Like many people these days, I am a bit obsessed with sublimation. It seems only appropriate then that I am writing a tutorial on creating an Infusible Ink t-shirt with the Cricut Maker.
If you don’t have a sublimation printer (which I don’t – yet), Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets are an easy way to add a graphic to a 100% polyester shirt. So that’s what I am using for this project. The Cricut Maker can easily cut the Transfer Sheets and then heating them on to the shirt is even easier.
The hardest part of this project is getting the red plaid letters on to the same backing sheet as the black letters and honestly, that isn’t all that tough. Long story short, this is a pretty easy and (if I do say so myself) cute t-shirt project!
Please check out the video tutorial below or scroll down for instructions with photos:
What is Infusible Ink?
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).
Why Use Infusible Ink or Sublimation Instead of Vinyl?
The advantage of Infusible Ink and sublimation products are that the design becomes almost completely permanent on the blank you put it on. Vinyl sits on the surface of a blank, while sublimated designs are infused into the fibers of the blank.
You can put mugs in the dishwasher and wash shirts repeatedly with no fading or cracking. 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. Fantastic, in my book!
Upload the Design to Cricut Design Space
Download the All You Need is Love &… designs (available below for FREE through April 22 2021). Unzip the folder and save it to your computer; 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 Browse button and then navigate within the computer window that opens until you find the All You Need is Love & Dogs (or &Cats) .SVG file you just saved (you will also have .PNG (Image) versions).
Click on the .SVG file to open it in Design Space. Once it uploads successfully and you can see it in the Prepare to Upload box, you can rename it and add tags to it if you like and then click on the Upload button in the lower right.
This will put you back into the original Upload screen but now the new image should be the first one showing on the left in the image boxes under Recent Uploads.
Click on it to select it and then click the Insert Images button in the lower right.
The design will now show up on the Canvas screen.
Resize the Image in Cricut Design Space
The image should open up at about 8.5″ W x 12″ H. This is a bit large for both the Cricut Maker standard 12″ x 12″ mat as well as my EasyPress 2 heating surface so it needs to be reduced down a bit.
To do this, check that the lock on the lower left corner handle of the box around the image is closed (“locked”). Navigate to the upper tool bar and change the height to 11″. This should change the width to around 7.75″.
Ungroup, Select & Attach in Cricut Design Space
If you look at the Layers panel on the right side of the screen, you will notice that all of the layers for the design are grouped together. That needs to change so navigate to the top of the Layers panel and click Ungroup to separate out the Layers.
Now you need to select only the black elements in the design. You can do so by holding down the Shift key while clicking on each element until all of them are selected. Or, you can hold down the Shift key and click on each of the layers with a black design element on the Layers panel until they are all selected. You can tell you’ve got them all when all of the black element layers are darker gray on the Layers panel.
Once all of the black elements are selected, but not the red layer, navigate to the bottom of the Layers panel and click on Attach.
When you Attach elements together, you are basically telling the software to leave those elements in the exact arrangement they are in on the Canvas. If you don’t do this, the software will rearrange them on the cutting mats in the next step to conserve resources.
You want to Attach those elements together because this will mean when you weed the black Infusible Ink Transfer sheet, the black elements are arranged just as you want them for the shirt and it will be much easier to add the red “dogs” or “cats” word to the layout.
Mirror the Mats in Cricut Design Space
Click the “Make It” button in the upper right. The mat screen will appear showing two mats – one is black and one is red. When you click on each colored mat on the left side bar, you will see the words laid out on each mat. Make sure the black words are arranged as they were on teh Canvas. If not, hit Cancel and go back and Attach those elements to each other.
With Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets, all elements need to be mirrored prior to cutting them out because they will be flipped face down on to the t-shirt blank.
To do this, click the Mirror toggle button on each mat on the left side bar to the on position. You will see the elements on the black mat flip as well as the word on the red mat.
Once everything is mirrored, click Continue in the lower right.
Select Base Material in Cricut Design Space
The software will connect to your Cricut Maker and then prompt you to Select Base material as Step 1. Click on the green Browse All Materials link to open the materials menu.
Scroll down the list to the Iron-On category and click on Infusible Ink Transfer Sheet.
Click on Done to set Infusible Ink Transfer Sheet as the Base Material for Mat 1. Mat 2 will default to this as well so you don’t have to do anything further. Now head over to your machine.
Load the Mat in the Cricut Maker
Check that the Fine Point Blade is loaded into Clamp B on your Cricut Maker. If not, load it.
Add a Black Infusible Ink Transfer Sheet to a Standard Grip Mat. It should cover the entire area that will have black words and the paw cut out of it (about 8″ x 11.5″). I just used a brand new 12″ x 12″ sheet so didn’t need to worry.
Load the mat into the Cricut Maker.
Why is Black Not Really Black?
It is completely normal for the colors on the Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets as well as any sublimation prints or images drawn with sublimation markers to appear dull and not as saturated as it seems like they should be.
In this case, the black sheet is going to look kind of gray-brown and not really black at all. The red buffalo check sheet will also look dull and muted.
Once the elements are heated, the color will become much more saturated and true. If you look on the box that the Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets come in, the pictures of the colors on the box are very close to what they will look like after the heating process.
Cut Out the Design Elements with the Cricut Maker
Once you have loaded the mat with the black sheet, the Cricut button will begin to flash. Press it to start cutting out the black design elements.
