Can You Sublimate On Burlap (Explained)

Sublimation printing is a process that uses heat to infuse fabric dyes into all sorts of materials. But can you sublimate on natural fabrics like burlap?

Burlap is a coarse, thick fabric typically made from jute or other plant fibers. It has an open, woven texture that creates a nice rustic appeal.

However, the porous and absorbent nature of burlap makes it challenging for sublimation dyes to bond properly.

In this guide, I’ll explain if you can sublimate on burlap. I’ll also give you a quick rundown of how the fabric’s properties affect dye infusion and some tips to improve results.

Can You Sublimate on Burlap?

The short answer is yes, you can sublimate on burlap but the results will not be as vibrant as sublimation on polyester. 

Burlap is very porous, which makes it difficult for the dye to properly set in the fibers. The material’s tendency to absorb moisture also hinders dye infusion.

Also Read: Can You Sublimate on Plastic?

Any moisture in the burlap will create a barrier between the fabric and dye.

When you sublimate burlap, expect faded, uneven, almost vintage looking prints. 

The dyes will settle more on the surface rather than bonding tightly within the natural fibers. 

With the right techniques, you can get acceptable results from sublimating burlap. But it works best for simple designs and single color graphics. 

Intricate photographic images or multi-color prints will not transfer well.


Tips For Sublimating On Burlap

Here are some tips to help improve burlap sublimation results:

Use a Polyester Coating

Applying a thin polyester coating or backing to the burlap creates a smooth, non-porous surface for the dye to bond to. The polyester gives the sublimation ink something to adhere to since the natural burlap fibers absorb unevenly. 

Look for specialty burlap that has been pretreated on one side for sublimation. Or use a spray fabric coating like PolySpray. 

Be sure to coat both sides of the burlap if you want a print that shows through the weave. 

The coating should be thin enough to maintain the burlap’s texture.

Dry the Burlap Thoroughly

It’s critical that the burlap is completely dry before attempting to sublimate it. 

Any moisture in the fibers will turn to steam during the heat pressing process which will prevent the dye from infusing properly. 

Dampness creates a barrier between the fabric and disrupts dye transfer. 

Hang dry the burlap after getting it wet and allow it to air dry fully. Use high heat on your heat press to evaporate any lingering moisture. 

Tips For Sublimating On Burlap

Press down firmly with an iron to flatten the weave and release moisture before sublimating.

Use High Temperature and Pressure

Since burlap is a dense, absorbent fabric, you need to use high heat and pressure to drive the dye into the fibers as much as possible. 

The recommended settings are 400°F for 60 seconds with heavy pressure of at least 40 PSI. 

The combination of heat and pressure causes the dye to gasify and push through the weave more effectively.

Also Read: Heat Press Turned White Shirt Yellow

You may need to experiment with even higher temps and pressure for your specific burlap item if you want deeper dye penetration. 

Just be cautious of scorching or burning the burlap.

Design Expectations

Sublimating burlap gives results more like distressed printing – faded and splotchy. The dyes will only partially bond with the surface rather than soaking through. 

So adjust your design and color expectations accordingly. 

Stick to simpler prints like shapes and text rather than photographic images. Use just one or two ink colors for the best transfer. 

And don’t expect perfectly even, crisp prints like you would get on polyester. 

Think vintage and rustic!

Alternatives To Sublimating On Burlap Directly

If sublimating directly on burlap does not give you the look you want, try these alternatives:

  • Sublimate a polyester fabric first, then adhere it to the burlap. This allows full, vibrant dye infusion.
  • Use stencils and bleach to create designs on burlap instead of attempting to sublimate.
  • Dye the burlap first using traditional fiber reactive dyes, and then add distressing.

The natural, fibrous look of burlap lends itself well to faded prints and imperfections. So don’t be afraid to experiment until you achieve the worn style you want.

Also Read: Can You Sublimate on Cardstock?

Bottom Line

Sublimating directly onto burlap is possible but comes with challenges. 

The porous surface and moisture absorption of the fabric prevents the dye from bonding tightly. But with some preparation like pre-coating and drying the burlap, you can achieve acceptable results.

But aim for single color graphics and vintage looking prints. 

For full color designs, sublimate a polyester fabric separately then adhere it to the burlap.

With some trial and error, you can create cool distressed prints using sublimation on this natural fiber!

Can You Sublimate On Burlap Bags?

Yes, you can sublimate on burlap bags to add custom designs and prints. However, the results will have a faded, vintage look rather than crisp sharp prints. Keep the design simple with minimal colors and large shapes or text.

Can You Sublimate On Burlap Flags?

Yes, you can sublimate on burlap flags, but the fabric’s porous weave makes it tricky. Again, keep any designs very simple – just bold shapes or letters in one or two colors for the best transfer.

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