Sublimation metal blanks are a hugely popular option for customised gifts. They’re versatile, great value and the finished product looks amazing.
In this article, we’re going to talk about:
1. What you need to get started to print on sublimation metal sheets
2. The design process
3. The dye sublimation printing process for metal (step-by-step!).
What are sublimation metal sheets?
Sublimation metal sheets are one of the most popular items that we sell on our website. Our metal sheets are made from aluminium, they are 0.5mm thick, and are white faced. We cut them to size in our Bolton warehouse and our customers use them for all kinds of things from business cards and door signs to posters.
Metal sheets need to have a polyester coating applied to its surface in order for the ink to bond, and the coating also ensures that the finished product is waterproof, scratch resistant, and protected from UV. If you’re buying from other suppliers, make sure to check the descriptions and additional information on their website.
What will you need?
- A sublimation converted inkjet printer, such as the SawGrass SG500
- Sublimation paper, such as the TruPix Sublimation Paper
- Heat resistant tape
- A flat bed heat press, such as our HP3805 heat press (but any swing away or clam shell heat press will do!)
- Scissors, of course
- Sublimation metal sheets, like ours!
The design process
Firstly, you will need an image or piece of artwork for your metal sheet on your computer. If you have an artsy side, drawing directly onto your computer via Adobe Photoshop with a digital drawing tablet is the best way to go!
If you can only draw stick figures and your creative side is cutting your sandwiches into triangles ‘for a change’, then don’t worry about a thing. Shutterstock has some great images for you to use as long as you follow their rules! You can also hire someone to knock up some designs for you if you really want a unique design. You can try websites like Fiverr for this.
The best softwares to use, in our experience, are Adobe Photoshop, Gimp Design (fantastic brand name), or CorelDRAW. You can also try Photopea, a free-to-use web version of Photoshop (highly recommended).
Make sure to measure your metal sheets and keep your design within these measurements. Allow a good few millimetres so you can give yourself some wiggle room in case of errors, bleeds, and so it’s easier to line everything up. Also, make sure to mirror your image as you don’t want the design to come out back to front.
If your design happens to have a solid coloured background, make sure there is at least a 2/3mm bleed around all of the edges to make sure you have good coverage. We don’t want anything to mess up your design!
Sublimation metal sheets have a protective coating on the printable side – this is usually clear in colour or even blue, to make it easier for you to spot. Peel back the protective cover and place it printable side up on your desk, table, working area, whatever! Just make sure it’s flat.
Printing the design
Print your awesome and cool design using the sublimation printer and the sublimation paper. Please make sure to print on the printable side of the paper; this should be the bright, white side of the paper (if there is one) or there should be a watermark to indicate which side is the printable side. Otherwise your print will come out all faded and weird.
The pressy bit
Okay, so, let’s move onto the time and temperature. The BMS sublimation metal is 0.5mm thick and made from aluminium. It’s recommended to press at 190 degrees for 50-60 seconds, with medium/firm pressure. If you find the image looks a little blurred, then reduce the time to 40-45 seconds.
Make sure to allow the heat press to rise to the actual temperature before attempting to print. While the heat press is heating up, you can plop the printed paper print side up onto your flat work area. Grab your sublimation metal sheet, flip it over so the printable side is facing down, and carefully place it onto the print.
You can then go ahead and grab that heat resistant tape we told you to buy and secure that sucker down. You can now pop your metal in the heat press, but please make sure the metal is touching the element, not the paper. The metal must be on top of the paper. Slam that bad boy heat press down and heat for the recommended time.
Important: please don’t attempt to touch the metal straight away! Allow it to cool before you touch it.
Tips and tricks
Make sure your metal is on top of the paper when pressing in the heat press. Metal, slate, and glass are the only sublimation products printed like this, so it’s easy to forget. By heating directly through the metal, the heat is distributed evenly meaning a more even transfer is achieved. Plus, we’re all about that vibrancy here at BMS.
Please make notes of the times, temperatures, and pressures – it’s very important when sublimating onto metal, so grab your sticky notes and be prepared for ‘trial and error’ to see what works best for you and your particular brand of heat press.
We hope that this serves as a great guide for your when printing on to your sublimation metal sheets! If you want to check out the BMS metal (which our customers adore) you can do so here.