Infusible Ink is Cricut’s own line of sublimation sublimation transfer sheets, pens and markers. Sublimation is the process where a design, printed or drawn using sublimation ink, is transferred on to a mostly, if not 100%, polyester substrate. What happens is the ink, when heated, turns into a gas and infuses itself into the fibers or surface of the polyester blank (more details below) rather than sitting on top of the fibers like vinyl. I love to color so I LOVE the pens and markers because being able to color a design and then transfer it on to a t-shirt, mug, pillow case, coasters, etc. is just the coolest thing as far as I’m concerned. Naturally, you can use Infusible Ink in the Cricut Joy and it is really, really easy! In today’s tutorial I will show you how to set up the design you want to use in Cricut Design Space, how to actually draw it with the Joy machine, then color it by hand and sublimate it onto a ceramic coaster blank with my EasyPress 2.
Please check out the video tutorial below or scroll down for instructions with photos:
What is Infusible Ink?
As I mentioned above, Infusible Ink is Cricut’s name for their line of transfer sheets, markers and pens that allow you to sublimate a design into a polyester substrate. When the ink is heated, it turns into a gas that then infuses itself into the polyester fibers in the substrate. Substrates can be everything from shirts, pillows, blankets, pants, etc. with 100% polyester fiber content, or harder surfaces like mugs, water bottles, coasters, tiles, etc. that are treated with a polyester coating. Cotton/polyester blends can work but the polyester content of the material needs to be at least 50% and really, more like 80% to get a good result. Adding cotton fibers into the mix will limit how the ink infuses into the garment and will result in a less vibrant and sometimes, a less clear, image. Infusible Ink also DOES NOT work on dark substrates because it is translucent and will basically vanish when sublimated into dark surfaces (there are some ways around this, but that is for another post).
So, why do this? What’s the advantage? The advantage is that the design becomes almost completely permanent so you can put mugs in the dishwasher and you don’t have the sometimes stiff feel of vinyl on clothing or other fabric blanks like blankets or pillows. Instead the design is literally” in” the shirt front so it’s soft and just like wearing a shirt with no design on it. I also really like that the pens and markers give you the freedom to color a design however you like so it’s really easy to use multiple colors without having to cut and layer different colors of vinyl together and you can easily personalize designs to your own style.
Cricut isn’t the only manufacturer who makes pens and markers that can be used for sublimation. We R Memory Keepers has transfer quill markers and Artesprix has several sets of markers. There are probably more out there as well. Today I will concentrate on the Cricut Joy Infusible Ink pens and markers because that is what I have the most of and they are extremely popular. I also find them the very flexible in terms of nib size and color choices.
What Infusible Ink Pens & Markers Work with the Cricut Joy?
This may seem really obvious but only the Cricut Joy Infusible Ink pens and markers work in the Cricut Joy machine. There are non-Cricut adapters available on places like Etsy that will allow you to use different types of markers so it’s very possible that those may allow you to use the regular Cricut Infusible Ink pens and possibly other brands; I have not tried any of those yet (could void the warranty? it is unclear). But, the advantage of using the machine to only draw the outline of a design in Infusible Ink is that you can then color in the design with whatever Infusible Ink or Sublimation markers you have (Fig. A below).
Upload the Infusible Ink Design to Cricut Design Space
Download the Four Seasons Circles design (available below for FREE through January 31, 2021). Save it to your computer, unzip it and then open Cricut Design Space. On the left hand tool bar go to the Upload icon and click it. This will open the Upload screen where you should click on the large Upload Image button and then navigate within the computer window that opens until you find the Four Season Coasters .SVG file you just saved (you will also have a .DXF (Silhouette), .PNG (Image) and .CWRPJ (ScanNCut) versions). Click on the file to open it in Design Space. Once it uploads successfully and you can see it in the Upload Image box, you can rename it and add tags to it if you like and then click on the Save button in the lower right (Fig. B).
This will put you back into the original Upload screen but now the new image should be the first one showing in the image boxes. Click on it to select it and then click the Insert Images button in the lower right. The seasons designs will now show up on the Canvas screen. It will likely have a gray box around it indicating the entire design is selected. If you look at the Layers panel on the right side of the screen, you can see that the layers are all dark gray indicating they are all selected and there is a line at the very top that shows the whole design is one big group. Go to the top of the Layers panel and hit the Ungroup button to break the design into the separate seasonal designs and circles (Fig. C).
