How To Sublimate On Wood And Techniques To Make Sublimation Coating- Step By Step Guide

Have you heard of sublimating wood? No, You will be surprised to know that sublimation is no longer limited to T-shirts and fabrics only. You can now sublimate wooden items, too. Want to know how? So here is a complete and simple process of How to sublimate wood.

Wood is an ideal surface for printing, thanks to its easy maintenance and attractive appearance. Moreover, it is so easy to sublimate that you can sublimate it yourself without spending a lot of money.

Can We Sublimate Any Wood?

We know that there are different types of wood, but the question is can we sublimate any wood? The answer to this is No. We cannot sublimate some kinds of woods. Chipboard, for instance, is glued together with a lot of synthetic binders. As a result of the sublimation process, some of the binders will melt due to the application of heat and pressure, and you’ll have chipboard that’s a bit fragmented.

In contrast, MDF is far more durable for sublimation as the wood particles are more closely packed. So, it will resist heat and pressure and won’t get fragmented.

How To Make Sublimation Coating

Before you know how to sublimate a wood, you need to know how to make a sublimation coating. Sublimation on wooden blanks is most successful when the coating that is applied to the wood is known beforehand, as this is the area where the sublimation ink gets embedded into the wood. We have come up with two techniques for coating the wood. 

  1. Sublimation On Wood With Polycrylic
  2. Sublimation On Wood With Laminating Sheets

Sublimation On Wood With Polycrylic

The polycrylic sublimation coating refers to the white transparent paint or coating that can be applied on blanks. When the image is sublimated, this coating adheres to blanks and retains the sublimated print.
Polycrylic is available in any e-commerce store. Before you apply the coating on the blank, shake the bottle in order to ensure that the coating is well mixed. Then by using a regular phone brush, apply a nice even coat on the wood. Leave it for a couple of minutes to dry completely, and once that dried up. Apply two more coats to get a good layer. It probably only took 30-45 minutes for the coats to dry or longer for a larger piece. Once this coating process is completed, you will have the blank with a nice glossy surface.

Sublimation On Wood With Laminating Sheets

The surface of the wood that you want to sublimate must be laminated before the sublimation process begins. If you already have a poly-coated or laminated wooden blank, you don’t need to follow this step, you can directly sublimate it, but if you don’t have one, you will require a laminating paper.

Make sure the lamination paper is the right size for the wood, or cut it accordingly. Line it up with the wooden blank and place both in the middle of the heat press machine. Cover the whole thing with butcher paper. You must apply laminate paper to the side of the wood that you want to sublimate. Now set your heat press at 365 and press it for almost 90 sec. While pulling it off, don’t forget to wear heat-resistant gloves. Your wooden blank is ready now, and you will see that the laminated paper adhered to the blank and gave it a nice shine to the surface. Let it cool for a min or two before you press your image on.

How to Sublimate Wood: A Step-by-Step Guide

Materials to be required

  1. Sublimation printer
  2. Sublimation paper
  3. Sublimation ink
  4. Heat resistant tape
  5. Heat press 
  6. Wooden blank
  7. Laminating sheets/ Polyacrylic
  8. Butcher paper
  9. Heat resistant gloves

Step 1

Firstly, you will need to prepare the wooden blank for sublimation with poly-coating or laminating sheets.

Step 2

Get your design ready by using any of the photo editing software. You can add text images, designs, or any picture you want to sublimate on wooden blanks. Print out the design using your sublimation printer and paper.

Step 3

Set your printed design on the laminated ( shiny) side of the wooden blank using heat-resistant tape so that it won’t rub off during press. Cover it again with the butcher paper and press it for almost 60 sec. Make sure you have set the wooden blank in the middle of the heat press machine so it may get equal press.

Step 4

After a minute, take the heat press off, and let the wood cool down before peeling off the sublimation paper. Hopefully, You should now have a successful transfer.

Few Things To Be Consider Before Sublimating A Wood

Sublimation on wood is very similar to sublimation on other surfaces, but there are a few considerations you should be aware of :

Selecting Right Wooden Blank/Base

It is also important to note that the type of wood used highly affects the quality of sublimation. If you use natural wooden blanks, you may see wood grain when you sublimate them. Always choose the blank with a flat, even surface for high-quality results. The blank you choose must be compatible with the sublimation ink.

Selecting The Right Sublimation Printer

We can use a regular printer for sublimation, but I am not sure about the results. Woods are sublimated to high temperatures, so it would be better to use a printer that is compatible with sublimation paper. I would recommend you to use Sawgrass printers. These printers are built explicitly for sublimation.

Selecting The Right Sublimation Paper

Paper types recommended by printers vary due to the reason that different types of paper suit different printers. Sublimation papers are specifically used to print graphics and patterns, and regular paper is built to print documents like tables or text. When using regular copy paper, your dye-sublimation printer could end up damaged due to bleed-through.

Selecting The Right Heat press machine

In order to sublimate on wooden blanks, you need a heat press machine that is specifically designed for hard sublimation work. Make sure that your heat press has a good range of heat and pressure settings.

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