Printing on metal is gaining popularity for a variety of reasons, as it is durable, unique, and can be customized in several ways. This blog post will outline the basics of sublimation on metal and what you need to get started. Stay tuned for more detailed posts about specific types of metal substrates and how to print on them. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know!
Print on Metal: Dye-Sublimation vs Traditional Ways
Before we dive into the entire process of printing on metal, let’s first highlight some of the key differences between dye-sublimation and more traditional ways to print on metal.
Dye-sublimation printing uses heat to transfer images onto properly coated materials, whereas standard screen or digital printing uses ink to create an image on the substrate.
In this case, the image is printed by applying oil to the substrate, coating it with photo emulsion, then exposing it to light. The image is then developed with a solvent, and the substrate is treated with a chemical bath to create an even surface for the paint.
Sublimation on Metal: Material You Need to Get Started
Dye Sublimation Printer:
A dye-sublimation printer to output your images. Ensure that you also have the right media (paper) for your printer’s output. If you’re using a wide format special printer, this may be a roll of paper instead of a sheet.
Laser or Inkjet Printer:
A laser or inkjet printer to output your images to standard media.
A Metal Substrate:
There are many types of metals that you can print on. You can choose the one that is required for your project.
Heat Resistant paper:
Heat-resistant paper is recommended for any laser prints, as the transfer process can cause some smudging. The double-sided coated paper will provide a higher level of durability.
Digital camera or scanner to digitize your artwork:
You will need either a scanner or digital camera to create your image. Ideally, it would be best to use a high-resolution digital SLR or DSLM to provide a high-resolution image quality for your finished product.
Transfer Tape serves as a carrier between the transfer media and substrate.
To get the best results, you should print it onto parchment paper and then transfer it onto your metal substrate. This will help prevent any of the sublimation inks from adhering to the transfer tape.
Standard Heat Press:
It would help if you used a standard heat press with the right temperature to apply your image to your substrate.
It would be best to use a metal panel to transfer your image onto instead of your heat press’s platen or stainless steel. This will allow you to use both sides of your substrate.
How to Sublimate on Metal: Step-by-Step
The following steps will teach you how to sublimate on metal:
You should first create your high-res file and output it onto a laser printer to print an image on paper. Then, make sure that it is a laser printer and not an inkjet printer to avoid any smudging.
Next, you should digitize your file and output it onto heat-resistant paper. Finally, you can use a heat press or standard office heat press to do this.
Once you’ve transferred your image onto the heat-resistant paper, you should place it onto a metal panel.
You should then heat up your heat press to the desired temperature for your substrate and then apply it with pressure.
You should then cool down your substrate before using tweezers to remove the transfer tape.
You should then proceed to wash your substrate in cold water with laundry detergent for 15-30 minutes to remove any oils.
You should take your substrate out of the water and let it dry for at least 24 hours before you can use it.
Once your substrate is dry, you should then use a heat gun to heat up the edges of the transfer tape to complete the Dye sublimation process.
Sublimation on Aluminum
Sublimation on aluminum is ideal for creating custom-designed beer mugs, tumblers, and other food-safe metal containers. You can also use it to create business-card holders, marriage certificates, and wedding keepsakes.
What do You need?
You will need the following supplies to dye sublimate onto aluminum:
- Metal tumbler or beer mug
- Standard heat press with the silicone release liner
- High-resolution digital file
- Sublimation paper
- Standard office heat press
- Parchment Paper
- Inkjet or laser printer
- Transfer tape
- Dye-sublimation printing ink
Step-by-Step Process for Sublimation on Aluminum:
- Get started by flattening your aluminum panel and removing dust and dirt particles to ensure that your quality print will turn out smooth.
- You should then place the high-resolution quality file onto the transfer tape and cut out the excess.
- Then, you should peel away the backing sheet and place your custom design with your desired orientation onto the platen.
- Once the platen is inside your standard heat-press, you should use your designated temperature to apply your file to your substrate.
- You should then let your substrate cool down for a few minutes and then remove it from your office heat press.
- Once your substrate is out, you should use your tweezers to remove the transfer tape.
- Once your substrate is dry, you should use a heat gun to heat up the edges of your transfer tape to complete the Dye-sublimation printing process.
- You should then dry your metal tumbler or mug with a towel and then place it into a cold oven.
- Once your metal tumbler or mug is in the cold oven, you should turn the oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and let your mug or tumbler heat up for 30 minutes.
- Once the 30 minutes are over, turn off the oven, and let your mug or tumbler cool down in the oven at room temperature.
Now that you’ve learned how to dye sublimate on metal, you can use the Dye sublimation process to create custom-designed beer mugs and tumblers.
You can also learn about the process of sublimation on stainless steel tumblers.
What is Dye-sublimation?
Dye-sublimation printing involves transferring a photo to print, fabric, or other substrate using heat and pressure.
What is dye sublimation paper used for?
Dye sublimation transfer paper is ideal for creating custom metal tumblers and other food-safe metal containers.
What is printing ink for sublimation?
Printing inks are specially formulated for sublimation printing.
What is heat transfer paper?
Heat special transfer paper is ideal for transferring images to t-shirts, polyester fabric, and other porous surfaces.
Printing on metal is growing in popularity for several reasons, not the least of which is the stunning results that can be achieved. In this article, we’ve outlined the basics of quality printing on metal using dye-sublimation, from what materials you’ll need to what type of substrate to use. We’ve also included a few tips and tricks for getting started with your own projects just like sublimation on aluminum.