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Are you wondering how to bring your products to life with realistic imagery? Well, 3D sublimation designs are your go-to solution! In this article, we’ll guide you through sourcing designs, necessary tools, and the sublimation process to achieve that sought-after three-dimensional effect on a variety of items. So are you ready to discover practical insights and step-by-step techniques to create your own compelling 3D sublimated products? If you answered yes, then look no further. Let us dive in to the world of 3D sublimation!

Key Takeaways

  • 3D sublimation designs create lifelike, dimensional effects on products like coasters, tumblers, and clothing, requiring specialized images to achieve the 3D look.[1]
  • Essential tools for 3D sublimation include a sublimation printer, special ink, transfer paper, a heat press or convection oven, and polymer-coated blanks.
  • To start selling 3D sublimation products, find a niche, price strategically, and employ marketing tactics like showcasing at local events and using social media to attract customers.

Exploring the World of 3D Sublimation Designs

3D Sublimation Design on a phone case

3D sublimation enables the creation of designs that seem to leap off the surface, providing a sense of depth and dimension that captivates the viewer. It’s like being able to reach out and touch the petals of a flower, the fur of an animal, or the waves of an ocean. This is the magic of 3D sublimation designs – they bring life to your products, giving them a realistic and lifelike appearance that is sure to captivate your audience.[2]

Regardless of your preference for floral patterns, animals, sports, landscapes, or abstract art, 3D sublimation opens up a vast array of designs for you to explore. But it’s not just about the designs. The beauty of 3D sublimation is its adaptability across various substrates. You can adorn a diverse assortment of items with your stunning 3D sublimation designs, including:

  • Mousepads
  • Coasters
  • Tumblers
  • Clothing

Keep in mind that the effectiveness of the 3D effect is dependent on the use of images specifically designed to appear three-dimensional. The more depth and dimension your design has, the more lifelike and attractive your finished product will be. So let your creativity run wild and embrace the vibrancy and versatility that 3D sublimation designs offer!

What is 3D Sublimation?

3D Sublimation on a mug

But before we continue, I’m sure some of you are wondering “What exactly is 3D sublimation?” Well, it’s a process that uses designs that create the illusion of three-dimensionality on printed items. The sublimation process used is the standard one, meaning you don’t need any special procedures beyond the conventional sublimation process to create these amazing 3D effects.

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The distinctiveness of 3D sublimation lies in the design that leads to the 3D effect, setting it apart from traditional sublimation. You can transfer these 3D designs onto various objects, even those with curved and uneven surfaces, using specialized tools like the 3D vacuum heat press machine. This opens up a world of possibilities for you to explore and create beautiful 3D sublimation designs.

Sources of 3D Sublimation Images

3D Design on a Tumbler

Now that you have grasped the concept of 3D sublimation, the next question that might come to mind is: “Where do I source 3D sublimation”. Well, we have good news for you! Locating top-notch 3D sublimation images for your projects isn’t as challenging as it might seem. There are plenty of platforms such as Etsy, Design Bundles, and Creative Fabrica where you can find an extensive collection of stunning 3D sublimation designs. For instance, Creative Fabrica offers a vast collection of over 7,621 3D sublimation designs suitable for various sublimation projects.

We advise avoid restricting yourself to a single platform. Additional resources for obtaining images for your 3D sublimation projects can be found on:

  • Cricut Design Space
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Silhouette Studio software
  • Creative Market

And one more piece of advice for our sublimation friends! Don’t forget to take advantage of daily and weekly deals on platforms like Creative Fabrica to download and access free fonts, crafts, and graphics for your sublimation projects. With so many sources at your disposal, the sky’s the limit for your 3D sublimation designs!

Essential Tools and Supplies for 3D Sublimation Projects

A sublimation printer

Now, some of our sublimation friends might be wondering: “What tools or supplies do I need for my 3D Sublimation Projects”? A few key tools and supplies are necessary to actualize your 3D sublimation designs. Here is a list of the essential items you’ll need:

  1. Specialized sublimation printer: This printer is specifically manufactured for or converted to sublimation use.
  2. Sublimation transfer paper: Use this paper to print your designs onto before transferring them to the substrate.
  3. Sublimation ink: This special ink is formulated to transform from a solid to a gas when heated, permeating the substrate and solidifying into the surface.

