Many people carry leather items like wallets, keychains, and belts in their daily lives. But they’re often plain and lack creative designs that would truly stand out. The good news is that you have the option to print cool designs on them all by yourself. But can you sublimate on leather effectively?
Well, leather is suitable for the process, but its different types can confuse you. Also, not all of them can be sublimated, which further increases the chances of unfavorable outcomes. Therefore, before getting creative, make sure you know which leather is suitable for sublimation.
With that said, our comprehensive guide on leather sublimation can help you learn the ins and outs of the process. So you can easily achieve the results just as you pictured in your mind. Let’s get started.
Image source: Pixabay
Genuine leather, made from animal hides, is highly durable with minimal chances of cracking or peeling over time. That’s why many individuals prefer items like handbags, shoes, wallets, etc., made from this material for their routine use.
But is it possible to transfer high-quality images on it through sublimation? Certainly, yes, you can easily sublimate leather, thanks to its higher heat-enduring capacity.
For sublimation-friendly materials, it’s important to be able to bear temperatures up to 380°F. Fortunately, the melting point of genuine leather is around 392°F, which means you can easily heat press it to transfer custom designs and transform your leather accessories into something quirky.
Moreover, genuine leather has a porous surface, allowing ink to penetrate the material and bind firmly, leading to durable designs.
Yes, faux leather comes under the category of sublimation-friendly materials, as its surface comprises a polymer coating suitable for the process. In fact, this leather type is slightly ahead in the race of durability than genuine leather, and it can endure higher heat levels up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Moreover, the color of artificial leather is uniform throughout the surface. This means even peeling the material wouldn’t spoil the appearance of your accessories, contributing to their long-term use.
Leather is not limited to only genuine and faux categories. Instead, you can find different types of this material in the market, each having varying sublimating properties. You may refer to this table for a better understanding:
|Leather Type||Can you sublimate it well? Why?|
|Polyurethane/ faux leather||Yes. Due to better adherence of ink to the surface.|
|Polyvinyl chloride leather||Yes. It can easily endure high temperatures.|
|Genuine leather||Yes. The porous surface allows proper penetration of ink.|
|Luxury leather||No. Because ink might fade away in a few washes.|
|Vegetable tanned leather||No. It can’t soak ink well, leading to a faded outcome.|
Leather can undoubtedly produce your desired outcomes through sublimation. But for that, you must consider a few important factors before starting the process. These include:
Leather is available in several shades of brown, ranging from dark to light. It’s better you opt for a lighter shade for sublimation so the design appears bright on the substrate. In comparison, dark-colored material can easily overshadow your printed image, leading to a dull outcome.
For durable designs, you must ensure the leather’s surface is smooth. A rough substrate can hinder the image’s adherence capabilities, leading to a transfer that appears faded from several places.
Although you can print any design you want, it’s better to choose a simple one with minimal details. An image with complex elements may not transfer well on leather, leading to a blurry print.
Sublimating on leather is a straightforward process, which you can understand better by the following guide:
Before you start the process, make sure you have gathered all the required equipment, including:
- Sublimation printer
- Sublimation paper
- Sublimation ink
- Heat-resistant tape
- Heat press
- Butcher paper or Teflon sheet
You can use pre-cut leather blanks to avoid the hassles of cutting the material into your desired shape. Make sure the substrate is clean before you move further. For that, scrub it lightly with a dry cloth to remove any debris that may interfere with the final results.
Besides this, gently wiping the surface with a paper towel can also do an adequate job. You can also spray a leather conditioner to protect the material from any damage.
Once the leather is ready, it’s time to print your design. Although the process is similar to normal printing, you must take a few things into consideration. Firstly ensure the image is placed in such a way that it’s close to borders. However, there must still be a space of ⅛ inches on either side to tape the paper.
Additionally, you should mirror the image before entering the print command so it smoothly transfers on the substrate during heat press.
Now comes the actual step, where you must be extremely careful. Start by placing the printed image upside down on the leather and stick it properly using heat-resistant tape.
Now adjust it on the heat press in such a way that the print side faces upward. Stack the leather with butcher paper or a Teflon sheet to ensure it doesn’t come in direct contact with the heat platen.
It’s time to adjust the temperature on the heat press. Although the figures depend upon the material’s thickness and type, the ideal limit is 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
Start heat pressing and continue it for 20 to 30 seconds. You can increase the temperature up to 380°F if the initial settings do not produce desired results. Even increasing the pressing time to 1 minute can be helpful.
Finally, wear sublimation gloves, remove the leather from the heat press, and let it cool for a few minutes. Now remove the butcher paper and slowly peel the image off the substrate to reveal a vivid and high-quality transfer.
Sublimation can work with almost anything made from leather, just that it should be in a lighter shade with a smooth surface. Some examples include:
- Phone and tablet cases
- Luggage tags
Although the above guide on how can you sublimate on leather is enough to bring out the desired outcomes, here are some additional tips that may help:
- Clean the leather surface properly so there is no debris, oil, or dust remains left on it. Such elements can easily spoil the final results.
- Always place butcher paper or a Teflon sheet when heat-pressing leather. This ensures even heat distribution throughout the substrate, eliminating the risk of hot spots or leather discoloration. It also protects from leftover ink smudges on the machine’s panel, which might mess up your next project.
- When sticking the design on a small leather surface, always use a mat beneath the material to support the sublimation paper so it doesn’t move during the process.
Leather is a popular material that can be found in several daily-use accessories. Being a hobbyist, you must have thought about whether can you sublimate on leather or not. Fortunately, the material is suitable for this process and requires no extraordinary preparations.
You just need to select the right material type and take care of a few things while sublimating to get high-quality designs.
The temperature range for leather sublimation can vary between 320 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the material’s thickness.
Yes, you can sublimate on leather shoes by following a similar process as on other accessories. However, remember first to test a small region of the material, as not all shoes can bear the heat required for sublimation. It depends upon the type and thickness of the material, which varies from brand to brand.
For sublimating leather, you need to heat press it for at least 20 seconds initially. Then increase gradually if it doesn’t bring out the desired outcomes. The optimum duration for sublimating leather is almost a minute.