Can You Sublimate On Spray Painted Tumblers? A How-to Guide

If you are an arts and crafts enthusiast, chances are that you are always experimenting with fresh techniques and interesting mediums. During your creative journey, you must have been curious about the combination of spray paint and sublimation ink, asking yourself if you can sublimate on spray painted tumblers?

can you sublimate on spray painted tumblers

The simple answer is, yes. It is possible to do sublimation on spray painted tumblers. However, as straightforward as the answer is, the process on the other hand can be a bit challenging. From selecting the right tools and materials to determining the most effective technique, there is some additional effort required to transform your ordinary spray painted tumblers into something truly extraordinary.

Now that we know that sublimation printing is possible on spray painted tumblers let’s dive into the specifics of the process; from the necessary conditions for successful sublimation to everything you need to know to get the job done!

Conditions for Sublimation on Spray Painted Tumblers

Before sublimating a spray painted tumbler, it is important to determine whether it meets the criteria to perform the procedure successfully and yield the desired outcome. Here are a few conditions:

  • The spray paint on the tumbler must be a light color, e.g. white, silver, etc. Applying sublimation ink on dark colored surfaces can make the design lose its sharpness and vibrancy, as the underlying color of the substrate can interfere with the translucent sublimation inks. 
  • The spray paint must be sublimation-friendly. Checking the compatibility of the spray paint is absolutely crucial, so that it does not interfere with the sublimation process. Sublimation-friendly spray paints often have formulations that help them endure the high temperature and pressure involved in the sublimation transfer. 
  • The tumbler must be treated with a polyester coating. A poly-coating creates a receptive surface so that the sublimation ink bonds well with the substrate, resulting in a vibrant and long lasting visual output.

How to Sublimate on Spray Painted Tumblers?

Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can amp up your plain spray painted tumblers with the power of sublimation printing:

Step 1: Preparing the Tumbler

Nothing sounds better than starting with a clean canvas! Use a lint-free cloth and water to remove any dirt, residue or stains from the surface of the tumbler. Wait a couple of minutes to ensure that it is completely dried before applying the poly coating.

Step 2: Applying the Poly Coating

The next step is to make your tumbler sublimation ready using a polyester coating like PloyGloss. Here’s how:

  • Use a measuring cup to prepare a solution containing 1 ounce PolyGloss and 1 ml Catalyst. You can use a syringe to pour the Catalyst and a wooden stick to mix it in with the PolyGloss. 
  • Next, with a paint brush, apply the PolyGloss onto the tumbler. 
  • Invert a plastic container onto the coated tumbler and leave it for 8-10 minutes. This creates a vacuum-like environment that pops any bubbles that form in the polyester coating. 
  • At this point, the PolyGloss coating would have dried. Now, you can cure the tumbler in an oven for approximately 20-25 minutes at 320 oF.
  • Lastly, allow the tumbler to cool down completely before sublimating it.

Step 3: Preparing the Design

Once the tumbler is sublimation-ready it is time to truly unleash your creativity! Pick a design software of your choice, like PhotoShop, Illustrator or Canva to create a striking sublimation transfer. Do not shy away from using vibrant colors and high-resolution images so your final outcome is visually stunning.  

Use high-quality sublimation paper and sublimation inks to prepare the sublimation transfer. Once that is done, align the sublimation transfer with the tumbler and adhere it with heat-resistant tape. Make sure that the sublimation paper sits perfectly along the contours of the tumbler and that any excess paper is cut out.

Step 4: Sublimating the Spray Painted Tumbler

There are three different methods that can be used to transfer the sublimation print onto your tumbler: 

  1. Sublimation with Tumbler Press 
  2. Sublimation with a Convection Oven and Shrink Wrap 
  3. Sublimation with a Convection Oven and Silicone Wands

1. Sublimation with a Tumbler Press

Here’s how to do it:

  • Wrap the tumbler in a white butcher paper  or parchment paper and secure it with heat resistant tape. The butcher paper prevents the ink from smudging under high pressure and temperature inside the press. 
  • Place the tumbler inside the press, making sure that the seam is at the side. Set the press at 350 oF for 60 seconds. At this point, you must put on your heat-resistant gloves. 
  • Once the 60 seconds lapses, open the press, rotate the tumbler 180 degrees and continue the same process for another 60 seconds. 
  • Next, remove the tumbler from the transfer, using heat-resistant gloves and place it on a heat pad to cool down.

2. Sublimation with a Convection Oven

Before using an oven for sublimation, make sure that you remove the oven racks and place a heat-resistant felt pad at the bottom to protect the surface from the sublimation ink. Next, preheat the oven at 375 degrees. Now, you will need something to secure the taped sublimation paper against the tumbler tightly so it doesn’t slip off inside the oven. At this point you have to option to pick between a shrink wrap or silicone bands:

2.1 Using Shrink Wraps
  • Place a shrink wrap tube over the tumbler and ‘shrink-wrap’ it slowly using a heat gun. 
  • Place the tumbler in the oven for 6 minutes. Do not forget to rotate the tumbler at 180 degrees, halfway during the heating process for better results. 
  • Once the time is up, remove the tumbler and let it cool. Lastly, remove the shrink wrap.
2.2 Using Silicone Bands
  • Start by wrapping the tumbler in parchment paper, followed by equally spaced silicone bands. Make sure that the silicone bands cover the edges as well as possible. 
  • Repeat the same process of heating and cooling, as with the shrink wraps.

Once the tumbler has cooled down completely, it is safe to remove the sublimation paper to reveal the stunning design underneath!


In this article, I have not only answered the question: ‘Can you sublimate on spray painted tumblers?’ but also told you how to do it, what materials you will need and what techniques you can use. So the next time you are customizing your new spray painted tumbler with your favorite football team logo, or upcycling an old one for your next gym class, you know exactly what to do!

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