Sublimation printing allows you to create high-quality, durable, and vibrant prints. This process is quite simple once you understand the basic techniques, and it allows for a lot of customization because you can customize your design on the computer and use a sublimation printer and a heat press to transfer your design.
With sublimation printing, you can print on textiles, wood, metal, acrylics, and other materials. This versatility creates endless possibilities for customization, which is why it is beloved by hobbyists and small businesses alike.
So, what are the best sublimation printers? The best sublimation printers are equipped with high resolution capabilities, are easy to use, print vibrant and true-to-life colors, have versatile connectivity, and have a large ink capacity.
If you’re looking to buy a sublimation printer for your craft corner or to scale up your small business, this is the complete guide to help you understand what to look for and how you can find the best one that suits your needs.
When choosing a sublimation printer, you need to understand the basic steps of sublimation printing.
1. Sublimation Printing Basics
Sublimation printing requires you to first print your design onto sublimation paper using sublimation ink. A sublimation printer is required in this step because sublimation ink is designed to be activated under heat and pressure.
Then, you can use a heat press to transfer the design from the sublimation paper to your surface. In this step, the ink will vaporize under the heat, then the pressure superimposes the ink onto your surface and solidifies it again, creating a very strong bond between the ink and your surface.
This process allows you to create really vibrant colors and a very colorfast and long-lasting print on various surfaces.
Some sublimation printers can print directly on a fabric surface; these sublimation printers may have a different printing layout compared to the printers that require sublimation paper.
Sublimation works especially well for porous surfaces such as fabric, and it doesn’t require much effort or preparation, which is why it is a very popular technique among hobbyists. Some small businesses also prefer this technique because it allows them to print small-batch designs without having to make stencils or invest in other equipment.
Of course, the technique heavily relies on a quality sublimation printer that can create good prints with high resolution and true colors. Investing in a good sublimation printer is the key to help you create highly satisfying products.
2. Sublimation Printer Vs. Dye-Sub Printers
Inkjet printers that work with sublimation ink should not be confused with sub-dye printers – those are completely different things!
Sawgrass and Epson inkjet printers are the main manufacturers of sublimation printers that are ideal for printing on various blank materials, including sublimation paper or fabric.
There are some printers, especially photo printers, that utilize the dye-sublimation (or dye-sub) technology, but they will not work if you want to print on sublimation paper or other surfaces, and the print won’t be able to transfer using a heat press.
3. Print Materials
Sublimation printers work by printing the design onto sublimation paper, and then this paper can be used to transfer the design onto your surface. The paper, in this case, is called a transfer medium. With this method, you will need to buy a heat press in order to transfer the design, so additional costs should be considered.
Some sublimation printers also allow you to directly print on the surface of the material; these printers commonly work best with fabric to print T-shirts or tote bags. In this case, you should pay careful attention to the printer’s layout and whether it can accommodate the size of the print material you are hoping to use.
4. Print Resolution
The print resolution is usually indicated by the DPI (or points per ink) – it tells you how clear and detailed your print will turn out. When the print resolution is low, your print will look more pixelated and blurry. When your print resolution is high, you can achieve vibrant colors and crisp details.
However, it doesn’t mean you should always splurge for the highest DPI available – these printers tend to be quite expensive. High print resolution is only worth it when you’re printing very large pieces with many colors and small details.
If you’re only printing very simple designs on small T-shirts and tote bags, investing in a reasonable printer with moderate print resolution can be okay.
5. Printer Connectivity
The printer will need to connect to your computer in order to print your design. While old-school printers require an ethernet cable, some newer models allow you to connect using Wi-Fi or a USB port.
Depending on what works best for your setup and your computer, you can get a connectivity option that suits you.
6. Ink cartridge
Quality sublimation ink is required to help you achieve a quality print. Some printers will require one or multiple ink cartridges that need to be replaced occasionally to ensure the color quality.
While some popular sublimation printer brands, such as Sawgrass or Epson, do make their own sublimation ink, you can also find sublimation ink from third-party brands that will work just as well.
