Sublimation on Leather

Leather Sublimation

When you think of sublimation printing, your first thought may be that it is used on clothing and mugs. However, have you ever considered sublimation on leather? Not only is it possible to sublimate on leather (both genuine leather and faux leather), but it is fairly easy to do. The result can great looking earrings, keychains, luggage tags, wallets, patches, pillows, journals, and more.

Table of contents

Can you Sublimate on Leather (Genuine Leather)?

Yes, you can get very good results with leather sublimation. Genuine leather (Natural Leather) is ideal to use for patches, keychains, luggage tags, wallets, earrings, and journal covers. Sublimation on leather is a great way to make memorable and beautiful items that you can keep for yourself, give as gifts, or sell through your sublimation business.

Tips for Sublimation on Leather

When you sublimate onto genuine leather, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Color contrast

Genuine leather is readily available in different shades of brown. It is often sold as cut sheets or as remnants. Opt for the lighter shades of leather, and use dark colored sublimation ink. Also keep in mind that since you the substrate will be a shade of brown, the ink colors will not appear as they do when the design in printed on the white sublimation printer.

Design for Sublimation on Leather

Simple bold designs in one or two dark colors may work better than intricate or multicolored ones. Remember to print a mirror image of your design from your printer. In addition, sublimation markers and sublimation acrylic paint are ideal for creating your own design to sublimate on leather.

Sublimate On Leather
Simple Designs Work Best when you Sublimate on Leather (Genuine Leather)

Leather Surface Finish

When choosing the substrate for sublimation on leather, look for leather with a smooth surface finish rather than a pebbled finish. If the surface is pebbled, your design may not penetrate into all the depressions. If you don’t like how the design adheres, you can also try using sublimation spray.

Cutting the Leather Shape

If you aren’t starting with pre-cut blanks, you will need to cut the leather in the desired shape. A cutting tool such as the Cricut Maker and Cricut Explore can do this with a deep point blade, knife blade, or rotary blade. If the leather is thin enough, or too small to feed into a cutting tool, you can also use scissors.

Prepping the Leather for the Heat Press

It is important to secure the sublimation transfer paper containing the design to the leather item prior to moving to the heat press. Ensure your design is placed against the leather where you want it, and use heat tape to secure it firmly. This is especially important if your leather sublimation project is creating small items that could slide once pressure is applied on the heat press.

Prep the Heat Press for Leather Sublimation

You should always use a liner when using a heat press, but this is especially important for small items that could slip off.

On the bottom, use a mat that will cushion the item. Next, put a protective paper layer. You can use any of the following:

Next set your leather piece in place, with the leather side to the bottom and the colored sublimation paper to the top.

Finally, put another piece of protective paper on top. These pieces of paper protect the mat and the heat press from getting ink on them in case there is slippage or ink bleed through.

If you were to get ink on your heatpress, the ink could transfer onto your next projects.

Temperature and Time for Sublimation on Leather

The temperature and time to use for leather sublimation will vary for each project, and will require some testing on your part. However, a good starting point is 350°F (180°C) and 60 seconds. You will want to use medium to heavy pressure.

Can You Sublimate on Faux Leather?

Yes! Faux leather is an excellent substrate for sublimation. It is an ideal material to use to create beautiful key chains, luggage tags, patches, earrings, ornaments, earrings, pillows, book covers, phone wallets, and more.

What is Faux Leather?

When it comes to sublimation, Faux Leather, PU Leather, Leatherette, Vegan Leather and Pleather are all terms that are used interchangeably to mean synthetic leather.

Strictly speaking, Faux Leather is imitation leather that has a fabric backing and contains PVC (polyvinyl chloride). It may also contain a limited amount of natural leather. PU Leather, on the other hand, is 100% synthetic leather, made exclusively from polyurethane. These differences are important when it comes to using the materials in upholstery. (Faux leather is also a good material for embroidery.)

When it comes to sublimation, however, sublimation blanks are almost always made from PU Leather. Even though a blank may be described as leather, vegan leather, or any of the other terms listed above, if you read the fine print, you will almost certainly find that the composition of the blank is PU Leather or polyurethane.

Distinguishing Genuine Leather from Faux Leather

When a material is described simply as “leather,” it may be hard to determine whether the material is natural leather or not. Look for the words “Genuine Leather,” or the hide-shaped symbol.

Faux Leather won’t have these symbols, and will be called synthetic leather, man-made leather, PU Leather, Leatherette, Vegan Leather, Pleather, polyurethane, petroleum-based, plastic-based, or imitation leather.

Genuine Leather Sublimation
Genuine Leather Sublimation – Note the Mark of Genuine Leather Shape

Can You Sublimate on PU Leather (Faux Leather)?

PU Leather is an excellent material for sublimation. First, it is available in the color white, which will enable you to use a full range of colors in your sublimation design. Second, there and many precut blanks available for sale, so you can skip the step of cutting your own blanks. Third, it is made from polyurethane – a type of plastic – which means that the sublimation ink will adhere to it well. You can use the most intricate and colorful designs and photos to create the most beautiful faux leather sublimation products.

