Infusible Ink and the Mug Press - More Approachable Than You Think!
How do I put my design on infusible ink? How do I transfer the infusible ink? How do I know when my mug press is ready? Why is my design bleeding?? These are all questions I had when I first unboxed my Mug Press. Through trial and error, I've learned a few things about sublimating with this creature, and I'm going to share that with you.
Here's what you need:
A mug press
If you're using infusible ink, you need special types of blanks, which have a special coating that are able to basically "absorb" the ink so it infuses. In this tutorial, I'm using these 15oz blanks (https://amzn.to/34bhXXL)
Infusible Ink Sheets
Cricut sells their own brand of these, but because they're fairly new they have a pretty limited selection. In this tutorial I'm using this kind (https://amzn.to/3uqNkbi) because they have beautiful, vibrant colours, and they create a super unique finished product.
This isn't necessary if you're using infusible ink sheets, because the ink won't come through the transfer paper on the back - but I still like to have some just to make sure the design is super tight and avoid bleeds. You can get it in bulk here for much cheaper than the Cricut brand (https://amzn.to/34Bsmvj)
Parchment paper or butcher paper
The same as above - not overly necessary if you're using infusible ink sheets, but I still like to stick some on
So here's how you do it:
First, plug your mug press in and turn it on. Keep in mind that this tutorial is done using the Cricut Mug Press, so if you're using a different brand, like Better Sub, it might look a little different.
For the Cricut Mug Press, you press the power button to get it started. When it first turns on, the light will be orange. This was a scare for me, as I had only ever heard of the "red button of doom", and was worried my press was toast before I even used it - so this is just my reassurance that your light is supposed to be that colour.
I usually put my mug press on a baking rack like this. I am not 100% sure on the heat resistance of the floors in my house, and I am not really in a position to "test it and see" - so I just grabbed a baking rack at the dollar store and stick it under the press when I'm not using it.
So by now your press should be heating up. There are 4 little white lights above the power button, and they will show you the progress of the pre-heat.
While your press is warming up, let's cut out our design.
There are a few things to check before you click the "make" button on design space. First, make sure that your operation is set to "basic cut". You do want to cut the infusible ink. Second, make sure that your design is mirrored by going to to "flip" button on the top bar of design space. Third, make sure that your machine is on the custom setting and then choose the "infusible ink sheet" setting.
Now you're ready to cut!
I use strong grip mats for my infusible ink sheets, but standard grip will likely work too. Infusible Ink Sheets can be expensive, and I don't want to risk mine slipping off the mat in the cutting process and getting ruined. Make sure that the pattern or colour on your infusible ink sheet is facing up. The white backing should be stuck to your mat, not the ink part.
Again, I am using this really beautiful infusible ink sheet that I got from Amazon (the link is above). One thing to keep in mind when you open your ink sheets is that the colour will be incredibly dull. This is normal. The ink needs heat to bring it out of the sheets!
Once you've got your sheet attached, put the mat into the machine with the blinking arrow button on the Cricut.
When the cutting is done, I always remove the sheet from the mat, and use scissors to trim closer to my actual design to reduce waste. When you're removing your material, make sure to peel the mat away from the ink sheet, rather than peeling the ink sheet away from the mat (see my Cricut Tips and Tricks for Beginners article if you don't know what I mean).
Then, I gently bend the part of the sheet with my design on it for a few seconds. Infusible ink can be notoriously difficult to weed, and this method loosens some of the cuts to help the process along.
Infusible ink is weeded almost like normal vinyl would be, but there's a few things to note.
First, infusible ink sheets have a clear, sticky backing that is almost like a transfer tape. Leave this intact as much as possible because this is how you will stick the design to your mug.
Second, with that being said, weed the parts you don't want in your design off of the backing.
Third, infusible ink sheets will not always weed "clean". Sometimes little bits of paper will be left behind. Some sheets, like the stuff I'm using here, weed beautifully and leave nothing behind (seriously... I am so amazed...) but the Cricut brand will often leave little white pieces of paper-looking material underneath. Don't worry about these bits. As long as there is none of the colour/ pattern on them they will not affect your design.
And fourth, when you're weeding the big pieces outside the design, you usually can't just grab from the corner and pull it off like you can with vinyl. Instead, take your weeding tool and insert the tip into the edge of one of the cuts you're weeding around. Work from there instead of the corner.
(This was the step where I noticed that I had forgotten to mirror my design... so I started over)
Once your design is weeded, clean your mug well with alcohol, dry it and then attach the design with the sticky transfer tape backing. Once you're happy with its placement, press had all around the backing to get all the bubbles out - you might even be able to hear them snapping... sooooo satisfying.
The next steps are totally optional - but I like to do them as a safeguard.
First, I still use heat tape on my infusible ink sheets, even though it's not necessary. The reason? Because it helps make sure your ink is tight to the mug, which reduces the risk of your ink bleeding out of your design and also reduces the risk of that "burnt" look that sublimation can sometimes leave.
Remember: if you're using heat tape with infusible ink, avoid putting the tape anywhere the ink it going to go. It adds an extra layer for the heat to get through, and might leave blotches in your design.
Second, I still use parchment paper. There is no rhyme or reason to why I do this. I use infusible ink pens more than paper, so perhaps it's just habit.
By now your mug press should be all warmed up and ready to go. It will have beeped and the light will now be green. If it was warmed up for too long waiting for you, it may have turned itself off - that's no problem. Just turn it back on again - but you will have to wait for it to heat up again.
Next, hold you mug by the handle and slide it into the mug press. Make sure the lever on the side is "up". Once the mug is in place, push the lever down so that it starts to close the press in on the mug. This will be harder than you think to push down, but don't worry about it.
The little white lights will start lighting up one by one to show you the progression. My mugs usually take around 6-8 minutes to press. Your press may also smell like its burning. Mine has done this since I started using it. It is probably nothing, but don't leave it unattended.
Your press will beep again when it is done baking your mug. Be really careful to only touch the mug by the handle. The rest of it is super, super hot. Once it beeps, pull the lever up to release the press.
Leave it on a baking rack or a heat resistant surface to cool for 20-30 minutes before you take any tape or paper off it. If you remove the transfer sheet too soon, your design may not set right or it may bleed. I know you're eager, but just hand in there a few more minutes.
Once it is cooled, take everything off and marvel at your beautiful designs! Like I said, it's a fun reward to see what your infusible ink actually looks like once it is activated. The colours in this kind are so beautiful, and I love the finished product.
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