Sublimation On Stainless Steel Tumbler Or Mugs In 2 Ways

Sublimating your morning stainless steel cup can infuse it with a distinct and eye-catching design, provided you have the appropriate equipment. The sublimation ink cannot adhere to all stainless steel surfaces. 

Therefore, before embarking on the sublimation process for stainless steel, it’s essential to identify the right type of steel substrates that can effectively retain the ink. Sublimation cannot be carried out on just any ordinary stainless steel. 

With that in mind, let’s delve into this guide on sublimating stainless steel using two distinct methods.

Can I Sublimate On Stainless Steel?

Yes, Sublimating on a stainless steel substrate is achievable, but it’s essential to ensure that the stainless steel has a polyester coating to effectively retain the sublimation ink. Without this coating, the sublimation ink may get absorbed into the surface of hard substrates.

Moreover, there are two distinct methods for sublimating on stainless steel, both of which we’ve detailed extensively in our post. For sublimating items like mugs, tumblers, or water bottles, the first method involves the use of a mug or tumbler press. On the other hand, if you’re working with flat surfaces like stainless steel sheets and frames, a t-shirt heat press is the preferred tool for the job.

How To Do Sublimation On Stainless Steel: A Step-by-Step Guide

You can sublimate stainless steel by following these instructions:

Step 1: Create the design

  • The circumference and height of your stainless steel substrate should be measured using a tape measure in inches.
  • Create the design in online software such as Photoshop or a tool of your choice. In this guide, we’ll use Cricut Design Space.
  • Upload your design images to the software.

Step 2: Mirror the Image

  • If your design includes text or personalized elements, mirror-invert the image in your design software or printer settings.
  • Print the mirrored design onto sublimation paper.

Step 3: Secure the sublimation paper with tape

  • The excess paper should be trimmed off after printing, leaving about a half inch on the sides.
  • Make sure the printing side of the printed sublimation paper faces the stainless steel substrate.
  • Use heat-resistant tape to secure both sides of the paper and wrap the substrate with butcher paper to keep it in place.

Step 4: Heat Press

  • Place the wrapped substrate into your heat press (e.g., Cricut Mug Press).
  • Put the substrate into a mug heat press and bring it to 400°F for 60 seconds on each side.
  • The Cricut Mug Press should be heated for 30 seconds on the first side, then flipped over to heat the second side.

Step 5: Remove and Cool Down

  • After heat pressing, use heat-resistant gloves to remove the stainless steel substrate from the press.
  • Allow the tumbler to cool down.
  • Sublimation paper, butcher paper, and heat-resistant tape should be carefully removed from the substrate.
  • You’ll now have a clear and vibrant sublimated design on your stainless steel substrate.

By following these steps, you can successfully create sublimated designs on stainless steel substrates like tumblers or mugs.

Method 2: Using a convection oven

It is a simple method that does not require a heat press, sublimation printer, sublimation paper, or sublimation ink. The Cricut machine is required for using print then cut. Sublimation Cricut sheets are readily available and will be used for this project. The range of patterns offered by this method is limited compared to traditional sublimation.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Utilize Cricut Design Space to create your design and adjust its size.
  2. Make sure to flip the design horizontally (mirror it) if you’re working with letters or text. Using the “cut” feature on the Cricut Maker, cut the design.
  3. After cutting, carefully remove any excess material (weeding) from your design and secure it to your substrate using heat-resistant tape.
  4. Wrap the prepared mug with a Sublishrink sheet, ensuring the design is properly aligned with the mug’s surface, and isolate the substrate using a heat-resistant barrier.
  5. Preheat your convection oven to 400°F (200°C) and let it reach this temperature for about 5 minutes.
  6. Place the substrate in the preheated oven for five minutes after wrapping it in aluminum foil. As soon as the shrink layer has been removed, the tape and sheet should also be removed.

Now, your stainless steel sublimation print is complete using this oven-based method.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can stainless steel be sublimated?

You cannot directly apply sublimation ink to stainless steel unless the steel surface has been coated with a polyester layer. The sublimation coating ensures that the sublimation ink adheres properly when printed on stainless steel. Without this coating, the sublimation ink will easily rub off when the substrate is washed. Therefore, it is crucial to have a polyester-coated surface on the stainless steel before attempting sublimation printing.

Could stainless steel flasks be sublimated?

Flasks have become a popular choice for sublimation printing, but it’s important to note that they must have a polyester coating on the stainless steel surface for successful sublimation. This coating is essential to ensure that any printed designs, including beautiful quotes, adhere well to the flask’s surface. Flasks make for excellent gifts with personalized prints for your loved ones.


There are two distinct methods for sublimating stainless steel tumblers, offering the flexibility to either create personalized gifts for your loved ones or adorn mugs and tumblers with vibrant custom images. Whether you’re looking to give a thoughtful present for Christmas or birthdays, both approaches are fantastic options. The convection oven method, in particular, is a cost-effective way to begin your sublimation journey.

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