From household tumblers to roadside signage, it seems like sublimation can help achieve stunning prints on almost anything and everything! But can you do sublimation printing on a paper-based medium like cardstock?
Surprisingly, the answer is yes! It is possible to sublimate on cardstock. However, there is one important condition. In order to allow sublimation inks to adhere to the paper, it requires a polymer coating. In simpler words, you must opt for a polymer coated cardstock, for it to be eligible for sublimation printing. In most cases, this coating is PVC or polyester which not only makes it sublimation-friendly but also gives it a shiny and glossy texture.
Now that we know that sublimation printing on cardstock is possible, let’s learn how to actually do it! In this article I will outline the steps involved in creating your favorite designs on card stock and talk about what to do if polyester coated cardstock is unavailable.
How to Sublimate on Cardstock- 5 Easy Steps
Once you get your hands on the right tools and materials, sublimation on cardstock becomes a piece of cake! As discussed above, I will begin with a poly-coated cardstock to make sure that sublimation is 100% successful!
Step 1: Preparing the Cardstock
Start by measuring up the cardstock on which the print needs to be transferred. This will allow you to size your design correctly, ensuring that it corresponds with the size of the cardstock, when printing on the sublimation paper.
Step 2: Preparing the Design
Whether you are newbie using Canva, or a pro working on PhotoShop, make sure that you always use high resolution (preferably 300 dpi) for your print design. Don’t forget to mirror your design, as the sublimation paper will be placed face down onto the cardstock.
Moreover, it is recommended to print the desired design a few millimeters bigger, so that the final image sits perfectly on the cardstock and there are no unwanted indentations. Once the design is ready, print it out on a high-quality sublimation paper using a sublimation printer.
Step 3: Prepare the Sublimation Transfer
Using a heat-resistant tape secure the sublimation paper and the cardstock together. Cut off any excess paper, for a well-aligned arrangement. It is not time to transfer this to a heat press.
Step 4: Let’s Sublimate!
Make sure to pre-heat your heat press at 385-400 oF depending on the pressing time. Place the cardstock and sublimation paper arrangement between sheets of Butcher paper or Teflon paper to keep the heat press clean. If the temperature of the heat press is 385 oF, then you must sublimate for 20 minutes, but if it is 400 oF, then you do not need longer than 12-15 minutes.
Step 5: The Final Design
Once the sublimation process is over, turn off the heat press and remove the cardstock. Place the cardstock on a heat pad and allow it to cool down for a couple of minutes. Next, carefully remove the sublimation paper and then let the cardstock cool all the way.
Your printed cardstock is now ready!
What to do if Polyester Coated Cardstock is not available?
Can’t get your hands on poly-coated cardstock? No worries! You can use lamination sheets to prep for cardstock for sublimation. Here’s how:
- Place the lamination sheet on the cardstock such that the shining side faces upwards and the matte side faces the paper.
- Next place the lamination sheet and cardstock on a Teflon paper, followed by a parchment paper on top.
Transfer this arrangement to a heat press and heat for 10 seconds at 400 oF. The lamination sheet will stick seamlessly to the cardstock, giving you the perfect substrate for sublimation.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can you sublimate on glitter cardstock?
Not only you can sublimate on glitter card stock, it is highly recommended! This is because it already contains the PVC coating required to make the cardstock sublimation friendly. This PVC coating causes the glitter to adhere to the paper without been easily rubbed off.
2. How can you sublimate on glitter cardstock?
The process for sublimating on glitter cardstock is the same as for a regular, polyester coated cardstock. However, prior to sublimation, a glitter cardstock does require some preheating steps. These are as follows:
- Use a lint-roller to remove any excess bits of glitter from the cardstock
- Next, cover the glitter cardstock with a Butcher paper or parchment paper
- Set the heat press to 400 oF. Preheat the glitter cardstock for 10 seconds and then let it cool down. Your glitter cardstock is now ready for sublimation printing.
3. What is the time and temperature for sublimation on cardstock?
For high-quality, vibrant prints that are durable and long-lasting, the temperature and time setting recommended for the heat press is 395-400 oF for 15-20 minutes. Temperatures lower than that would lead to ineffective transfer of the print onto the cardstock, while those higher than that can cause the cardstock to warp, curl or discolor.
4. Can you laminate cardstock?
Yes, it is possible to laminate cardstock. In fact, if you are unable to find cardstock with a polymer coating, regular cardstock can be laminated to make it suitable for sublimation printing. The exact steps for laminating card stock have been outlined earlier in the article.
5. Can you sublimate on PVC?
Yes, you can sublimate on PVC, as it has the polymer coating necessary for sublimation printing. PVC is known for its versatility and durability, allowing it to hold sublimation inks, effectively. Moreover, it laminates into a single, continuous piece of plastic, providing it resistance against delamination over time. This allows the sublimated design to truly withstand the test of time!
Whether you are making a customized cake topper for your little brother’s birthday, or saving some precious bucks by printing your own wedding invites, make sure you always use poly-coated cardstock. In this article, I have outlined the step-by-step process of sublimating on cardstock, so that your next printing project is a blast!