Have you heard of sublimation? 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. Cricut has its own line of sublimation transfer sheets, pens and markers that they call Infusible Ink. 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. But, is this something that can be used with the Brother ScanNCut?? Yes!! In today’s tutorial I will show you which Infusible Ink pens fit in the ScanNCut Universal Pen holder, how to set up the design you want to use in Canvas Workspace, how to actually draw it with a Scan N Cut DX 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. I will be using one of the WRMK markers when I color today, but will primarily 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 Brother Scan N Cut?
To use the Infusible Ink pens with the Brother Scan N Cut you will need the Universal Pen Holder. This is the holder that allows you to use multiple kinds of pens with the machine, not just Brother. Having tested it, the Infusible Ink pens and markers that fit are the Cricut Joy and the regular Cricut Infusible Ink pens and markers, but not the fatter Infusible Ink smaller marker sets that are specialty-themed like the Tropical and Freehand sets. It can get confusing so long story short, if the marker/pen barrel is the same size as the Cricut Joy Infusible Ink pens and markers, they will fit. If the barrel is wider, they won’t. The We R memory Keepers transfer quills also fit.
Here’s a list of which Cricut sets fit that should help (this list may not include every set, but most):
- Cricut Infusible Ink Ultimate Markers Set 1.0 mm (30 count)
- Cricut Infusible Ink Ultimate Pens Set 0.4 mm (30 & 15 count)
- Cricut Infusible Ink Ultimate Pens Set 0.4 mm (30 count)
- Cricut Infusible Ink Basics Markers (1.0mm ) & Pens (0.4 mm)
- Cricut Infusible Ink Watercolor Splash Markers (1.0mm ) & Pens (0.4 mm)
- Cricut Infusible Ink Neons Markers
- Cricut Infusible Ink Black Pens 0.4 mm
- Cricut Infusible Ink Black Markers 1.0 mm
- Cricut Infusible Ink Nostalgia Markers (1.0 mm ) & Pens (0.4 mm)
Setting Up the Infusible Ink Design in Canvas Workspace
Download the Four Seasons Circles design (available below for FREE through January 31, 2021). Save it to your computer, unzip it and then open Brother Canvas Workspace. Click File > Open in the upper left and then navigate within the computer window that opens until you find the Four Season Coasters .CWPRJ file (this is the file extension on Brother Canvas files) you just saved (you will also have a .DXF, .PNG and .SVG versions). Click on the file to open it in Canvas Workspace. Once it is open, go to the right hand tool bar and click on the Layers panel (looks like a stack of papers). Here you will see that each season design is in a group (Fig. A).
For today’s tutorial, I am only going to make one of the designs, the Spring circle (if you want to make all four, simply skip the steps where I move the designs off the mat and then hide them; instead leave them all on the mat and draw all four at one time). The Cricut coaster blanks I am using are about 3.5″ in diameter so the designs should also be that size. You can check by looking at the Edit panel on the right tool bar and making sure the width and height of the circles are set to 3.5″ and that the designs fit inside them. If not, make sure the Maintain Aspect Ratio box is checked and then change either dimension to 3.5″ Because I’m only making one design (Spring) for this tutorial, I will pull the other three designs off the mat by clicking and dragging the Fall, Winter and Summer designs over to the blue space next to the mat (Fig. B).
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 it (or them if printing all four designs). If you want to make something other than a coaster and use the circle, feel free; I think it would look good on a t-shirt but I digress… To hide the circle, I will go to the Layers panel on the right hand tool bar and locate the group for the Spring design. I will locate the circle within the group (last layer) and click on the eye icon on the right side of the circle’s layer. The eye is now turned off, so the layer (the circle) is now hidden (Fig. D). I will also do the same thing with the three seasons groups that I don’t want to draw (Fall, Winter & Summer). This time, however, I can click the eye icon next to the line that designates the overall group, instead of the individual circle. NOTE: If you don’t “hide” all elements that are not on the mat, the program will not allow you to send the file to the ScanNCut machine.
