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So now you are looking to craft sublimation tumblers that stand the test of time? Yes? Well, this comprehensive, no-fluff article on how to make sublimation tumblers demystifies the process, taking you from tool selection to the final heat press. By the end, you’ll have a personalized tumbler with a vibrant design that won’t fade or peel. Dive in to discover the art of art of sublimation tumblers. Stay with us as we guide you through the fantastic ocean of sublimation!

Key Takeaways

  • To make sublimation tumblers, essential tools such as a reliable sublimation printer, high-quality sublimation ink, and well-coated blank tumblers are needed. We also provide detailed reviews on tumbler press machines for sublimation in a separate guide.
  • Design preparation is crucial for sublimation printing, which includes creating, sizing, and mirroring the design to fit the tumbler before the heat transfer process.
  • Post-printing care of sublimated tumblers involves allowing them to cool, gentle peeling, hand washing for durability, and optionally, applying epoxy for enhanced protection.

Essentials for Sublimation Tumbler Crafting

Sublimation tumbler under a starry night sky

Like any art, the quality of your tools can make a world of difference in sublimation tumbler crafting. To achieve stunning, long-lasting designs, you’ll need a few essential items: a dependable sublimation printer, high-quality sublimation ink, and the perfect blank tumblers.

We’ll examine these crucial components next.

Choosing the Right Sublimation Printer

Selecting the right sublimation printer is a pivotal step in your crafting journey. The right printer can effortlessly translate your creative vision onto your tumblers, while the wrong one could leave you with lackluster results. So, what makes a good sublimation printer? Don’t miss our guide on an introduction to best sublimation printers for newbie crafters.

Two names that frequently pop up in the world of sublimation printing are Sawgrass and Epson. These sublimation printers offer various options to consider:

  • Sawgrass Virtuoso SG500: beloved for its high print resolution and quality, making it an excellent choice for intricate designs.
  • Epson SureColor F170: specifically designed for dye sublimation, from a trusted name in printing.
  • Sawgrass SG1000 and Epson Artisan 1430: capable of handling larger designs and extensive page sizes.
  • Epson EcoTank printers such as the ET-15000 and ET-4760: offer affordable options for sublimation printing, with the ET-15000 being especially suitable for larger prints.

The Importance of Quality Sublimation Ink

Colored ink bottles with the milky way in the background

Next, we’ll focus on the heart of your designs — the sublimation ink. Sublimation ink plays a crucial role in the vibrancy and longevity of your designs. Unlike regular ink, sublimation ink transitions from solid to gas under heat, infusing into the substrate to create a durable, scratch-resistant print. The use of sublimation dye in the ink formulation ensures a high-quality result.[1]

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There are several high-quality sublimation inks that can help bring your designs to life. Some options include:

  • Hiipoo Ink: highly regarded for its rapid drying and no smudging qualities, essential for crisp images
  • Cosmos Ink: impresses with its extended shelf life and color accuracy
  • Printers Jack ink: offers a broad color spectrum and true color reproduction
  • Sawgrass Sublijet HD ink: the go-to choice for professional-quality results.

Finding the Best Blank Tumblers for Sublimation

Three tumblers in overlooking a beautiful valley

Your canvas plays an equally critical role in the sublimation process. Selecting the right blank tumblers can be the difference between a vibrant, long-lasting design and a dull, quickly fading one. So, what should you look for in a blank tumbler?

When choosing a sublimation blank tumbler, consider sublimation tumblers that have the following features:

  • Double-walled designs, which maintain temperature and provide a smooth surface for image transfer
  • Skinny straight insulated tumblers with clear lids and metal or plastic straws, which are particularly popular among sublimation artists
  • A specialized poly coating, which ensures that the transferred design adheres properly and that your masterpiece remains vibrant and long-lasting.

Designing Your Sublimation Tumbler

A tumbler and color chart displayed on a computer screen

Having gathered your essential tools, it’s time to channel your inner artist and design your sublimation tumbler. The beauty of this process is that you have complete control over the design. From simple logos to intricate patterns, the choice is yours.

We’ll discuss ways you can transform your vision into reality.

Crafting the Perfect Sublimation Design

Designing your sublimation tumbler is where the magic truly happens. You can let your creativity run wild, creating a design that reflects your personal style or the preferences of your intended recipient. There is a multitude of software available to assist you in crafting the perfect design, including:

  • Canva.com
  • Befunky.com
  • Adobe Illustrator[2]
  • Photoshop

Photoshop is particularly useful for generating sublimation designs from scratch, providing tools to customize text, resize images, and ensure accurate color output through managed color settings and correct ICC profile selection. On the other hand, Cricut Design Space allows crafters to import complex PNG designs, add simple design elements, and manage colors via printer settings rather than in-software color management.[3]

Preparing Your Sublimation Print File

Once you have your design ready, it’s time to prepare it for printing. This is a critical step in the sublimation process and requires careful attention to detail.