Resize the Winter Circle in Cricut Design Space
For today’s tutorial, I am only going to make one of the designs, the Winter circle (if you want to make all four, simply skip the steps where I hide the other designs). The Cricut coaster blanks I am using are about 3.5″ in diameter but Design Space brings the images in at a larger size. The circles are separate from the seasonal designs with them so click and drag over both the outer circle and the entire winter design to select it. Check that the lock in the lower left handle of the box around the design is locked. If not, click on it to lock it. Now go to the horizontal tool bar at the top of the screen and find the Size section. Change the width or height to 3.5″; the other dimension should automatically change since we locked the aspect ratio (Fig. D).
Hide the Elements Not Being Used in Cricut Design Space
Since I’m only making the winter design, I don’t need the other three right now. But, I don’t want to delete them because I may use them in the future. So I am going to hide them instead. To do this, go back to the Layers panel on the right and locate the group for the Summer Tree design. To hide the Summer tree design, click on the small eye icon on the right end of the Group’s top layer. The eye should disappear as will the design on the Canvas. Right underneath the group should be a layer for the circle that surrounds that design. Click on the eye on that layer to hide it as well (Fig. E) Repeat for the Spring and Fall designs and their circles.
The 3.5″ circle around each design is really only a placeholder/template for the size of the coasters. I don’t actually want to draw that circle so I need to hide the one surrounding the Winter design as well. So, find the Winter group on the Layers panel, move down to the circle layer just under the group and click the eye icon to hide this last circle.
Attach the Design in Cricut Design Space
Click on the remaining Winter design and then click the Attach icon at the bottom of the Layers panel on the right. This tells the program to keep all of the elements in the image together as you see them on the mat (aka “attached” to each other). The group will move to the top of the Layers panel under an Attach layer (Fig. F)
Change the Linetype in Cricut Design Space
Click the Winter design to select it (if necessary) and then go to the Linetype box on the left of the upper tool bar. Click on the arrow in the box next to the word “Cut”. From the drop down menu that appears, click on Draw to change the Linetype from Cut to Draw (Fig. G).
If you have already selected your Joy machine from the machine dropdown menu in Cricut Design Space, the only choices will be Cut and Draw. If you are using a different machine (Maker or Explore Air), there will be additional choices but still choose Draw. NOTE: Make sure you pick your Joy machine on the machine dropdown before you go to “Make It”.
“Make It” in Cricut Design Space
Click the “Make It” button in the upper right. If you have selected your Joy machine as the machine you are using, a screen will appear asking you to select how you will load the material into the machine. Click on the On Mat option and then click the green Done button (Fig. H).
A screen will show you the design on the mat. The design will be placed by default into the upper left corner of the mat. Click on it and drag it down about 1/2″ and over to the right about 1/2″ to give yourself some space around the design. You need some extra space around the design when you cut it out later and tape it on to the coaster. After moving the design, click the green Continue button in the lower right (Fig. I).
The next screen will connect to your Joy machine (make sure it’s plugged in) and then ask you to choose the Base Material. Click on the Browse All Materials button on the right, scroll down to Paper and then click on Laser Copy Paper to select it and the click the Done button. If you are using a Maker or Explore Air machine, you will have more paper choices so in that case, select Copy Paper, 20 lb. The next step will now highlight showing what to load into the machine – the pen and the mat (Fig. J).
Installing the Pen Into the Cricut Joy
I suggest using a fine point pen when drawing an Infusible Ink design, so I used a Cricut Joy 0.4 mm Black pen. To load it into the machine, undo the latch that holds the blade in place. Remove the blade by pulling straight up and replace it with the Cricut Joy Infusible Ink pen. When placing the pen into the holder, push it down until it stops against the lip on the pen body (you barely have to push it down)(Fig. K). Close the latch to lock the pen in place (Fig. L).
Load the Mat
Once the pen is installed, put the paper on the mat. You should use plain copy paper for the drawing (and any Infusible Ink drawing) so you need a Light Grip Mat. A Standard Grip Mat is too sticky and will rip the lightweight paper when you try to remove it. The paper should be cut to about 4.5″ x 4.5″. Place it into the upper part of the mat and slide the mat into the machine (Fig. M). The Cricut Joy will automatically pull the mat in to itself.
