10 Best

Dye Sublimation Printers

of September 2023

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Sublimation Printers for Amazing Craft Ideas

Yehudah Posnick

Ever think of making personalized T-shirts, hats, or coffee mugs, either as a hobby or as a small business? A sublimation printer gets a design or message from your computer onto special sublimation paper. You can insert that design or message into a heat press machine--and the heat press does the actual work of transferring the image onto a T-shirt, baseball cap, or mug. Much like a piece of dry ice going directly from solid to gas, a heat press dissolves the solid ink from the paper and turns it into a gas, and presses it into the fabric of a shirt or hat. And since it penetrates into the fabric, it doesn’t peel off or fade.

There are specialized sublimation printers that manufacturers make solely for producing these personalized items. But, you’ll be surprised to know that there are also typical inkjet printers that can accept sublimation ink cartridges! That way, you can use the same inkjet printer on a variety of projects.

We’ve composed this buyer’s guide to help you make the right decision when selecting a sublimation printer. It'll help you:

  • Choose the right type of sublimation printer for your preferences,

  • See useful tips about that particular type of sublimation printer,

  • Read reviews of different sublimation printers, and what customers are saying,

  • Select the right brand of a sublimation printer, and

  • Compare prices and find the best deals.

Types of Dye Sublimation Printers

  • Specialized sublimation printers: There are companies that specialize primarily in sublimation printers, such as Ricoh and Sawgrass.

  • Piezoelectric printers: Inkjet printers fall into two categories: thermal inkjet, and piezoelectric inkjet, where a crystal changes shape according to the voltage applied to it. The piezoelectric printers can be used with sublimation ink cartridges, while thermal printers cannot. Epson makes piezoelectric printers that can accept sublimation ink. (Canon and HP make primarily thermal printers, and are not compatible with sublimation ink.)

What reviewers say

  • Filling ink: The Epson EcoTank printers allow you to fill the cartridges yourself. This is economical, and also very environmentally friendly. There are 4 colors: yellow, cyan, magenta, and black. You’ll inject them into the tank by means of a special syringe. Be careful with the application, so that none of the ink gets spilled or smeared.

  • Printing speed: Your printing speed will depend greatly on your printing resolution. Just as a benchmark, a Sawgrass Virtuoso printer can print a 600 x 600 dpi image in about 15 seconds, and a 1200 x 600 dpi image in around 48 seconds.

Important Features

  • Sublimation paper: You’ll have to buy special sublimation paper to print the designs or images that you wish to transfer to a shirt or mug. Sublimation paper is treated with a silica coating, that is suited to hold the ink until it enters the heat press. One side of the page will be brighter than the other--you should make the print on the bright side. Be sure not to expose your print to moisture or humid conditions, since it can cause the image to smudge.

  • Printing on garments: Sublimation ink is best on light-colored garments. Also, it’s recommended on porous fabrics, like polyester. In fact, 100% cotton garments will not yield good results, since the sublimation ink doesn’t penetrate the pores of the garment well. You can also use a fabric that is a cotton-polyester blend, as long as the cotton content is less than 30%. (By the way, if you intend to print only on garments, there are options to buy a specialized printer that prints directly on garments (called “Directly to Garment”, or “DTG” printers). This will cut out the extra step of having to first print on sublimation paper--but they can cost thousands of dollars!.)

Top-Rated Brands

  • Epson EcoTank ET-4760 Wireless Color All-in-One Cartridge-Free Supertank Printer is a piezoelectric printer that is also capable of scanning, copying, and faxing. It doesn’t come with sublimation ink, but you can get Epson sublimation ink cartridges. It is an EcoTank printer, which allows you to fill the cartridges yourself.

Epson EcoTank ET-4760 Wireless Color All-in-One Cartridge-Free Supertank Printer

  • Sawgrass SG500 Sublimation Printer is made by Sawgrass, who specialize in sublimation printers for commercial use and for hobbyists. The SG500 is considered a low-cost option, especially for people starting sublimation projects. Sawgrass also offers special print managing software, such as CreativeStudio.

Sawgrass SG500 Sublimation Printer

  • Epson WorkForce WF-7720 Wireless Wide-Format Color Inkjet Printer is also an all-in-one printer with the ability to copy/scan/fax. But it is not an EcoTank printer, so you’ll have to replace the cartridges. However, there is the Amazon Dash Replenishment program, where you can order more cartridges automatically when the ink level is getting low.

Epson WorkForce WF-7720 Wireless Wide-Format Color Inkjet Printer

  • Ricoh Aficio SG3110 DN Inkjet Printer is a sublimation printer that has Ethernet, USB, or wireless printing options. You don’t have to replace the printheads with this model--you only have to refill the cartridges. It uses Sublisplash Sublimation Ink, specialized for printing personalized items.

Ricoh Aficio SG3110 DN Inkjet Printer

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