Sublimation printing has become an extremely popular technique for creating customized and personalized products.
From apparel to mugs, mousepads, and more, sublimation allows you to print beautiful full-color designs that become a permanent part of the product.
One fun and creative way to use sublimation printing is making customized acrylic keychains.
But can you actually sublimate on acrylic keychain blanks? Let’s find out!
Can You Subliamte On Acrylic Keychains
The quick answer is a definitive yes!
With the right equipment and supplies, acrylic makes an ideal material for stunning sublimated keychains.
The acrylic literally absorbs and bonds with the sublimation inks to create permanent, vivid prints that will never fade or scratch off.
But how is this magical process possible?
And what steps are involved to permanently imprint designs and photographs into clear, solid acrylic?
From blank selection to heat transfer, this guide will walk through everything you need to know to create your own incredible sublimated acrylic keychains.
Read on for a deep dive into supplies, techniques, inspiration, and turning custom sublimation keychains into a business.
What Are Sublimation Keychains?
Sublimation keychains refer to keychains that have been decorated using the sublimation printing process.
With sublimation printing, custom designs and graphics are printed onto special blanks using heat and pressure to bond the ink permanently into the material.
This allows for stunning, vibrant designs with sharp detail and photorealistic quality to be imprinted on the keychain.
The result is a custom, personalized keychain that is scratch resistant and durable.
There are many types of blanks that can be used for sublimation keychains, including:
- Acrylic – Clear or white acrylic discs, squares, hearts, ovals etc.
- Plastic – White plastic in various shapes and styles
- Aluminum – Lightweight aluminum in different cutout shapes
- Neoprene – Stretchy neoprene material perfect for lanyards
- Faux Leather – PU leather bonded with a polyester layer
The most popular blank for sublimated keychains is cast acrylic. Let’s look closer at how to sublimate on acrylic keychain blanks.
Why Acrylic Keychains?
Acrylic makes an awesome substrate for sublimation keychains for a few reasons:
Durability – Acrylic is a tough, scratch-resistant material that holds up well to daily use on keyrings. The embedded sublimation ink also bonds strongly within the acrylic.
Vibrant prints – When paired with sublimation printing, acrylic allows for stunning photo-realistic prints with bold, vivid colors thanks to its polymer properties.
Customization – Sublimation thrives on customization, so it pairs perfectly with acrylic keychains that can be printed with photos, names, designs and more.
Variety of blanks – Acrylic keychain blanks come in tons of fun shapes like circles, squares, hearts, house shapes, even state outlines!
Value pricing – Simple acrylic cuts and shapes make for very affordable keychain blanks perfect for bulk orders and custom printing.
With so many great features, it’s easy to see why sublimated acrylic makes for gorgeous custom keychains suited to so many applications.
How To Sublimate Acrylic Keychain
Acrylic makes a wonderful base material for sublimated keychains.
When paired with the right equipment and techniques, sublimation on acrylic keychains results in stunning, vivid, permanent prints.
Here’s how to sublimate acrylic keychains:
Sublimating on acrylic keychains requires just a few supplies:
- Sublimation printer – Needs to be compatible with sublimation inks and have at least 1440 dpi for best print quality.
- Sublimation inks – Special ink that turns to a gas during the sublimation process.
- Sublimation paper – Coated with a polymer layer to receive the printed ink.
- Heat press – Applies heat and pressure to transfer ink into acrylic. Cricut EasyPress can also be used.
- Butcher paper – Prevents scorching and absorbs moisture during pressing.
- Heat resistant tape – Holds paper flush to acrylic blank.
- Acrylic keychain blanks – Cast acrylic material cut into keychain shapes.
- Optional: White vinyl – Can back clear acrylic blanks for an opaque white background.
Step-by-Step Sublimation Process
With the right supplies, sublimating acrylic keychains is straightforward. Here is an overview of the process:
- Create and print design – Make sure the image is mirrored for white/colored acrylic. Do not mirror for clear acrylic.
- Cut around print – Cut printed paper with 1/2 inch border around the design.
- Prepare blank – Wipe acrylic with a lint roller to remove dust.
- Position print – Place print face down on the back of acrylic, tape in place.
- Pre-press – Cover acrylic with butcher paper on both sides.
- Heat press – 400°F at medium-light pressure for 60 seconds.
- Cool completely – Allows acrylic to harden properly.
- Remove paper – Soak in water to loosen paper then gently peel away.
- Dry and finish – Wipe off any excess water and assemble keychain.
And that’s it! With the right equipment and blanks, you can easily sublimate beautiful, vibrant designs onto acrylic keychains.
Real-World Examples and Inspiration
Seeing some real-world examples of sublimated acrylic keychains can provide lots of inspiration for your own designs. Some ideas include:
Pet keychains – Add your pet’s photo and name for a cute, custom memento.
Monogram keychains – Subtly stylish with a single initial or name in a classic font.
Teacher keychains – Create as end-of-year gifts printed with the teacher’s name and a grateful message.
Personalized gifts – For a daughter’s 16th birthday, make a car keychain with her name and birthday year.
Small business promos – A realtor could give out acrylic house-shaped keychains as marketing swag.
The awesome thing about sublimated acrylic is that the custom prints become a permanent part of the keychain.
This opens so many possibilities for combining meaningful photos, inspirational quotes, monograms, dates, locations and other personalized elements to create unique handmade keepsakes that can be cherished for years to come on keys, backpacks and bags.
Tips for Getting the Best Results
Sublimating on clear acrylic can sometimes result in prints that lack vibrancy since the acrylic itself is see-through. Here are some tips to get the most vibrant, stunning prints on your acrylic keychains:
- Use a white vinyl backing – Cut vinyl in the shape of the acrylic blank and apply it as a backing before pressing. This provides an opaque white background for more vivid prints.
- Paint acrylic backing – After sublimating on clear acrylic, use spray paint or acrylic paint on the backside of the print. This also creates a white backdrop to make colors pop.
- Use polymer-coated acrylic – These blanks have a polyester coating bonded to the surface allowing for greater color vibrancy on clear acrylic.
- Print at high dpi – Print your sublimation transfers at 1440 dpi or higher for greater print resolution and clarity in the finished product.
- Use 100% polyester sublimation paper – Choose sublimation paper coated with 100% polyester polymers for the best ink absorption and transfer.
- Get perfect pressure – Too little pressure prevents ink from bonding properly. Too much causes blotchy prints. Find the sweet spot for your heat press.
Pro Tip: Allowing the acrylic to cool slowly after pressing, and waiting until completely cool to remove the paper prevents warping in the acrylic.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about sublimating on acrylic keychains:
What types of acrylic can be used?
Cast acrylic is the only type suitable for sublimation. Avoid extruded acrylic. Polymer coated acrylic also works well.
Is special equipment needed?
A sublimation printer, heat press, sublimation ink and paper are required. An EasyPress can also work.
How are the prints so vibrant?
The sublimation process infuses the acrylic with permanent, photorealistic ink for vivid and durable prints.
How are clear acrylics sublimated?
Prints are applied to the backside so they show through the clear acrylic. Adding a white background maximizes vibrancy.
Can the prints wear off or fade?
No. Since the ink is bonded at a molecular level, the prints will not scratch, peel, or fade under normal use.
Sublimating customized designs on acrylic keychain blanks is an easy and fun way to create unique, personalized keychains.
With the right supplies and technique, stunning results can be achieved with cast acrylic blanks.
Experiment with cool shape blanks and creative designs to make acrylic keychains that make great gifts, souvenirs, branding giveaways, and collectibles.