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Cricut Infusible Inks Sheets vs Sublimation: Pros and Cons of Both (Video)

With the relatively recent release of Cricut Infusible Ink sheets a lot of crafters are realizing just how similar they are to sublimation.

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I would go so far as to call them pre-printed sublimation sheets, although Cricut isn't claiming them to be.  Today we're going to break it down and take a closer look at Cricut Infusible Ink sheets vs sublimation and the pros and cons of both.  This should help you decide if you want to invest in one or the other, both, or neither.

Similarities between Cricut Infusible Inks vs Sublimation

  • Dull or muted colors prior to application
  • Bright, vibrant colors once applied with heat and pressure
  • Images/Designs must be reversed prior to cutting (Infusible Ink sheets)/printing (sublimation)
  • Must be applied to light colored, polyester blanks
  • Cannot be applied to darks or cotton (or other textiles without at least 50% polyester)
  • Both can be applied to the same exact sublimation blanks
  • Requires heat application of about 400 degrees for 60 seconds
  • Ink is infused into the surface of the blank so you can't 'feel' it  
There is a lot of information in this sublimation vs Infusible ink sheets comparison so if you'd rather watch than read you can check out the accompanying Facebook Live video I did on the same comparison. 

Differences between Cricut Infusible Ink Sheets and Sublimation

Material

Cricut Infusbile ink sheets come on a clear liner. When the negative space is weeded away it exposes an adhesive that is helpful for keeping the cut design in place while pressing.

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Sublimation paper is self weeding - meaning only the printed areas will be transferred to the substrate when heat and pressure are applied.  To keep it the printed sublimation sheet in place while pressing, high temperature tape is suggested.

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Process & Equipment 

In order to create a design, Cricut Infusible Ink sheets require the user to cut out and weed the design from the full sheet using a die cutting machine such as a Silhouette machine. 

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Images printed on a sublimation printer, such as a Sawgrass SG400 or SG800 sublimation printer, do not require a cutting machine. Sublimation prints are self weeding meaning only the printed areas on the sublimation paper will transfer to the substrate. For this reason designs do not need to be contour cut.

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Because you can go right from printer to pressing with sublimation you save a lot of time over the Infusible ink sheets  which don't need to be printed, but do need to be cut and weeded before applying.

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Designs and Images

Cricut Infusible Ink sheets are available in a limited number of pre-printed patterns and solids. Any design can be cut out of the Infusible Ink sheets.

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Literally any (non fully white) image or design can be printed by a sublimation printer - this includes shaped designs, pictures, and full patterned printed sheets. 

Finished Results

The finished results of both Cricut Infusible Ink and traditional sublimation are very similar, not surprisingly. You get bright, vibrant, crisp colors with both processes.

In this example, the can cooler on the left was made using traditional sublimation (with a Sawgrass SG400) while the can cooler on the right was made using Cricut Infusible Ink (and HTV layered on top).

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Entry-Level Price and Long Term Investment

Both sublimation and Cricut Infusible Ink sheets require a heat press and blanks so I'm not going to factor those prices into the cost since they're a wash. We'll look at the entry level and long term price based on what else is required.

Cricut Infusible Ink Price 

Cricut Infusible Ink sheets are sold in 2 and 4 packs of 12x12" sheets. The two sheet pack is $12.99 and the 4 pack is $17.99. That makes the sheets anywhere between $4.50 and $6.50 per sheet. Broken down by square inch, Cricut Infusible Ink sheets are each 144 square inches. That means it costs between 3 and 4.5 cents per square inch for Cricut Infusible Inks.  Let's average it and call it 4 cents per square inch.

Sublimation Printer Price

Sublimation requires a sublimation printer, sublimation inks, and sublimation paper. A Sawgrass SG400 Sublimation printer bundle costs $599 and includes the four cartridges of inks and 100 sheets of 8.5 x 14"sublimation paper.

Let's break that down by price per bundle item:
  • 100 sheet pack of 8.5 x 11" sublimation paper:  $15
  • 4 pack of ink cartridges: $360 (can be used to print about 250 sheets)
  • Sublimation printer: $225
When we break the bundle price down by the price per printed sheet we get the following:
  • 100 sheet pack of 8.5 x 11" sublimation paper: $0.15
  • Ink per (full) sheet: $1.40
  • Price of the sublimation printer for the first 100 sheets printed: $2.25
That means it costs about $3.80 to print a sheet or 3 cents per square inch initially.

BUT once we have invested in the Sublimation printer and are only buying sublimation paper and ink refills the price drops significantly.

After the first 100 sheets that are included with the bundle, I can still print about 150 more sheets before I need to buy more inks. That means those prints cost me just $1.55 per sheet or just  $0.016 (1 and half cents) per square inch.

Cost of Cricut Infusible Ink vs Sublimation

Soooo to make a long math story short, it's a bigger investment up front to get into sublimation.  Longer term, however, you're looking at 4 cents per square inch for Infusible Ink sheets vs 1.6 cents per square inch for sublimation sheets. That means you are saving 50 and 60% long term by printing your own sublimation sheets (considering that you'll need to buy sublimation ink refills probably once a year depending on how often and how much you print.) and of course don't forget you're not limited by the pre-patterns available like you would be with Cricut's sheets.

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Final Thoughts on Sublimation vs Cricut Infusible Ink Sheets

If you already have a sublimation printer...there's literally no need for you to get Cricut Infusible Ink sheets. It's cheaper and you have far more options to print your own at home. 

If you are looking to try out sublimation without the big up front investment, Cricut Infusiible Ink sheets are a great way to do that!  While you will pay a premium for the pre printed sublimation sheets, they are a relatively low cost way to get into sublimation without needing to invest in a printer.

If you find yourself really enjoying the finished look and feel (or lack thereof) of Cricut Infusbile Ink sheets, you may want to seriously consider buying a sublimation printer to both lower the price per sheet and give yourself much more freedom to print your own designs, infinite patterns, and avoid cutting and weeding totally.

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2 comments

  1. Great comparison! Also to add to the pros and cons. Are you able to sell anything made with the Cricut patterns? With sublimation you can create your own patterns or purchase commercial use to make items to sell.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cricut does allow you to sell your items made from Cricut designs. It's in their policies. There's a restricted number but it is a huge number (don't quote me) like 10,000.

      Delete

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