Tumblers have become increasingly popular over the past few years, especially as a customizable gift item. Creating your own personalized tumbler with photos, quotes, or designs is easy and fun with printable tumbler wraps. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to start printing beautiful wraps for your tumblers at home.
What Are Tumbler Wraps?
A tumbler wrap is a printable vinyl material that wraps around a stainless steel tumbler. The wrap allows you to add any image or design to the outside of the tumbler using your home printer. Once printed, a clear epoxy coating is applied over the tumbler wrap to seal and protect the design. This gives the tumbler a smooth, glossy finish. Tumbler wraps make it inexpensive and easy to create custom one-of-a-kind drinkware.
Here are the basic supplies you’ll need to get started printing your own tumbler wraps:
- Tumbler - Choose a stainless steel cup or tumbler that is 20 oz or smaller. Make sure any coating is removed if it's a used tumbler. Popular sizes for wraps are 12oz, 15oz, and 20oz.
- Wrap template - Download a template for your specific tumbler size. Templates are sized to wrap seamlessly around a particular diameter tumbler.
- Printable vinyl - Use vinyl specifically made for printing, such as Oracle 651 vinyl. Standard vinyl and contact paper will not work.
- Printer and ink - You'll need a home printer, preferably one that can print on vinyl like an inkjet or laser printer. Always use the printer settings for vinyl when printing your design.
- Transfer tape - Transfer tape is used to transfer your printed design from the vinyl to the tumbler. Get transfer tape designed for vinyl application.
- Epoxy coating - A two-part epoxy resin that seals your printed design on the tumbler. Art 'N Glow clear epoxy resin is a popular choice.
- Sublimation blanks - To create full color photo wraps, purchase white, blank stainless steel tumblers designed specifically for sublimation.
- Heat press - A heat press machine is required for sublimation tumbler printing to transfer the ink into the stainless steel.
How to Print Tumbler Wraps
Step 1: Design and Print Vinyl Wrap
Use a template sized for your specific tumbler. Create your design in a editing software that allows printing like Photoshop. Print your design onto the printable vinyl according to the settings for vinyl media. Allow the ink to dry fully before proceeding.
Step 2: Cut Out the Wrap
Use scissors to carefully cut along the edges of the printed wrap. Try rounding the corners slightly to make the wrap easier to apply. Avoid jagged edges.
Step 3: Prepare and Clean Tumbler
Remove any stickers or coatings from the tumbler using alcohol. Lightly scuff the surface with sandpaper and wipe clean. This helps the vinyl adhere better.
Step 4: Apply the Transfer Tape
Place the transfer tape over the vinyl wrap with the sticky side facing down. Rub firmly over the surface to apply the tape evenly and avoid trapping air bubbles.
Step 5: Remove Backing and Apply Wrap
Peel away the backing from the vinyl to expose the adhesive surface. Carefully wrap the vinyl around the tumbler, using a squeegee or credit card to smooth it out. Overlap the edges slightly.
Step 6: Seal with Epoxy Coating
Mix your epoxy resin according to directions and brush over the tumbler. Apply two or more coats until smooth and glossy. Allow to fully cure for up to 72 hours before use. Add a cute straw or enjoy your custom printed tumbler!
Tips for Beginners
Here are a few tips to help make your first printed tumbler wrap a success:
- Print an extra wrap or two to allow for mistakes as you learn this technique.
- Work slowly and carefully when applying the transfer tape and vinyl. Avoid bubbles and wrinkles.
- Make sure the vinyl wrap edges overlap slightly to prevent peeling.
- Seal well with at least 2-3 coats of epoxy for maximum durability. Be patient and allow proper curing time.
- Start with simpler wrap designs before attempting detailed wraps with small text or multiple individual pieces.
How to Print Sublimation Tumbler Wraps
Sublimation printing allows for full-color photo quality designs on tumblers. Here is the process:
- Purchase plain stainless steel tumblers designed for sublimation blanks. Coatings will prevent the ink from absorbing.
- Create your full color design in a software like Photoshop and size it to your template.
- Print onto sublimation transfer paper with a sublimation printer. You cannot use a standard printer.
- Cut out the printed transfer, wrap around the tumbler and secure with heat resistant tape.
- Place the wrapped tumbler into a heat press set to 400 degrees and press for 60-120 seconds. The ideal time may vary.
- The tumbler will be hot! Allow it to fully cool before unwrapping to reveal your photo design transferred into the stainless steel.
- For extra durability you can optionally seal with an epoxy coating.
Sublimation transfers the ink directly into the tumbler for vibrant, permanent color that won't crack or fade. Follow the directions with your specific sublimation supplies for best results.
How to Make Vinyl Wraps for Tumblers
Vinyl wrapping uses pre-made vinyl sheets to decorate tumblers, rather than printed vinyl wraps. Here's a quick overview:
- Purchase vinyl sheets in a variety of colors and patterns. Use vinyl made for cup and tumbler applications.
- Use the template to measure and cut out your designs from the vinyl. Allow for overlap.
- Prepare the tumbler surface as described above to improve vinyl adherence.
- Peel away the backing and carefully apply the vinyl pieces onto the tumbler, smoothing out any bubbles.
- Ensure all vinyl edges overlap so they don't peel up with use.
- Apply transfer tape over the vinyl design, remove the backing, and smooth onto the tumbler.
- For durability, finish by coating with one or two layers of epoxy resin sealant.
Vinyl wrapping with pre-made sheets allows you to create colorful designs without printing. It's a fun alternative for patterns, logos, stylized text, and more.
Get Started Printing Today
With the right supplies and a bit of practice, you'll be customizing beautiful printed tumblers wraps in no time! Sublimation wraps offer photo-quality images, while printable vinyl allows for simpler graphics and text. Both methods let you make affordable, personalized tumblers to enjoy or give as one-of-a-kind gifts. Follow the steps in this guide to turn plain stainless steel cups into dazzling works of art. Happy printing!