Sublimation acrylic is easy to decorate and cost-effective for photo printing industries. Acrylic is a plastic that is transparent, stiff, and strong. It can be fabricated.
Can you sublimate on acrylic? Yes, you can sublimate on acrylic. Use cast acrylic than extruded acrylic for sublimation printing. Because cast acrylic has a high melting point and greater thermal resistance than extruded acrylic.
We can use cast acrylic cut to various sizes and thicknesses. During the heat press, the acrylic block needs to withstand 374 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius. On the other, extruded acrylic would melt at high temperatures and weld the transfer paper to the surface.
The items needed to sublimate on acrylic are as follows:
- Printed transfer
- Glass substrate
- Heat tape
- Opaque white spray/Transparent white spray
- Teflon sheet
- Sublimation printer
- Heat press machine
Read Also: Can You Sublimate on Aluminum?
Two Best Methods to Sublimate on Acrylic:
Sublimation inks are translucent. So, using them to image transparent materials like acrylic will leave the image weak and lacking vibrancy. To overcome this, we can use two different methods to add color and density to the image. The two methods are very similar to each other. They are:
Method 1: Use an opaque white spray that is applied after the acrylic block is sublimated. Recommended for home use
Method 2: Use a transparent white spray and apply it to the acrylic block before sublimating. Recommended for commercial use in print shops and product decoration industries.
Best Ways for Sublimation on Acrylic[Instructions]:
Acrylic is a polymer-based material. Therefore, it does not require any extra polymer coating to accept a dye sublimation image. Finally, let us go through the step-by-step guide on how to perform sublimation on acrylic:
Method-1 for Sublimation on Acrylic:
So, let us start with method 1.
Measure your block and leave 5mm to the overall length and width.
Print your image onto good-quality sublimation paper. You will use the larger printer to centralize the block on the paper. Do not mirror the image because we are looking(display side) at the opposite of the printed area of the acrylic block. It adopts a process similar to sublimating a glass.
Pre-warm the acrylic block on top of the heat press on the opposite side to the one to be printed. That is to say, the non-printed area is supposed to lie on the lower platen of the heat press while the upper platen is raised. In this step, we pre-warm only the non-printed area of the acrylic because it prevents the block from bending during pressing and ensures an even high-quality image.
Next, fold the printed transfer and tape it. Use heat-resistant tape.
Set your heat press at 365 degrees Fahrenheit for 100 seconds. That is to say, we sublimate acrylics at a temperature of 365 degrees Fahrenheit for a time of 100 seconds under medium to firm pressure.
Place under the heat press with the printable side up. Lower the upper platen and sublimate as per the recommended time, temperature, and pressure in step 5. After the heat-press, some transfer papers may leave a residue from the inkjet coating on the surface. This can be removed easily using warm water.
Mask off the edges of the block with tape. Mask right to the edge of the imaged side.
As we discussed in step 2, the display side lies opposite to the printed one. That is to say, we see through the acrylic, not the printed side. Hence the print of the graphic does not look clear through the acrylic unless we have a white layer applied on the printed side. You can check it by placing the block onto a white surface. You will see the color become clear and vibrant.
Therefore, to achieve an opaque white background to achieve a clear image, we can use opaque white spray by Subli Glaze.
How to use Subli Glaze for opaque white background on acrylic blocks?
- Shake the solution thoroughly for 1 minute.
- From a distance of around 25 cm, spray the sublimated/printed surface evenly back and forth. Spray in a dust-free environment.
- Allow to dry for 1-2 minutes and apply a second coat.
- Leave to air dry for 10 minutes, and then remove the tape from the edges.
- Finally, the colors will now be accurate and vibrant.
If your image has a black background, you can still see through it. Using the opaque white spray will allow the black background to be a more solid color.
Method-2 for Sublimation on Acrylic:
The second method, i.e., method-2 for sublimation on acrylic, uses a translucent coating, especially recommended for large-volume/commercial production. It allows you to pre-produce as many white blocks as you want to keep in stock.
These can then be pulled out of the stock, printed, and finally ready for shipping as soon as they cool down. This method would also be used to create curved acrylic pieces too.
So, let us discuss the second method for sublimating acrylics.
Firstly, mask the block edges with tape.
Secondly, apply the translucent coating back and forth on the printable side. It allows the image to pass through and bond to the surface of the acrylic.
Cure the translucent coated side up in an oven at 320 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Finally, sublimate the acrylic using the same process as we discussed under Method-1.
7 Ways to Sublimate Curved Acrylic:
Acrylic is flexible too. We can use the softening properties of acrylic to produce curved pictures.
If you use thinner acrylic pieces, they become very soft and malleable when they are pressed and can be formed into curved shapes. Further, you can also buy curved acrylic from the market.
Use thin acrylic up to 5mm thick to bend it into a curved shape.
You will also need a “Shape former” to shape the heated pieces. First, to make it easy, sublimate the flat acrylic and then bend it into a curved shape using “Shape former.”
Tape the edges of the acrylic when flat. Because it would be difficult to mask off the edges of the curved prices.
Use the translucent spray and apply it on the printable surface before sublimation, as discussed in Method-2.
After spraying, place it in an oven to cure at 320 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Apply the printed transfer and tape it to fix it. Then apply heat press at a temperature of 365 degrees Fahrenheit for a time of 100 seconds.
If you are done with the heat press, immediately remove the paper and place it in the Shape former before it cools. Use hand gloves for safety.
Put the lid of the shape former and hold it down or place a small weight above it. Wait for about 15 seconds.
Remove the setup, and the printed acrylic piece will be sufficiently cooled and hardened to remove. Finally, you are done with sublimation on acrylic, both curved or flat.
Therefore, sublimating acrylic is too easy to get started for beginners or run a professional business for veterans.
The above procedure makes it easy to sublimate and produce printed and professional-looking acrylics without any crafting skills.