Dye sublimation is a fun pastime for crafters and makers. And it can be a potentially lucrative way to turn your crafting into a source of side income. When you have a sublimation printer and are ready to make your transfers, the next step is using a heat press to apply the print to your garment, coaster, bag or whatever sublimation blank you’ve got in mind.
So, the question on your mind is “Can you use the Cricut EasyPress for sublimation?” Here’s the deal: yes you can, but we don’t recommend it for high-volume production.
The fundamentals of heat transfer for sublimation are temperature + time + pressure. The Cricut EasyPress can provide the heat, but you – the user – have to provide the pressure and the time. In our opinion, it’s the human factor that makes the Easy Press inconsistent for doing sublimation projects beyond the basics.
Here’s what we mean:
Does the EasyPress get hot enough for sublimation?
Yes. The Cricut EasyPress 2 has a maximum temperature setting of 400oF. Most sublimation applications require temperatures of 380oF to 400oF. So while the EasyPress 2 can get that hot, that is its maximum temperature.
If you are sublimating a few items and you want to use your EasyPress, we would say go for it.
If you want to make this a serious hobby, and invest money in a specialty sublimation printer, and also invest the time to learn the ins and outs of dye-sublimation, having a heat press that just achieves the heat required is not a recipe for sustainable, satisfactory performance.
Here’s a brief breakdown of sublimation temperature settings for common base materials.
- Polyester Fabric/ Apparel: 50-60sec @ 380-400oF
- Polyester blend fabrics: 55-65 sec @ 375-390oF
- Hardboard: 40-80 sec @ 360-400oF
- Metals: 50-70 sec @ 360-400oF
- source: Johnson Plastics Plus
If you use the EasyPress at or near its top heat capacity (400oF) for long periods of time for sublimation, you could see the following problems:
- The temperature will fluctuate, requiring you to pause and wait for the press to reheat during your project
- The lifespan of the heating element could be shortened
- The heating element could be damaged.
Do conventional heat presses get hotter than the Cricut EasyPress?
Conventional heat presses have heating elements designed for use at temperatures from 400 to 600oF and even higher. These robust heating elements are designed for extended use at high temperatures. They also have safety features like double fuses and automatic shutoffs to guard against overheating.
Our bottom line: if you are going to do occasional small sublimation projects, an EasyPress will do. If you are intending on using an EasyPress for a sublimation business, we would caution against it. Using an EasyPress at its top settings for long periods will not provide the best results over the long term.
Note: This information pertains to the current version of the Cricut EasyPress(2). If you have the original EasyPress (9 x 9″, blue handle), the maximum temperature is 350oF, which is unsuitable for sublimation.
How long do you have to press sublimation transfers?
Sublimation prints usually require about one minute of press time to infuse the ink into the coated blank. When you use an EasyPress, it is you, the user, that has to hold the press and apply the pressure. One minute doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s difficult to sustain the consistent pressure over 45-60 seconds without shifting the press or the print. Changes in position of the press or pressure can create smudges, scorches or ghosting on your finished item.
This requirement of your hands-on attention is OK if you are doing occasional sublimation projects. But are you interested in larger scale sublimation? There are other things you can be doing while the press is working. Prints need to be aligned on blanks, blanks need to be smoothed and lint removed. You need to tape or apply spray to keep the sublimation print secured to the blank.
If you are planning on using the EasyPress to do sublimation on a large scale, you’ll soon find your time being eaten up by literally holding the press down. That will increase the likelihood of errors and spoiled projects.
If you are using a conventional heat press, you can simply close the heat press and activate the timer. The press does the job for you and you are free to multitask while your blank is sublimated. When the timer runs out, an alert sounds and you open the press (or your press automatically opens for you). No long, boring wait times standing still with the press.
How much pressure do you need to apply for sublimation with an EasyPress?
When you use an EasyPress or a conventional heat press, it is the combination of heat and pressure that infuses the sublimation ink into the base material. A conventional heat press allows you to adjust the pressure so that it remains even across the entire heat surface, and also remains constant for the duration of the press.
When you use an EasyPress, you are supplying the pressure with the downward force of your body weight over the press. But sublimation generally calls for light to medium pressure. You have to be careful about not overdoing it and not slacking off. (Both of which are natural tendencies when you get tired or bored.)