Tips For Sublimation on Faux Leather

Print a Mirror Image for your Faux Leather Sublimation Project

Remember to print mirror image of your design. In the design software, create the design how you want it to look. When you area ready print onto sublimation paper, choose the Mirror image option. Then, once you use the heat press to sublimate the design, it will transfer to the faux leather item correctly.

Image Coverage on Faux Leather and Edge Bleed

Make sure the image covers the whole faux leather item, and bleeds to the edge. This is easy to forget about if you are making, for example, a luggage tag or a keychain. Even though you will be focused on creating a design for the large surface area, the tab at the top will still need to be included in your faux leather sublimation design.

Keep Faux Leather Journal Covers Flat

Journal cover blanks usually come with a spine insert. Use this when putting your PU Leather journal into the heat press so that it stays flat. You will need to secure it with heat tape. Once the sublimation is complete, you can discard or repurpose the insert.

Sublimation on Faux Leather
Faux Leather Journal Blank — Sublimation on Faux Leather is Simple if you Carefully follow the Steps!

Use Thermal Tape to Adhere the Sublimation Paper to the Faux Leather Substrate

As we discussed in the section above regarding leather, use liberal amounts of heat tape to secure your sublimation design to your faux leather article. Also use a mat for support. Small items are more likely to shift once the pressure from the heat press is applied, and you want to ensure that your design is aligned to the faux leather substrate.

Protect Your Heat Press Platen when Sublimating on Faux Leather

Always use protective paper, made from butcher paper, teflon, silicone, or parchment on the top and bottom of your project when putting it in the heat press. If there is ink bleed through or misalignment, you want the ink to adhere to the sacrificial paper rather than your heat press. Stray ink could put stains on your future projects.

Temperature and Time for Faux Leather Sublimation

When you sublimate on faux leather, you will want to start with a lower temperature and shorter time in your heat press. If the results aren’t satisfactory, then you can increase the time or temperature or both.

For Faux Leather Sublimation, start at 320°F for 10- 20 seconds. Increase it up to 380°F for 50-60 seconds.

Blanks that you purchase (such as those shown below) often come with recommended settings.

Whenever you sublimate on a new material, or on a material from a new manufacturer, it is prudent to run some tests to see how the material sublimates using your particular sublimation transfer paper, ink, and heat press.

Faux Leather Sublimation Blanks

There are a wide variety of faux leather sublimation blanks, and we are highlighting some of our favorites.

Faux Leather Sublimation Blanks – Keychains

A set of 8 key chains with a generous 3 in x 1.38 inch area for your sublimation design. Glitter backs.

Kalolary 8pcs Sublimation Blanks Keychain Glitter Rectangle...
  • Package: You will get 8 rectangular keychains, including four colors of gold, blue, pink and black, two of each color, enough to...
  • High Material:The sublimation blanks keychain made of PU leather and stainless steel ring,strong and durable, light weight, easy...
  • Size: Pendant size: 7.6*3.8cm/3*1.5inch,ring:3.5*3.5cm/1.38*1.38inch.The key ring can hold your car key,house key,etc.

Here are keychains that are sold as a package, with a nice variety of shapes and sizes:

Faux Leather Sublimation Blanks – Luggage Tags

Huhumy 8 Pcs Sublimation Blank Luggage Tags White Blank...
  • Package includes: you will get 8 pieces of sublimated blank luggage tags with straps in total, which is sufficient for your daily...
  • Trustworthy quality: the double-sided blank travel bag tags are made of polyester fabric, durable and portable, lightweight but...
  • Easy DIY design: the luggage suitcase tags with double-sided blank design can be easily sublimated and printed, and allow you to...

Faux Leather Sublimation Blanks – Journals

-6% Sale
Zonon Sublimation Journal Blank Notebooks A6 190 Pages Thick...
  • Quantity and Size: there are 2 pieces A6 white sublimation notebooks, each is 95 sheets (190 pages), about 14.5 x 11 x 1.5 cm/ 5.7...
  • Quality material: each blank cover faux leather notebook is made of a faux leather blank cover and paper, reliable and convenient...
  • Sublimation design: the faux leather notebook features a waterproof leather cover, rounded corners, and you can transfer different...

Faux Leather Sublimation Blanks – Wallets

Frienda 2 Pieces Sublimation Wallet Blank for Men Graduation...
  • Package contents: you will receive 2 pieces of heat transfer men's wallets in 2 colors, including black and brown, which are...
  • Enjoy the fun of DIY: nice gift for graduation, the blank part of these men's bifold wallets are nice to be printed that can...
  • Reliable material: these heat transfer bank card holders are made of polyester and PU leather, which are strong and lightweight,...

Faux Leather Sublimation Blanks – Phone Wallets

RYTOO Sublimation Blanks Phone Wallet - PU Leather Card...
  • Heat Press Transfer Guide - Tape and cover brown part, set Temp: 356F (185C), Press Time: 100 Sec. Settings may vary slightly...
  • Sub-ready - These blank sublimation phone card holders are made with sublimatable materials
  • Tag and Brand Logo Free - Plain for your own DIY designs. Artwork, messages, names, motivational quotes, fraternity/sorority,...