The first aspect to consider is the size of your design. For a full wrap of a 20 oz skinny straight-edged tumbler, the design should be sized at 9.3 inches by 8.2 inches. This ensures that your design covers the entire surface of the tumbler.

Before printing, make sure the design is mirrored, especially if it contains text or needs to be oriented in a specific direction. This is because the design will be transferred in reverse onto the tumbler.

Once the design is ready, it’s time to print. Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Publisher can be used to print out the sublimation design on the paper, ensuring compatibility with the design requirements.

After printing, trim the sublimation design to fit the tumbler, leaving a small overhang at the top and bottom to ensure full coverage upon transfer.

Pre-Sublimation Tumbler Preparation

A tumbler being cleaned by a robot on a desk

With your design printed, it’s time to prepare your tumbler for the sublimation process. This involves cleaning the tumbler thoroughly and applying the sublimation print. Proper preparation is essential for a flawless result, so we’ll discuss how to do it correctly.

Cleaning the Tumbler

Before starting the sublimation process, it’s vital to ensure that your tumbler is clean and free from dust, dirt, and fingerprints. Any debris on the tumbler can interfere with the sublimation process, potentially ruining your design. So how should you clean your tumbler?

Rubbing alcohol and a lint roller are recommended for thoroughly cleaning the tumbler surface. The steps to clean the tumbler are as follows:

  1. Use rubbing alcohol to remove any oils or residues from the surface.
  2. Use a lint roller to pick up any stray fibers or specks.
  3. After cleaning, make sure to completely dry the tumbler.
  4. Lint roll the tumbler again to ensure that no stray fibers interfere with the sublimation process.

Applying the Sublimation Print

Two rows of tumblers out in the countryside

Once your tumbler is pristine, it’s time to apply your sublimation print. This step requires precision and care, as any misalignment or gaps could result in an imperfect transfer. Start by aligning the sublimation print with your tumbler, ensuring that it covers the entire surface.

Use heat-resistant tape to secure the print tightly to the tumbler, which helps to prevent shifting during the heat transfer process. Remember to trim the sublimation design to have a slight overhang at the top and bottom, and remove unwanted streaks or marks from the design to ensure a clean transfer without blank white areas around the edges.

When wrapping the sublimation paper around the tumbler, ensure that there is a slight overlap of the transfer at the seam to prevent white space, but avoid too much overlap that could cause issues during sublimation.

Mastering the Heat Transfer Process

Now comes the moment of truth — the heat transfer process. This is where your design goes from a print on paper to a vibrant image on your tumbler. It’s a transformative moment, quite literally! We’ll discuss how to perfect this process.

Using a Tumbler Heat Press

A tumbler heat press, also known as a tumbler press, is a valuable tool in the sublimation process. It provides the necessary heat and pressure to transfer your design onto the tumbler, ensuring that every detail is captured with precision.

You might be wondering how to use a tumbler heat press. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Before placing your tumbler in the heat press, make sure the press has a tight and even pressure to ensure the sublimation transfer adheres properly to the tumbler surface.
  2. Apply the sublimation paper to the tumbler.
  3. Wrap butcher paper around the entire tumbler to protect both the tumbler and the heat press during sublimation.

By following these steps, you can successfully use a tumbler heat press.

Standalone tumbler heat presses come with attachments suitable for mugs and skinny tumblers of various sizes, ranging from 11-15 oz for mugs to 12-30 oz for skinny tumblers. If you’re using the Cricut mug press, using Teflon sheets can help to press the tumbler more snugly, providing better heat application for the sublimation process.

Sublimation in a Convection Oven

If you don’t have a tumbler heat press, don’t worry! A convection oven works just as well for sublimating tumblers. It’s important to note, however, that an oven used for sublimation should not be used for food due to safety concerns.

Here are the steps to use a convection oven for sublimation:

  1. Ensure that the convection oven is set to the correct temperature for sublimation.
  2. Place the item to be sublimated inside the oven and monitor it closely until the process is complete.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll want to use an external thermometer to verify the temperature.
  4. Once the oven is preheated, place your tumbler in the shrink wrap sleeve and then in the oven. There’s no need for a heat gun as the sleeve will shrink immediately in the heated oven.
  5. Set the timer for six minutes.

After sublimation, carefully remove the tumbler while it’s warm to cut away the shrink wrap and transfer sheet, which helps prevent ghosting.

Finishing Touches and Post-Sublimation Care

A green light bulb saying ‘final touch’

You’ve successfully sublimated your tumbler — congratulations! But the process isn’t quite finished yet. There are a few final steps to make sure your tumbler is ready to use, and understanding how to care for your sublimated tumbler will keep it vibrant and attractive for years to come.

Cooling and Peeling

After the final press in the sublimation process, it’s important to let your tumbler cool for a few minutes on a heat-resistant surface. This ensures that the sublimation ink sets properly. Once the tumbler has cooled to a safe handling temperature, it’s time to peel off the sublimation paper.

