I am starting work on updating my son’s room! One thing I really want for the space is a little electric fireplace to heat up his room. We have an old house and it gets cold in the winter! For the fireplace surround, I’ll be adding tiles. I want to do something fun, so I’m making a DIY Delft tile look through sublimation on ceramic tile. I’m excited to show you how to do this!
sublimation on ceramic tile DIY
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. It’d mean so much if you’d watch the video! I’m trying to get better at my video skills so I can grow my YouTube channel. If you have a few minutes to watch this and/or subscribe, I’d so appreciate it.
what is sublimation printing?
What is sublimation printing? Sublimation printing is a process that begins with printing an image on a sheet of sublimation paper. Then, transferring that image onto another material through pressure and heat that’s usually between 350-400 degrees. This can be done on wood, fabric, or ceramics. It’s great for beginners because it is easy to do while getting a high end look.
- Thermal Laminate Pouches
- Heat Resistant Tape
- White Square Tile from Home Depot
- Sublimation Printing Service
- Delft Tile Graphics
- Cricut EasyPress 2 in 9″x9″ size
- Cricut EasyPress Mat in 12″x12″ size
- Parchment Paper
- Heat Resistant Gloves or a kitchen hot pad works too
- Cricut Scraper
- Cuticle Scissors
- Exact-o Knife
Note, I don’t own a sublimation printer and don’t want to invest in one, so I found a company on Etsy where I can send my digital files and they’ll print the image on sublimation paper then ship it to me. They have a fast turn around time. This is a great option if you don’t have a sublimation printer and paper.
See how the sublimation tile turned out on the DIY Electric Fireplace here.
step 1- create the design
Start by creating a design for the tile. This can be a photograph or clip art. For my project I’ll be using the tiles on a fireplace so I want them to look like Delft tile. But I’ll be using a green tone to match my son’s room and his favorite color instead of the traditional blue and white. I think Delft tiles are a timeless look but will also add personality to the space.
To be honest, it’s tricky for me to work on a 7 year old’s room because I need to try and create something (especially permanent things like tile) to work in his space as he grows. If I was less concerned about that, I’d have him hand paint tile like we did in my bedroom. Or I even considered buying Beatrix Potter illustrated tiles.
Once I was set on the design, I looked on Etsy and was able to find affordable Delft Tile Graphics. I downloaded those and then put them in PicMonkey (an online graphic design software). For the “canvas” (the size of the image) I re-sized it to be 1275 pixels by 1275 pixels which is 4 1/4″ x 4 1/4″- the exact size of the White Square Tile from Home Depot I’m using.
I choose the patterns that work with what Don likes and then added a few cat tiles since he’s such an animal lover.
The graphics are tinted to the color #739f00 to get the blue-green tone I want.
Here are how all the tiles turned out that I’ll be using:
Once the tile design is complete, I save it to my computer and then send it in to the Sublimation Printing Service to print and ship the designs right to my home.
step 2- test run
Before I make all of my tiles, I did a quick test run on one tile since I haven’t made these before. Here is what I learned-
It’s very important to clean the tile first. The lamination will leave air bubbles around dirt so it’s best to wipe the tiles clean before laminating. I didn’t clean my tile at all on the test run (oops).
Getting the bubbles out is key to having this project looking professional. After putting the lamination on, there will be air bubbles on the surface. They need to be popped and pushed out or else they will be obvious on the finished project and look horrible.
The sublimation paper is not the color that the image on the tile will be once it’s complete. My sublimation paper came in looking an olive green. I want a bright mint color like I have on the graphics I created. Once the tile was done, I was thrilled that it came out the color I was imagining!
Step 3- prep and lamination
Next, let’s prep the tile so they’re ready for printing. First, clean the tile with all purpose cleaner. Spray it on the tile and wipe it clean with a paper towel. Hair or dirt will get trapped in the printing process and look bad. If a tile is new, it doesn’t mean that it’s clean so wipe it off really well before beginning. Then I’m going to add a laminate layer to the tile.
Why do the tiles need laminated before sublimation? Because without the lamination coat, there’s nothing for the ink to stick to on the glossy tile so the results will be a faded or it’ll create a ghost image. Some companies make ready to sublimate tile blanks, but they are expensive (these are $25 for 10 pieces where Home Depot Tiles are $16 for 100 pieces of tile).
The way sublimation printing works is the ink needs to bond with polyester. There is polyester in the laminate. Another option is to brush on polyacrylic instead of doing the lamination.
So to have the image stick, the tiles need to be laminated (which adds $7 to the cost). This saves money overall, though it does take extra time. Note, I did a test without laminating the top and just using heat to sublimate the tile. It didn’t work at all. In the corners there was a bit of color, but the ink just didn’t transfer to the tile. The color easily scratched off.
To laminate the tile, put the heat mat on a table. Then, layer parchment paper on top of the heat mat before putting the tile face up on the parchment paper.
