Can You Sublimate Stickers Using Sublimation Printers

Can You Sublimate Stickers Using Sublimation Printers?

Have you ever wondered if you can make custom stickers using a sublimation printer?

This is a great question that many crafters and DIYers ask when they first start sublimating.

In this article, we will explore ‘Can you sublimate stickers using sublimation printers’, what materials are needed to sublimate stickers, and step-by-step instructions walking you through the process.

We’ll also provide tips to help you get the best and most vibrant results. By the end, you’ll know exactly how to use your sublimation printer at home to create personalized, durable stickers for all kinds of uses.

Be sure to read through each section closely so you fully understand the steps and techniques that go into sublimating high-quality custom stickers.

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can you sublimate stickers using sublimation printers?

No, you cannot sublimate stickers using sublimation printers without any sort of polymer coating.

Without a polymer coating, regular stickers have no way to accept the gaseous sublimation inks and bond them permanently into the material.

can you sublimate stickers

If you try sublimating normal stickers, the print will simply sit on top of the material without infusing correctly, and the print will wash or wear off.

Instead, you need to use special sublimation sticker paper, also called sublimation media. This has a polymer coating applied during manufacturing to allow dispersed dye sublimation inks to permeate and bond securely.

Several companies produce suitable sublimation sticker material, such as Joto, TexPrint, and more. Be sure you are purchasing sublimation stickers specifically designed for sublimation rather than regular printable vinyl.

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How to sublimate stickers using a sublimation printer

Sublimating stickers take a few more preparation steps compared to sublimating a t-shirt or ceramic mug. But the process is relatively straightforward once you know what to do.

Here is a step-by-step guide walking through how to sublimate custom stickers using a sublimation printer:

Supplies Needed

First, gather these supplies to sublimate stickers:

  • Sublimation printer filled with sublimation ink
  • Sublimation transfer paper to feed into printer
  • Subli-Sticks brand sublimation sticker sheets or a similar product
  • Heat press machine to apply print
  • Regular printer paper or butcher paper
  • Small pieces of heat-resistant tape
  • Non-stick protective press sheet
  • Craft bonded paper sheet or additional sublimation paper

Step 1: Print Your Design

Start by designing your sticker image in your preferred graphics program. Print the design as a mirrored or reversed image onto sublimation transfer paper.

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Image Credits: Angieholden

Be sure to set your printer settings to the highest print quality and resolution possible for crisp detail.

Use sublimation transfer paper compatible with your specific printer model and ink, and load it according to directions so the printable coating faces up.

Step 2: Trim and Tape

Once printed, use a paper trimmer or sharp scissors to trim your sublimation transfer paper down to precisely match the size of your sublimation sticker sheet. This prevents ink from spreading and ghosting.

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Image Credits: Angieholden

Carefully align the printed transfer sheet face down against the front of the sticker sheet’s polymer coating.

Use small pieces of heat-resistant tape to secure the two together around the edges. This prevents shifting of the transfer print during the heat application process.

Step 3: Apply Heat and Pressure

Turn on your heat-press and preheat to the temperature recommended by the sticker manufacturer, typically 385°F – 400°F. Place plain printer paper or butcher paper down on the lower platen first to act as a protective barrier.

Then, place your assembled sticker sheet on top of the paper with your trimmed printed transfer sheet facing up. The blank sticker sheet should be on the bottom. Cover everything with a non-stick protective press sheet or parchment paper.

Lock your heat press shut and apply medium to firm pressure. Start with 30 seconds at 400°F. However, you may need to adjust time and temp based on your specific materials and machine.

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Step 4: Cool and Remove Backing

Once the time is complete, open your heat press and remove the sublimated sticker sheet right away before it cools completely.

Allow it to cool for just a few seconds before gently removing the backer layer from the polymer sticker sheet.

image
Image Credits: Angieholden

Avoid touching the warm stickers until fully cooled to room temperature. Forcing them off the backing when still too hot can distort the sticker materials.

Step 5: Cut into Stickers

Finally, use a digital cutting machine like Cricut or Silhouette to cut out your sticker shapes following the printed outlines. For best accuracy, calibrate your cutter before use if needed.