Peeling the paper is like unwrapping a gift — underneath, you’ll find your beautiful, vibrant design imprinted onto the tumbler. It’s a rewarding moment, but remember to be gentle to avoid damaging your design.

Caring for Your Sublimated Tumbler

Now that your tumbler is beautifully decorated, it’s important to take care of it properly to ensure the design remains vibrant and crisp. First and foremost, sublimated tumblers should primarily be hand washed with soapy water. This helps to avoid damaging the integrity of the image.

While it’s possible to put your tumbler in the dishwasher, the high heat and harsh detergents can degrade the sublimation print over time. If you must use a dishwasher, place your tumbler on the top rack with mild detergent and avoid the drying cycle. Regardless of your cleaning method, be sure to avoid using abrasive cleaners or scrubbers that could scratch or chip the print.

Advanced Techniques and Alternative Methods

Four white arrows pointing in different directions

While sublimation is a fantastic way to customize tumblers, it’s not the only method out there. There are a variety of other techniques and alternatives to explore, each with its own unique advantages. From silicone wraps to hydro dipping, we’ll examine these exciting alternatives.

Adding Epoxy for Enhanced Durability

Applying epoxy to your sublimated tumbler can enhance the durability and shine of your design, providing an extra layer of protection. Epoxy creates a glossy finish that not only looks great, but also helps to preserve the vibrancy of your design. When working with epoxy, it’s a good idea to use heat resistant gloves for safety.

To apply epoxy, follow these steps:

  1. Mix equal parts of resin and hardener.
  2. Use a silicone brush to apply it evenly over the tumbler, ensuring that the entire surface is covered.
  3. Use a cup turner to rotate the tumbler as you apply the epoxy, ensuring uniform coverage.

Once applied, allow the epoxy to cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If necessary, you can apply a second coat of epoxy or perform light sanding to correct any imperfections before the second coat.[4]

Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets: An Alternative to Sublimation Printing

Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets offer an alternative to traditional sublimation that’s just as vibrant and long-lasting. By using an infusible ink transfer sheet, you can infuse the design into the tumbler, resulting in a design that won’t fade, peel off, or need to be sealed. Plus, they’re compatible with the sublimation process, making them a versatile tool in your crafting kit.

To use Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets, follow these steps:

  1. Wrap the sheet around your tumbler and secure it with heat-resistant tape.
  2. Place the tumbler in a shrink wrap sleeve.
  3. Proceed with the heat transfer process as usual.

The result? A stunning, vibrant design that’s just as impressive as a traditional sublimation print.


Congrats on completing this journey into the world of sublimation tumblers! You’ve learned about the essential tools and materials, mastered the design process, dived into pre-sublimation preparation, and navigated the heat transfer process. You’ve also explored the finishing touches and learned how to care for your sublimated tumbler. And let’s not forget the advanced techniques and alternative methods you’ve discovered along the way. Now that you’ve armed yourself with this knowledge, you’re ready to create your own stunning sublimation tumblers. You can also learn more about getting rid of tape marks from sublimation tumblers here. So, what are you waiting for? Let your creativity shine and start crafting!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you make sublimation tumblers without a sublimation printer?

Yes, you can make sublimation tumblers without a sublimation printer using methods such as infusible ink papers, pre-printed sublimation papers, infusible ink pens, and acrylic sublimation paints. These alternatives can be effective for sublimating items without a printer.

Can you make sublimation tumblers with Cricut?

Yes, you can make sublimation tumblers with Cricut by using a silicon wrap and the Cricut Mug Press to apply heat for around 8 minutes in total.

Can I sublimate on a regular tumbler?

No, you cannot sublimate on a regular tumbler. You need a sublimation tumbler with a poly coating for the process to work. Using a sublimation image designed for the taper on your tumbler is also crucial.

What machine do you need to make sublimation tumblers?

To make sublimation tumblers, you will need a sublimation printer with sublimation ink and a heat press machine suitable for tall tumblers, along with heat-resistant tape.

How do you make sublimation prints for tumblers?

To make sublimation prints for tumblers, you can start by creating and resizing your design, printing it out, cutting the sides, then using a heat press machine to transfer the design onto a clean tumbler using sublimation paper.


  1. Porges, S. (2019, June 10). Inside the secretive world of counterfeit Printer Ink–And the raids used to fight back. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/sethporges/2019/06/10/inside-the-secretive-world-of-counterfeit-printer-ink-and-the-raids-used-to-fight-back/?sh=2ec810a05376
  2. Learn | Adobe Creative Cloud. (n.d.-c). https://creativecloud.adobe.com/learn
  3. ICC profile downloads – Windows. (n.d.). https://www.adobe.com/support/downloads/iccprofiles/iccprofiles_win.html
  4. Takeichi, T., & Furukawa, N. (2012). Epoxy resins and Phenol-Formaldehyde resins. In Elsevier eBooks (pp. 723–751). https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-444-53349-4.00157-6
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