Today I’m going to show you how to make a camo pattern with sublimation acrylic paint. That’s right – you can now PAINT designs for sublimation! It’s a fun technique that takes very little time to learn – even if you’re a non-artist like me!
What You’ll Need:
Some of the materials used in this project were provided by Artesprix in exchange for this post, but all opinions are my own.
- Artesprix Sublimation Acrylic Paint (use code SUBLIMATION to save 10% on your order)
- Sublimation Blank (I used this metal bottle opener)
- White Cardstock
- Styrofoam Plate or other surface to mix paint colors
- Paper Towels
- Heat Gun (optional)
- Lint-free Cloth
- Heat Tape
- Protective Paper
- Heat Press, Home Iron, or Dry Iron
- Protective Gloves (optional)
- Artesprix Project Mat (optional)
Use code SUBLIMATION to save 10% on your order at Artesprix. Does not apply to heat presses or bundle deals.
Step 1: Trace the Blank
Select the blank you want to use. Using a pencil, lightly trace the shape of the blank onto cardstock. (Any type of paper will work with Artesprix sublimation markers, stamp pads, and paints, but I prefer to use a piece of cardstock with the paints so that nothing seeps through. Mixed media paper works well too.).
Step 2: Mixing the Sublimation Acrylic Paint
Artesprix sublimation acrylic paint comes in 4 basic colors – red, yellow, blue, and black.
These basics can be mixed together to create an infinite number of colors. For softer colors, add white acrylic lightening medium. (The mixing process is shown in detail in the video.)
One important note: – the white acrylic lightening medium cannot be used on its own, (since white doesn’t sublimate). Nor can it be used to cover colors that have already been painted because the sublimation colors are quite strong and will bleed through the white.
Camo patterns are pretty much “anything goes”. The color combinations can be dark, light, pastel, bright, monochromatic – pretty much whatever you desire.
Here are just a few different examples of camouflage patterns I found online:
For this project, I decided to use “traditional” camo colors of browns and greens.
Based on the Artesprix color mixing chart, I mixed the sublimation paints as follows:
- Basic Brown – mix 1 part* blue and 1 part red to create purple. Add an equal amount of yellow to change the purple to brown.
- Tan – add white lightening medium to basic brown to create tan.
- Dark Brown – use basic brown as-is or add a small amount of black to make it darker.
- Lime Green – mix 10 parts yellow to 1 part blue.
- Green – mix 1 part blue to 1 part yellow.
You won’t need much paint because a little goes a long way, but do mix up a bit more than you think you’ll need so you don’t have to match colors later.
*Mixing in Parts:
A “part” is not an exact measurement. “One part” could mean 1 ounce, 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon, 1 cup, etc. So if the mixing ratio is 1:1, that means you will mix equal amounts together. If the ratio is something other than 1:1, first determine how you’re going to measure a single part and work from there. For instance, if you’re working in ounces and the ratio is 1:2, you’ll mix 1 ounce of the first color with 2 ounces of the second color. If the ratio is 10:1, you’ll mix 10 ounces of the first color with 1 ounce of the second color. For purposes of mixing colors, the measurement doesn’t have to be exact. Just try to get it close.
Step 3: Make a Camo Pattern
Start by painting the base coat using a flat brush and tan paint. Allow the base coat to dry naturally or use a heat gun to speed up the drying process.
To make a camo pattern, combine free-form shapes, using equal amounts of color. I started with leaf green, added the dark green, and finished with dark brown. (See video for detailed instruction.)
Step 4: Get Ready to Press the Camo Pattern onto the Blank
Trim the cardstock to approximately 1 or 2 inches larger than the blank. Clean off any dust from the blank using a lint-free cloth.
Place the camo design face-up on your work space. Align the blank, face-down, with the template you drew earlier. Secure the blank to the cardstock 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.
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 cardstock/design.
The “filling” is the sublimation blank with the design taped to it. Place the painted 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 5: Press
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 cardstock – without sliding – to reveal the design. (The paper and the blank will be hot so you may want to wear protective gloves!!!)
- Use paper/cardstock 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 applicable!
- 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/cardstock straight up to remove it from the blank. Sliding it could cause your design to have shadows.
- If you accidentally get paint on your clothing, be sure to clean it up before it dries or comes in contact with any heat. The paint is water-based, but is very hard (if not impossible) to wash out when it dries and it will become permanent when heat is applied. (Even the warmth from a freshly pressed blank is enough to set the paint…ask me how I know!)
Like what you see here? Share the image below to Pinterest!
You’ll find that these sublimation paints are super easy to work with. There’s really no right or wrong way to make a camo pattern, so just have fun with it! If you give it a try, email me a pic or come share your project in my Facebook group. I always love to see what you create!
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.