I often get asked about how to sublimate on painted wood, as opposed to natural wood with a poly coating. Yeah, I’m still in awe that’s something I even get asked! When I originally posted about how to sublimate on wood, I did not have the same success with painted wood as the natural wood. I have run more tests and today I’m reporting results and what has worked well for me.
One day before Easter and I’m finally making some more decorations. #teamlastminute So I decided to make a springy welcome sign for my entry way as well so I could enjoy a cute sign longer. 🙂
Why Sublimate on Painted Wood?
Sublimating on painted wood opens up an opportunity for more color combinations and a different aesthetic than natural wood. The colors can really pop against a white backdrop! It also works really well for making small decorations for things like tiered trays. Sublimating on painted wood will allow you to skip a more tedious stencil/paint process and will open up new doors to intricate designs that you cannot achieve with vinyl alone. Just as in sublimating on natural wood, this is a great hack for DIY custom wood signs!
Equipment and Materials
Sublimation Transfer Paper
Design of Choice
Wood Blanks* – 10″ rounds 1/8″ thick
Paint – I’m using Valspar 2000 Semi-gloss in High Hide White from Lowe’s
Water Based Polycrylic
Sandpaper – 220 grit
Heat Safe Tape
* A note on the blanks: The thickness is dependent on your heat press. I have a clamshell heat press so I’m using 1/8″ thick blanks. I’d also like to try 1/4″ blanks. Swing away presses will allow for thicker wood blanks.
Sublimation on Painted Wood
Step 1: Prepare Wood Blank
To start, sand and paint the blank. Allow it dry between coats. I did two coats of Valspar 2000 white paint and then sanded down my brush strokes with 220 grit sandpaper. After sanding, lightly apply Polycrylic and then lightly sand again. Wipe it clean. Allow it to cure for a few hours to over night.
Step 2: Print Design on Sublimation Paper
Size your design to fit your blank, but if you have a background pattern, make sure that the background goes slightly beyond your blank size so you get full coverage. *Mirror* your chosen design and print it on sublimation transfer paper. I am printing from Silhouette Studio to my converted Epson WF 7720. For my print settings, please check out this post.
Step 3: Prepare Wood Blank and Transfer
Cut your design out a little larger than the blank. My blank is a 10″ wood round and my transfer paper is about 11″ x 11.” This leaves plenty of room for taping. Line the transfer up with the blank and use heat resistant tape to secure the transfer paper. The general rule of thumb is to always use more tape than you think.
Step 4: Heat Press Sublimation on Wood
Preheat your press to 385F. Put a layer of butcher paper under your design and have another one to go on top to absorb any excess ink so it doesn’t transfer to future pressed projects. Press your blank with medium pressure for 60 seconds. Remove the transfer paper (it may stick but tug and it will come off). Isn’t that beautiful??
There may be some transfer paper that sticks to the wood. Use a sponge with water to rub off the transfer paper. You can also add another layer of Polycrylic to seal the design. Sealing is unnecessary, but I personally like the look of it. Sometimes the thin blanks potato chip after coming out of the heat press. I put my Machinery’s Handbook (really big, heavy book) on the wood sign overnight and it works for me.
As you can see from these two beauties, sublimating on wood substantially increases your décor options. I used a watercolor galaxy fill for the welcome sign and and the Easter sign has so many colors and patterns that I would not have been able to make it with paint or vinyl. If you prepare your blanks in multiples and have a few prepped and on hand, you can crank out a printed sign in less than 5 minutes!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial. Let me know if you have any questions!
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