As you may recall, I converted a regular Epson ET2850 printer into a sublimation printer. And although I know it has been a while, I am finally getting around to adding my sublimation crafts to the site. For the most part, these crafts are easy, and the first one I did was sublimation on canvas – DIY photo canvas with sublimation.
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What do you need for sublimating a photo on canvas?
The supplies for this craft are a bit more specialized than my previous crafts, so we have a whole list of items needed:
- Sublimation printer – You can convert a new printer into a sublimation printer, as I have done here, or buy a sublimation printer.
- Sublimation paper – I use this product and it works well.
- Heat Press – this is for applying the sublimated design onto the canvas. I do not recommend using an iron.
- Rigid Canvas Board – We are using rigid canvas board for this craft. We are not using stretched canvas that has a wooden frame in it.
- Butcher Paper/Craft Paper – This is needed to help the moisture come out of the sublimated substrate (aka paper)
- Laminate sheets – I used these Scotch thermal laminating pouches. I like these ones as each piece is essentially 2 pieces of laminate. You will need to make sure that you are purchasing the correct size of laminate to cover the face of your canvas.
- Teflon Sheet – this is to protect your heat press from the laminate sheets.
- Heat Tape – This is to hold your picture in place.
- A picture you want to sublimate – In my case, I used a picture of my dog.
- Gloves that are rated for high temperatures as the canvas is HOT when you remove it.
- 30 to 40 minutes for your first time, but less as you get better.
Let’s get started making our DIY photo canvas with sublimation
How to Prepare your picture for sublimation
When sublimating picture onto canvas, there are a few things we need to do before we can get started:
- You need to select a picture that you want to print. Any picture will do. I have picked a picture of my dog because he is super cute and very photogenic.
- You need to format the picture to print – what does this mean?
- Before you hit print on the picture, you need the picture to be located on the correct spot on the paper that it will be printed on. If the image is too big for your printer’s standard paper (8.5″ x 11″) you will need to decrease it or increase it. If the picture is smaller than your paper, is that the size you want? Will it fit onto your canvas?
- If there are words on the image, you need to flip the picture (mirror it). Otherwise, the words will come out in reverse when you sublimate.
- I use several different programs to edit my pictures. I have used MS Word, MS Publisher, Paint, Snapseed, iPad Photo, and others. Whatever program you are comfortable using will work.
- Make sure you have sublimation paper in the printer and that it is inserted correctly. I did a test run with regular white paper to see which way the prints come out. You want the print on the side of the paper with no words.
- Once your photo is ready for printing, hit print and wait for it to come out.
You will notice that when the photo has been printed, it will look very dull. This is normal. The substrate absorbs the ink and is released when heated.
You can trim off any excess paper from around the image at this time also.
How to Prepare your Canvas for sublimation
For this craft, we are using a rigid canvas board. There are many reasons for this, but mainly because this is the easiest way to sublimate photos onto canvas. I go into details about box canvases here.
The nice thing about canvas board is that you do not need to do too much to it.
You do not need to preheat it to dry it out before starting to work on it.
Get your heat press up to 365-380F. This temperature will require a bit of experimentation as your laminate sheets may require a higher or lower temperature to melt onto the canvas.
While your heat press is heating, cut your laminate to size. For my sheets, I have to cut off one of the edges to separate the 2 sheets. And store one sheet for later. Your laminate sheet should cover the canvas entirely. Align the laminate sheet onto the canvas, with the smooth size facing up.
Once your heat press is up to temperature, place the canvas board and laminate sheet onto the heat press. Use Teflon paper to protect your heat press from laminate melting onto the heat press. Once everything is in place, press the canvas. This should take about 30 seconds, but you need to monitor it. The outside edges will melt first and be followed by the center. You may have a large bubble form in the middle of the canvas. This is ok. The laminate has just heated up and will start to adhere to the canvas. The bubble will shrink on its own. You want to make sure that the laminate does not leave creases as it shrinks. Use any straight edge but be careful not to cut the laminate.
REMEMBER THE CANVAS IS HOT! Wear heat-rated gloves to remove it!
