How to Do Sublimation on Leather and Faux Leather?
Sublimation is becoming the most popular way to transfer digital designs on different substrates, such as polyester, cotton, and wooden substrates. Many people asked, “Can you sublimate on leather? The answer is yes; we can quickly sublimate the leather and faux leather sheets. But without accurate knowledge about leather sublimation, it can be tricky.
Leather is a material used for centuries to make shoes, wallets, bags, keychains, purses, wristwatch straps, etc. Over the past few years, the fashion industry trend has changed, and now the designers use leather for Sublimation.
Sublimation is possible on both natural and faux leather. Natural leather is expensive compared to faux leather. That’s why people prefer to sublimate on faux leather. I have discussed all the steps involved in the Sublimation of genuine and faux leather and provided some tips about where to buy inexpensive leather.
What is Sublimation, And How Does it Work On Leather?
Sublimation is a process in which we transfer the design onto the different substrates by applying accurate temperature and pressure. In the same step, we print the design that we want to transfer to the desired material with the help of a sublimation printer and ink. We use specially coated sublimation paper, which holds and releases the ink by applying the right temperature.
We can’t transfer the sublimation design on all types of materials because sublimation ink is designed to convert it from solid to liquid and make the bond with other materials at the molecular level when exposed to heat. And not all materials can open their porous and absorb the sublimation material.
Sublimation on leather is a simple and tricky way to create beautiful products. Leather is expensive compared to other materials, and overheating can burn it quickly. That’s why proper and precise knowledge is required to get excellent colors.
First, we print the design on the sublimation paper with the help of an inkjet sublimation printer, and then we secure it by using the heat-resistant tape on the leather patches and then the next step is to apply the correct temp pressure and we are done. Here I am going to discuss a step-by-step guide to sublimate the leather.
How to Do Sublimation on Leather?
As discussed above, the Sublimation on leather is straightforward, but it is only possible with special equipment and proper knowledge. Here I list some basic required things we will frequently use in all methods.
Required Things to Sublimate on Leather Blanks & Patches:
The sublimation printer is one of the essential things for making Sublimation prints on the leather substrate. You can convert the ordinary inkjet printer into a sublimation printer, but it can void the official warranty. If you don’t want to convert, then I will recommend you to purchase the Epson Sure Color F170 or Sawgrass SG 500 sublimation printers.
Sublimation Ink and Paper:
- Heat press machine.
- Heat-resistant tape.
- Butcher paper.
- Leather sheets or patches.
How to Select Good Leather for Sublimation?
Before going deep into the article, we must select what type of leather is suitable for Sublimation. Here, I list all the things that will help you select the superior quality leather for Sublimation.
If you are trying to sublimate the keychains, luggage tags, and other small things, purchase the leather patches from the local leather supply store at a low price.
1: Color Contrast of The Leather:
We can’t quickly sublimate on the dark color substrates if you have sublimated other products. The sublimation ink doesn’t print white, so it will never stand out on dark leather.
So, I suggest you choose the light color leather blanks for Sublimation.
2: Type of Leather:
Sublimation on leather is only possible on some types of leather because all leathers can’t hold the sublimation ink effectively. I have tested many leather sheets with different methods and found that the smooth and matte finished leather provides the best results.
3: Thickness of Leather:
It is optional to check the thickness of the leather before doing the Sublimation on it. But the thicker leather you choose requires more time and pressure to accept the sublimation designs, so always select the thinner leather. I use 0.8-1.2 mm leather to make sublimation designs.
Sublimation on Leather By Using Sublimation Paper: (Method1)
In this method, we will use the sublimation printer, ink, and paper to print different designs onto the leather. Here is the step-by-step guide about how to sublimate on leather.
1: Select and Print the Digital Design for Sublimation:
First, we will choose a digital design for the Sublimation. I use Adobe and Cricut software to create digital designs. But, if you are not good at designing, you can purchase some ready-made designs or hire a freelance designer for custom sublimation designs. Always select high-quality designs for the sublimation process.
Now, mirror the image and print it on the sublimation paper with the help of a sublimation printer and ink.
2: Prepare the Leather for Sublimation:
Clean the surface of the leather by using a microfiber cloth, which traps dust, dirt, and other particles.
3: Heat it Under a Heat press Machine:
Preheat the heat press machine for about 10-15s at 380F. Put the sublimation paper face down to the leather and secure it with heat-resistant tape. Make sure that the sublimation paper is in the correct position.
Use butcher paper between the heat press machine and the product. Standard press it under a heat press machine for the 60s at 300F. You can also use Teflon or peachmart paper to protect the heat press machine.
