Sublimation printing is a great process to personalize and customize your clothing and accessories. However, did you know that you can also sublimate on leather? In this blog, we will discuss the process of sublimation on leather and some tips to help you achieve the best results. Let’s get started.
Sublimation on Leather: Step-by-Step Process
- Sublimate printing plates
- Heat Press Machine(no other devices are allowed)
- Leather articles (preferably with a flat and smooth surface)
- Lint-free cloth (do not use ultrasonic cleaners)
- Inkjet sublimation paper (the process does not work with laser printers)
- Scraper or burnisher (do not use sandpaper or emery board)
- Ruler and cutting blade (can only be used to cut the paper)
- Design software
- Heat tape
- Foam pad
Process of Sublimation on Leather
Step 1: Place the leather on the heat press machine.
Step 2: Prep the surface of the leather by lightly scrubbing with a clean, dry cloth. Make sure not to scrub too hard as it can damage the material. You only need to apply light pressure.
Step 3: Use a paper towel to wipe down your leather article, removing any dust or debris from the surface of the material that would prevent the ink from transferring correctly. Again, you don’t want to put too much pressure on your leather or cotton fabric as it could cause damage.
Step 4: Load your paper into the Sublimation printer and ensure it is appropriately aligned. The design should be placed as close to the edge of the page as possible, but make sure you leave at least a 1/8″ border around all edges to account for any shifting that might occur during printing or handling. It is also important not to scale your digital image as it could cause the design to print incorrectly.
Step 5: Print your design onto the sublimation paper using a heat press machine. If you don’t have a heat press machine, you can use a household iron at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, but keep in mind that this process of sublimation printing might not work as well and will take much longer. The advantage of using a heat press machine is that you can control the amount of pressure being applied.
Step 6: Once finished, let the sublimation ink dry for at least 20 minutes before removing the heat transfer paper from the leather article. This allows enough time for the ink to adhere correctly to your garment or bag. You can check how well it has adhered by taking a corner of the paper and trying to peel it off. If it comes off easily, give the ink more time to dry before proceeding to the next step.
Step 7: Once 20 minutes have passed, slowly peel off the paper from your leather article.
Step 8: Place the synthetic leather article face down on a sturdy work surface that can handle being hit with a scraper or burnisher. This step is essential because if the ink is not applied correctly to your material, it can transfer to your work surface and cause a color transfer.
Step 9: Use the scraper to remove excess ink from your leather article. It is important that you evenly distribute the ink on the surface of your material, so make sure you run the scraper along with all areas of your item, including any hard-to-reach areas.
Step 10: Now, your ink should be evenly distributed on the surface of your leather, so it is time to heat press again to fix the ink to your material. Run the press at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 seconds, then let it cool completely before removing your leather from the sublimation printer.
Step 11:Your garment or bag should now be finished. If you are happy with the appearance of your leather, then congratulations. You have successfully sublimated your first printing on leather articles.
This sublimation process should be done within an hour to prevent the ink from drying out and flaking off.
If you’re looking to buy a printer do check out this article on best sublimation printer for beginner
Can you Sublimate all Types of Leather?
Dye Sublimation printing is not recommended for all types of leather. For example, incredibly smooth luxury leathers are not great candidates for sublimating as the ink will wash over time. In this case, embossing or letterpress might be a better option as the embossed or raised portion of the design will resist water and last as long as the rest of the material.
Another example would be heavy vegetable-tanned leathers. Because the leather is so rich, adding an additional layer of ink will cause the ink to sink into the leather and become difficult to see.
Read about how to sublimate on metal.
What type of printer should I use to start sublimating on leather?
Any office or home printer will work perfectly for this process. However, if you are planning to sublimate text or intricate designs, it is best to use a printer that has a resolution of 600dpi, so your design will be very detailed.
Is it easy to sublimate on leather?
The printing process is very simple and can be done by anyone. Customization is the best part, as you don’t need to be an expert in order to create something truly unique.
What is the main difference between sublimation on leather vs wood?
The process of sublimating leather is very similar to wood. However, it is best to use ink that adheres better to leather. Otherwise, the ink may wash off over time. It is also important to make sure you are using a heavy-duty press that can apply enough pressure to the leather to set the ink below the surface.
Have you ever tried sublimating on leather? It’s a process that can be tricky, but the results are stunning and pleasing if done correctly. We’ve outlined the process step by step in the above article to achieve the best results with sublimation on leather. Thanks for reading!