Sublimate your photo on to the canvas
Once the laminate is on the canvas, you will need to wait for it to cool down. You do not want to put the sublimation substrate (sublimation paper with your photo) onto the hot canvas. This will cause the ink to bleed onto the canvas before you get it lined up to the perfect spot.
When the canvas is cooled down, place your image onto the canvas. You want the image to be facing the canvas, not facing up at you. Using some heat tape to take the image onto the canvas. You do not want the image moving around in the last seconds before you press it.
Your heat press is already at 365-380F, and this temperature will work for sublimation. If your temperature is too high, the glue on the canvas will melt, and your canvas will warp.
Once you are happy with the location of the image, put it onto your heat press and cover the canvas and image with butcher paper. You need the butcher paper to absorb the moisture from the sublimation substrate.
Hold the heat on the canvas for about 30 seconds.
Take the canvas off the heat press and inspect the print. REMEMBER THE CANVAS IS HOT! Inspect the image by lifting a corner of the substrate and seeing if the color has transferred. If you are unhappy with the color quality, you can put it under the heat press for an additional 15 seconds.
Once you are happy with the color, remove the substrate and tape, and your sublimation is done!
And that’s it! Your DIY photo canvas with sublimation
Frequently Asked Questions about Sublimation:
What program do you I used to edit photos for sublimation:
I use a variety of different programs to edit my pictures. I have used MS Word, MS Publisher, Paint, Snapseed, iPad Photo, and others. Whatever photo editing program you are comfortable using will work.
Why does my photo look dull when I print it?
You will notice that when the photo has been printed, it will look very dull. This is normal. The substrate absorbs the ink and when heated it releases the color very vibrantly.
Can I use sublimation paper that is bigger than 8.5″ x 11″?
Yes, you can. So long as your printer can support larger paper and so long as you have larger sublimation paper than 8.5″ x 11″.
Can I sublimation larger images than 8.5″ x 11″ if that is the largest I can print?
If you have a printer that only supports 8.5″ x 11″ paper, you can still make larger photos, you will need to cut the photo into pieces and sublimate the prints together on the canvas.
What Material Do you need to sublimate on?
You can sublimate on a variety of other fabrics and materials, such as:
- 100% polyester or blends of polyester up to 50% polyester. Below that will produce less than stellar results.
You cannot sublimate onto 100% cotton directly. There are ways around this, and I go into them in other crafts, but for now, we are going to say no.
What happens if you don’t use laminate when sublimating on canvas?
You do not need to use laminate when sublimating on canvas. It will still work. The only issue is that the image you want to display will not be as vibrant as if it were on laminate. Below I have 2 images sublimated onto canvas, one with laminate and one without.
Also, you can do a great Sip and Paint craft with canvas and sublimation that does not require laminate. You can learn about that here.
What happens if your laminate bubbles when heating it on to canvas?
When you are heating the laminate onto the canvas, the outside edges will melt first, and you may have a large bubble appear in the middle of the canvas. This is ok. The laminate has just heated up and will start to adhere to the canvas. The bubble will shrink on its own. You want to make sure that the laminate does not leave creases as it shrinks. Use any straight edge but be careful not to cut the laminate.
Why do I see smoke coming out of my heat press when sublimating? Is it normal to see smoke coming out of my heat press when sublimating?
You may see what looks like smoke coming out of your heat press when you are sublimating. This is not smoke but steam. The ink is being heated, and the moisture from the ink is steaming out of the paper.
But you need to keep an eye on this because if you are doing a large sublimation, there will be a lot of steam, and it can set off your smoke alarms.
Can you reuse butcher paper when sublimating? Can you reuse craft paper when sublimating?
I do not recommend reusing butcher paper for more than one sublimation. The reason you use butcher paper is to absorb moisture. So if you use it once to absorb the moisture, during the next press the butcher paper will have less capacity to absorb and may ruin your project.
Did you Like this DIY photo canvas with sublimation Tutorial?
Did you like this DIY photo canvas with sublimation? Let me know in the comments below! Let me know if you tried it and how it went!