Draw the Design
Back in Cricut Design Space, click the green Go button. The Joy will now draw the design. It takes less than five minutes. Once the drawing is done, click the Unload Mat button in Design Space. The Joy will push the mat out and you can now check out the drawing (Fig. N)
If it looks good, remove the paper from the mat by flipping the mat over. Carefully peel the mat away from the paper using a spatula or your hand, trying to keep the paper as flat as possible.
Color the Design with Infusible Ink Pens & Markers
There may be some noticeable dot marks on some of the lines in the drawing. This is because the Cricut Joy drops the pen down to the paper (making a dot) and then pulls the pen to draw the lines (Fig. O). It repeats this process many times. I did my best to smooth the dots into the lines with the 0.4 mm black Infusible Ink pen. Some of the outlines need to be filled in so that made blending the dots easier. Blending helped but didn’t completely hide the dots. They don’t show prominently after the design is sublimated so don’t worry too much (Fig.O).
When you are happy with the dot marks and lines, color the design using the Infusible Ink markers and pens of your choice.
- WRMK Transfer Quill in Brown (no name on pen so best guess)
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Forest Green
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Green
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Yellow
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Something Blue
The colors appear less vibrant than the markers used and that is completely normal for sublimation inks (Fig. P). The color becomes much, much brighter after it is heated so don’t worry.
Tape the Colored Design onto the Coaster
Trim the design into a circle shape that is larger than the coaster blank. I used a pencil to do a wide trace around the coaster sitting on top of the design. Place the coaster face down (shiny side) on top of the design and line up the bottom edge of the front snow bank with the bottom edge of the coaster. I had the black line of the snow bank hanging just slightly over the edge of the coaster. Then, fold the excess paper from the design that is hanging past the edge of the coaster up around the coaster itself to get the shape of the coaster onto the paper. Very carefully cut small slits into the edges of the overhanging paper, making sure to not cut into the design itself.
Now fold the excess paper up around the edge of the coaster overlapping the slits as need to get the design to lay smoothly against the front and edges of the coaster. Use heat resistant tape to hold the paper in place; regular tape will melt and ruin the project. NOTE: Make sure you are placing the colored design against the shiny side of the coaster (Fig. Q).
Sublimating the Design with the Cricut EasyPress 2
Cricut says the settings for the EasyPress2 when sublimating onto ceramic coasters is 400 degrees for 240 seconds so that’s what I used with my EasyPress2. While it heats up prepare your heating area. The Cricut EasyPress2 settings page also gives instructions for the set up, click here to go to that page. I put down a towel, then the EasyPress Mat, then 2 pieces of plain white cardstock, then the taped up coaster – design side down, followed by a layer of parchment paper that is large enough to cover the entire heating surface of the EasyPress 2 (Fig. R).
Once the EasyPress 2 is heated up, place is straight down on to the coaster making sure to cover the entire coaster. Press the green Go button on the EasyPress and then leave it alone until the timer beeps when it is done (Fig. S). DO NOT move or shift the EasyPress after you have placed it on the coaster. Infusible Ink is heat reactive and can smear or ghost if the heat source is slid or moved while the design is hot.
When removing the EasyPress make sure to lift straight up to again, not accidentally smear the design. Place the EasyPress back on its cradle and turn it off. Be careful as it is extremely hot!! Leave in place until it cools down completely.
Remove the parchment paper right away and throw away if it is scorched (highly likely). DO NOT touch the coaster!! It is extremely hot!! Leave it alone until it has cooled completely (at least 30 minutes, maybe more).
Once the coaster is completely cool, you can pick it up and remove the tape and paper from it to reveal your new, colorful coaster (Fig. T). If you can salvage it, the heat transfer tape can be re-used; I store mine on my EasyPress 2 (seen in photos). Enjoy!!
Questions or Comments?
If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you soon. Want to just tell me how much you loved this tutorial? Please leave me a comment below (lol!).
I would also appreciate any ideas you may have for topics to cover related to the software for Cricut (Design Space), Silhouette (Studio) or Brother (Canvas) and any suggestions you may have on projects to make with the Cricut Maker, Cricut Joy, Silhouette Cameo 4 or the Brother Scan N Cut DX. Please leave any requests you have in the comments. I appreciate you taking the time to visit and read my blog. Thanks!
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FOUR SEASONS CIRCLES DESIGN FILES – No Longer Available