How to Heat Press a Mug

Heat sublimation of mugs or heat printing has become quite popular nowadays. Many people like to design their mugs for various purposes.  With the right sublimation paper and a mug heat press, you can design any mug. Whether it’s a birthday, festivals, marriage anniversary or any other occasion, you can gift a customized mug to your loved ones.

A mug press machine is a crafter’s best buddy, and it can turn you into a business owner too if you desire to be. You can make customized mugs for businesses to promote your company or start your own business of personalized mugs. There are several possibilities.

By heat sublimation, you can print any design or message that you want, on the mug. It’s a similar process like heat pressing garments or caps, and a very simple process. However, if you are a beginner, you may not know where and how to start. To help you with your first heat sublimation project, I have made this step-by-step guide on how to heat press a mug. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be able to accomplish your task like a pro.

Step 1

Get Everything Ready

Before proceeding any further, it’s very important that you have all the necessary tools and items needed for the sublimation process so that you can finish your task in a smooth way without messing things up. Given below are the items that you’ll require.

  • Mug heat press is the most important tool that you need. there are generally two types of mug press designs; one is horizontal mug press and another is the vertical model. Horizontal is more versatile but also more expensive than the vertical one.
  • Blank sublimation mug as the substrate.
  • Sublimation paper for transferring the image or design. You can buy ready-made graphics that are ready to go right onto the coffee mug, water bottle, or travel mug. However, you can also purchase a blank sublimation paper and print the desired design on it using a printer at home.
  • An inkjet printer that has been installed with sublimation inks for printing the design.
  • Personal computer with graphic art software like Coral Draw or Adobe Illustrator.
  • Ruler for accurate measurements.
  • A pair of scissors or an art knife for cutting the paper.
  • Heat tape for securing the sublimation paper on the mug.

Step 2: Download Template and Work on the Graphics

Download Template

Download a template of appropriate size for the specific mug. If the template is big enough, you can print the graphics for two mugs on one page. Place the logos or designs in such a way that they are positioned at approximately 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock when you look down on top of the mug with the handle in the position of 12 o’clock.

Always keep important graphics and text at least 2.5mm away from the edge of the cut line, so that when you cut out your finished printed sheet, you don’t cut into your logo accidentally. However, the background graphics must extend at least 2.5mm past the cut-line.

Edit the Graphics

Open the template in the Illustrator and layout your graphics in position. If you desire only one logo on your mug then position the graphics to the right-hand side. This will allow a right handed person to see the image when they pick up the mug. Or you can simply convert the image to a mirror image.

Print and Cut

After you are done with the editing, now use the sublimation paper and printer to print out the graphics.  Next, cut out your design with the scissors or art knife. Cut approximately 1mm inside of the cut-line. Don’t leave any of the cut-lines on the paper or it will also print on your sublimation mug.

Step 3

Layout the Design

All mugs are a bit tapered so before wrapping around the mug, make two cuts in the middle of the sublimation paper in a way that you end up cutting through around 3/4 of the paper. This will allow you to adjust the center of the paper slightly up or down to allow for the heat tap when you wrap the paper around the mug.

Now cut off 3 pieces of heat tape measuring around 1/2″ 12mm long, and stick the tapes on the edge of your workbench. Carefully wrap the paper around the mug, with the image facing inward and align the paper accurately, and apply one piece of heat tape to the center of both ends of the paper. Finally, apply the remaining piece of tape half over the paper and half on your mug to hold it in place.

Step 4

Set the Mug Press

Adjust the pressure knob on your mug heat press so that when you place the mug in the heat press, the machine will have medium to heavy pressure.  You’ll know if the pressure is enough when the Teflon and silicone rubber coating on the mug press will slight bow around the bottom and top of the mug.

After that plug in the machine and set the temperature and timer according to the instructions mentioned on your sublimation paper, and let the device pre-heat.

Step 5

Heat Press

Once the press has reached the desired temperature, gently slide your mug into the press and shut it. In case you have a mug press with a countdown timer, the process should start automatically or else you’ll have to push the enter switch to start the timer.

Step 6

Peel off and Let it Cool

When the time is up, now release the pressure off the heat press and hold the mug by its handle to remove it. Then pick the edge of one the heat tapes on one end of the paper carefully using your fingernail, and then peel the paper off the mug very gently.

It’s very important that you peel off smoothly else you’ll end up with ghosting or double image, over spray, or blurry image.  Overheating can also cause damage, so you’ll have to experiment with temperature and times for a couple of times to get the exact setting for your mug press. After you have done the peeling, place the mug on a heat-proof surface and let it cool down.


Mug heat sublimation is more complicated than heat pressing flat surfaces as this requires immense care and gentle handling. From selecting logos to peeling off, everything needs great perfection. I would recommend you to be extra careful not to hurt yourself as you are going to deal with extreme heat.


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