These tools and supplies are crucial for achieving high-quality 3D sublimation designs.

Next up is the heat source. This could be a specialized heat press or a convection oven, which ensures the necessary conditions for sublimation ink to transfer and adhere to the blanks. And speaking of blanks, these are items made of or coated with a polymer material that receive the sublimated ink design. They can vary from small objects like keychains to larger items like tote bags.

Rounding out your list of essentials are sublimation paper, which is used for ink transfer and is different from regular paper as it releases ink under heat, and additional supplies such as butcher paper, heat tape, adhesive spray, heat-resistant gloves, and tumbler wrap or silicone wraps to facilitate and refine the sublimation process. We have a related guide for those wondering what sublimation paper really is.

With these tools and supplies, you’re ready to embark on your 3D sublimation journey!

Heat Press Machines

Picture of a Heat Press Machine

As previously discussed, heat press machines play a vital role in the sublimation process. They come in two main designs: swing away and clamshell. Each accommodates different types and sizes of sublimation projects. Clamshell heat presses are commonly recommended for beginners and are ideal for pressing thin items like shirts and mouse pads. In contrast, swing away heat presses can handle a wider variety of items, including thicker materials like cutting boards and slates.[3]

If you’re just starting with 3D sublimation, clamshell heat presses offer a cost-effective solution, making them an attractive option for low-cost entry into the craft. A specific model used for 3D sublimation projects, such as creating mouse pads, is the Cricut Autopress. Remember, choosing the right heat press machine for your needs can significantly impact the quality of your finished product.

Sublimation Printers and Inks

There are numerous options available when it comes to sublimation printers. These printers are available for printing on different sizes of paper, such as regular (8.5 x 11 inches) or wide format (13 x 19 inches), which corresponds to the size of the substrate to be used for your project. For beginners, the Sawgrass SG500 is highly recommended due to its user-friendly features like a high resolution for detailed prints, compatibility with cutting machines, and design software with pre-made templates.

Large format printers like the Sawgrass SG1000 or Epson F570 Pro are necessary for bigger items. While you can achieve affordable entry into sublimation printing by converting an Epson EcoTank ET-2400 to use sublimation inks, genuine sublimation printers are preferable for their durability. And don’t forget about the inks! Whether you’re using the inks provided with your printer or third-party inks, it’s essential to ensure vibrant colors and long-lasting prints. You can read more about a comparison of Sawgrass and Epson printers here.

Ink manufacturers often offer assistance or profiles for improved color matching.

Sublimation Blanks

Assortment of sublimation blanks

Sublimation blanks are fundamental elements in the sublimation process. They’re available from various sources, from local suppliers to specialized online stores, some of which may require a business license to purchase. The cost of sublimation blanks can vary significantly, ranging from relatively inexpensive items like keychains to higher-priced items such as door mats and blankets.

When it comes to choosing sublimation blanks, you have a wide array to choose from, including:

  • Barware like coasters and kitchen items
  • Apparel like t-shirts and socks
  • Tech accessories
  • Home decor items

For apparel and soft blanks, a polyester composition of at least 65% is essential for sublimation, with a higher polyester count leading to more vivid and brighter transfers. It’s also important to consider how the colors of your sublimation designs will appear on different substrates. For instance, colors appear less vibrant on frosted glass compared to white sublimation blanks.

With a little research and experimentation, you’ll discover the perfect blanks for your 3D sublimation projects!

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating 3D Sublimation Masterpieces

Sublimation on a Tumbler

Having delved into the world of 3D sublimation and assembled your necessary tools and supplies, it’s now time to start creating! We’re here to guide you through the process, step by step. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, you’ll find valuable insights and tips in this section. If you’re just starting out, consider joining Sublimation Startup for a logical, step-by-step introduction to 3D sublimation designed specifically for beginners. Or if you’re looking for a comprehensive guide, check out the Sublimation Cookbook, which offers a step-by-step process for over 150 different sublimation blanks.

