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Silhouette Studio and Sublimation Printing: A Beginner Tutorial

I'm not afraid to say that I have yet to come across a printable vinyl that I can say I really love...and that's why I am so thrilled that I have finally been able to combine the powers of Silhouette with sublimation printing.

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Sometimes there are those multi-color designs that honestly are just too detailed for cutting and layering on vinyl. That's where sublimation comes in.  When combined with Silhouette, sublimation basically allows you to design in Silhouette Studio and then print (sans cut) on sublimation printer paper and apply with heat to certain surfaces such as coasters, mugs, and phone cases.  It's easy, fast and results in a really professional-looking product.  But...I would definitely consider a sublimation printer an investment.
I'm new to sublimation printing too so I thought we'd walk through this Silhouette and Sublimation printing tutorial together as beginners!

I'm using the Sawgrass Virtuoso SG 400 from Pro World which they so kindly sent my way to test out. In addition they provided blank mugs, coasters, keychains, and iphone cases.  The most straight forward items to sublimate on with a heat press are flat surfaces, so I decided to start with the coasters.

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I should also point out, you will need a heat press, but Pro World is running a special Sublimation Starter Bundle right now that includes the printer, ink, sublimation paper and heat press.

Sublimation Printer Set Up 

If this is your first time, you can follow along to learn how to set up your sublimation printer too. This was honestly the most time consuming part.  First you want to install all of the ink cartridges into the printer.

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You'll then want to adjust the tray so the sublimation paper can be loaded. When you load the paper, put the backing side up so it prints on the correct side (ask me how I know). 

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Then plug in the power cord to the printer and into a power outlet.  Power the printer on and back.away.from.the.printer.  It will take up to 10 minutes for the sublimation inks to be prepared before your first print.

Once the LCD screen says 'ready' you can move on to the next step of installing the printer software onto your computer. You will do this by first turning off the power to the printer. Then plug in the USB cable between the printer and your computer.

For this specific Sawgrass printer you'll need to go to the Sawgrass Support website to install the printer drivers and software by picking the type of computer you have and the operating system. About 15 minutes into this process I became confident it was much like applying for college...register this, get a registration number for that, enter your address, enter it again, download this, now download that, not download this again, spin around three times and bang your head against the wall.  Okay so maybe I'm slightly exaggerating, but wowzers...let's just say I'm glad that was a one time process.

Once that process is finished pat yourself on the back while you open up Silhouette Studio. Turn the power back on to the sublimation printer and now when you go to print with the USB connected the Sawgrass printer will be listed as one of your Silhouette Studio printers.

Designing for Sublimation Printing in Silhouette Studio

As I mentioned I did my first sublimation printing on coasters...because they are easy and if there's one thing I know about beginners you need to pick the easy project so you don't get frustrated right off the bat.

So...the first thing I did was measure the size of the coaster which was 3.75" x 3.75".

In Silhouette Studio I used the Draw a Rounded Rectangle tool to draw out a square.  With the square selected click the Scale tool and enter the dimensions of the surface plus about 0.05-.10" so you have a little bleed over the edge of the coaster. This will prevent you from having a white edge.

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Once you have the basic shape of the coaster you can fill it with whatever you want...if you have photos in your My Patterns library you can easily create photo coasters (which is what I did).  On the other design I added a pattern and then drew a few basic shapes over it to create the monogram circle frame.
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Once you're finished designing, mirror your designs by going to the Replicate tool > Mirror right or right click > flip horizontal.  The idea is the same as HTV where you'll flip your design onto the surface so it needs to be mirrored when it prints to be correctly oriented when it's applied.

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From the Design Page Settings window make sure you have your page size set to current printer. Check the box for Show Print Border.  Make sure all of your designs are inside that area before you print.

Printing from Silhouette Studio to Sublimation Printer

At this point you'd normally either cut or print and cut with your Silhouette...but instead you are going to print directly from Silhouette Studio to your sublimation printer.

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Don't worry if when printed the colors seem muted on the sublimation printer...once heated and applied to the surface they will become vibrant!

Heat up your heat press to at 400 degrees.

Sublimating with a Heat Press

While you're waiting, you can prepare your coasters.  Make sure you peel off the protective file first.  Keep in mind these are coasters for sublimation specifically.

If you have more than one design on a sheet of sublimation printer you can cut them apart. Lay the printed sheet down and place the coaster on top with the cork side up.

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Use the heat safe tape to secure the printer to the paper while press it.

Once your heat press is warmed up, place the coaster onto the heat press with the cork side down and the paper side up.

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Cover with a teflon sheet and close the heat press locking it into place for one minute.

Once the time is up, carefully remove the coaster from the press. Remove the tape and pull up the paper...

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You'll be left with some stunning results!

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I wish you could see just how smoothy and shiny these are...can you see the glare coming on this one?!

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Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I receive a small commission. That's what helps fund Silhouette School so I can keep buying new Silhouette-related products to show you how to get the most out of your machine!

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