There’s been a lot of confusion about Cricut’s big announcement last week and I’m hoping I can help clear some of that up. As someone who has followed crafter level customization techniques since the 90’s I want to offer my observations.
What are Cricut Infusible Ink Transfer sheets? From everything we have been told and shown so far, they are preprinted sublimation transfers in solids and patterns. Since the pattern and color choices are fixed, you customize by cutting designs from them, weeding them, then ironing on to your project. (Like toner sheets let you get a laser foiled result without a laser printer, Infusible Ink transfer sheets let you get a sublimation result without a sublimation printer.)
Sublimation is a great technology for customization and Cricut’s new line brings some of its benefits to the crafter market in an accessible way. I should note that officially Cricut is not calling this sublimation, so lets just say it shares the following traits with sublimation: it has to be used on white polyester substrates, it has to be transferred in the 375-400 F temperature range for best results, and the dye chemically infuses into the fabric for permanent, vibrant color with no hand (no change to the feel of the fabric).
Sublimation dye sheets aren’t new, but Cricut has added a backing for easier cutting and placement, and has patterns in addition to solids. They have strung together a complete line including the EasyPress2 and compatible blanks in a way I would call clever, but not necessarily “game changing.”
Likewise sublimation pens are not new, but Cricut has made them machine-friendly, which is especially helpful because you usually want your design to be mirrored, and that’s difficult by hand, even if you trust your own drawing skills. As someone who lacks any hand drawing skill, I’m looking forward to giving the Cricut Infusion Ink pens a try. I’m also happy that Cricut has been adding a lot more draw art to Access lately, most likely in anticipation of this.
I find it odd that Cricut’s emphasis seems to be on t-shirts, because as shirt pros already know, this is not sublimation’s strong suit. Oh, there’s nothing wrong from a technology standpoint, but from the people standpoint. Most people dislike polyester t-shirts and many people dislike white t-shirts. Those opinions tend to be even stronger when it comes to baby/child wear. (A notable exception to this is microfiber dri-fit type of athletic wear, which people don’t seem to mind wearing.)
Sublimation is amazing, however, for hard goods like coasters, tiles, license plates, ID cards and keytags; as well as plates, mugs and the like (with the proper pressing apparatus). I would expect Cricut to exploit this more in the future than what we see in the initial release (round and square coasters only).
Though Cricut’s new line has given us access to a sublimation result, it has done so by pairing it with cutting, which infuses some disadvantages (see what I did there?), namely limits on detail and the need to weed. If it turns out you like the result you get from Cricut’s Infusion Ink Transfers and aren’t put off by the substrate limitations, there is another way to get those results without investing in your own sublimation printer, and without adding the limitations of cutting.
That alternative is to have someone else print sublimation transfers from your custom design. If you don’t have someone local who offers this service, Etsy is full of listings (search custom sublimation transfers). Not only are custom sublimation prints generally cheaper than Cricut’s Infusible Ink Transfers, you get exactly the design you want in the colors you want including detailed text and intricate images as well as full color photos if you like. You can design in whatever program you like since there is no cutting involved (and did I mention, no weeding) and you can still use your Easy Press 2 to do the transferring to any of the thousands of sublimation blanks that are available, including Cricut’s.
I do expect Cricut Infusible Ink to be a gateway drug to sublimation for some of us but how does sublimation compare to the methods we are already familiar with? If you are doing t-shirts, don’t need them to last forever, and want to be able to use your own custom full color design on 100% cotton or poly/cotton in any color you want, then the inkjet heat transfers (Avery, Jolees, Jet Pro, etc) we’ve been using for a couple of decades now still fill the bill quite nicely.
