Well, it has been almost a year ago now since I bought my Cricut Mug Press. I wrote about my first attempt at using it that was not without a learning curve (for me). However, it wasn’t the press itself, it was learning about infusible ink, sublimation and how it all comes together with the heat press. Well, I am more knowledgeable on the press now and can give a bit more detail on its use. Join me while I give you what I think will be a few helpful tips and tricks.
First of all, hands down, the mug press is one of the nicest and easiest tools I have used in my craft room. I get unbelievable quality results with little effort. I now get a ton of requests from friends and my Christmas gift giving definitely got a boost. If you want to make high quality mugs for friends and family, this press is golden. Prepare to wowed when you unwrap your first pressed mug.
Size and Heat Factors of the Press
Before buying the Cricut Mug Press, I seriously considered other heat presses, like a clam shell type for example, with mug attachments. However, I see so many issues with users having to fiddle with pressure and heat settings. Often it seems it is a trial and error type of process which makes for a lot of material and time wastage. And blanks are not cheap.
Further, these other presses are large and cumbersome and take up a lot of permanent space. They get very hot so need to be kept away from other objects and can a long time to heat up and cool down. With the Cricut Mug Press, I have never had any trouble with settings because there are no settings! On and off. The Mug Press is relatively small and convenient – about the size of a toaster. Though it gets very hot (necessary for the chemical reaction), the outer walls of the machine stay cool. Once done and cooled, I can put it away in a cupboard until next time I use it. Definitely family friendly.
In order to fuse the image onto a mug, you must use a special ink – called infusible ink (by Cricut) or sublimation ink in general. You cut the sheets of Cricut infusible paper with the cutter or use their infusible ink pens. With the pens, you can literally hand draw or write on a piece of paper and wrap it around the mug for transfer. You will need to mirror the writing. Simple solution is to write in Cricut Design Space and then use a maker to print it out in reverse for you.
For the transfer of the infusible ink to take, it must be transferred onto a specially-treated surface only. You cannot use mugs from Dollarama for instance. These are referred to generally as blanks and in this case mug blanks. However, there are literally hundreds of blanks for taking infusible ink. In many cases, such as coasters or clothing, you will need a heat press of some kind to heat it up to a high enough temperature. Irons won’t work. In the case of a straight-sided mug, you can use the cricut mug press. Notice I said straight-sided mugs. Part of the reason the mug press works so well, is because it makes a very snug fit all around the mug blank. The down-side of that means that you can’t press mugs that have curved sides.
I have used both the cricut mug blanks and some other generic ones. Some of the generic ones I used faded which should not happen with sublimation. I can only assume that the coating (specially-treated for sublimation) was inconsistent. I have had no issue with the Cricut brand mugs.
Now I can get myself around most graphic programs with ease. Even so, I find myself going over to the Design Space even for designing mug graphics. First, there are quite a number of great mugs designs available. I find using the template is helpful. The size is about 9 inches by 4 inches in other graphic programs which work for most designs.
I found that if I place a design element too close to the back of a mug (approx. less than 1 inches from the handle) that the design can be a bit faded in that area if the mug is not wrapped tightly enough. Even with a full wrap, the colours come out beautifully with the mug press.
Prepping your Mug
Once you have your design ready and your mug blank handy, you prep your mug for pressing. First you wrap the paper with the design tightly against the mug. Tightly! I use heat resistant tape to hold it down. You can then wrap it again with butchers paper to prevent the design leaking onto the press element. A nicely-pressed design completely shows through the paper when done. Tape that all down with more tape. Your mug in now ready to be heated up to make the transfer happen.
Using the Cricut Mug Press
So, there is one button to press on the cricut mug press. The on button. Plug it in and turn it on. That is it! When it beeps, the light goes green and it is ready. Place your mug into the press and lower the paddle on the top. The walls of the mug press close around the mug tightly. The heat and pressure settings are automatically calculated by the press. So that’s it. A series of lights that show the heating progress. I found that a mug takes about 6 minutes. When it beeps again the mug is done. Raise the paddle remove the VERY HOT mug and allow to cool. I usually get impatient and run it under hot, then warm then cool water to speed up the process. And finally remove all the paper or the big reveal. Stunning colours!
Okay the only issue I have here is to be sure you use it in a very well ventilated room. Personally the fumes bother me a bit , but they dissipate quickly.
Upping your Game with A Sublimation Printer
A sublimation printer can really up your game, but it isn’t necessary at all. Sublimation sheets cut with a cutting machine work very well and offer a wide range of creativity. However, I’m a digital girl, and since I started playing around with sublimation, I decided to move into printing full colour images with sublimation ink. This means that essentially any digital file that you can print can be pressed with your mug press onto a blank mug. For this I needed a sublimation printer which I talk about in another post.
Should you Buy a Cricut Mug Press?
Well, Yes! In my opinion, It is a wonderful product and works perfectly right out of the box. There is no learning how to use it since you just turn it on and wait. The only learning part is making your design, cutting or printing and wrapping your mug. If you are familiar with the Cricut cutting machines, you can already do that. Either way, it is simple to learn. And yes, the results are truly amazing!