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How Are Mugs Printed?

Updated: Mar 13

Has the process of transforming ordinary mugs into extraordinary, unique ones piqued your curiosity? While a plain mug is a rare sight nowadays, not many people know how are mugs printed.

Whether you're interested in making custom coffee mugs for your business or looking to create personalized mugs for a special occasion, you're in the right place.

This article will explain the different methods used in mug printing. It will offer insight into the types of mugs that you may print on and discuss how long it may take to print a mug.

How Are Mugs Printed
Source: / Photo Contributor: Andrey_Popov

What Type of Mugs Can you Print on?

While most of our customers are familiar with the standard white printed mug, when discussing which mugs are printable, we usually take material and coating into perspective.

The most common materials for printable mugs include ceramics, steel, and resin, with ceramics being used most often. In terms of coating, we distinguish between coated and uncoated mugs.

Coated mugs 

These mugs are covered with a special polymer material designed to retain ink. The surface coating helps us achieve a colorful design while also ensuring durability. Coated mugs come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Coated mugs can be made from aluminum, glass, steel, and ceramics. 

Coated mugs usually receive their print through sublimation. For this purpose, the mug must be white. These mugs should come in white because other colors will likely cause interference and clash with the colors in the print design. 

Uncoated mugs 

In contrast, uncoated mugs may come in a variety of colors. Since uncoated mugs don't feature any additional coating, they offer greater versatility. Techniques such as laser printing and screen printing make a wonderful choice when printing on uncoated mugs. 

These mugs are predominantly made from ceramics because ceramics retain heat longer compared to other materials.

How Are Mugs Printed?

Customers who are interested in learning how mug printing works should remember that there is more than one way to transfer a print onto a mug. While all the methods described below share their similarities, each has a distinct purpose. Consult the following sections to learn about the different types of mug printing techniques and how they work.

Dye sublimation 

Dye sublimation printing is arguably the most popular method for transferring prints onto coated mugs. It is also one of the oldest mug printing methods still used today. This process can be traced back to the late 1950s. We should note that the sublimation technique is suitable for white mugs only

The procedure is straightforward and revolves around transferring an image onto a special type of paper with dye-based inks. We then wrap the print around the mug to secure it and place it in the heat press to penetrate the ink into its coating. We remove the paper and inspect the transferred design as a final step. 

Digital printing 

Digital printing is an excellent method for printing mugs. If you're looking for fantastic brand printing services, choosing one specializing in digital printing on mugs is an excellent idea. 

This technique involves using a digital printer to create a design that is transferred directly onto coated paper. This design is then transferred onto the substrate via water slide transfer. We prefer this method for printing vibrant, full-color imagery onto mugs. Businesses looking to create custom mugs with their brand logos should be open to this method.

Screen printing 

When screen printing a mug, we apply the chosen ceramic inks onto a stencil (screen)  to transfer the inks onto the mug's surface. Ceramic inks are thick, which is why the mesh count we use for screen printing mugs is usually lower. 

Once we successfully transfer the pattern onto the ceramic mug, the mug must be properly heated for the ink to set. We expose the mug to a temperature of 1630 °F, making the print scratch-resistant and dishwasher-safe.

The designs that we screen print onto a mug are usually simpler and less detailed. Through our years of practice, we find that screen printing on mugs is best utilized when overlapping colors are involved.

Litho transfer printing 

The litho transfer method is mostly reserved for designs with high detail. The process for creating a custom mug with this method is pretty straightforward. First, we print the design onto paper, then scan it, and then carefully transfer it onto the mug by hand.


This process is a bit more time-consuming than the previously mentioned methods. However, it's ideal for odd-shaped mugs and conical or cylindrical mugs.  

How Long Does it Take to Print on a Mug?

Essentially, how long it will take to transfer a chosen design onto a mug depends on the method we use. For instance, comparing digital printing on mugs and the litho transfer method, we can say that the latter requires more attention to detail and will likely take more time.

But, how long does it take to print on a mug, in general? Some methods, such as screen printing and sublimation, require heat to which the mug is exposed for around 4 to 5 minutes. In such scenarios, the mug creation process will depend on how many mugs can be processed in the heat press at once.

While some methods might be faster than others, it's also worth mentioning that mug printing is also influenced by the number of mugs a customer is looking to print. Naturally, larger quantities will ask for more time.

How Long Does it Take to Print on a Mug?
Source: / Photo Contributor: gorid photo


When explaining how are mugs printed, we have to mention that this process is a blend of technology, creativity, and attention to detail. Regardless of the printing method, when creating custom mugs, each step must be carried out with precision to ensure quality in the final outcome.

While older methods, such as sublimation, are still utilized when working with coated mugs, newer technologies help transfer ink on mugs without coating. For instance, litho transfer helps retain the wonderful details of the print when working with mugs that have a distinct shape.

It's worth remembering that there are plenty of possibilities in mug printing. All customers need to do is choose their design, and we will find a suitable technique to bring their vision to life.


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