Infusible ink is Cricut-speak for sublimation!
As previously mentioned. I have a Cricut maker as well as a 9″ x 9″ heat press which I use for fusing interfacing to fabric. Well, I read about the release of the Cricut mug press and couldn’t resist. The “everything” bundle, which included some mugs, infusible ink paper, infusible ink pens, heat resistant tape and the press itself, seemed like a good place to start. I watched a few YouTube videos, and frankly the cricut process with the mug press seemed very straight forward.
What is Sublimation?
Scientifically, sublimation printing is a chemical process where a chemical (sublimation ink) is heated at a super high temperature until it turns into a gas. As the gas cools, it will penetrate the surface of a specially prepared target material or substrate. Once cooled, it is permanently sealed literally inside the material.
In practice, sublimation printing is a process to permanently adhere an image into a surface often referred to as blanks. The blanks have to be specially treated for sublimation or in the case of fabric, have a high polyester content. The ink seals permanently and seamlessly inside the blank, so most items are machine washable or dryable, dishwasher and microwave safe. The Cricut brand of sublimation ink is called “Infusible Ink”.
A cricut press or mug press heats the ink and mug to a high enough temperature so the transfer can happen.
For the cricut mug press sublimation process, you need:
- an image and/or text to draw or cut out in .svg, .png or similar format
- a cutting machine to cut out your design for transfer
- infusible ink pens to draw OR infusible paper to cut
- a target substrate (i.e., mug or coaster) to place your image onto
- a mug press or heat press to create the heat and pressure needed to make the transfer
Other possible supplies:
- butcher paper or parchment paper to double wrap mug & protect the inside of the mug press
- heat resistant tape to fasten your design to the mug securely
- sublimation or copy paper to print on with sublimation pens and markers
- heat resistant pad or surface to work on
- well ventilated room!
- heat resistant gloves
First Try : First Fail
My first effort was with the infusible paper and infusible ink pens with my Cricut maker. Using Design Space, I loaded the template for the 12oz infusible mug blank and then using the “write” function wrote the text. I remembered to mirror the writing and printed it out with the maker onto red infusible paper. All good so far.
I snugly wrapped the red infusible paper around the mug. I preheated the mug press and followed the directions. It took about 3 minutes to heat up and about 6 minutes to “cook” the mug. After peeling and cooling, I had a beautiful red mug. No kidding – It was a very bright and vibrant colour but there no writing on it. The writing didn’t transfer at all. Something went wrong.
I double-checked everything and eventually realized that I had put a regular cricut pen in the maker, not the infusible ink pen. No wonder it didn’t work! Silly me.
I thought I might try to salvage my project since it was just a test anyway. I re-printed just words onto regular copy paper with the infusible ink pen this time. Using the heat resistant tape, I taped the lettering onto the mug and put it through the mug press a second time. I figured if it didn’t work, so harm done, right?
Where I went wrong
First off, I didn’t think to cover the rest of the mug when I put it back in. When I removed it the second time, the red was still on the mug, but my press had a faint red tinge to it too! So stupid of me! (btw, this faded away to nothing after a few more presses – phew!).
Secondly, the tape marks showed up on the red mug cause I had taped it directly onto the mug. Finally, after all that, I had actually placed the writing upside down on the mug! lol. Major fail all round! And so much fun. Not sure how well it shows up in the pictures, but I was pleasantly surprised at how bright and vibrant the red was here. Didn’t expect that from the colour of the paper before pressing.
So, it turned out hub loves his mug anyway and I feel strangely proud of my first attempt. Hub hails from the UK originally, so the text on the mug was, “I may not be perfect, but I am British which is nearly the same thing”. Interesting that only he can read it himself as he swallows his tea. Fitting somehow don’t you think?
Overall, I love this sublimation journey! Now I have made ALL the mistakes in one go, I can’t wait to continue. I may have to explore more options with the sublimation ink process and maybe even sublimate full colour designs onto everything (as long as it is at least 65% polyester)! Eeek!