When looking at the price of a sublimation printer, don’t just look at the price of the printer on its own.
Oftentimes, you will need to take a look at additional tools and supplies required to make the printer work, such as the ink (which will need to be refilled occasionally), sublimation paper to use as a transferring medium, poly-coated hard surfaces, etc.
If you are working with sublimation paper, then a heat press is also required to transfer the design to your surface. When comparing the prices of different sublimation printer brands, you should also account for the additional tools and supplies needed to create a final design.
Best Sublimation Printers For Beginners
If you are interested in buying a sublimation printer for your craft corner or your workshop, here are some of the most easy-to-use sublimation printers for beginners.
|Sawgrass SG500 Sublimation Printer
|Desktop, made for sublimation, wifi
|Epson EcoTank Pro ET-16600
|Heat-free, eco-friendly, sharp text, vibrant
|Transfer World Sublimation Printing Kit
|Full kit, easy to use, premium-quality paper
1. Sawgrass SG500 Sublimation Printer
The SG500 delivers vibrant colors and precision, all in a compact design made to fit anywhere in your workshop.
With high-quality materials and components, it is the only desktop printer made for sublimation, ensuring high-resolution printing with vibrant colors for your products.
This sublimation printer is designed to enable printing quality that is unmatched by any other sublimation printer for sale on the market.
It does this with innovative design features like the patented single roll-bar, which is built right into the ink roller. The SG500 also has Wi-Fi connectivity and is highly energy efficient.
This printer allows you to print directly on any material, large or small, thanks to the printing coverage of 51″. For beginners, it cannot get easier than this, and you can spend more time customizing your design before printing it directly on your surface.
2. Epson EcoTank Pro ET-16600
Whether you’re in a hurry or just want to be more environmentally friendly with your printing, the EcoTank ET-16600 is a great choice.
This printer gives you fast print speeds with no warm-up time and produces prints with consistent quality thanks to PrecisionCore Heat-Free Technology.
It features print modes optimized for photos or graphics plus Ethernet connectivity for connecting with a network in a single device. This printer is also eco-friendly, thanks to the optimized use of ink, so you can save your wallet and the planet by using less ink per page.
However, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the quality of the print. Capable of high-quality printing, even with large photos and graphics, this versatile printer performs well right out of the box and delivers sharp text and brilliant colors of up to 5760 x 1440 optimized dpi.
This printer can create beautiful instant-dry borderless photo prints up to 8″ x 14″. For your convenience, there is a 500-sheet paper tray that conveniently feeds specialty media.
The printer has low power consumption and ZERO cartridge waste, so you can run it for long periods of time without adding ink. To use this printer for sublimation printing, simply add sublimation ink and sublimation paper, and you’re good to go!
3. Transfer World 15″x15″ 8-in-1 Sublimation Printing Kit
If you are looking for a kit to start your sublimation printing hobby or small business, then this kit has pretty much everything you need to start.
This kit includes the Epson WF-3720 printer, which is remarkably easy to use with its 2.7″ full-color screen, dedicated one-touch print, and borderless printing capability.
With fast print speeds and an automatic document feeder that fits up to 20 pages, it can produce professional-quality documents quickly while having a 250 sheet paper capacity.
This is a high-performance printer perfect for professional printing. The thermal inkjet printhead of the WF-3720 extrudes dye directly onto sublimation paper with amazing accuracy, producing brilliant prints on premium-quality sublimation paper.
Of course, with this kit, you will also get all the tools you will need to customize your own T-shirts or cups using the sublimation technique.
The kit comes with sublimation ink, sublimation paper, heat-resistant tape, a 15″ x 15″ press that allows you to instantly transfer your prints, and more.
This bundle is perfect for those who don’t know where to start in their collection, as you will have everything you need to get started with sublimation printing.
