Beginner Sublimation and Silhouette
Sublimation is becoming very popular and more and more users are using Silhouette Studio in their sublimation. Today we are going to go through a quick beginner tutorial on using Silhouette with Sublimation.
What is sublimation?
In very basic terms, sublimation is an ink transfer that uses high heat and pressure. The high heat and pressure turn the ink into a gas, which transfers to the object. Sublimation printing requires a designated printer using sublimation inks, printing onto sublimation paper, and then applying that to a sublimation blank. It cannot be applied to just any blank as the sublimation ink bonds to a special coating on the blank or to high polyester material.
Over the last couple years, we have seen a rise in not just sublimation printing, but in new sublimation markers, sublimation transfers, and infusible ink sheets.
These are perfect ways to test out the area of sublimation without investing in all the equipment necessary for sublimation printing.
For more information on Artesprix sublimation markers, check out this recent post
Sublimation Markers and Silhouette HERE
Affiliate links may be present in the following blog post and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Sublimation Printing with Silhouette
– Sublimation printer: Sawgrass printer, Epson F170 (more details coming), converted Epson printer
– Sublimation ink – varies by printer
– Sublimation paper
– Heat tape: Craft Chameleon, Amazon
– Sublimation blanks: high polyester materials, mugs, mousepads, luggage tags, photo panels, ornaments, etc.
– Parchment Paper or butcher paper
– Heat Press that can go higher than 400 degrees F
Basics of Sublimation in Silhouette
Today we are going to cover the very basics of Sublimation with Silhouette Studio.
I do not feel that basic sublimation is difficult. The basics of it are just print and press.
You do not need to cut with the Silhouette machine for a basic sublimation print.
I am using a photo my husband took with his phone as an example.
Step 1 – Measure the blank. I am using a sublimation mouse pad that is 7-13/16″ square.
For a beginner project, I would recommend a flat object to start.
Step 2 – Open Silhouette Studio
Step 3 – On the Page Setup Panel, set the Media Size to the sublimation paper size to be printed on.
I am using a 8.5″ x 11″ paper, so I have it set up with Cutting mat = none (since I’m not cutting on the Silhouette machine it’s not needed) and the Media size = 8.5″ x 11″ for printing.
Tip: If using a page size larger than the cutting mat – you will need to choose No mat and change page size to the size you are using.
Step 4 – Check the box next to the Show Print Border at the bottom of the Page Setup Panel. This turns on your print border set by the current printer selected.
This will allow you to see if there are any changes that need to be made to the File > Print Page Setup.
Step 5 – Using the Drawing Tools on the left side, draw a template shape for blank.
Allow for a bit of overage on the design so you make sure to cover everything. I drew a 8″ square, which is a little bit bigger than the actual measurements of the sublimation mouse pad being used.
Step 6 – Open the photo or design in Silhouette Studio.
If using a photo, it may open at a large size. Photos can be large files. Resize it using the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) – Scale tools to make it more manageable. I choose 33% or 50% usually to see what will work best.
Immediately after choosing the Scale Option, use the Center to Page option in the QAT and it will bring it back to your design mat.
If the photo opens on a new design mat, copy and paste it into the template file you created.
Step 7 – Add the photo or design to template shape to fill entire template
Step 8 – If needed, use the Crop tool in the Modify Panel to crop the image down to the size needed for the print.
Step 9 – Save the file
It is always a good idea to save every so often, especially if you are working with photo files, png graphics, graphic images, etc. as they can be very large files.
Step 10 – Once the file is ready, choose File > Print in the top left menu.
In v4.4 software versions the Print Preview pops up.
In later versions of v4.4, you have the option to disable this preview under the Preferences, however, I do not recommend that as it can be very helpful in catching any issues prior to printing and using your ink.
Click on Print in the bottom right corner and then select the printer if you need to switch.
Select the sublimation printer or Sawgrass Print Manager. This will vary based on what printer you are using for sublimation. I am using a Sawgrass 400 in this tutorial, so I choose the Sawgrass Print Manager.