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Image Credits: Angieholden

Alternatively, you can carefully trim around each printed design by hand using an X-Acto knife, rotary paper trimmer, or sharp scissors. Just follow the outlines of your printed designs to turn the sheet into individual stickers.

Troubleshooting Common Sublimated Sticker Issues

Here are some common issues that can occur when DIY sublimating stickers and how to fix them:

  1. Ghosting: Light print residue or outlines remaining on final stickers. This is often from ink escaping due to imprecise trimming & lack of protective papers in heating. Carefully trim to size before pressing and use paper barriers in a heat press.
  2. Blurring: Poor print quality resulting in fuzzy, low-detail designs. Make sure to use high-resolution/dpi print modes and adjust printer settings to maximum quality. Do not overheat stickers past material limits.
  3. Peeling: Transferred paint peeling or flaking off finished stickers. Indicates ink did not fully bond. Ensure you are using sublimation sticker media, not regular vinyl. Press at proper recommended temperatures and pressures.
  4. Spots: Uneven ink coverage with light and dark patches. Use small pieces of heat-resistant tape to fully secure the paper before pressing to prevent movement leading to uneven heating.
  5. Sticking: The backing sheet sticks to the cutting mat during the cutting process. When pressing, try using a fresh sticky mat and placing a paper sheet over the sticker sheet to prevent excessive sticking.
  6. Curling: Heat and pressure make sticker materials curl up after pressing. Store sticker sheets flat after printing and allow stickers to fully cool after removing from the heat press before peeling off the backing.
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Tips for Best Sublimation Sticker Results

Follow these top tips and best practices to help your homemade sublimated stickers turn out vibrant, crisp, and durable:

  • Use the manufacturer-recommended sublimation materials only. Regular vinyl and paper stickers won’t properly accept sublimation inks.
  • Always print your designs in high resolution and quality mode for sharp, detailed prints. Avoid fast or draft modes.
  • Precisely trim printed transfer sheets to match sticker sheet size. Overhang causes ghosting and light print areas.
  • Completely tape down all edges of the transfer before pressing to prevent any shifting of paper.
  • Protect the lower platen and stickers themselves with paper sheets in the heat press.
  • Allow stickers time to fully cool before peeling off the backing. Forcing them off hot can warp shapes.
  • Cut stickers out patiently and accurately for smooth edges. Rushing leads to jagged cuts.
  • Make small test prints first to dial in the ideal time and temperature settings for your materials.
  • Store printed and pressed sticker sheets flat until cutting to prevent curling and distortion.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most common questions people have about sublimating stickers:

Can I print stickers on a sublimation printer?

While sublimation printers can be used to print your sticker designs, you cannot directly print onto the final sticker backing itself. The printer needs sublimation-compatible transfer paper in order to release the ink.

What is the difference between inkjet and sublimation stickers?

Inkjet stickers provide a more budget-friendly introduction to printing custom stickers at home. But for waterproof, heavy-duty stickers that stand up to frequent use under wet conditions, sublimated stickers are the most ideal option.

Are sublimation stickers waterproof?

When successfully sublimated using the correct materials and procedures, the finished custom stickers are totally waterproof.
Properly sublimated stickers hold up exceptionally well when washing, weathering, and wearing under wet conditions that would ruin typical paper or inkjet stickers.

Wrapping Up

Adding your own custom graphics makes sublimated stickers an awesome medium for creativity. With the right tools and know-how, you can easily make waterproof, personalized stickers at home using a sublimation printer.

Get creative exploring sticker ideas for water bottles, electronics, sports gear, autos, reusable containers, scrapbooks, and endless other uses!

Just, be sure to use the proper materials and techniques for optimal bonding and print durability, even when exposed to moisture over time.

Sublimated stickers are the ultimate medium for permanent, professional prints that hold up amazingly well compared to standard sticker options.

Bella Williams

I'm Bella, a mom of 3 cuties. With 7 years of sublimation experience, my blog dyethrive.com 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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