Best Sublimation Printers For Pros
If you are a little bit more confident in your ability to work with more complicated sublimation printers with more customization options, then let’s take a look at some sublimation printers below.
|Epson EcoTank ET-2720
|Eco-friendly, high-capacity tank
|Epson EcoTank ET-2750
|5760 x 1440 DPI, cartridge-free
|Epson WorkForce WF-7210
|Thermal tech, 500 sheet input capacity
|Epson WorkForce Pro WF-7820
|Heat-free, compact, easy to use
|Epson Workforce Pro WF-3732
|4800 x 2400 DPI, ethernet connectivity
|Epson Stylus C88+ Inkjet Printer
|5760 x 1440 DPI, smudge-resistant
|Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000
|True-to-life color, wireless or wired
|HP Smart Tank Plus 551
|Easy to use, Wi-Fi, USB, Bluetooth
1. Epson EcoTank ET-2720
Epson EcoTank printers are great for small businesses. They’re convenient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly. This high-performance printer is definitely a hard-working assistant that operates quietly but smartly, speeding through print jobs with ease.
Thanks to the high-capacity tanks, you’ll worry less about running out of ink—and save a lot on replacement ink. EcoTank printers are convenient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly.
Make your mark with impressive print quality, strong reliability, and fast 2-minute ink warm-up from start to first print. Just use sublimation ink and sublimation paper, and you’re ready to use this as a sublimation printer for your hobby or small business.
With this printer, you will get the reliability and convenience you expect from Epson — plus eco-friendly advantages that save money and help protect the environment.
2. Epson EcoTank ET-2750
This is another model of EcoTank that offers a little higher quality in terms of image resolution (5760 x 1440 optimized dpi) while still allowing you to save on ink, similar to the other EcoTank models.
Enjoy easy cartridge-free printing thanks to the four low-cost ink bottles that are each designed for 6,000 prints. This cartridge-free printer features Wi-Fi Direct, allowing you to easily print from your iPad, iPhone, Android tablets, and smartphones without any wireless setup hassle.
Similar to other Epson printers, you can easily use this printer for sublimation printing just by filling the ink cartridges with sublimation ink and use sublimation paper as a transfer medium.
3. Epson WorkForce WF-7210
This Epson WF-7210 printer has thermal technology delivering impressive results for print shop quality color graphics and laser-sharp print on most media types. Borderless prints are intuitive with this printer, allowing you to print materials up to 13″ x 19″ in size.
A robust 500 sheet input capacity, enhanced by a rear paper feed slot, means that you can print large quantities at a time, and the print goes straight into the 125 sheet output tray.
This Epson printer features include a touchscreen with intuitive icon displays, allowing you to easily customize your print, and the Wi-Fi connectivity makes it even easier to turn a digital design into a vibrant print for a T-shirt or mug.
4. Epson WorkForce Pro WF-7820
The WorkForce Pro WF-7820 sublimation printer is one of the most capable wide-format printers, delivering high-quality prints at up to 13″ x 19″. With fast print speeds of 5 black/12 color ISO ppm, it is perfect for large projects.
The innovative PrecisionCore Heat-Free Technology digital printer is designed for large volume users who need fast prints with superior accuracy, and the heat-free technology means you don’t have to wait for the print to cool down before getting to the next step in the printing process.
This printer is packed with advanced features that help to speed up your productivity. It is compact and easy to use, with a 4.3″ color touchscreen for quick navigation and control.
Use it for printing your favorite snapshots or graphics onto any media – the Epson printer is compatible with all major sublimation papers as well as Epson sublimation ink. With its built-in wireless and Ethernet connectivity options, you can easily create your prints virtually anywhere!
5. Epson Workforce Pro WF-3732
The WorkForce Pro WF-3732 is an efficient performer with a wide range of capabilities. Small but mighty, it fits right in your small workshop, creating crisp black and color documents with speedy first print times.
This digital compact photo printer with 4-in-1 capabilities can produce quality results (4800 x 2400 dpi Maximum Print Resolution) for brilliant sublimation results. Everything is highly customizable thanks to the 2.7″ color touchscreen, making it friendly to every technology novice.
