If you’re looking to make a special gift for your favourite tea or coffee lover, look no further than a printed mug. It’s relatively low-cost and 100% unique, so it’ll be a welcome addition to their kitchen cabinets for years to come. Plus, it’ll remind them of you every time they switch the kettle on.
There are two different ways to customise these mugs at home, via electric iron or heat press, but it’s only practical to do a couple this way. If you’re looking to make any more than 10, or if you run a coffee shop for instance, then our advice would be to outsource the printed mug creation to save you time and money. You’ll also get a much more professional look, which your customers will recognise and appreciate.
Step-by-step coffee mug printing guide
1. Gather your tools
- Mugs (Any colour of ceramic mug will work, but make sure that the colour isn’t too similar to the design or it won’t show up as much)
- Electric iron/ Heat Press Machine (Depending on which method you choose)
- Printer (Inkjet printer with sublimation ink required for heat press method)
- Sublimation paper (sometimes called transfer or decal paper)
2. Pick a design
The design is completely your choice, but if you’re stuck for ideas, look for:
- photos of their family, a pet, or the two of you
- drawings their kids have made
- their favourite quote/ song lyrics
- a few separate images of their favourite things (i.e., coffee cups, footballs, shopping bags)
The only must-do is to pick a high-resolution picture so that it isn’t blurry when printed
3. Print photo onto paper
This is fairly self-explanatory, but you do need to make sure that the image is the right size for the mug and that it has printed exactly how you want it to look on the mug. (You might need to flip the image horizontally if it includes text so that the writing isn’t backwards on the mug.)
If you’re using the heat press method, remember to use an inkjet printer and sublimation ink.
4. Attach picture to mug
First, clean and dry the mug to remove any dust or moisture that would distort the finished image. Then, cut the paper down to size and affix the printed image to the mug with tape.
5. Heat the mug surface
This is the stage at which the two mug printing methods differ greatly. If using an electric iron, put the iron very close to the printed image for 2-3 minutes so that the image will transfer from the paper to the mug. However, if using the heat press machine, place the mug into the machine and clamp it shut. Then, set the timer and heat, according to the instruction manual, and wait.
6. Clean the mug
Once finished, remove the transfer paper carefully, checking that the image has transferred. (If not, line up the image properly and repeat step 5.) Then, gently clean the mug with water to remove any paper pieces that are attached and leave it to dry.
What method is the best?
The best method for printing on coffee mugs is the one that works best for you.
However, if pressed, we’d recommend the electric iron for DIY projects. Most people already own an iron, which can be used for many other DIY projects (or even ironing if you’re really adventurous). The heat press machine alone can be upwards of £100 and you’d need to have an inkjet printer with sublimation ink. That doesn’t make sense if you just want to make a mug for your sister with her child’s picture on it, even if the heat press machine does promise more professional results.
For coffee shop owners, we’d recommend ordering online over getting a heat press because your time should really be spent on other aspects of your business, which you are the expert in and can’t outsource. In addition, the finished mugs will be of a higher quality and you can even get custom travel mugs, which would be hard to create yourself.
Whatever method you choose, remember to choose a bold design that will stand out in kitchen cabinets and people’s minds.