Have you heard of sublimation? If not, 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.
Infusible Ink is Cricut’s name for their line of sublimation pens, markers and transfer sheets. 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. And, YES, you can use Infusible Ink pens with the Silhouette Cameo 4!! It’s really easy too.
In today’s tutorial, I will teach you which Infusible Ink pens and markers you can use with the Cameo 4’s Pen Holder, how to set up the design you want to use in Silhouette Studio, how to actually draw it with the Cameo 4 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 too 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 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 Silhouette Cameo 4?
To use any Infusible Ink pens or markers with the Silhouette Cameo 4, you will need the Silhouette Pen Holder, a separate purchase from your machine. The Pen Holder comes with a housing and three sizes of adapters (S, M, L) that allow you to use non-Silhouette branded pens and markers with a variety of barrel sizes. The Cameo 4 machine does come with several adapters but all of those are too large for any of the Infusible Ink pens I tried.
I tried out Cricut Joy Infusible Ink pens and markers, the regular, standard-sized barrel Cricut Infusible Ink pens and markers (0.4 and 1.0 mm) that are designed for the Maker and Explore Air machines, some thicker barrel Cricut Infusible Ink pens and markers that are sold as specialty sets (2.0 mm) as well as the We R Memory Keepers Transfer Quills with the Pen Holder. Of those, the ones that fit were:
- Regular Cricut Infusible Ink pens and markers with the standard sized barrel (0.4 and 1.0 mm)
- We R Memory Keepers Transfer Quills
Both of these types of pens/markers can be used with the large adapter in the Pen Holder. Unfortunately, the Cricut Joy pens and markers and the thicker barreled Infusible Ink pens and markers Do NOT fit in any of the Pen Holder adapters or the ones that come with the Cameo 4 machine.
There are non-Silhouette 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 Cricut Joy 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 size Infusible Ink or sublimation markers you have.
Open the Infusible Ink Design in Silhouette Studio
Download the Four Seasons Circles design (available below for FREE through January 31, 2021). Save it to your computer, unzip it and then open Silhouette Studio. Go to File>Open in the upper left of the screen and navigate to the unzipped designs. Select the Silhouette Studio file (you will also receive .SVG, .PNG and .CWPRJ versions) and click Open. This will open the design on the mat as shown below.
Move Three Seasons Off The Mat in Silhouette Studio
For today’s tutorial, I am only going to make one of the designs, the Fall circle (if you want to make all four, simply skip this step and then apply the following steeps to all four designs). One at a time, click on each of the other seasons – Summer, Winter and Spring – and drag each off the mat into the gray space next to it. Click and drag the Fall design and its circle into the upper left corner of the mat, leaving it about a half inch to one inch away from both edges (top and left).
Ungroup Fall Design in Silhouette Studio
Click on the Fall design to select it and navigate to the upper toolbar and click Ungroup to separate the elements in that design from each other.
Check Size and Move Circle in Silhouette Studio
The Cricut coaster blanks I am using are about 3.5″ in diameter. Silhouette Studio should bring the designs in at that size. But, double check and make sure by clicking and dragging over the Fall design and its circle to select them all and go to the Size section of the upper toolbar. Confirm it is 3.5″ W x 3.5″ H. If not, ensure the lock icon is closed (locked) and then change one of the dimensions to 3.5″ by typing in its box. This will resize the design and its circle to 3.5″. Click off of the elements to unselect them.
The circle is really just a template for the coaster itself and you don’t need to draw it, so carefully select just the circle (NOT the Fall design inside it) and drag it off the mat into the gray area next to the mat with the other three coaster designs.
To ensure you don’t accidentally move anything in the remaining Fall design, click and drag over all of the elements in the Fall scene and click on the Group button in the upper toolbar (next to Ungroup).
Select Material in Send Tab in Silhouette Studio
With any Infusible Ink drawn design, you just use simple, plain printer/copy paper. Nothing fancy or expensive needed, I swear! So click on the Send tab in the upper right and then go to the dropdown menu on the Material line under Tool 1. Scroll down the menu that opens and select Copy Paper, Medium (20lb.). Now head over to your machine.
