Sublimation spray on canvas is a great hack if you don’t have lamination supplies on hand. Sublimation spray also provides a matte/satin finish versus lamination which results in a glossy finish. In this post, we will go through the step by step process of using sublimation spray on canvas. As a bonus, we will also compare the results to polycrylic brushed onto the canvas. Because science!
Materials and Equipment
Canvas – I’m using the cute little 4″ canvases
Sublimation Transfer Paper
Heat Resistant Tape
Heat Resistant Gloves
How to Use Sublimation Spray on Canvas
Step 1: Prepare the Canvas & Frame
Start by preparing the canvas. The canvas material needs to be removed from the frame. You can remove the staples or cut around the staples. Using a craft knife, carefully cut near the staples to remove the canvas. To make a reverse canvas, paint or stain the frame and set it aside to dry. If you have enough canvas to re-staple or hot glue it back to the frame, then you can skip doing anything to the frame. The mini canvases don’t have as nice of internal frames as larger canvases, so I am going to try to re-stretch the canvas and staple.
Step 2: Add Sublimation Spray on Canvas
Next, lint roll the canvas and then spray the canvas with the sublimation spray. This adds poly on top of the canvas and will provide a sublimation friendly surface. Spray generously and do about two coats to get a good poly layer for the sublimation ink (I only did one coat and it’s fainter than I’d like). I have experienced some large droplets and I’ve evened it out with a paper towel or foam brush. The spray dries fairly quickly. This is a great time to preheat your heat press to about 385 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 3: Prepare the Sublimation Design
While the sublimation spray is drying, and the press is preheating, print your design on sublimation transfer paper. Today, I’m making a fun sign for my half bath. This “get naked” design is in my digital shop. I print my sublimation designs from Silhouette Studio using a converted Epson WF 7720 with Cosmos Ink. For more detail on my print settings, check out this post on How to Print Sublimation Designs from Silhouette Studio. The printed colors will look muted when you print, but they will pop post pressing! This design is all black, but it will look brown when printed. No worries! It will be black after pressing.
Step 4: Sublimate Design on Canvas
Next, lint roll over the canvas and align the transfer paper on the canvas. Secure it with heat resistant tape. Place butcher paper under the canvas and on top of the transfer paper to protect your press from any escaping sublimation ink. Press at 385 degrees for 60 seconds. Remove from press and remove transfer paper.
Step 5: Reinstall Canvas to Frame
Lastly, we need to reinstall the canvas to the wood frame. Align the sublimated canvas with the frame and wrap the canvas back. Pulling tightly, use hot glue or staples to reattach the canvas. Take care to keep the canvas tight. Isn’t that adorable?
Comparison to Polycrylic Applied with a Foam Brush
I used the same steps above to make the same canvas with polycrylic (also similar to using polycrylic on wood). Instead of using sublimation spray, I used a foam brush to evenly coat the canvas with polycrylic from a can. I used a satin finish but you can find polycrylic in many finishes from matte to glossy. Per ounce, it’s cheaper than the sublimation spray, but you will need a brush to apply it. Press with the same 385F and 60 second press time as the sublimation spray directions above. One lesson learned…the canvas will become one with the platen if your butcher paper isn’t bigger than the canvas…
The verdict? The spray is very handy for a quick, single project. For making a big batch, I think the polycrylic with a foam brush is a better bang for your buck.
What do you think of the results? A note on the canvases: these are available in many sizes! Small, 4″ canvases would make adorable tiered tray décor! These little easels pair very well with them. Larger canvases can be used for bigger décor items or signs.
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