets will not properly absorb and retain the sublimation inks.

On the other hand, cast acrylic sheets will generally sublimate quite well.

So when buying acrylic for sublimation projects, look for terms like:

  • Sublimation acrylic
  • Sublimation blank
  • Cast acrylic

Also Read: Can You Sublimate Nylon? (Yes You Can, But…)

Step-by-Step Guide to Sublimating Acrylic

Once you have your sublimation-friendly acrylic, here’s how to work your magic:

1. Design Your Custom Graphics

Fire up your favorite design software to create your image.

Make Your Design
Make Your Design (Image Credit: Design Bundles)

Be sure to size it properly for your acrylic piece. Save it in the right file format for printing.

2. Print Onto Sublimation Paper

Print your design right-side-up on sublimation paper using compatible printer and inks. Vibrant, saturated colors are key for vivid results.

Print Out Your Design
Print Out Your Design (Image Credit: Design Bundles)

3. Tape Off Your Acrylic Blank

Protect the edges of your acrylic from scratches by taping off with painter’s tape or masking tape.

4. Thoroughly Clean the Acrylic

Use isopropyl alcohol or mild detergent to really scrub the acrylic surface.

This preps it so the dye can fully bond.

Clean Your Acrylic Sheet
Clean Your Acrylic Sheet (Image Credit: Design Bundles)

5. Align the Printed Paper

Carefully match up the printed sublimation paper with your acrylic blank. Smooth out any bubbles or creases.

Place Your Design On Acrylic
Place Your Design On Acrylic (Image Credit: Design Bundles)

6. Preheat Your Heat Press

Following the acrylic manufacturer’s guidelines, set your heat press temp and time. Usually, 350-400°F for 1-2 minutes.

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7. Press the Acrylic

After pressing for the specified time, remove the hot acrylic using protective gloves or tongs.

Apply Heat Press
Apply Heat Press (Image Credit: Design Bundles)

8. Peel Off the Paper Backing

Gently peel away the paper backing to reveal your sublimated design permanently transferred onto the acrylic.

Peel Off The Paper Backing
Peel Off The Paper Backing (Image Credit: Design Bundles)

9. Remove Any Dye Residue

Use a microfiber cloth to gently buff off any leftover dye still on the surface.

And voila – you have sleek custom acrylic prints ready to show off!

You Are Done
You Are Done (Image Credit: Design Bundles)

Creative Uses for Sublimated Acrylic

Beyond basic signs and awards, here are some fun ways to use sublimated acrylic blanks:

Troubleshooting Common Acrylic Sublimation Issues

Even when you use the right supplies, here are some common hiccups and how to fix them:

Preventing Warping

The Issue: Acrylic can warp under too much-concentrated heat.

The Fix: Use lower temp settings and allow the acrylic to cool slowly after pressing. Place heavy books on top as it rests to keep them flat.

Removing Stuck Paper

The Issue: Leftover paper residue sticks to the acrylic after pressing.

The Fix: Soak the acrylic in room temperature water for 5-10 minutes. Gently rub off the paper. Use a magic eraser sponge for any remaining bits.

Improving Print Vibrancy

The Issue: Your prints come out faded without rich, bold colors.

The Fix: Increase the temperature a bit or dwell time to infuse more dye into the acrylic. Test different settings on acrylic scraps.

Avoiding Melted Acrylic

The Issue: Too high heat melts and damages the acrylic surface.

The Fix: Lower your temp and use the absolute minimum time needed. Do test presses to find the optimal settings.

With a few easy adjustments, you can master flawless acrylic sublimation every time!

FAQs: Your Top Acrylic Sublimation Questions

Let’s wrap this up with some quick answers to common questions:

What’s the difference between cast acrylic and sublimation acrylic?

Cast acrylic is poured and hardened into sheets. Sublimation acrylic has a polymer coating to absorb dyes. But both work great!

can you sublimate plexiglass

Plexiglass is a brand name for an acrylic glass product.

As long as the plexiglass is a sublimation-ready acrylic made to bond with disperse dyes, you can successfully sublimate it.

Plexiglass sheets are commonly used for sublimated signs, displays, and decor pieces.

Be sure to protect the edges from scratching and follow the recommended time, temperature, and pressure settings for optimal results.

can you sublimate clear acrylic

Yes, clear cast acrylic sheeting can be readily sublimated. The benefit of clear acrylic is that it allows light to pass through the vivid graphics and creates an eye-catching floating effect.

Use full color designs and photorealistic images to really make them pop. Just be sure to tape off the edges to prevent scratching during pressing.

can you sublimate acrylic tumblers

Acrylic tumblers with an inner polymer coating can be sublimated for personalized drinkware. Full color, full wrap sublimated graphics really stand out against the clear acrylic body.

Maintaining even pressure is key to prevent warping of the cylindrical shape. Let acrylic tumblers cool slowly after removing from the heat press to prevent cracking from temperature changes.

can you sublimate acrylic blanks

Yes, there are many acrylic blanks engineered specifically for sublimation.

Blanks for ornaments, keychains, nightlights, and more accept dye sublimation inks beautifully.

Look for blanks labeled as “sublimation ready” or “cast acrylic.”

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for ideal pressing times and temps. Acrylic blanks allow for affordable customization of household items, gifts, awards, and accessories.

can you sublimate acrylic sheets

Acrylic sheets can be sublimated as long as they are a sublimation-friendly acrylic made to bond securely with the disperse dyes.

Cast acrylic sheets readily absorb the sublimation inks.

Use acrylic sheets to create custom signs, displays, plaques, dividers, standees, window clings, and much more.

Maintaining even pressure across the large surface area is crucial for avoiding distortion.

can you sublimate acrylic fabric

Yes, acrylic fabric can be sublimated. Acrylic fabric is typically made of acrylic polymer fibers that readily accept sublimation dyes.

Sublimating acrylic fabric allows for soft, stretchy prints that maintain vibrancy even after washing.

When working with acrylic fabric, use a soft hand to avoid over-stretching the weave during pressing. Moderate temperatures around 375°F are recommended to prevent scorching.

Final Words

I hope this beginner’s guide gives you all the tips you need to start sublimating beautiful, vibrant designs on acrylic!

Show me your magical acrylic creations below in the comment section – I love seeing what you make!

Bella Williams

I'm Bella, a mom of 3 cuties. With 7 years of sublimation experience, my blog focuses on all things sublimation and printing. Join me for tips, tutorials, and inspiration to enhance your sublimation journey. Let's create and thrive together!
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