Can You Sublimate on Cardstock?

Sublimation is one of the best methods of printing a design because of how durable sublimation ink is compared to the usual vinyl or regular ink that is used on shirts and other different substrates or materials. While sublimation may be great, one of the things you may be wondering is if it works on cardstock, which is usually the type of paper used on greeting cards, postcards, and scrapbooking. So, can you sublimate on cardstock?

You can sublimate on cardstock as long as you choose the cardstock type that comes with a polyester coating. Sublimation will only work on certain polymers and surfaces that are coated with such polymers. In all other cases, the usual cardstock will not work well with sublimation ink.

sub print next to pink cardstock

Even though sublimation is a great way for you to print different types of designs, you need to understand that it does have its limits in terms of how effective it is. One such limit is the surface or material it works best on. As such, if you want to sublimate on cardstock, it is best to make sure that you choose the right kind of cardstock variant.

What is cardstock, and what is it made of?

Before we get to know whether or not you can sublimate on cardstock, it is important to know what cardstock is and what it is made of so that it would be easier to understand why you can or cannot sublimate on this material.

In the simplest way to put it, cardstock is just paper that is made to be thicker and a lot more durable than the regular paper you often use for your inkjet printer. However, the difference between it and the other “thick paper” materials is that it is a lot more flexible and also thinner than cardboard. Then again, it is heavier and more durable than regular paper. And those aspects make it perfect for different DIY projects or for arts and crafts.

Because of how durable cardstock is, it is usually the best paper to use for business cards, playing cards, postcards, and greeting cards. And the one thing you need to know about cardstock is that it comes in plenty of different types, depending on the manufacturer. That means that there are cardstocks with different finishes, such as a glossy coating, a metallic surface, or a textured feel.

But what is cardstock made of? Well, because cardstock is simply just paper on steroids, it is also made of hardwood and softwood materials. However, the composition of the materials that are used for cardstock will vary, depending on the manufacturer. Some cardstocks tend to be on the heavier or thicker side, while others may not be as thick or heavy but are still just as durable.

Can you sublimate on cardstock?

Now that you know what cardstock is, it is now time for us to talk about whether or not you can actually sublimate on cardstock. This is an interesting topic to talk about because different households and businesses tend to use sublimation as their mode of printing. And, of course, arts and crafts enthusiasts may want to know whether or not cardstock is a good substrate to use sublimation ink on.

Sublimation, when used in printing, is basically the act of turning a solid ink into a gaseous form that should be accepted by the substrate. In a sense, you should be using a material that can accept sublimation ink in its gaseous form for the sublimation printing process to be successful. Learn more about the sublimation process in this article What is the Sublimation Process.

It is important to know that sublimation will only work when used on certain plastics or polymers because these are more likely to accept sublimation ink in its gaseous form without affecting the overall quality of the ink. For example, sublimation works best on 100% polyester shirts, which will bring out the colors of the ink. However, when used on shirts that are less than 100% polyester, the design will look bland and dull.

This is why you often see that the only materials that work with sublimation printing are plastic-based or are coated with polymers such as polyester. We know that polyester shirts are the popular choice when it comes to sublimation printing, but there are other substrates that work great as well. Mugs are good examples as well, as these are usually coated with polyester that can accept sublimation ink.

Finished sub on pink cardstock

Going back to cardstock, theoretically, you can sublimate on cardstock even though it is made of wood, which is just the same kind of material that regular paper is made of. However, what you can expect is that regular cardstock won’t be able to truly bring the best out of the design you are sublimating on it. It would be the same case with a shirt that is not 100% polyester.

However, there are manufacturers that sell cardstocks that can work with sublimation printing. So, in a way, sublimation does work with cardstock as long as you are using the right kind of cardstock.

Which types of cardstocks can you sublimate on?

Now that you know that sublimation can work with cardstock, as long as you are using the right kind of cardstock, which cardstock should you be using?

The best cardstock to use for sublimation printing is those that are coated with polyester or any kind of polymer to give the cardstock a smooth and somewhat glossy finish. You may be able to find these cardstocks in your local arts and crafts store or even in an office supply store.

Finished sub print on cardstock

However, there is a type of cardstock that is made specifically for sublimation printing. This is the kind of cardstock that is made with 100% PVC instead of wood so that the material works extremely well with sublimation printing. Cardstocks that are PVC-based are usually the materials used for identification cards because of how durable they are. But if you don’t have access to any kind of cardstock that works with sublimation printing, your only choice would be to use regular cardstock and regular printing.

Final Thoughts

Yes, you can sublimate on cardstock, reality is you technically can on any type of cardstock you just might not get the desired vibrancy of your transfer. The easier route to the look you want to achieve is just printing the image right onto the cardstock. Unless you are using one that is too thick for a printer, then sublimation is a good idea!

Be sure to check out some other nifty functional craft ideas through our other posts here on Craft-ILY as well as checking out some videos on DIY and How To’s over on YouTube. Look for “Crafting Unedited” or just click the name in blue to see!


Hi! I’m Cierra and I’m a craftaholic! I’ve been crafting for a few years now and it’s honestly become my zen. I love crafting, fitness, spending time with my family and friends doing whatever the day allows, peacocks (hence the logo), the beach and adrenaline - give me all the roller coasters and fast cars!

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