(More information coming soon on my new Epson F170 printer and a comparison)
Note: if you do need to switch between the printer or your print border does not look correct, select the correct printer, then click Apply and Cancel. Then change what needs to be to changed, whether it is the page size or just going back to the Design Tab so the printer margins reset. Some users may need to save the file, close Silhouette, and open again in order to reset printer margins if the printer was changed.
This is needed in some versions of the v4.4 software.
Note: Sublimation prints need to be printed mirrored. If using a Sawgrass printer, Print Manager does it for you. If you are using another printer, you may need to flip your image prior to sending to print. Right click on it and choose Flip > Horizontal.
Step 11 – If everything looks good, click on Print.
If you are using a Sawgrass with the Print Manager, it will then open Print Manager and you have 1 more chance to make sure things are going to print correctly and choose your material that you are pressing on. This can make a difference in the print quality.
Then choose Print when ready.
Sublimation prints will be dull when printed. They do not reach their full potential until the heat and pressure is applied to it.
Step 12 – Center the blank on top of the printed page and apply heat tape to hold it in place so it does not move while pressing.
If the blank or the paper moves during the press at all, it can create a “ghosting” effect that will make the image blurred.
Step 13 – Heat up the heat press to the temperature needed. I used 400 degrees for 60 seconds for this mouse pad, but this will depend on the blank you are pressing it on to. A sublimation blank may vary in the time and temperature needed, please refer to the retailer or manufacturer for the recommended settings for the specific material you are using.
The key to this is you need high heat and firm pressure for the full time frame for sublimation to work properly.
I used my Craft Pro 15″ x 15″ heat press. I love this press as it has a pull out bottom platen which helps to save my knuckles from getting burnt when placing my materials on the press.
I love the 15″ x 15″ since I make large shirt sizes. Check out all the heat press options from Heat Press Nation HERE. They now have more color options and sizes than when I first bought mine.
Step 14 – Add butcher or parchment paper (NOT wax paper) on the bottom platen of the heat press – this is often referred to as “blow out” paper as it will protect your press surface from any ink that “blows out” of the paper.
Do not use a teflon sheet.
Note: if you get ink on the top or bottom platen, it can transfer to future heat press projects. Make sure to protect your press surface.
Step 15 – Place your blank, with the sublimation print, on top of the “blow out” paper.
Then add another layer of the parchment (blow out) paper to cover the top.
This makes your “sublimation sandwich”.
Press with medium/firm pressure depending on your blank for the set time and temperature.
Item will be HOT! Handle carefully. Let cool and carefully remove heat tape and sublimation paper from blank.
Yes, you will still see part of the image on the sublimation paper – that is normal.
And then sometimes things just happen and it doesn’t turn out. This was my second one. Maybe I put it in upside down. Maybe the pressure was not high enough. Not sure what happened. But, I can reprint and try again.
After pressing the 3rd one, I think I had it upside down. It just goes to show that it happens to us all. You aren’t alone!
And I would recommend buying extra sublimation blanks, especially while you are still learning and a beginner. I know no one likes to “waste” materials, but you are learning and it is a “learning” experience, not a waste.
My husband loved it. I gave him one for his home office and one for his work office. It was great to be able to take a photo he had taken and turn that into something he would use and see each day.
And that is it!
While I broke it down into 15 steps, it really is just print and press.
It is great that you can use the Silhouette Studio software to make the sizes needed, use shapes as templates, etc.
Where to find sublimation blanks
As the popularity of things grows, so do the list of places you can find sublimation blanks and materials.
Fabrics need a high polyester count in order for the sublimation ink to bind to it. So keep that in mind when shopping. The ink will just wash out of other materials such as cotton.
Here are a few places that I’ve found sublimation blanks. I have a collection started of blanks to try and gifts to make with them, so I have not been able to test them all yet.
I have so many things I want to try and before I get the chance something else catches my attention and I want to do that too!
I love that with the Silhouette software you can use it for more than just cutting!
Stay tuned for more information coming and a comparison with the new Epson F170 sublimation printer too!
I would love to see what you are creating with your Silhouette software or machines!
Or if you have any questions, feel free to post photos or questions on my Facebook group at
Silhouette Secrets with EllyMae.
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