How to Sublimate on Stainless Steel Tumblers? A Practical Guide (2024)

Sublimation printing on SS tumblers is trendy as it adds style and attractiveness. For sublimation on steel, wood and Aluminum a coating of polyester is always required. This coat helps infuse the sublimation ink on the surface of metallic sublimation blanks.

If no coating is applied, the sublimation ink will peel off after a few days.

But how can you sublimate the stainless-steel tumblers perfectly? This guide has covered all the requirements, sublimation process, and care instructions for ss tumblers.

Can You Sublimate on Steel?

Yes, of course. But while sublimation printing on stainless steel, you must keep some things in mind.

First, A polyester coating on the surface of the stainless steel blank is highly required. PolyGloss and Subli Glaze are the most popular coatings applied to metals and ceramics.

Second, while coating these hard materials, follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturers.   

Third, start sublimation printing on a small area of the metallic blanks instead of sublimating the whole blank. 

How to Make Sublimation Coating for Stainless Steel (SS)?

Various types of coating are available in the market to apply on metallic blanks.

The first one is E-coating. This is applied on the surface and cured with an electrical charge. It provides good protection against moisture and oxygen. As moisture is the enemy of sublimation printing, the sublimation print has to be protected from it.

The second one is powder coating. This is applied on the metallic surface and then cured with heat. It is highly durable and resistant to moisture and air.

The third one is PVD coating which is the best option but costly. It is applied as a skinny and tough layer. It provides resistance against moisture, and the best sublimation print is achieved.

When the coating has been applied, dry it out before the start of sublimation printing.

How to Sublimate Stainless Steel Tumblers: Step-By-Step Process?

When the coating has been applied on the stainless-steel tumbler blank, we have to move forward and arrange the required supplies before starting sublimation printing.  

Which Supplies are required for the sublimation of the SS (Stainless steel) tumbler?

Following are the required items which must be available for sublimation printing.

  • A stainless steel tumbler
  • Sublimation paper
  • Teflon sheet
  • A heat press
  • Ruler
  • Sublimation ink
  • Scissors

Step – 1 Design an Image

The first step for sublimation printing is always designing the required image. For this purpose, you can use Corel draw, photoshop and illustrator. Try to make an image with high resolution.

Step – 2 Resize the Image

Measure the size of the stainless steel tumbler and make an image matching this size. For this, a ruler is present, gets the height and width details, and is entered into photo editing software.

Step – 3 Cutting the Print

Now, take a print on the sublimation paper and cut the design, which fits on the tumbler surface. Keep a small margin from each side of the design so the heat tape can be used to fix it.

Step – 4 Placing Design on the Stainless Steel (SS) Tumbler

When the design of the required size is ready, switch on the heat press.

  • Set the temperature to 390 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place butcher paper or a Teflon sheet on the lower pad of the heat press
  • Place the stainless steel tumbler over the Teflon sheet
  • Place the tumbler in the center.  
  • Place your design on top of the tumbler and fit it with heat tape
  • Place a Teflon sheet and close the heat press.

Step – 5 Sublimation on the Tumbler

After closing the heat press, apply medium pressure for about 90 seconds. After the timer goes off, remove the tumbler and wait for its cooling.

After cooling, remove the Teflon sheets and transfer the paper. The design is present on the stainless steel tumbler now.

Drawbacks of Sublimating Steel Tumblers

There are always some drawbacks to the printing processes for metals. Here in the sublimation printing on the steel tumblers, the following are some drawbacks that need to be focused on. 

  1. The first one is that the steel’s sublimation printing is not very durable, and it peels off after regular use.
  2.  The sublimation process for metals is a time taking approach. If you want a shortcut, you will need something else.

It would help if you had a heat press. Otherwise, having a sublimation print on stainless steel tumbler can be challenging.

So, you must consider these points before starting a project on sublimating steel tumblers.

How Do You Sublimate Stainless Steel in The Oven?

If you don’t have the heat press and other supplies, you can use your convection oven for sublimation printing of steel tumbler.

  • After creating the design on the sublimation paper, please attach it to the steel tumbler with the help of heat tape. Seal the tumbler now in a medium vacuum bag.
  • Place the bag inside the convection oven and close the door.
  • Set the temperature to 390-degree Fahrenheit for 5 to 7 minutes.   
  • When the sublimation is complete, remove the tumbler from the oven, bag, and sublimation paper. The image will now be printed onto the stainless-steel tumbler.

How to Sublimate on Steel Tumbler in a Cricut Mug Press

This method is useful for commercial purposes but can be employed for domestic usage. Even heating in the Cricut press is complicated, so you must be patient and consistent. This method works best for small-size steel tumblers than bigger ones. 

  • The first step is to create a design and get its print o the sublimation paper.
  • Remove the lid of the steel tumbler.
  • Attach the design to the surface of the stainless steel tumbler with the help of heat tape. Make sure you have fixed the tape on all the edges and corners.
  • Wrap the tumbler with butcher paper to avoid the yellow spots on the tumbler.
  • Push the steel tumbler to the backend of the Cricut mug press for even heating.
  • Keep the tumbler rotating with heat-resistant gloves so that all sides have the same heat pattern. Set the time for one minute.
  • After the timer is off, take the steel tumbler out of the Cricut mug press and wait until it’s cooling. Then remove the butcher paper to reveal the desired design.

How to Wash Sublimated Stainless-Steel (SS)Tumblers?

While washing the steel tumblers, you have to follow these care instructions to enhance the sublimation print life.

  • Use mild soap with water.
  • Use a soft cloth instead of a scrubber or abrasive cleaner to avoid scratching the sublimation design.
  • Don’t put sublimated steel tumblers into the dishwasher
  • Dry them in the air before placing them into storage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I use paper to sublimate on a stainless steel tumbler?

No. You have arranged a sublimation paper used for sublimation on steel blanks. 

Can You Epoxy Over a Sublimation Tumbler?

Yes, Of course.

You can use transparent epoxy all over the sublimation design.  

Why does my sublimation look faded on tumbler?

You need to use the right kind of sublimation paper and sublimation ink. Another reason is resizing the image set aspect ratio as per the size of the steel tumbler.

Can you sublimate on metal?

Yes, but you must arrange a coating material on the surface to hold the sublimation ink perfectly.

Do Sublimation Tumblers Need Sealing?

No. You don’t need o seal the sublimation design of steel tumblers, as the sublimation ink gets fused into the surface of the metal due to heating.

Can You Put a Sublimation Tumbler in the Dishwasher?

No. Washing tumblers in the dishwasher caused damage, and the design peeled off in a few days.  


We have covered all the aspects of sublimation on the stainless steel tumblers. You can sublimate the steel blank directly on your own. You will have the best results if you follow the step-by-step guide.

After personalizing the tumblers with the desired design, you must care for them. This will keep the sublimation print intact on the surface for longer.  

So, you know how to sublimate on the steel.

Grab a tumbler and start your first project today.

Related Article: How to Sublimate on Leather?

To Learn more watch the video:

How to sublimate a stainless steel thermo can

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