Drinkware is one of the hottest categories in personalization for several reasons. Customizing items such as mugs, tumblers, and water bottles does not require a large upfront investment. Drinkware is used virtually everyday, from the first sip of morning coffee to a nice glass of wine at end the day. And drinkware is easy to personalize for both the at-home entrepreneur as well as the professional storefront business.
Types of Personalization Methods for Drinkware
There are multiple technologies that can be used to personalize drinkware. Here are some of the more popular methods and the basic equipment needed to create the drinkware with the given technology.
Vinyl application offers the lowest-cost entry point into the world of drinkware personalization. Vinyl can be cut into shapes and characters and applied to any number of drinkware options, including tumblers, mugs, glasses, and water bottles using a vinyl cutter like those offered from Cricut and Silhouette. Vinyl cutters can range anywhere from $200 to $500.
There are hundreds of different colors and styles of vinyl that can be applied to drinkware, giving you a wide range of personalization options to match customer requests for specific color combinations.
Because vinyl is applied to the top of the drinkware, durability can be an issue. Vinyl is susceptible to scratching in medium to heavy use applications, and drinkware personalized with it is recommended for hand-washing only.
Sublimation offers a great way to create durable, personalized full-color drinkware for your customers. The cost of entry to sublimation is low, with sublimation printers starting in the $500 range. There is an additional step of needing to use heat and pressure to transfer an image to drinkware. That can be achieved by using a dedicated convection oven and silicone wrap or mug and drinkware press.
Sublimation requires drinkware to have a polyester coating in order to have the artwork transfer to the item. Thankfully, there are hundreds of drinkware options manufactured specifically for sublimation, including mugs, tumblers, glasses, and more. Additionally, sublimation printers print in CMYK, but do not print white. Most sublimation-specific drinkware is white or light colored to start to help accommodate for the lack of white printing.
With the sublimation process, images are infused into the polyester coating of the item you’re decorating. This means that drinkware personalized with sublimation is extremely durable and transfers are scratch resistant. Ceramic items, such as standard and latte mugs, that have been personalized with sublimation are also dishwasher safe.
When personalizing drinkware with sublimation, it’s important to make sure you’re using items that are manufactured for the process. Off the shelf items from most retailers will not work with the process.
Toner Heat Transfer
Like sublimation, toner heat transfer allows you to print full-color images and press them to a wide range of drinkware items. Heat transfer printers are more expensive than sublimation printers, with printers starting at around $1,000. And, like sublimation, you’ll need heat and pressure to transfer an image to drinkware by using a dedicated convection oven and silicone wraps or a mug and drinkware press.
The benefit is that toner heat transfer offers the ability to transfer full-color images, including white, to non-coated items. This means that as long as a piece of drinkware can withstand the heat of the pressing process, it can be decorated with toner heat transfer. And since toner heat transfer printers can print white, you can personalize drinkware that comes in dark colors such as black and navy blue.
While sublimation images are infused into the drinkware, toner heat transfer images are pressed to the top of the drinkware. The technology offers more durability than vinyl, however it can still be scratched off in a high-use environment.
Using a laser or rotary engraver to personalize drinkware has been a popular method for years, offering a durable, permanent mark to mugs, tumblers, and more. As the price and physical size of laser engravers continues to drop, this technology has become more prevalent for both the home market and professional shops alike.
When personalizing drinkware with a laser, it’s important to check that your item is able to be laser engraved without damaging the item. Look for products that are listed as being laserable or laser friendly. Typically, drinkware made from stainless steel with a powder-coated color surface can be personalized with a laser using a rotary attachment. The laser will remove the top, colored layer of the item to show a smooth, stainless steel finish underneath.
For drinkware that has a smooth stainless-steel finish, using a marking spray such as Cermark may be required. Whether engraving through a powder-coated finish or using a laser marking spray, personalizing drinkware with a laser offers a durable, lasting mark that’s ideal for high traffic applications.