But remember, the most important tool in your arsenal is your imagination. This is your chance to let your creativity shine and create stunning and unique 3D sublimation designs. So, are you ready to embark on your 3D sublimation journey?

Preparing Your Design

Initiating the 3D sublimation process involves preparing your design. When selecting a design for 3D sublimation, choose an image that conveys depth and 3D effects, while considering the necessary pieces and their sizes for the desired product. Utilize designs with multiple focal points and layering to create different levels of depth in 3D sublimation, which can enhance the product’s overall 3D appearance.

Design adjustments are also crucial to ensure a successful sublimation process. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Account for up to a 2-inch shift during transfer
  • Construct textiles post-printing to prevent design discrepancies and white creases for apparel items
  • Incorporate precise bleed limits using specialized design software functions, like the Powerclip function in CorelDRAW, to ensure each part of the design aligns correctly on the final product
  • Use high-resolution, AI-generated designs for stunning sublimation results that marry technology with creativity.

Printing Your Design

With your design set, the next step is printing! Choosing the right printer and settings is crucial for achieving optimal sublimation print quality. For instance, the Epson SureColor SC-F100 (F170) is a cost-efficient sublimation printer with a 1200 x 600 DPI resolution, suitable for a range of sublimation blanks. Just remember not to exceed 300 DPI for optimal sublimation print quality.[4]

Before you hit the print button, make sure you’ve completed the following steps to ensure optimal print quality:

  1. Install the correct color profiles, known as ICC profiles, on your computer to prevent color discrepancies between the screen and the printed design.
  2. Use photo editing tools to modify the image’s brightness, contrast, and saturation to enhance overall print quality.
  3. Ensure that the image size is set correctly for the desired sublimation product.
  4. Define the format size settings properly on the computer using design software. Standard transfer paper sizes are 8.5″ x 11″ and 8.5″ x 14″.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your printed designs turn out exactly as you envision them.

With these steps, you’re ready to print!

Transferring Your Design

Having printed your design, you can now proceed to transfer it onto your selected substrate. This step involves using a heat press machine, so selecting the correct settings is crucial. Temperatures usually range from 385°F to 400°F, and pressing times from 15-20 seconds for optimal sublimation transfer depending on the material.

Before pressing, it’s crucial to prepare the sublimation blank by thoroughly cleaning it with a lint roller to remove any dust and debris. Once the heat pressing stage is complete, the high pressure and heat cause the sublimation ink to become gaseous, penetrating the substrate’s surface and leading to a permanent and vibrant design transfer.

Don’t forget to allow the freshly pressed sublimation item to properly cool and dry. This is essential as it reverts the sublimation ink back to a solid state within the material, securing the quality of the printed design. And voila! You’ve just created your very own 3D sublimation masterpiece!

Tips for Selling Your 3D Sublimation Creations

Picture of coffee mug with 3D Design

Producing your 3D sublimation designs constitutes just one part of the journey. The next step is getting your creations out there and turning your passion into profit! Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned 3D sublimation artist, these tips will help you successfully sell your creations. Leveraging multiple online marketplaces like Etsy, eBay, and Mercari, in addition to creating a dedicated online shop, can enhance the visibility and sales of your 3D sublimation products.

Social media platforms such as:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • TikTok

are also powerful tools for showcasing your products and engaging with potential customers. And don’t underestimate the power of your community! Building a community around your 3D sublimation brand can evolve from personal networks and grow through word-of-mouth, making customers your brand ambassadors and supporting sales.

Lastly, consider securing bulk orders from commercial clients like local clubs and sports teams. This can provide a stable flow of sales and the chance for repeat business and referrals for your 3D sublimation products. With these tips, you’re well on your way to turning your 3D sublimation creations into a profitable venture!