Note, you only need to cut parchment paper for this project once. It can be used over and over for all the tiles. It’ll get yellowed from the heat, but that’s fine.
Next, cut a piece of laminate to be a little bigger than the tile. The laminate I’m using comes as a pouch so an edge needs to be cut to create two pieces.
Tip- don’t cut the laminate and then leave it out of the package. It’ll get hair and dust on it and the end result won’t be good. I like to put mine matte side down on a clean tile so it’s ready to go. This is especially good practice since the laminate pouches create two pieces when cut.
Put the piece of laminate matte side down on the tile.
Layer another piece of parchment paper above the tile.
Heat the EasyPress to 400 degrees and set the time to 120 seconds.
Now, it’s time to laminate the tile! To do that, put the hot EasyPress on top of the tile. Hit the Cricut button twice so it heats up the tile for 240 seconds. I just lay the EasyPress on top of the tile. At the end, 15 seconds before the time is up, I push the heat press and massage it over the tile to try to eliminate as many air bubbles as possible.
Put on heat resistant gloves and remove the EasyPress off the tile.
Then take the piece of tile and use an Exact-o knife to stab any air bubbles, then use the Cricut scraper to smooth air bubbles flat and push the edges of the lamination down. The tile is rounded so the laminate wants to pull off the edges.
Trim the edges of the lamination with little scissors if there’s excess coming off the sides of the tile.
what if I’m getting air bubbles still?
If the tiles still have air bubbles, make sure you’re doing the following
- Is the tile super clean? Make sure there aren’t debris on the tile before laying the laminate on it.
- Is the laminate clean? Make sure to not put the laminate anywhere besides back in the package or face down on a tile.
- Are you using the heat press at exactly 400 degrees for 240 seconds? Too long will curl the edges of the laminate.
- Do you have a piece of parchment paper on top of the tile? I missed that once and the laminate got huge hard bubbles.
- Are you using an Exact-o knife to put holes in the air bubbles? This will help so they can be smoothed out.
- For the last 15 seconds of using the heat press are you rubbing it over the tile? This is the number one thing that helps against air bubbles.
step 4- sublimate the picture on
And now, let’s add the picture to finish the sublimation on ceramic tile process! Cut out the tile pattern from the sublimation paper. Make sure to cut excess so you can tape it on the back. If there isn’t excess paper, it’s fine to tape the pattern on the front with the tape on top of the lamination.
Put the picture face down on top of the tile. Attach it with heat resistant tape. Note, I have a tape dispenser at home for Scotch tape. I temporarily took that out so I could use the heat resistant tape in it. It was so nice to use this way!
Put the tile on top of the heat mat that has the parchment paper on it.
Layer another piece of parchment paper on top of the tile.
Next, put the EasyPress back on the tile at 400 degrees. Hit the Cricut button twice so it heats up the tile for 240 seconds. Don’t press down on the EasyPress.
Use heat resistant gloves to move the tile. Be careful to not move the sublimation paper.
Let the tile cool for at least 20 minutes. I put un-used tiles on my table to act as hot pads while they cooled.
Finally, take the paper off and see the beautiful design of the sublimation on ceramic tiles!
Let the tile totally cool and then clean the tile once more. Mine got some lint from the heat resistant gloves.
And here are how the tiles turned out! I LOVE how the color looks SO good with the paint color for Don’s room.
The hardest part of this project was by far the lamination. I spent the better part of two days trying to get 18 tiles without air bubbles. If I was going to do this again, I buy the tiles that are prepped for sublimation. Then it’d just be the easy and fun part of sublimating on the image!
I cannot wait to see these installed! From my point of view, I think they’re going to be subtle and classic, but with some personality. I love the color and design and am just really happy with how they turned out.
These will be going in Don’s room. All week my husband has been working on adding built in bookcases. We’ll have more of this done next week so look forward to a tutorial on that! The tile will go around the fireplace.
The thing that makes me excited about this project is that it is SO customizable! I made fake DIY Delft tiles, but these could be any type of graphic that you can imagine! The possibilities are truly endless.
price break down
For this project, I already had the tile, Cricut EasyPress, mat and parchment paper on hand. I bought the thermal laminating pouches for $8. The graphics were $7. Printing on the sublimation paper and shipping cost $13. The heat resistant tape was $4. Heat gloves cost $14.
The total I paid for this project is $46. Which for custom tile is about as cheap as you can go!
Alright, so there’s how the sublimation on ceramic tile turned out. Isn’t this such a fun project?! It was great to learn a new way to craft! This same process can be used on clothes or wood. I feel like there’s tons of options! Do you have any questions? I’m happy to answer them. Just leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!
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Oh, I love this! Such a fun way to customize tile.
Ashley Wilson says
Thank you Mary! I love how customizable these can be. Thank you for reading!