Cricut machines are unlikely to go out of fashion anytime soon. However, there is an alternative product and way of creating designs that has crafters intrigued. What is Infusible Ink, how does it work, and could this be a better option than heat treated vinyl?
The basic premise of Infusible Ink is to create a bond between a custom design and a piece of material without the need for heat transfer vinyl or other materials in between. The ink transfer fuses with the materials themselves, a lot like using a dye. The result is a vibrant design that works well with the right materials. But you do need to be careful when choosing the best blanks and working with either the transfer sheets or the pens.
In this guide, you will learn more about both types of Cricut Infusible Ink products – the sheets and pens – as well as how to use them. In the end, you should have a better idea of whether to work with Infusible Ink or to stick with heat transfer vinyl.
What are Infusible Ink Pens and Markers?
The alternative to using those transfer sheets is using Infusible Ink Pens and Markers. This is a great idea if you want to get more creative with free-hand designs rather than using the Cricut machine to apply a pre-existing one. There are a few different types of Infusible Ink Pens and Markers for various effects. You can get marker tips, brush tips, and even dual-tipped markers for convenience. Just remember that this heat-activated process isn’t going to work with normal fabric pens.
What are Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets?
The most common product in use here is the Infusible Ink transfer sheet. These are available in lots of different colors and are great for use on shirts and other large pieces of fabric. The sheets come in two different forms. There are the pre-inked versions with single colors that take the place of the sheets of colored vinyl. You use the Cricut to cut out the shape you want and then the heat applies the ink directly onto the fabric. It then infuses with the fibers for that permanent finish. The alternative is to get a sheet with a design already included.
How Do I Use Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets?
The good news here is that there are lots of benefits to using these sheets. The process is similar to that of the heat-treated vinyl, with the hot press and cut out designs. You get a solid ink on the sheet and the heat turns this into a gas. This then reacts with the material, infuses, and then dries into a clean and effective design. An advantage here is that it is dry to the touch almost immediately. Also, you can use the sheets with a wide range of Cricut machines. As long as they have the capacity to hit 400 degrees Fahrenheit you should be fine.
What are Infusible Ink Blanks?
One of the ways to work with Infusible Ink is to get your transfer sheet and a compatible blank. Blanks are the generic name for your base materials that will take the dyes. They are more reliable than experimenting with a material that isn’t suitable. More on that below. At the moment, you can find blanks in the form of t-shirts, tote bags, coasters, and mugs that are built to take the material. The range is small right now but will grow with time. You may also find that any other blank that says sublimation-compatible will be fine with Infusible Ink. However, Cricut refuses to guarantee that.
What Material Do Infusible Ink Sheets Work On?
It is important to know what material is best for Infusible Ink so that you don’t end up wasting sheets or ruining garments. There are limitations to using Infusible Ink that you don’t get with heat-transfer vinyl designs. The best materials to use are synthetic so that the dyes react with the polymers.
Also, make sure to use the dyes on white and lighter-toned fabrics so that you get a better transfer of color. You want the design to look as close to the color on the sheet as possible. With the right white material and blanks, you should find that the designs are a great match. You may also notice that the color is even brighter on the material than the sheet.
Can You Use Infusible Ink On Cotton?
Unfortunately, all of this means that designs created with Infusible Ink sheets and pens won’t work on items that are 100% cotton. This natural material hasn’t been engineered to take the heat and pigments. The company hasn’t ruled out the potential for compatibility in the future, but it isn’t worth the risk right now.
How Do I Use Cricut Infusible Ink Pens?
All you need to do is draw your designs onto laser copy paper and apply them to your fabric. The upside here is that you don’t have the restrictions of cutting out a design and working with the machine in the same way as you would with heat-treated vinyl. The downside is that you need to use butcher paper and a lot more care than you do with the sheets. It can take some practice, but the results are worth it.
Can I Use Infusible Ink Markers Directly onto Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets?
This idea sounds great for creating easy two-tone designs and saving some time and effort. However, it is a bad idea. There is a warning not to use the markers directly onto the transfer sheets, because this can end up removing some of the pigment and ruining the marker for future use.
How Do You Store Infusible Ink Pens?
