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Infusible Ink

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Creating personalized items, both as a hobby and business, has grown in popularity over the last several years. Equipment costs, such as the prices of vinyl cutters, small format-table top lasers/printers, sublimation printers, and even toner heat transfer printers, have dropped significantly, making them accessible to creative types everywhere.

Whether you’re looking to create items for your friends and family or open an online retail shop to sell customized items, there are several different technologies you can use to create personalized projects. But before you get started, there are a few things you should consider when choosing which technology is right for you and what you are looking to accomplish.

What do you want to make?

There are thousands of items to customize If you’ve got a creative side and you want to start making personalized products. There are so many options that it can be a bit overwhelming, and it’s tempting to want to jump in and personalize everything you come across.

Start with a smaller category of products that you want to personalize. For example, if you’re looking to create customized drinkware, consider starting with 11oz and 15oz mugs to start. Then, when you’re more comfortable with those items, branch out into other drinkware items such as tumblers and sports bottles or accessories like can insulators or coasters.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for a maker is getting frustrated with a particular type of equipment and process right from the start. Don’t let this happen to you and take away from your enthusiasm for making! Start with a few items and get to know the ins and outs of a particular customization technology.

Once you figure out what it is that you want to make, there are countless resources and groups online that can help you shorten your learning curve. Ask questions, watch videos, sign up for webinars, and you’ll be creating stunning personalized gifts and items in no time.

How do you want to make it?

Once you’ve figured out what you want to make, now it’s time to determine how you’re going to make it! There are several different processes you can use to personalize items, and each has its own list of benefits. Here are some of the most common processes to create personalized items so you can choose the right one for you.

Vinyl Cutters

Vinyl cutters, such as those made by Cricut and Silhouette, are a great entry point into the world of personalization. Beyond cutting vinyl, these cutters can also cut a variety of other materials, like the plastics in our Craft series of products, thin wood sheets, and cardboard and paper. These machines are ideal if you are someone who likes to create original shapes, patterns, and words in design software and have your vision come to life.

Laser Printers/Cutters

A natural progression for those who’ve used vinyl cutters is to upgrade to a laser engraver/cutter (also called a laser printer). Lasers from brands such as Glowforge, Flux, Aeon, Boss, Epilog, and Universal offer all the capabilities of a vinyl cutter, with the added bonus of being able to permanently laser mark and etch images and graphics directly on to items. This gives makers the flexibility to cut out custom shapes from a variety of materials and then mark those shapes for truly unique products.

Depending on the bed size, a laser will have a larger footprint than some vinyl cutters and printers. And whatever you plan to do with your laser, you’ll need to make sure that materials you put in your laser are tested as “laser safe.” Products such as engravable sheet plastics from Rowmark, some leather and wood products, certain metals, and products in our Craft Plastics, Cast Acrylics, and Saddle Collection lines have all been rigorously tested to safely work in a laser.

Items that have not been tested to work in a laser can cause the machine to malfunction or potentially give off toxic fumes. For your safety, be sure you’re purchasing laser-friendly products from a reputable supplier who stands behind the products they sell.

Sublimation

Sublimation, also referred to as infusible or infused ink, is the process of printing liquid inks on to sublimation-ready paper and using heat and pressure to transfer the image to a polyester-coated item. While that can sound like quite a process, sublimation is an easy technology to learn and offers vibrant, the ability to transfer full-color art to thousands of coated sublimation-ready products.

Sublimation offers a low cost-of-entry to personalization. Sublimation printers from reputable brands such as Epson and Sawgrass offer outstanding image reproduction, making the process a favorite for makers who use full-color images, logos, and photographs. And while you will need a polyester coated item to complete your transfer, there are thousands of products available for the process. There are countless drinkware options, including mugs and tumblers, home décor items, plaques, sign blanks, ornaments, and more.

In addition to a printer, you’ll need to get a heat press or convection oven to complete the sublimation process. There are heat presses available from brands such as GeoKnight , Insta, and Stahls offer a wide range of sizes and options. There are also specialty heat presses specifically for drinkware, like coffee mugs that offer an economical price point to start with sublimation.

tems personalized with sublimation are very durable, as the ink sinks and permanently dyes the item as opposed to sitting on top. If cleaned and stored correctly, sublimated products can last for years.

Toner Heat Transfer

Toner heat transfer printing is a similar process to sublimation, where you are typically printing an image to transfer paper and using heat to press the image to an object. The main difference between the two technologies is that toner heat transfer does not require items to have a polyester coating. This means that, as long as an item fits in a heat press and can withstand the required transfer temperature, it can typically be personalized with toner heat transfer.

Another major difference between toner heat transfer and sublimation is that toner heat transfer can print to dark items using white toner. This gives you the ability to create unique, personalized items such as invitations printed on dark or black paper or creating transfers for dark garments and textiles.

There are several manufacturers of toner heat transfer printers, including dedicated toner heat transfer printers from UniNet. As with sublimation, you will need to pair your toner heat transfer printer with a heat press for most applications.

Where do I go for help?

Regardless of what technology you choose to use for personalization, the team at Johnson Plastics Plus is here to help you on your “maker” journey! We offer more than 100 how-to and product videos on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/JohnsonPlasticsPlus, a complete library of free webinars at https://www.jpplus.com/webinars, numerous blog posts and free downloadable project files at https://www.jpplus.com/blog, and an entire tradeshow experience in our Virtual Trade Show at https://vts.jpplus.com/jpplus.

Johnson Plastics Plus has more than 50 years experience providing high quality products to makers of all sizes. If you have any questions, please contact our team of customer service professionals. We can be reached via the chat function on jpplus.com, through email at service at jpplus.com, or by calling 800-869-7800.