Makers, creatives, hobbyists, crafters, and cottage industry pros take note. Cricut is again progressing the DIY game with its new Infusible Ink technology, announced today and exclusively hitting Michael’s online and in store on June 21st. I got an early hands-on, and my initial take is that Infusible Ink solves problems, expands your creative arsenal, and is super easy to work with.
Infusible Ink is Cricut’s new method of permanently applying your custom designs to fabric and ceramics. Using any Cricut smart cutting machine, Infusible ink sheets can be cut, and Infusible Ink markers can be plotted, into complex designs and applied to a base product. Popular existing options using HTV (heat transfer vinyl) are only guaranteed for 50 washes and have a tendency to peel. Infusible Ink bonds with fibers and won’t ever separate from your fabric. It becomes part of the fabric. It even has benefits over silk-screened designs that can fade and crack over time because they lie on top of fabric instead of within it.
New technology, and believe it or not, actual corporate espionage, is big in the maker / crafter space that Cricut has pioneered with their cutting machines and materials. I’ve covered Cricut products in the past, and have regular experience making things of value with their products. It still took a robust NDA, several emails, and connected contacts with Cricut to vouch for me, but in early May I got one of the only early media looks at Cricut’s Infusible Ink products. Even a private video conference with a spotty connection was enough to see how easy Infusible Ink was to work with and how next level anything made with it looked.
I wanted to touch it, and after much internal discussion, they agreed to send me a sample. The box that arrived was packed with several sheets of Infusible Ink in an array of different vivid patterns, and a set of Infusible Ink markers, plus a couple of compatible T-Shirts, a tote bag, and a few other extra interesting things that I’ll get into later.
It didn’t take me long to load Design Space with my go-to test design. Undefeated this past season, I can never have enough gear promoting the youth soccer team I coach. (Go Dragons!) I grabbed a hardcore diamond plate patterned sheet of Instant Ink and put it on a medium-grip cutting mat. Using “transfer sheets” as the secret Design Space setting currently available until the software updates for Infusible Ink Transfer Sheets, I inverted the design to print in reverse, and my Cricut Maker zipped through the cut like usual. Weeding out the excess material was easier than vinyl or HTV, and required no tools. It was ready for application.
Since Infusible Ink permanently bonds with Cricut’s polyester or polyester/spandex cloth, it works only on light colored materials. Currently Cricut offers white shirts ($7~$10) and cream tote bags ($10~$12) but this is clearly just a taste of what’s to come. I’m sure the creative community will start mixing it up soon after launch, and that Pinterest will be full of other things that can also be imbued with Infusible Ink. For instance, I have a few old polyester jerseys that I plan to experiment with very soon.
I chose the cream colored tote bag to be ever emblazoned with my Dragons logo, and started heating up my Easy Press 2, since the heat required for Infusible Ink (400 degrees) outclasses my original Easy Press. Equally important to the high infusing temperature is surface preparation, namely lint rolling and pre-heating for five seconds. There’s no sticky backing on the Infusible Ink media, so using heat resistant tape to keep your design in place is a smart move to prevent wandering. With a sheet of cardstock over my design and parchment paper over an Easy Press Pad inside the tote bag, I hit it with light-medium pressure for 30 seconds.
After a quick cooldown, the bag was done. It was vivid, as sharp as the best screen printing I’ve seen, and permanently part of the cloth. No chance of cracking or fading like a screenprint, and no chance of peeling after a year of washing like iron-on vinyl.
Now it was time to play with markers. Yes, Infusible Ink markers! They mount in your Cricut machine like other Cricut pens available, but let you create complex designs on simple laser copy paper that can be applied just like the process I used for the tote. The 95% polyester 5% spandex shirts are surprisingly comfortable, and easily justify their $10 price point with quality. So I made a silly shirt based on an internal Commerce Team Slack conversation that almost no one will understand, but was fun to make public anyway.
It’s also very true. Shep McAllister gets it.
The last extra fun thing Cricut sent me was a set of four blank ceramic coasters. I never considered myself particularly a fan of coasters until I saw how slick and professional these turned out after being quickly modified with Infusible Ink. The process is a bit different in that you’ll heat them upside down for a whopping five minutes with your Easy Press 2 at 400 degrees. So no touching before a full cooldown if you value your fingerprints. They turn out stunning. I promise my photo doesn’t do them justice. These are going in our rental cabin, so I’ll be sure to update this post when the first one is stolen as a souvenir.
I understand that on the surface, this is just a really nice custom coaster set, but most exciting is how my brain started whirling on what these ceramic discs represent in terms of the creative community remixing Infusible Ink with similar media. I gave it a go on some natural stone 1-inch tiles and while the transfer wasn’t as vivid as the coasters, the resulting image wouldn’t wash away with water.
As they’ve done in the past, I’m sure we can expect even more mold-breaking Infusible Ink products from Cricut in the coming months and years after launch. As fun and cool as Cricut’s Infusible Ink technology is, the real takeaway here is that Cricut knows that their makers, creatives, and even their own engineers will produce things that are even more unique and cutting edge than the process that was used to develop them. I can’t wait to see and contribute to all of it.