Load the Infusible Ink Pen into Silhouette Cameo 4
Slide a 0.4 mm Infusible Ink Black pen into the large (gray) adapter that comes with the Silhouette Pen Holder. Holding the adapter on to it, slide the black pen into the Pen Holder housing until the tip hits the inside of the cap on the housing at the bottom. Slowly screw the gray adapter into the top of the housing until the pen is fully secured in the housing. You should be able to shake it and it won’t move. Remove the cap at the bottom of the adapter and place somewhere safe (don’t lose it!).
If you haven’t already, turn on your Silhouette Cameo 4. Open the lid and pull forward on the plastic tab holding the blade in place in the tool 1 carriage. Pull the blade straight up to remove it and set it aside. With the flat side of the housing (has a silver metal rectangle on it) facing into the machine, slide the Pen Holder straight down into the Tool 1 carriage. Push straight back on the plastic tab until it clicks in place and locks in the pen holder.
Set Cameo 4 to Draw in Silhouette Studio
Return to the Silhouette Studio software and confirm that the Pen tool is “Detected” on the Tool line (Fig. 1). If not, double check that the Pen Holder is in the machine correctly and pushed all the way down until the tool is detected.
Now click on the dropdown menu next to Action and select Sketch. This tells the Cameo 4 that it is drawing the design rather than cutting it out (Fig. 2).
The section at the bottom of the tab under the Cameo 4 header should now say “Load Media” (fig. 3).
Load the Material & Mat into the Silhouette Cameo 4
So the thin copy paper doesn’t tear when removing the drawn design, use a Light Tack Silhouette Mat and place a piece of copy paper into the upper left hand corner of it. Once the paper is secure, load the mat into the machine by lining up the mat edge with the gray line and arrows on the left side of the machine, pushing it against the wheels and then hit the load mat button (the ‘in’ arrow).
Send the Design to the Silhouette Cameo 4
Once the mat is loaded, return to Silhouette Studio and click on the blue Send button in the lower right. Your Cameo 4 should begin drawing the design.
Unload and Remove the Design
My Cameo 4 drew the design very quickly, under two minutes, and it drew it the best (smoothest) out of all of the machines I have used Infusible Ink pens with including the Cricut Joy and Maker. Yay! So once the drawing is complete, unload the mat and flip the mat over, paper side down. Remove the drawing by peeling the mat away from the paper and keeping the paper as flat as possible. Copy paper will really want to curl and if it does a bit, it’s not a big deal but do your best to keep it flat.
If you use a new mat and like me, some adhesive residue is left on the back of the paper, carefully remove it by gently rubbing it with your fingers; it’s like rubber cement and will roll off.
Color the Design with Infusible Ink Pens & Markers
Color the design using the Infusible Ink markers and pens of your choice.
- Cricut Infusible Ink 0.4 mm pen in Tawny
- Cricut Infusible Ink 0.4 mm pen in Cardinal
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Sunflower
- Cricut Infusible Ink 2.0 mm Marker in Tangerine
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Yellow
- 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 Green Apple
The colors appear less vibrant than the markers used and that is completely normal for sublimation inks. 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 while it sat 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 hills with the bottom edge of the coaster. I had the black line of the hills 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.
Fold the excess paper up around the edge of the coaster overlapping the slits as needed 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.
Sublimating the Design with the Cricut EasyPress 2
Cricut says the settings for the EasyPress2 when sublimating onto ceramic coasters is 400 degrees (F) 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.
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 EasyPress2 and then leave it alone until the timer beeps when it is done. DO NOT move or shift the EasyPress 2 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 2 make sure to lift straight up to again not accidentally smear the design. Place the EasyPress 2 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. R). If you can salvage it, the heat transfer tape can be re-used; I store mine on my EasyPress 2 (greenish tape 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? Also leave me a comment below (lol!).
I always 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