Sublimation On Canvas – How To Do It? 

If you are regular with sublimation printing, you must know that it works best with polyester and synthetic materials. But there are a lot of other materials that are left out due to these limitations. 

After my t-shirt sublimation project began producing results, I also decided to extend sublimation to other materials. 

However, when I tried printing on canvas, the result was horrible. So, after rigorous research about heat transfer paper and sublimation, I learned that you could not directly print on canvas. 

Instead, you must use a laminate sheet and transfer the design to that first. After that, you can sublimate on canvas. 

This post will describe what exactly canvas sublimation is and whether it is possible and discuss a couple of methods to perform it on canvas. Without further ado, let’s jump into the post.

Sublimating on Canvas

Canvas is a substrate widely used in paintings. I bet most of you know this already – but the glaring doubt is whether it will work with sublimation.

Separating the canvas from the frame

Unlike polyester, an excellent substrate for sublimation, the canvas is a natural fabric and doesn’t mingle with the sublimation ink much. Moreover, the majority composition of the canvas is cotton, so you cannot expect good results. 

However, the DIY community loves to tinker with ideas and overcome such issues. If I talk about my experience, sublimation is possible on many materials using workaround methods. 

I learned about two different methods using which you can sublimate on Canvas. But you must upgrade your workbench and add a few items to make it possible. Moreover, this process will take much time because you aren’t directly sublimating on fabric.

Methods of Canvas Sublimation

As discussed above, there are two methods to sublimate on canvas:

1. Sublimating on Canvas with Laminate sheet 

Canvas cannot directly bind with ink when using a heat press to put the sublimation design on it. But a laminate sheet can absorb ink because it is a polymer. So, you can attach the laminate sheet on canvas and then use the sublimation print on it.

2. Sublimating on Canvas with Sublimation Spray

You can also use a sublimation spray to transfer designs on canvas. It removes the trouble of trimming and adjusting laminate sheets. You can spray it on the canvas, and it will absorb the ink from the sublimation paper at the correct temperature.

What do you need to sublimate on canvas?

Seasoned sublimation enthusiasts will probably have most items for canvas sublimation, except the laminate sheet and spray.

But I will list all the items, so even beginners can prepare their workbench for canvas sublimation. Here are the following items you will need:

  1. An original or converted sublimation printer with adequate ink levels.
  2. A thick, high-quality sublimation paper, preferably a 120G or 125G.
  3. A canvas cutout. You can either buy a few meters and trim your perfect size. Or you can use blank canvas frames.
  4. Glue gun, heat-resistant tape, and a pair of scissors.
  5. Thermal laminate sheets equal to or bigger than the target canvas size. They must be able to withstand high temperatures.
  6. An appropriate size heat press.
  7. Multiple sheets of butcher paper: to prevent the canvas and sublimation design from directly coming into contact with the heat press.

How to sublimate on canvas using a laminate sheet

Repeat the following steps:

  1. Print your sublimation design on the paper and let it dry completely. If it is a small design, cut out the excess paper and salvage it for later use (if possible).
  2. Now, you need to pull apart the canvas from the frame. Since it is tightly bound to the frame with staples, it will be laborious to pull apart each pin. Instead, use the scissors to incision close to the staple pins line. 
  3. Cut the canvas from all four sides and separate it from the canvas frame. It will be all wrinkly. If you use it in this state, the design will spread unevenly. Use the heat press and flatten the canvas before attaching the laminate sheet.
  4. Lay the pressed canvas on the table and place the laminate sheet on it. Ensure the dull side is in contact with the canvas and the glossy side is on the top. Cut out the excess laminate sheet to match the canvas dimensions.
  5. After that, set the heat press to 385 degrees and press the canvas with laminate for 20 seconds. If you spot wrinkles, press it again for 10 seconds. You can also use a wick to manually even the canvas laminate combination.
  6. Now, let the canvas cool off. Then, place the sublimation design paper and position it correctly. Use heat-resistant tape to fix its position and eliminate the chances of ghosting.
  7. Set the heat press to 400 degrees and then press the sublimation design on the canvas for 60 seconds. 
  8. Please remove the canvas, allow it to cool, and then peel off the sublimation paper. You will be left with a glossy sublimation design.
  9. Place the frame on the top of the canvas and line it up. Trim the excess parts. Use the glue gun to apply to the borders of the frame, which will be in contact with the canvas.

Wait for the glue to dry. Voila! You have your canvas sublimation frame ready.

How to sublimate on canvas using a sublimation spray

The canvas preparation method will remain the same. So, I won’t describe it again. Retrace the following steps to perform canvas sublimation using a sublimation spray:

  1. Repeat steps 1-3 as described in the laminate sheet sublimation method. After your canvas is evened out, use the sublimation spray.
  2. Spray the canvas with an even coating on all areas. Do not try to cut corners because you cannot exactly predict the area on which the sublimation ink will transfer.
  3. Place the canvas in a heat press for about 15 seconds and remove it. Then, reapply a coat of the sublimation spray on the canvas and place it in the heat press for 15 seconds. Your canvas is now ready for sublimation printing.
  4. Lay the canvas cutout on the table and put the sublimation design paper on top. Affix the design in place using heat-resistant tape.
  5. Warm the heat press to 400 degrees and place the canvas in it. Use butcher paper to prevent the canvas from directly contacting the heat press.
  6. Press the canvas for 40 seconds and take it out. Reattach the canvas to the frame using the glue gun. 

Since the sublimation paper is in direct contact with the canvas, the result is not glossy. You will get a pristine sublimation print on the canvas.


These were the two methods to perform sublimation on canvas. The laminate method requires some extra work for prepping the canvas. The glossy designs look good but inferior to the sublimation spray result. I prefer the spray method to sublimate on canvas unless I need a laminate sheet to preserve the design longer. 


What temperature do you sublimate on canvas?

You can use the 400 degrees temperature with medium pressure for a perfect canvas sublimation result. However, press the laminate on the canvas beforehand.

Can you sublimate it on dollar store canvas?

Yes. The dollar store canvas frames are perfect for sublimation. You can either do a laminate sublimation or use the sublimation spray for convenience. 

How do you sublimate a photo on canvas?

Firstly, you must print the design on the sublimation paper. Then, you must remove the canvas from the frame and flatten it. After that, attach the laminate sheet to the canvas using a heat press. Lastly, press the sublimation design on the canvas with the help of a heat press.

Can you sublimate on 100% cotton canvas?

Using a laminate sheet or sublimation spray, you can print on 100 percent cotton canvas. The latter method is less time-consuming, and you get non-glossy sublimation results on the canvas.

How long do you press sublimation on canvas?

The press time entirely depends on the method you choose to perform canvas sublimation. I observed the best results when I pressed the design on the laminate for 60 seconds. However, when I use the sublimation spray, 40 seconds are sufficient.

Best sublimation spray for canvas

NGOODIEZ and Scdom are two sublimation coating sprays that deliver vivid sublimation results on canvas. Always check that the sublimation spray is water-based, quick-drying, and uses a non-toxic-Polycrylic free formula. 

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