Most of the projects I’ve worked on so far for 52 Lasers have been put together using the laser system only. This is pretty reasonable: it’s the only serious hardware we’ve got at our home studio! But I’ve got access to quite a few other kinds of machines thanks to the the awesome folks at Eagle Engraving, and it was only a matter of time until I got a chance to talk about sublimation.
In sublimation, you first print your design in reverse using special ink and paper. Then, you heat press your design against the material you intend to apply your art to—this can be anything from tile to fabric to ceramic mugs. In this case, I wanted to print graphics onto a special hardboard product that is coated in a sublimation-ready cap layer. I chose this material because it can be laser-cut—I bet you knew that was coming! My goal was to create a multi-layered version of a product Eagle offers, a laser-cut sublimated sign. It only made sense to use Eagle’s own logo for the project!
Eagle not only has the sublimation printing materials and hardware, they also has a laser system; it’s the smaller brother of mine, identical save for y-axis length. It was convenient, then, moving from machine to machine in the same room rather than driving a half-hour commute between my system at home and their sublimation tools. Also, Eagle’s aforementioned laser ninja Monica helped me with sublimation, basically doing all the hard work like heat pressing.
I took Laurie’s maltese Eagle Engraving logo and divided the art according to the layers I intended to laser-cut, and then made sure to create some bleed so that we’d have some breathing room when applying the printed sublimation paper to the laser-cut hardboard. Since the logo was already vector, creating the laser cutting lines only took a few pathfinder effects to merge shapes. The resulting layers looked pretty great together even before the art was applied!
Unfortunately, it was after we applied the art that I realized I missed a few required bleeds. The resulting unprinted areas on the tree area might have resembled a light snow covering, but it wasn’t in the original logo and had to be fixed. Some fine work with a black permanent marker did the job. To prevent us from having to sublimate 19 more tiny pieces of hardboard, I cut the Eagle Engraving, Inc. lettering out of black acrylic. Because I printed letter positions in light gray, it was easierto line up the layers, but I should definitely consider using transfer tape in the future to save some breathless moments trying to nudge letters while cyanoacrylate sealed the deal.
While the laser allows for all sorts of cutting and engraving options, it’s awfully fun not having to rely on your material for color selection. I’m used to being restricted to two colors (surface color and material color) and perhaps a halftone between, so it’s been liberating playing with sublimation, which lets me print any colors, in any combinations, directly to the surface of the material I’m cutting.