Faux Leather Sublimation Blanks – Ornaments

Sublimation Blanks Keychains PU Leather Heat Transfer...
  • Durable Material: The material is PU artificial leather, which is resistant to wear and dirt, has hardness and reflects the...
  • Appropriate Size: 5.5*6.5cm/2.17"*2.56"(L*W). Small and practical, suitable for various life scenes, and also a delicate gift for...
  • Sublimation Guide: The heat transfer temperature is 185 degrees Celsius or 360 degrees Fahrenheit, and the time is about 50-60...

Faux Leather Sublimation Sheets

If you would like to make patches, larger designs, or products in unique shapes, then you can start with faux leather sublimation sheets.

Here is one of our favorites:

Click here for many more.

Faux Leather Sublimation Earrings

Earring can be subtle or bold, and are a great way to show of your personality and bring an outfit together. Having earrings that coordinate with your clothes can make you look polished. Earrings makes great gifts, and are very popular items to sell if you have a small business. You can start with sublimation earring blanks, or if you want something more custom, you can purchase a sublimation earring template, or create your own. Sublimation earring designs can be simple or complex. It is all up to you.

There are many excellent faux leather sublimation earring blanks available. Here are some of our favorites:

We also want to share some tricks to create uniquely shaped sublimation earrings from faux leather. These technique can also be used to make sublimated ornaments:

Faux Leather Front – Heat Transfer Vinyl Back – Method 1

When you sublimate earrings, you can create a polished look by creating it with a faux leather front side and a back side made with heat transfer vinyl (HTV). Glitter vinyl is especially nice for this.

  1. Create the shape in your software. You can use any of the many sublimation earring designs, or a sublimation earring template, or you can create your own design. Remember to add the hole for the wire to go through.
  2. Cut the earring design out of a faux leather sublimation sheet.
  3. Next create a mirror image of that shape and cut that out of heat transfer vinyl (HTV).
  4. Use sublimation transfer paper to sublimate the image onto the front surface of the faux leather. This step is optional. You may decide that the faux leather itself it the look you are after.
  5. Match the HTV to the faux leather and bond with the heat press. Lower the temperature because heat transfer vinyl typically requires a lower temperature than sublimation. The Cricut EasyPress Mini is especially good for this. Use silicone or teflon sheets on top and bottom of the earring.
  6. You can repeat this process with the same shape but resized smaller to created a layered earring.

Faux Leather Front – Heat Transfer Vinyl Back – Method 2

In this method, you first bond the heat transfer vinyl (HTV) to the faux leather prior to cutting it out.

There are several advantages to this method

  • Only have to cut one piece,
  • Don’t have to match up mirrored pieces properly
  • Have a larger area to work with in your heat pressing
  • Aligning the pieces is less critical

The disadvantages to this method:

The bonded piece is more challenging to cut through, and you may get jagged edges.

Faux Leather Front and Back – Method 1

You can create beautiful earrings or ornaments by sublimating on two pieces of faux leather and bonding them together.

Here are step by step instructions:

  1. Design and cut out the front shape in your cutting machine
  2. Make and cut out mirror image of that shape to use as the back.
  3. Sublimate the design of your choice on each side.
  4. Bond the front and back together using fabric glue. Watch for glue that oozes out of the sides.

Faux Leather Front and Back – Method 2

Follow steps 1 to 3 from the section above. Then continue below:

  1. Cut out the original pattern out of an iron-on adhesive sheet.
  2. Align and sandwich the adhesive between the two pieces of faux leather.
  3. Bond using a heat press.

This method takes a little more time, but you won’t have to worry about oozing glue.

Heat Transfer Vinyl Front and Back

In this method, you bond heat transfer vinyl to both sides of a piece of fabric. When you cut out the shape, your earring is thinner but not flimsy. You can also sublimate onto HTV.

Faux Leather Sublimation Pillows

Having a custom faux leather pillow or two in your living room can really bring a room together and show of your sense of style. Pillows are also a great way to add a personal touch. For example, what grandparent wouldn’t want to proudly display a pillow that had a photo of the grandchildren?

You can find cases for faux leather sublimation pillows here.

When doing sublimation on faux leather pillows, there are a few things to keep in mind

  • Put a foam pad inside the pillow prior to using the heat press. This protects the zipper.
  • Use light pressure because the pillow with foam insert will be fairly thick.
  • Remember to use protective paper above between the image and the platen.
  • To avoid creases on the pillow surface, use sublimation transfer paper that is larger than the area of the pillow, even if the design is small.
  • If you must use sublimation paper that is smaller than the whole area of the pillow, then use teflon or silicone as your protective paper. This will ensure that the faux leather is not damaged by the heat.

Other Faux Leather Sublimation Blanks

Click here to find other sublimation blanks, including coasters, keychains, wallets, and more.


By now we hope you know that the answers to the questions “Can you sublimate on leather?” and “Can You Sublimate on Faux Leather?” is a resounding “Yes, I can!” These materials expand the range and open up the possibilities to the many functional and gorgeous items that can be created with sublimation.

Last update on 2023-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API