4: Pelling the Design:
Let the sublimated leather cool, and gently peel the heat transfer paper with your hands.
Sublimation on Leather By Using Vinyl: (Method2)
Instead of printing onto the sublimation paper, this method will use heat transfer vinyl to transfer the sublimation designs onto the leather. We can easily sublimate the dark color of leather with this method.
1: Create the Digital Designs:
2: Cut the Heat Transfer Vinyl:
Place the vinyl HTV on the Cricut cutting mat and hit the okay button. The Cricut will cut the design automatically. If this is your first time using a Cricut cutting machine, read this article first.
3: Weed the Design:
Weed the design by using Cricut wedding tools. You can also weed it by using your hands
4: Apply the HTV on the Leather:
Next, apply the heat transfer vinyl onto the leather and press it under a heat press at 300f for 15s.
5: Peel of the Design:
Let it cool for a few minutes. Peel the heat transfer vinyl gently, and your shirt is ready to wear.
Time and Temperature Chart for Sublimation on Leather:
Sublimation on Faux Leather by Using Sublimation Paper (Method1)
As you know, leather is a material made from animal skins, and it is a natural material. Natural leather is expensive compared to faux leather. That’s why most people use faux leather for their sublimation projects.
Faux leather is a synthetic material made from plastic and wax. Overheating can easily damage and melt the faux leather; that’s why the Sublimation on it is tricky, but you can get excellent results by applying the right temperature and pressure.
We can sublimate the faux leather by two different methods. One is suitable for light color, and the other is for dark leather.
1: Create and Print the Digital Design:
Mirror the image and print the digital designs onto the sublimation paper.
2: Remove the Dust:
Wipe the leather surface with a soft microfiber cloth to clean the dust.
3: Preheat the Heat Press Machine:
Now preheat the heat press machine to 300f for about 10s.
4: Position the Sublimation Paper:
Seal the sublimation paper with the help of heat-resistant tape. Make sure to position it correctly.
5: Heat the Leather Under a Heat Press:
Apply the medium pressure and heat the leather that you want to sublimate under a heat press machine for the 30s at 300f.
Sublimation on Faux Leather by Using Glitter HTV:(Method 2)
This method is similar to the natural leather sublimation method. We can sublimate the dark color faux leather by using this procedure.
1: Design and Print on the HTV:
Create the vector art or design you will sublimate on the faux leather using Cricut design space.
2: Cut and Weed the Heat Transfer Vinyl:
Now cut the HTV by using the Cricut cutting machine. You can also use other cutting machines for this purpose, but I use the Cricut cutting machine.
Weed the excessive HTV by using the Cricut weeding tools.
3: Secure and Heat the HTV on Leather:
Secure the glitter HTV on the leather using heat-resistant tape and cover it with butcher paper.
Preheat the heat press machine for 10s at 300F. Position the leather product in the heat press for the 30s at 300F.
4: Peel the Butcher Paper:
Let the sublimated leather cool for a few minutes, and peel the butcher paper gently. Your product is ready to use.
What Type of Leather Products Can We Sublimate?
We can sublimate many products, including shoes, jackets, hats, Jewelry, watchbands, Book covers, Phone and tablet cases, Keychains and critical holders, and many other products.
Tips to Get Vibrant Colors on Leather Sublimation:
Sublimation on faux and natural leather is easy, but sometimes it can be tricky. I am going to discuss some tips & tricks to get the best vibrant sublimation colors on the leather.
Yes, you read it right; the quality of the sublimation ink plays a vital role in getting vibrant and cheerful colors. If the designs you have sublimated onto the leather faded over time, I suggest you use the fade-resistant anti uv sublimation ink.
Correct Time and Temperature Settings:
Correct heat press settings are vital to getting excellent sublimation colors on the leather. If you overheat the leather, it will definitely burn the sublimation design, so always use the temperature and heat press settings according to the chart I shared above.
Perform Some Tests First:
Before doing the Sublimation on the actual product, we suggest you do some tests on different leather blanks. Play with time and temperature settings and check which settings suit your leather.
Clean the Leather Surface:
Always clean the leather surface with the help of a microfiber cloth. If your leather has a stain, mix 50% vinegar with 50% water and clean it with a cloth.
Quality of Leather:
The quality of the leather plays an essential role in getting the best color outcome. If you sublimate on high-quality leather, you will probably get more realistic colors and vice versa.
Frequently Asked Questions:
I have discussed two different methods to do Sublimation on leather. Now, you can quickly sublimate the light and dark color leather sheets. The quality of the Sublimation on leather depends on the material you will use during this process, so it is essential to use high-quality equipment and materials.