Finding Your Niche

Identifying your niche is a significant aspect of selling successfully. By specializing in a certain market, you can:

  • Become the go-to provider and establish yourself as an expert in that area
  • This can lead to business opportunities and profitability
  • Help you stand out from your competitors
  • Attract customers through word of mouth and referrals

To find your niche, ask yourself about your passions, skills, the pain points of your ideal customer, and gaps in the market you can fill. Potential niche markets for dye sublimation include sports teams and clubs, pet owners, small businesses and entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations, and artists and creatives. Remember, gaining specialized expertise in a niche can justify charging a premium for your products due to the unique value offered.

Pricing Your Products

Assigning appropriate prices to your products is another vital factor in selling your 3D sublimation creations. Various strategies can be used, including:

  • Cost-plus pricing
  • Competitive pricing
  • Keystone pricing
  • Value-based pricing

Each of these strategies has different implications for how products are valued by both you and the customer.

When setting your prices, remember to account for the following costs:

  • Production time
  • Consumables
  • Packaging
  • Shipping
  • Marketing expenses

The perceived value of personalized 3D sublimation products can justify a higher price point due to their uniqueness and the personal connection they establish with customers.

Keep in mind that regularly reviewing and adjusting your pricing strategies is crucial to ensuring that your work is not undervalued, and to enhance profitability, especially for custom products that customers value highly.

Marketing Your Creations

The last component in selling your 3D sublimation creations is marketing. Participating in local events such as farmers’ markets and art festivals with a pop-up shop can capture the attention of potential customers and intimately showcase your 3D sublimation products. Meanwhile, implementing SEO strategies on your business website can improve your online presence and highlight your expertise in custom printed products.[5]

Leveraging social media to share high-quality photos of your products serves as visual inspiration and has the potential to extend your reach to a broader audience. Strengthening your brand with reliable quality, on-time deliveries, and a unified brand image builds trust and fosters customer loyalty. Lastly, establishing a referral program can incentivize current customers to recommend your products, effectively utilizing word-of-mouth to grow your customer base.[6]


We’ve walked through the fascinating world of 3D sublimation designs, discovering the tools, techniques, and tips to create and sell your unique creations. From exploring the depths and dimensions of 3D designs to understanding the essential tools and supplies, creating your masterpieces, and finally, marketing them – the journey has been full of creativity and innovation. As you embark on your 3D sublimation journey, remember that the power to create stunning, lifelike designs lies in your hands. So let your imagination run wild, and start creating your 3D sublimation masterpieces today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you sublimate 3D prints?

Yes, you can sublimate 3D prints by using a 3D sublimation printing technique, which involves transferring colors onto the workpiece using heat and a special process developed by Indeco.

How to get free sublimation designs?

You can easily find free sublimation designs by doing a quick search on Google or visiting websites like Creative Fabrica and Design Bundles – they offer a wide variety of high-quality designs for personal and commercial use. Go check them out!

What is the best website for sublimation designs?

Check out Etsy for a wide variety of sublimation designs. Happy crafting!

What tools and supplies do I need for 3D sublimation?

You’ll need a specialized sublimation printer, sublimation ink, a heat source like a heat press or convection oven, sublimation blanks, sublimation paper, butcher paper, heat tape, heat-resistant gloves, and silicone wraps or shrink wraps. Make sure to have all the supplies before starting your 3D sublimation project.


  1. 3D Sublimation – Etsy Ireland. (n.d.). Etsy.
  2. 3D Sublimation Tumbler Designs | Design Bundles. (n.d.).
  3. Kane, A., & Perez-Murphy, C. (2023, April 7). The best heat presses of 2024. Reviewed.
  4. Dye Sublimation Printers | Epson US. (n.d.).
  5. Traphagen, M. (2023, April 11). The three pillars of SEO: authority, relevance, and experience. Search Engine Journal.
  6. Wheeler, K. (2023, May 10). Brand Identity: How to Develop a Unique & Memorable Brand in 2023. Hubspot
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