And it’s not just that you have to stand and apply steady pressure for a minute or more. It’s that you have to remain still and not shift the press. If the press moves while you are pressing sublimation ink, you can get ghosting or ink smearing on the base material. Too much pressure can also make your transferred images blurry, as the ink starts to bleed out of the base.
Is the EasyPress large enough for sublimation?
One other issue we have with using the EasyPress for sublimation is the small size. The largest EasyPress is 12″ x 10″, which is big enough to press a letter size sheet of sublimation paper. But even a 12″ x 10″ EasyPress can’t press a longer sheet like 8.5 x 14″ or 11 x 17″ without doing it in sections.
Pressing oversized prints in sections with a small press leads to overlapped areas that are pressed twice. When a sublimation print is subjected to too much heat, or time, the color can become faded and washed out. The dark colors can look brown. Trying to press a large image in stages is going to produce overlaps with distorted, faded or yellowed colors.
The smaller size of the EasyPress is normally fine for pressing HTV projects in sections, but heat transfer vinyl is much less fussy in application than sublimation prints.
Choosing a conventional heat press to match the size of your sublimation paper will solve this problem. Do you have a small printer that prints 8.5″ wide? There are many heat press option for you in a range of sizes and price ranges.
Do you have a large sublimation printer that can print 11″ x 17″ or 13″ x 19″ pages? You will get the best results with a 16″ x 20″ heat press. Check out our guide to selecting a heat press for large and small sublimation projects. It provides reviews of what we consider the best heat presses for sublimation across a range of styles, features and price points.
What are the alternatives to sublimation with a Cricut EasyPress?
Cricut offers two specialty products for sublimation with the EasyPress: Infusible ink transfer sheets and infusible ink markers. Both offer the same vibrant permanent colors infused into fabric or onto coated hard surfaces. But a printer is not required to achieve results.
Infusible ink transfer sheets are specially coated paper with a backing liner that can be cut on a Cricut Maker or Explore machine. The cut designs can then be pressed onto a specially coated blank or high polyester content fabric to infuse the ink.
Cricut repeats the same warnings we’ve given above: Keep the press perfectly still during the application, and lift it carefully so the hot ink doesn’t smudge or ghost.
Infusible ink markers are special writing markers that are used with regular copy paper to create drawn designs for sublimation. Infusible ink transfer sheets and marker artwork are pressed at either 385oF (for fabric blanks) or 400oF (for hard blanks).
Cricut infusible ink transfer sheets come in a wide variety of patterns and colors. They also come in two sizes: 12″ x 12″ for regular mat cutting and 4.5″ x 12″ for projects using the Cricut mug press and Cricut Joy.
The Cricut Mug Press
Cricut’s specialized tool for sublimation heat pressing is the Mug Press. This heat press is just for mugs, and it is designed to work with infusible ink sheets or markers, but it can also be used to apply prints from a sublimation printer.
Designed to work with straight sided mugs (11–15 oz), the Cricut mug press is basic to use. Wrap your design around the mug, secure it with tape and then place it in the mug press. The really cool thing about this press is that all the guesswork regarding time and temperature is removed. All you have to do is power it on, place the mug+design in the heating area and push the activation lever.
The heating element automatically engages and you can track progress with a series of LED lights that show you how far along your project is. You don’t have to set time or temperature – the press does it for you. Once the timer is finished, simply open the lever and remove the mug, and your sublimated ink mug is finished.
The Cricut EasyPress2 meets the technical specifications required to do most flat sublimation projects. But we don’t recommend you get one specifically for sublimation.
First, the manual nature of the EasyPress invites inconsistency. Sublimation requires applying steady, balanced and stationary pressure for extended periods of time. Sublimation prints can be smudged or smeared if there is any movement of the press or transfer sheet during heat application. Requiring the user to stand still and apply just the right amount of pressure for up to 60 seconds is not a recipe for consistent, high quality results.
Second, it requires you to operate the machine at maximum temperature setting for longer press times. After using the EasyPress, we have found the temperature fluctuates and it needs time to reheat when it’s used intensively. Using a heat appliance like this for long periods at maximum temperature settings can decrease the lifespan of the heating element and risk damaging the heat press.
Instead, if you want to do a lot of sublimation, we recommend you get a conventional heat press that matches the size of your sublimation printer. A conventional heat press – be it a swing away, clamshell or draw style press – will be able to achieve the higher temperatures required for sublimation while applying steady, even pressure on a stable, flat platform for extended time periods. A heat press will let you multitask and prevent mistakes due to user fatigue.