The Ultimate Guide To Sublimation Printing On Wood: An 8 Step Tutorial for Beginners

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    Are you looking to add a personalized touch to your wooden decor? In this article, we’ll show you a simple and creative method for sublimating on wood slices that can elevate your home decor and craft projects.

    While laminated wood slices are readily available for various details and decorations, there’s something special about creating your own customized pieces. Instead of buying pre-made items, why not embark on a DIY journey that allows you to have a blank canvas and express your love for design in unique ways?

    Join us as we take you through a step-by-step guide on how to sublimate on wood, giving you the freedom to infuse your personal style into every piece of your wooden decor.

    It’s time to unlock your creativity and explore the endless possibilities of this exciting technique. Let’s get started!

    Quick Answer to the Query

    To achieve successful sublimation printing on wood, design your print and print it onto sublimation paper. Cut and smooth the surface of the wood slices, apply white primer, and set your heat press.

    Cut laminating sheets slightly larger than the wood slices and apply medium pressure and heat to transfer the design. Allow everything to cool, and your laminated wood slices are ready for use.

    How To Sublimate On Wood – Step By Step

    Before getting into the nitty-gritty, let’s see what is needed on your shopping list before heading to the store.

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      Some of these items might already be available to you. So your shopping list might be shorter than expected.

      Crafter using electric sander to smooth surface of a plank of wood.
      The answer to effective sublimation transfer on wood is preparation.

      Let’s first see what supplies are required to achieve the best results with wood sublimation.

      Supply requirements

      These are the materials needed for sublimation on wood:

      1. Sublimation printer
      2. Laminate sheet pouches
      3. Wood slices as substrate
      4. Heat transfer paper or dye sublimation paper
      5. Butcher paper or parchment paper
      6. A warmed-up heat press
      7. White paint for wood
      8. Craft knife
      9. Paintbrush
      10. Heat-resistant tape
      11. Heat-resistant gloves

      Did you know?: Sublimation popularity has grown by 500% in the past year?

      #1 Printing your designs

      Before the sublimation process, you need to create your design and print it out.

      For this, use sublimation paper and a sublimation printer of choice.

      Inkscape open source software used for creating sublimation design ready for printing on sublimation paper.
      Get your design ready for printing on sublimation paper.

      This way, you can’t mix things up. You will know which side you should be printing on.

      Consider having extra laminate sheets for print in case of any mistakes made.

      #2 Board cutting

      To start the process of sublimation on wood, get your wood slices ready.

      If you bought whole wood slices, then this is when you should start cutting.

      Depending on what shapes you want, you should cut the slices to size. Just make sure your edges are smooth. Of course, your wood’s thickness must also be appropriate for your heat press.

      #3 Smoothing your edges

      To ensure smooth edges lightly go over the edges and sides with sandpaper. Then move over to sanding the whole surface of the wood slices (top & bottom).

      It’s easy to get carried away. So make sure you’re gentle with your pressure and your touch.

      Crafter once again sanding down a plank of wood, but this time smoothing out the edges.
      Sand down laminate sheets to smooth surface ready for paint and sublimation.

      Remember, you can always go in again and do a bit more sanding. But you can’t undo what has already been done.

      After sanding, take a white cloth and wipe down all the edges and surfaces. This is to remove any swarf before the sublimation process.

      #4 White painted coats

      To have your sublimation results vibrant with the true color you imagined. It’s best to paint the sublimation blanks white.

      When the surface is white, the sublimation ink colors will look more vibrant and contrast against the background (it will pop). This is otherwise known as priming.

      First layer of white primer paint being applied on wood surface ready for sublimation.
      White base coat paint helps sublimation colors pop with vibrancy!

      Apply a second coating for optimal results. Ensure the first coat is dry before applying and the surface is dry and free from moisture.

      Note: Paint is not only used as a background color. Some woods might have a rough or porous surface. Paint can help produce a smoother surface for the sublimation transfer and therefore enhance the final results of the print.

      Keep in mind, these coats should be painted on a flat surface. This ensures the paint dries uniformly and smoothly on the surface. 

      Here are the methods for applying paint:

      1. Apply paint evenly.
      2. Let the coat dry for 20 minutes (or more if you want).
      3. Add another layer of paint to your wood.
      4. Leave it for another 20 minutes or so to dry completely.
      5. Lightly sand the surface to ensure a uniform surface for sublimation.

      #5 Setting up the heat press

      Preheat your heat press with these settings: 385 °F, with the time set to 90 seconds.

      A heat press being set to press a sublimation design on wooden material.
      A preheated temperature of 385 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 seconds is ideal for wood sublimation.

      That’s the time and temperature for sublimating on wood.

      #6 Lamination pouch cutting

      Take your laminating sheet pouch and start cutting it in a way that will fit the wood board.

      Make sure when you cut the laminating sheet, it’s not the exact measurements of the wood slices. Rather, the pouch should be 1/8th of an inch larger than the wood pieces themselves.

      This is because the laminating sheet will shrink once heat is applied.

      If you don’t have this additional tolerance, your design can end up blurry or with the edges left unprinted.

      #7 Applying pressure

      Now, go to your press and take a piece of butcher paper.

      Place the paper on the pad of the heat press.

      Now take one wood slice and place it on top of that. Make absolutely sure the side you want to print on is facing up; it’s the glossy side. This step is vital!

      Now, put the laminate sheet on the wood. Over that, place the butcher. This will prevent the laminate sheets from sticking to the press.

      Use medium pressure for this process with the temperature being as mentioned above.

      Now, all you need to do is press!

      #8 Cooling off period

      The final step is to let everything cool down. Once it does, your laminated wood slices will be ready for use.

      Watch this video: How To Sublimate On Wood [08 mins 36 secs]

      To save time, skip to timeline 00:40!


      You now have a custom-made product using the technique described in this article. Consider experimenting on different wood surfaces and ones that might have protected topcoats such as polycrylic. These factors provide difference characteristics and therefore may require tweaks to your sublimation process.

      Common Questions with Explanations

      Can you sublimate directly on wood?

      Yes, you can sublimate directly on wood, and you can do such a wide variety of things with it, so your choices and options are infinite.

      Just make sure that you have the right tools, and everything will be possible.

      How do you sublimate a piece of wood?

      To sublimate on a piece of wood, you will need to have a heat press and a printer that is a sublimation printer that prints on sublimation paper.

      When you have that, just make the design you want and sublimate it to the piece of wood you want by using these tools.

      Furthermore, successful transfer of your image or design is one part of success. For example, the design may look good and colorful, but the question is, will it last? 

      To test how colorfast the sublimation ink is on the wood, use a cotton ball and add some water to it. Rub your sample gently, if ink comes off (present on the cotton) it is likely the colors won’t stay on the wood for long.

      To increase the durability of the sublimation design, you can apply an Ultra Violet Inhibitor top coat that comes in spray format. This makes the ink more resistant to light and ultimately protects the design colors and details.

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