I now have just the Spring tree, flowers on the tree, hill, butterfly and flowers on the hill showing on the mat. This is all I want to send to the machine. But first, I have to change each of those layers from “cut” to draw”. To do this, I need to go over to the Layers panel on the right hand tool bar and click on the small knife blade icon next to where the eye icon was on each layer for the remaining elements. Click on the knife blade and select Draw. The icon will change to a pen nib. Repeat this for each of the elements (Fig. E). NOTE: With designs being sent from Canvas Workspace to a ScanNCut, any element you want the machine to draw has to be changed to draw in this manner in Canvas Workspace before you send the design to the machine. Otherwise, the machine will not allow you to choose draw when you try to on the machine menu. Weird, I know.
If you haven’t already, drag the design into the upper left corner of the mat so you know where to place the paper on the mat. I leave about a half inch or more all the way around the design for extra space when I cut it out later. Finally, send the design to the machine by going to File > Export/Transfer FCM file. A box will appear that will warn you that hidden items will not be transferred and any small elements may not since they are too small. Click “OK” and then a box appears asking you to choose your method of file export/transfer (Fig. F). The first choice looks like a file folder and you choose that if you plan to save the file to a thumb drive and then take the thumb drive to your machine and plug it in to get the file on to the machine. The second option is for wireless transfer via the internet; usage is self-explanatory although older models of ScanNCut machines will need to have been wirelessly activated. The third option is for transfer via USB cable and you use that if your machine is plugged into your computer via a USB cable. I will use wireless transfer and then go to my machine to complete the drawing.
Installing the Infusible Ink Pen Into the Scan N Cut
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 position it in the Brother Universal Pen Holder, place the pen holder into the pen positioner (that’s what I’m calling it) and then slide the marker into the holder and down until it meets the bottom of the positioner. Usually you would put the material you are drawing on at the bottom of the positioner and then slide the marker down to that material, but with Infusible Ink pens and markers you want the machine to draw on regular, cheap printer paper and it is super thin so you don’t really need it in this case. Once the pen is positioned, pull up on and turn the gray band on the pen holder until it tightens around the pen and then snap the small teeth on the gray band into the white teeth on the holder to keep the pen in place (Fig. G).
To install in the machine, simply flip the blade holder up and remove the blade from the slot. Place the Pen Holder into the blade holder slot and push the down until it is fully seated. Flip the blade holder down to lock the pen holder in place (Fig. H).
Load the ScanNCut 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 Tack Mat. A Standard Tack Mat is too sticky and will rip the lightweight paper when you try to remove it. Place the paper into the upper left corner of the mat, assuming that is where you placed the Spring tree design on the mat in Canvas Workspace. Place the mat into the machine and hit the Load Mat button (Fig. I). Now go to the main screen of the ScanNCut.
Setting Up the ScanNCut DX to Draw the Design
On the DX screen, I will select Retrieve Data to get the file. It takes a minute and then the Spring tree design appears on the screen. I will hit Okay and then hit the Please Select arrow and choose Draw (Fig. J).
I always do a Test cut to make sure I’ve positioned the pen properly in the holder, so I select Test. A small triangle in a red box appears on the screen and I use my stylus to grab it and drag it into an area where I know I will have paper on the mat. When repositioned properly, hit Start. The machine will draw a small triangle as a test (Fig. K). If it looks good, hit Start and have the machine draw the design. If the test doesn’t look right, remove the pen holder and adjust the pen, probably downwards, so it will make correct contact with the paper.
Coloring In the Design with Infusible Ink Pens & Markers
When the drawing is complete, unload the mat. You may notice that some of the lines appear a bit bumpy (Fig. L). This is because the ScanNCut uses a series of dots to fill in thin shapes and did so to fill in the outline around the tree.
Before I started coloring, I very carefully took the Cricut Joy 0.4 mm black Infusible Ink pen and smoothed out the bumpiness of the lines as best I could. They aren’t t completely smooth but enough so it wouldn’t bother me when seen on the coaster. When you are happy with the outlines, color the design using the Infusible Ink markers and pens of your choice.
- WRMK Transfer Quill in Brown (no name on it, but that’s my best guess)
- WRML Transfer Quill in Fuchsia (best guess on color name)
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Green
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Forest Green
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Green Apple
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Light Purple
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Yellow
- Cricut Infusible Ink 1.0 mm Marker in Coral
The colors appear less vibrant than the markers used and that is completely normal for sublimation inks (Fig. M). 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 colored hill with the bottom edge of the coaster. I had the black line of the hill 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 (Fig. N).
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 (Fig. O). 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 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. P).
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. Q). 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. R). 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