Heat transfer vinyl (HTV) in solids, prints, and specialty finishes allows the same design freedom as the Cricut Infusible Ink sheets without the substrate color and fabric limitations. I know its confusing, so I put together a chart to help you evaluate which kind of heat transfer is best for your particular project.
|Infusible Ink||self print sub||custom sub xfers||solid/pattern HTV||printable xfers|
|permanence||full||full||full||high (50+ washings)||moderate|
|customization||by cutting||by printing||by printing||by cutting||by print/cut|
|substrate material||poly or poly coated||poly or poly coated||poly or poly coated||many fabrics, etc||cotton, cotton/poly|
|printer needed||none||dedicated sub||none||none||consumer inkjet|
|best press temp||high (EP2/heat press)||high (EP2/heat press)||high (EP2/heat press)||moderate (EP, iron)||moderate (EP, iron)|
|cost per letter size page||~$3-4||under $1||~$1-4||~$2-5||~$1-2|
|color brightness||high||high||high||high to moderate||moderate to low|
|convenience||on hand or local||on hand||local or online w varying lead time||on hand or local||on hand or local|
It should be noted that anyone with a diecutter and press can use the new Cricut transfer sheets and the pens can also be used in any machine with appropriate adapters so this has implications beyond just Cricut owners. Thanks for indulging me in some armchair analysis. I am not sponsored by Cricut or its competitors and have not received free product.
Thanks for clarifying this product. I wondered exactly what it was now I know. Thanks a lot.
Thank you for this information. I figured it would work with any other die cutting machine.
Thanks for another informative article! I now understand this product!
Thank you for sharing your insights and thoughts about this. I agree, the new product line is interesting but not necessarily game-changing. All the best. Please keep sharing. 🙂
Another well-researched and well-written article. Thanks for an insightful article.
Thank you for your commentary.
I also think this is a good option for those wanting to explore Sublimation type projects. As you stated, Cricut hasn’t made anything revolutionary, but they will grab a certain customer who buys everything Cricut comes out with. So far they have enough product testers showing their projects off in Facebook Groups & on YouTube building a Buzz for the product. But there will also be lots of complaints about the limits of their specific product line and the use of their substrates (people can if they choose to, can test the Cricut product on other sublimation substrates not made by Cricut but everything has to be sublimation ready) . And just like the debate of using an Easy Press vs a professional Heat Press that folks like to keep going, it will be the same thing with this with the Sublimation Printer owners and those who have purchased other Sublimation pens currently in the market place vs the Cricut Infusible ink product line owners. **I like the idea of the ease of drawing designs (using the infusible ink pens )from Design Space (or drawing our own, scanning it in, cleaning it, then uploading and reversing in Design Space ) and drawing it with the Explore or Maker machine. My granddaughter will love doing that with her own doodles & calligraphy that she draws and colors in. Looking forward to buying her some pens and substrates to play with.
ALISON LEE says
You’re the best. Thanks for the clear breakdown 🙂
Thank you for your explanation on the new Cricut products. I always appreciate the time and effort you put in to helping make our crafting lives a little more informed.
Thank you, so much. Your point of view is always enlightening.
Human Tales says
As always a well explained and articulate article! We really appreciate your detailed and honest insights.
I too was thinking in the same lines when this cricut product was released, but not in the depth you explained. I just didn’t see it as a game changer.
Pauline Ely says
As always thank you for taking the time to explain some things that I was confused about in this vast world of e cutters. I just knew there was something about these infusible inks that wasn’t what I would want – the polyester clothing.
you answered the questions i wanted to ask in cricut groups. glad to know i’ll be able to use these (if i choose) with my cameo.
jane m bernier says
Thank you Kay-I look forward to your opinions on things such as this…you’ve answered my questions!
Sandy McCauley says
Superb article! Thank you so much!
Thank you Kay for all the details and research. You never disappoint! It was terrific seeing you this past weekend, the time went by far too fast! Jerri
Thanks for a very clear explanation of a complicated subject.
MaryJo Engleton says
Thanks for the great review and explanation!
Jackie Dallas says
I hope you are well and thanks for the videos regarding the silhouette cameo amongst other things, I am learning a lot, you are very accomplished well done( I checked you out on twitter and watched you on youtube). Could you help me with a problem?
I am trying to create a multi layer stencil in silhouette cameo using images from google, or my own images, but i am guessing as i go along, this includes how to cut stencil once completed. I am currently using a silhouette cameo machine.
Thank you for your time and have a blessed week to come
I have a post on this at cleversomeday.com/paperportrait. If this does not work for your project, use the contact form to send me more details about what you are trying to do.
Was looking at buying these, so thankyou for saving me money! I never wear white or polyester.
Thanks very much for this detailed and very informative explanation. Much Ppreciated.