Sublimation Mugs vs Regular Mugs

Is anyone else completely obsessed with finding the best mugs? There is so much satisfaction that comes with finding the perfect mug – one that holds the right amount of liquid, one that fits flawlessly in your hand, and one that looks aesthetic!

A sublimation mug can be personalized and have pictures printed on it. This type of mug has a special glazed ceramic surface which allows sublimation ink or prints to be retained. Regular mugs can be made from ceramic, porcelain, glass, bone china, stoneware or metal.

If coffee or tea is your go-to drink, you will need to read this! After reading the rest of this piece, you should be able to decipher the differences between sublimation and regular mugs.

What Is A Sublimation Mug?

There is a chance that most people have owned a sublimation mug in their lifetime or currently have one sitting at the back of their cupboard in the kitchen. Their parents were most likely received or purchased when they were children, with their faces printed on from their schools’ picture day.

A sublimation mug is a type of mug with a special coating, a glazed ceramic surface, making it ideal for retaining sublimation ink and prints. These mugs can be personalized and have pictures printed on them.

Companies can use sublimation mugs as a promotional gift or item that customers will get good use and longevity out of. Printed mugs also make great gifts!

What Is A Regular Mug?

A regular mug does not have a glazed ceramic coating on it. They are usually made out of porcelain or ceramic but could also be glass, metal, bone china, or stoneware.

A porcelain mug is considered “fine china” and is usually more elegant and fragile and is popular at dinner parties. Ceramic mugs are more environmentally friendly and retain heat a lot better than porcelain. Ceramic is cheaper and can hold more liquid than porcelain.

These mugs have different names depending on the volume they hold. Below is a mug size guide:

  • Espresso – 2 to 3 ounces
  • Cappuccino – 5 to 6 ounces
  • Classic – 8 to 15 ounces
  • Latte – 11 to 15 ounces

Generally speaking, a regular coffee mug holds between 8 and 10 ounces of liquid. Serious coffee drinkers may disagree and use a mug that holds between 11 and 15 ounces.

How To Print Onto A Mug

If you want to make a DIY gift for one of your friends or family members, printing your picture onto a sublimation mug could be a good idea.

Printing On A Mug Using A Sublimation Printer

Here is how you should go about printing on a mug if you have a sublimation printer at home:

  • Choose your mug.

It is best to use a mug with a smooth finish to use a sublimation printer. The picture will not transfer well to a rough mug or has details engraved on it – it may turn out uneven or patchy.

  • Print out the picture or text.

Use the sublimation printer to print the image or text of your choice to the correct size. Ensure that you are using sublimation paper! This printer prints the picture out using ink that can be transferred to the mug using heat.

The image that comes out of the printer will be back as the image will be mirrored when transferred onto the mug.

  • Place the inked side of the image onto the mug.

Put the picture against the mug in your desired position with the ink side on the mug. Make sure to double-check that the image is in the correct position and the right way up. Once the ink is on the mug, there is no going back!

It doesn’t matter where you place the picture. You can even place the image on the handle or bottom of the mug.

  • Secure the image using heat-proof tape.

Place heat-proof tape around the edges and corners of your chosen image – preferably on the white parts where there is no text or ink. Ensure that you firmly hold the picture in place so that it doesn’t shift in the process.

You should be able to purchase heat-proof tape from any local hardware store.

  • Press the iron onto the image.

Turn your iron on to a low-medium temperature and wait for it to heat up. Once warm, place the iron onto the image and rub the iron back and forth over the entire picture until the paper turns slightly brown.

You should be able to see parts of the image starting to show more clearly through the paper.

An alternative to iron would be an automatic mug press – ideal for bulk commercial use.

  • Remove the paper.

Once you have finished ironing your picture, remove the heat-proof tape and slowly peel the paper off the mug to reveal the final product.

Using A Printing Company To Print On A Mug

You can find a printing company to print the picture for you if you don’t have your own printer at home.

The first step is finding a printing company near you. Find a printing company of your choice, or visit your local print shop to see if they print pictures onto mugs.

Find out whether the printing shop provides the mug or if you need to bring your own. Most companies will supply a standard mug, so if you have a particular mug in mind, then take it down to the shop before sending them your image.

Next, you will need to provide the company with your design and specifications. This is usually done electronically – either send them an email, or you can take a USB stick/flash drive directly to the store. Make sure that your image has a high resolution!

After paying for your mug, you need to wait for it to be finished. Depending on where you take your mug and how busy the place is with orders, it could take an hour to finish or up to 10 working days.

Sublimation Mug Care

Avoid placing your sublimation mug in the dishwasher, as this could ruin the image printed on the mug. It is better to hand wash the mug for a longer lifespan!


Regular mugs can be made from just about any material and come in all shapes and sizes. On the other hand, sublimation mugs have a special finish that retains ink or prints – ideal for customized gifts!

If you have a sublimation printer at home, then why not try and make your mug design or go to the nearest print shop and get them to print an image onto a mug for you.


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