Updated: Feb 27
How we know this works...
We’ve spent years learning and observing the best way to print your own ceramic mugs and without a doubt sublimation is the cheapest and fastest for low volume orders. It also gives great image quality and coverage. Sublimation relies on a high heat to activate the ink transfer onto a coated mug. The ink is special, the paper is special and a specialist press is needed to make sure that the ink transfers evenly onto the mug. Get any of those things wrong and it will cost you time and money too. We’ve invested in the best quality products to ensure when you buy mugs from us or print yours in our studio then your images will last for years without fading and are safe to put in your dishwasher too.
So let’s crack on with the tutorial.
Firstly the design.
This is entirely your choice the printer sees images and text entirely the same as long as you start with a good quality image you will have a good quality print. Our printers can’t print white, to compensate they are printed onto white paper and sublimated onto a white mug. This is great news for those of you who don’t want a hard edge. We have templates which are the right size for each mug style and so you can have a minimalist design positioned very similarly on each mug. These are hand printed and won’t be identical but they will be close. Something to bear in mind is the closer you go towards the handle or the top/bottom edges of the mug the more likely you are to get fade. If you don’t want fade then make your design smaller. You MUST reverse or mirror the image. If not, it will be opposite to how you see it on screen. Now this might not be an issue but if you have text or a design you are recreating then it will be wrong and your mug will be scrap. File wise we use both Adobe and Corel studios, we do recommend jpg, png or pdf for ease of production.
A word to the wise about copywriting.
We can’t print anything which doesn’t belong to the person it’s being printed for. Your photos, illustrations, text logos etc are all fine. Images from the internet are a no no. We don’t want you to be sued.
We always print 3 or 6 mugs to a page which cuts down on waste paper. Designs are then cut with a rotary cutter.
The printed image is then attached usually as centrally as possible using a special heat proof tape to the mug with the printed side kissing the surface of the mug. No gaps, no creases, no lob-sided alignment. These all have an effect on the print and are likely to result in a scraped mug. When we put the tape on we try to give it a tear tag, kind of like a loose thread in a jumper. It just makes it easier to remove the tape later.
The special press is heated to the right temperature for the item - this varies but is usually around 200 degrees. You don’t want your hands anywhere near that and so we use special gloves to avoid burning. The mug is clamped into place and the auto timer started.
Once the mug is cooked the timer sounds and the finished mug is placed onto a cooling rack. It’s then left until it either feels cool or blood temperature. The paper is removed and the mug is ready for dispatch.
Not happy with the result - sadly you’ll need to start from scratch. The image can’t be removed so it's super important to get each stage right.
We have some great options such as printing ar and qr codes, clear boxes and adding other items to create something unique, we're always happy to help.
If you want to create your own mugs with us you can book in or use our virtual studio.
If you’re coming in to use the studio or the virtual one, chances are you are wanting to gift or resell your beauties. Here’s a few pointers to save time.
Have all your editing done and your page/s typeset before hand - if you’re not sure of anything you can call us.
Put on the press it takes a while to heat and you can be prepping whilst you wait. Start prepping your mugs and layout your cooling rack. Once you hear the buzzer it’s showtime. We recommend you really concentrate on the first one and be prepared to throw it away, the first one is often not quite right and it’s much better to discover an error here than when you’ve scraped 30 products. You’ll have a little type between mug pressings so if you have other items to do, gift tags bows etc this time can be used for something else. Some of our guys can use two and more presses at once. Proper skills.
If you would like to use our virtual studio you can find out more at https://www.playcafe.org.uk/
or if you are considering a mug making session for your group we'd like to help