When complete and BEFORE unloading the mat, check that the paw is cut through by carefully lifting an edge of the paw away from the mat being sure to not scratch the color. If cut through, unload the mat. If not, click the Cricut button to cut it again.
Remove the black sheet from the mat by flipping the mat over and peeling the mat away from the sheet.
Repeat the process with the red Buffalo check pattern sheet to cut out the red ‘Dogs’ or ‘Cats’ word.
Weed the Elements from the Transfer Sheets
Trim off the uncut portions of transfer sheets with scissors or a paper trimmer and save them for a later project. As tempting as it is, DO NOT trim out the section on the black sheet between the paw and the ‘love is’ portion because that is where you will fit in the red word.
Weeding Infusible Ink Sheets is different than weeding vinyl. The sheets are not stretchy like vinyl and they are kind of thick so you don’t need any tools to weed them.
You also want to make sure that your hands are dry because lotion or sweat/skin oil can negatively effect the color on the sheets and result in an uneven transfer when heated on to the blank.
The easiest way I have found to weed Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets is to bend a corner of the sheet to separate the backing from the sheets itself and then slowly pull the sheet away from the backing. As I work around curves and pull inside pieces out, it is easiest to gently bend the elements that will remain on the sheet until the part to be weeded almost pops away the sheet. There is a type of popping/cracking sound as you pull the stiff sheet away from the backing.
With larger areas, like the black sheet, I trim or tear weeded areas away when they get too unwieldy to handle while continuing to weed new areas.
Continue weeding until all the elements are revealed on both the black and red plaid sheets.
Combine All Elements on One Backing/Transfer Sheet
With sublimation and Infusible Ink, you should heat all of the elements at one time and only one time. If you try heating the top of half of the design and then move to the bottom half of the design and heat it again, you may wind up with darker colors where the two heatings overlapped. Not good.
Because of this, you need to combine the red plaid word and the black words all on one backing/transfer sheet. The easiest way to do this is to add the red plaid letters to the black elements sheet (hence why we left the big space – lol).
I peeled up the bottom part of the backing sheet on the red letters and then positioned the O in Dogs around the paw lining it up with the cut outs in the letter.
Then it was just a matter of sticking down the rest of the letters lower halves and then peeling away the backing sheet. I did have to mess with the small hearts a bit and I moved the S closer to the G but overall, pretty easy. Especially since the letters are kind of stiff.
Prepare to Sublimate the Design with the Cricut EasyPress 2
Cricut says the settings for the EasyPress2 when sublimating Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets onto a T shirt is 385 degrees (Fahrenheit) for 40 seconds so that’s what I used with my EasyPress2. The Cricut EasyPress2 settings page also gives instructions for the set up, click here to go to that page.
While it heats up prepare your heating area. I put down a towel, then the EasyPress Mat, then the shirt. I used a Hanes Cool Dry 100% Polyester White women’s t-shirt (see Supply List below).
To prevent ink bleed through on to the back of the shirt and possibly the mat, add cardstock in between the shirt layers. If you have one piece of larger cardstock this is best, but you can overlap the cardstock inside the shirt if you have to, like I did. Just be aware that overlapping the cardstock will require extra pressure later to get a good transfer.
Run a clean lint roller over the front of the shirt where the design will go to remove any excess hair, lint or schmutz from the fabric surface. Extra bits on teh shirt (even tiny bits) will interfere with the ink transfer.
Finally, place a piece of butcher paper (it comes in the package with the Infusible Ink Sheets) over the area on the shirt to be heated and then place the now heated EasyPress 2 on to it for 15 seconds. This will remove any moisture from the shirt that could interfere with the color transfer.
Remove the butcher paper and let the shirt cool completely before moving to the next step. Infusible Ink is heat activated so you risk transferring the design incorrectly if you place it on the shirt while it is still warm.
Sublimate the T Shirt with the Cricut EasyPress 2
Once the shirt is cool again, place the weeded Transfer Sheet design, color side down on to the center of the shirt. You can measure or eyeball the placement depending on your preference. Press in place so the sticky backing sheet adheres to the shirt to hold it in place.
Put a layer of butcher paper over the design again and then place the EasyPress 2 straight down on to the shirt making sure to cover the entire design. Press the green Go button on the EasyPress 2 and apply light pressure to the machine with your hands while the timer counts down.
If you overlapped the cardstock inside the shirt, I suggest using medium pressure to ensure that the heating plate causes good, flat contact between the design and the shirt so the design transfers evenly. Guess how I know this? Lol.
DO NOT move or shift the EasyPress after you have placed it on the shirt. 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 after teh beep sounds (40 seconds) make sure to lift straight up to again, not accidentally smear the design. Place the EasyPress2 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 butcher paper right and let the shirt cool slightly (a minute or two) until the transfer sheet backing sheet feels warm rather than hot. Then peel the backing sheet away to reveal the transferred design.
If you had nice even pressure between the shirt, design and EasyPress 2, you should have an amazing new dog lover or cat lover t-shirt.
You can tell if the transfer was even by looking at the words left on the backing sheet. If you see spots with darker color on the letters/words, that means you had an uneven transfer to the shirt so some parts of the design may appear darker than others on the shirt itself.
This isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it looks kind of rustic and worn which can be fun. Other times, you can’t even tell. Most of the time, the transfer is good so I hope your turned out fabulous. 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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ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE &… DESIGN FILES – No Longer Available