How to Use Sublimation Ornaments Without a Sublimation Printer
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Creating your own holiday ornaments and gift tags is a lot of fun! When combined with the durability of sublimation, the result is a keepsake that will last for many years. Adding your own artwork to sublimation ornaments is easy with the help of Artesprix markers – no sublimation printer needed. I’ve even made a template to help get you started!
What’s Different about Sublimation Ornaments?
Sublimation ornaments are a bit different than the most of the blank ornaments you’ll find in your local craft store. Sublimation ornaments have a special coating designed to accept sublimation ink. When heated, the ink changes to a dye and infuses into the coating, creating a permanent image on the ornament.
Sublimation ornaments come in many different shapes, sizes, and materials (wood, acrylic, aluminum, etc). One of my all-time favorites is the Benelux with its pretty curved borders,
Not only does it have a beautiful shape but the metal finish gives it a lovely shine and doesn’t tend to warp like wood or acrylic. Each ornament is double-sided and comes with a ribbon for hanging on the tree or attaching to a gift.
What are Sublimation Markers?
Sublimation markers look and feel like regular markers but they are actually thermal transfer markers filled with sublimation ink. They allow you to create durable, permanent sublimation designs without the need for a special printer or special paper and can be used by both kids and adults.
What You’ll Need
The materials used in this project were provided by Artesprix in exchange for this post, but all opinions are my own.
- Artesprix Iron-on-Ink Sublimation Markers (use code SUBLIMATION to save 10% on your order)
- Sublimation Ornaments*
- Plain Copy Paper
- Adhesive Tape
- Rubbing Alcohol and a Lint-free Cloth (or an alcohol wipe)
- Heat Tape
- Protective Paper
- Heat Press, Home Iron, or Dry Iron
- Artesprix Project Mat (if using a home iron/dry iron)
*Sublimation ornaments come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and can be found online from vendors such as Heat Press Nation. You can also use the same techniques to sublimate Cricut Round Coaster Blanks (available from Amazon.com or craft stores such as Michaels). Once the coasters are pressed, add your own hanger like I did here.
Use code SUBLIMATION to save 10% on your order at Artesprix. Does not apply to heat presses or bundle deals.
Step 1: Create a Design for the Sublimation Ornaments
Using a pencil, lightly trace the shape of the blank onto plain copy paper.
Draw, color, or stamp your design using sublimation markers or a sublimation stamp pad. Be sure to MIRROR the design, especially if it includes text. Writing backwards is a challenge for me, so here are some suggestions that may help:
- Write normally with a ball point pen or permanent marker, flip the piece of paper over, and trace. Only the marker ink will transfer.
- Use a stencil.
- Use your Silhouette machine. Create the mirrored text in Silhouette Studio, then sketch it out by machine using a sublimation marker in the pen adapter.
- Use a template like the one I’ve created for you!
Download the Templates
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How to Use the Templates
Once you download and unzip the file, you’ll find three versions of the template, all in PDF form:
- Mirrored images for you to trace.
- Non-mirrored images with outlines.
- Non-mirrored images without outlines.
The templates must be printed at 100% (NO SCALING) in order for them to be the correct size for the ornaments. I used the mirrored images for this tutorial. The other templates can be used with a sublimation printer, traced in a software program to create cut files, or imported into a graphics program to be used in other ways.
- Print the template. (Remember to print at 100% – NO SCALING.)
- Take the pencil outline you traced earlier and align it over the top of the template design you want to trace. Use a light box or hold the template up to a window to help you see it better.
- Hold the pencil outline in place with a couple of small pieces of adhesive tape.
- Use sublimation markers to trace the template design. (I found it easiest to use the fine- and round-point markers included in the 6 count Black Sublimation Marker set.)
- Add color and accents to the design using the markers of your choice.
Step 2: Prepare the Sublimation Ornaments for Pressing
Clean off any dust from the blank using an alcohol wipe or rubbing alcohol and a lint-free cloth.
Trim the copy paper to approximately 1 or 2 inches larger than the blank.
Place the design face-up on your work space. Align the blank, face-down, with the template you drew earlier. Secure the blank to the copy paper with heat tape. You only need a couple of pieces of tape if you’re using a heat press, more if you’re using a home iron.
If you’re using a directional design and/or a blank that is not symmetrical, double-check to make sure the design is oriented correctly and that the hole in the ornament is at the top of the design.
Arrange the layers in what’s called a “Sublimation Sandwich”. The “bread” will be two pieces of protective paper, one on top and one on bottom. Each piece should be larger than the copy paper/design.
The “filling” is the sublimation blank with the design taped to it. Place the colored design face-down, with the blank facing up. When you press, the only thing that will be between the heat source and the design is one layer of protective paper.
Step 3: Press the Sublimation Ornaments
Set your heat press to 400 degrees. If you’re using a home iron/dry iron, set it to the highest setting (usually Linen). Home irons should also be set to NO STEAM.
If using a heat press, press with firm pressure for 75 seconds. If using home iron/dry iron, place the sublimation sandwich on an Artesprix Project Mat and hold stationary while pressing firmly for approximately 3 minutes.
When you’re finished pressing, gently remove the copy paper – without sliding – to reveal the design. (The paper and the blank will be hot so you may want to wear protective gloves!!!)
- Use plain copy paper that’s at least 1 – 2 inches bigger on all sides than the blank.
- Only use a pencil to draw your template. Lines drawn with a Sharpie or sublimation markers may transfer to the blank when pressed.
- Don’t forget to mirror the design!
- If your design goes all the way to the edge of the blank, be sure to color beyond the traced template area.
- Be careful where you place the heat tape. It should only be on the outside of the design, not covering any part of it. Because the tape is heat-resistant, it will interfere with the transfer of the design in any areas it covers. (I always tape on the back of the blank so it doesn’t touch the design at all.)
- Before you press, make sure that the design is face-down on top of the blank and that you have protective paper on both the top and the bottom.
- After you press, pick the paper straight up to remove it from the blank. Sliding it could cause your design to have shadows.
- If you accidentally get marker ink on your clothing or workspace, be sure to clean it up before it comes in contact with any heat. The ink is water-based, but will become permanent when heat is applied. (Even the warmth from a freshly pressed blank is enough to set the ink…ask me how I know!)
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I had so much fun creating these sublimation ornaments that I’ve decided to order a bunch more and let the rest of my family create their own designs when we get together at Thanksgiving. I hope you’ll give them a try and let me know what you think!
Until next time,
Lycia is a lifelong crafter whose goal is to help others find value, confidence, and joy in whatever they create. She geeks out on using technology to supercharge craft projects with Silhouette Studio, Design Space, Glowforge, sublimation, etc.! Lycia teaches these skills and more through online tutorials and videos as well as in-person classes at both the local and national levels.