Photo Mug Dye-Sublimation Production Process


Introduction: Photo Mug Dye-Sublimation Production Process

How do you make dye-sublimation products?
We'll take you on a virtual tour of the dye-sublimation process...

Images courtesy of

Step 1: Dye-Sublimation Mug Blanks

The first step of the dye-sublimation process is the selection of quality blanks. A blank references the mug or other dye-sublimation product that doesn't have an image applied to it yet. Meaning... It's blank! All dye-sublimation blanks must be treated to receive dye. Mugs and cups are coated with a polymer making them dye receptive.

Why a white mug? Dye-sublimation printing doesn't use white ink to print. The dyes are transparent and rely on the surface of the printed mug or substrate for brightness.

Step 2: Dye-Sublimation Printing

Mug artwork is inkjet printed using special dye-sublimation inks and transfer paper. The transfer paper is only a temporary stop for the printed image.

Step 3: Dye-Sublimation Preparation

Once printed, the transfer paper is wrapped around and affixed to the mug or other dye-sublimation product. The image on the transfer paper is actually mirrored or backwards because it's being transferred directly to the surface of the blank.

Step 4: Dye-Sublimation Heat Press

The blank mug and imaged transfer paper are placed in a heat press. As you can gather from the name, heat and pressure are applied to transfer the image from the transfer paper to the surface of the blank. The process infuses the printed dye into the polymer coating of the blank. The image actually becomes part of the mug creating a very durable and long-lasting image.

There are different types of heat presses for a range of products. The accompanying photo shows a mug and cup press. The press needs to conform to the surface of the blank for proper sublimation.

Step 5: Finished Dye-Sublimation Product

Dye-sublimation products are extremely durable and scratch resistant due to the image-infusing process. The vibrant and rich printing is "locked-in" for years of use and enjoyment.



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    13 Discussions

    No. The paper used has to be heat resistant to withstand the temperature of the iron for several minutes.


    6 months ago

    is it posible to print photo on mug using iron?

    1 reply

    No. Clothes iron isn't hot enough. Along with the correct amount of heat you need a good deal of even pressure. You won't get that with a flat iron . The circular iron for the mug is the exact same circumference and is spring loaded to apply pressure, tightly and evenly around the entire surface of the mug.

    I had wonderful memories. Really enjoyed these
    suggestions. I was thinking to publish some of my event photos on photo mugs. check out few more photo mugs

    This Isn't an Instructable its more like What a Company does to make a Custom Photo Mug. I mean where do you get the Heater, the Transfers, the Mug, it looks easy to do just where do you get all those Materials.

    1 reply

    How to coat the mug ?
    What kind of polymer can be used ?

    This is very nice. It's documenting your company's process, of course, but without actual advertising. Congratulations on avoiding the dreaded SPAM FLAG :-) It would interesting for the "do-it-yourself" community if you were willing to provide resources for the materials and equipment involved. The "iron-on" printing is available retail, if I recall, but the heat press seems more difficult for users here to find; could you provide a source? Is it possible to purchase object blanks (mugs, mouse pads, whatever) which have already been dye-reception coated? Or is it possible to buy the dye receiver retail and coat objects yourself? You don't mention (it ought to be obvious, but you'd be surprised...) that the image has to be printed as a mirror, so that the final object orients the right way. The example mug with "FLORIDA" on it would be a great example to show.

    2 replies

    I agree. Too bad there isn't a "Kinko's" of sorts where you could go, scan your art into their computer, and print shirts, mugs, etc. or even have a CNC machine with a laser cutter cut stencils or laser burn wood. kelseymh, Step 3 mentions that the image has to be mirrored.

    Huh! Thanks for pointing that out. I read through all the steps, but clearly missed that one :-(