Featuring wireless capability for mobile printing, you can print photos directly from your mobile device right to your Epson printer. In addition, you will also be able to connect via ethernet, making the setup super easy.
For sublimation printing, make sure to get the Epson sublimation ink, and you should be able to create some brilliant designs with this printer.
6. Epson Stylus C88+ Inkjet Printer
The Epson Stylus C88+ color printer is a powerful tool for printing vivid designs with beautiful vibrant colors for sublimation.
The printer has a maximum print resolution of 5760 x 1440 dpi, a 4-color print head, and a maximum print speed of 14 ppm in color and 23 ppm in monochrome.
With this printer, you can enjoy beautiful and high-quality prints, thanks to the DURABrite Ultra pigment ink providing smudge-resistant designs. The Stylus Photo C88+ is a powerful, lightweight printer that makes sublimation printing highly enjoyable.
This is a powerful photo printer with the ability to go beyond the ordinary with BorderFree printing technology. This allows you to print directly to an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of sublimation paper with no edge trimming required.
This printer is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh systems via USB and Parallel ports. Simply use sublimation paper and ink, and enjoy the brilliant result that this printer can give you.
7. Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000
The XP-15000 is certainly one of Epson’s flagship products, which aims to deliver top-quality prints thanks to the large print capability.
It features six color individual Claria photo HD ink cartridges, which include red and gray inks to offer more true-to-life color prints and a maximum resolution of 5760 x 1440 dpi.
With this printer, you can achieve professional results with borderless prints up to 13 inches X 19 inches. This mini-wide format A3+ printer is super compact but still has enough space to support a 200 sheet front tray and an 80 GSM input paper capacity.
This top-of-the-line, the high-definition printer features wireless and wired connectivity so you can print from your iPad, iPhone, or Android tablets and smartphones.
With a built-in 2.4″ color LCD display, this printer makes it easy to operate and monitor printing and image quality. With increased resolution and improved color processing, you’ll produce stunning results every time.
By printing on sublimation paper using sublimation ink, you can achieve brilliant color results at a highly efficient speed, perfect if you want to scale up your small business.
8. HP Smart Tank Plus 551
The HP Smart Tank Plus 551 printer is designed to be easy to use. From plugging it in for the first time to setting up and printing, it just works.
There are so many connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, USB, and Bluetooth, which allow you to print at just a touch of a button.
While this printer can produce brilliant images at various paper sizes, it’s not the main selling point of this printer. The integrated ink tank design, automatic ink sensor, and spill-free refill system allow you to save on ink and work efficiently.
This inkjet printer combines versatile functionality with professional-quality output to help you create beautiful, quality sublimation prints. Simply use sublimation ink and sublimation paper to create your print, and it’s ready to be transferred to various surfaces without any hassle.
Converting A Regular Printer Into A Sublimation Printer
If you don’t like these options but you already have an inkjet printer, the good news is, you can turn this printer in to a sublimation printer with just a few steps! You won’t have to buy a whole new printer for sublimation printing, just the sublimation ink, and paper.
When you convert your printer into a sublimation printer, you should note that sublimation ink and regular printer ink do not mix. Simply replacing the ink cartridge with sublimation ink won’t do, and you may risk ruining your printer.
If you have a new printer that has not printed anything, you can easily install sublimation ink cartridges and get to work right away. This is because your printhead has not come into contact with the regular ink, so printing with sublimation ink right away is pretty safe.
However, if your printer is already in use, you will need to purge the machine of all the old ink before installing the sublimation ink cartridges. This process is a little different with different printer models, so you should consult the user manual to clean up your printer before using it with sublimation ink.
Then, you can safely use your printer with sublimation ink and sublimation paper.
Many brands make printers that are suitable for both regular and sublimation printing, but you should note that brands like Epson require you to use Epson sublimation ink, so you should refer to the user manual to find the sublimation ink that suits your machine.
One thing to note is that this conversion is not reversible, meaning once you use sublimation ink with this printer, you won’t be able to go back to printing with regular ink. Keep that in mind and consider whether you want to make this permanent change before you convert your printer.