The storage solutions for these pens all depend on the type of product that you have. It is really easy to store the markers with a single tip as you put them tip down in any pen pot. Tip down allows for better ink transfer the next time you use them. But, if you have the dual-tipped markers, you need to try and store them as flat as possible, so you don’t end up favoring one tip over the other.
Are These Alternative Cricut Products Difficult to Use?
A concern with this Infusible Ink method is that it is going to be a lot more difficult than using the heat-transfer vinyl. This doesn’t have to be the case and it is sure to get even easier with practice. The process with the transfer sheets is the easier option because you don’t need a lot of tools and it should be familiar enough if you have experience with Cricut machines. The pens require a little more work because of the use of heat-resistant tape and butcher paper. Cricut recommends looking at their guides and videos and making sure to follow all the instructions correctly for the best results.
The problems come when you start to try and get too complex with the design and layering up transfer sheets. If you want to try layering Cricut transfer sheets then you might find the colors start blending if they overlap. You won’t get the sharp lines and vibrancy that you would with a single application or the use of the pens. There is also the warming that additional applications heat can mean that the previous designs start to fade.
How Long Do Infusible Ink Products Last?
A benefit of getting these Infusible Ink products is that they can last longer than expected. So, you could buy a large number of various colors and then store them for a while. The Transfer Sheets should last for at least a year when stored properly. The Infusible Ink Pens and Markers are said to have enough pigment to last for a minimum of four 8.5″ x 11″ pages of writing or drawing. Granted, this is a little vague. But you should get a lot of projects out of them. Just be aware that the pigment can slowly begin to break down, which means that the colors lose saturation, and you might not get the bright designs you did at the start.
Is Cricut Infusible Ink Worth It?
Cricut does a brilliant job at promoting the benefits of using Infusible Ink for t-shirts, mugs, and more. But there are some clear pros and cons here. So, is this worth using?
The Pros and Cons of Cricut Infusible Ink
1) A choice of transfer sheets and pens depending on your design
2) Compatible with a wide range of pre-existing Cricut machines
3) The transfer sheets are as easy to use as vinyl
4) The direct infusion leads to a great texture and durable design
5) Cricut plans to expand the range in the future
1) You can only work on a limited range of compatible blanks right now
2) You need to be more careful with the markers and use the right type
3) The ink only works on lighter materials with synthetic properties
One of the main benefits of this approach is that you should end up with a much more durable result. You won’t have the same coating that can peak or crack with time and abrasion. It isn’t uncommon for this to happen with beloved and well-worn tees and sweatshirts. Here, the design may fade but you should maintain the full design and shape for a lot longer. The effect should also mean that the material is much more comfortable and flexible while worn.
A possible downside is that you need a compatible Infusible Ink blank to apply the product to your surface and options are limited right now. Check the blanks to make sure they mention Infusible Ink compatibility before you start.
Another potential downside here is that you may have trouble removing a screen print and correcting your work. Screenprints and vinyl transfer are removable in some cases with heat processes. You can learn more about this in my guide on how to remove a screen print. This is great if you have an old item you want to bring new life to or something you want to adapt from a thrift store. This seamless process of infusion may make the processes included a little trickier.
Will Infusible Ink Replace Heat Transfer Vinyl?
There is a lot of love for heat transfer vinyl because it is so versatile and effective. Don’t forget that heat transfer vinyl should work with all materials for a wider range of projects. There is also the fact that there are vinyl sheets with a fun effect that you won’t get with Infusible Ink. These include glitter, holographic effects, and metallic foil.
However, Infusible Ink is a great alternative option when heat transfer vinyl isn’t suitable. It is not replacing the process and you will still be able to use vinyl methods for creative designs as normal. There is a good chance that new Cricut machines will allow for better compatibility with Infusible Ink products with the heat settings and blanks, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of the much-loved HTV options. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to play with both methods choose the best option based on your material or design. You can even mix and match on some items when you get the hang of things.
Is Cricut Infusible Ink a Good Choice for Your Project?
To summarize, there are some pros and cons to using Infusible Ink to keep in mind. You can get a great finish and a more professional look with minimal effort. But you need to make sure you use the right materials and blanks. The process with the pens may also take some practice. You could find that Infusible Ink is a great addition to your machine in the right situation and the options are set to expand with time. Whichever route you prefer, always make sure to match the best Cricut products to your project.