Sublimation Printer vs Regular Printer -What is the Difference?

Over the decades, technology has made huge progress in the world of printing. From handmade photocopies to digital printing, we have come a long way since the 1950s, when the first inject printer was invented.

Previously, we were only capable of transferring prints to paper whereas now with the help of sublimation and other printing techniques, we can transfer images and designs to all kinds of materials. So, the question that comes to mind is, how does a regular printer differ from a sublimation printer? Are they the same?

To answer all your questions, let us look at a detailed comparison between the sublimation printer vs Regular Printer and other printing techniques below.

Sublimation Printer vs Regular Printer – Key Differences

In terms of appearance, sublimation printers and your regular inkjet printer might look alike but in terms of function, they are quite different. So, let us go ahead and check out the key differences between the two that will help you get a better understanding of their technology, function, and results.

1- Printing Technology

The major difference between the two is the type of printing technology used by both printers. If you have a regular printer at home/office/school, you might know that it used ink-dot technology to spray colors onto the paper.

On the other hand, sublimation printers do not contain any colorants. This means that the sublimation dye isn’t liquid. Instead, using heat and pressure, the solid dye is converted into gas which allows it to penetrate the material and form an image.

Furthermore, in the case of inkjet printers, the printed document is the final result whereas that is not the case with a sublimation printer. The image/design printed on the sublimation paper needs to go through a heat press over a medium of your choice to deliver the resultant image.

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2 – Ink/Dyes

Another difference among the two types of printers is the type of ink cartridges used by them. If you have ever used a regular printer before, you will know that the ink used is in a liquid state. You can feel it even on a printed document. It often appears to be wet for a few seconds.

But on the other hand, sublimation printers don’t use regular ink cartridges. Instead, they come with special sublimation dyes which are solid in nature and are converted to vapors using heat and pressure for the transferring process.

3 – Resultant Image

The resultant image of a sublimation printer is far superior in terms of quality as compared to a regular printer. The reason is that a regular printer only uses black, yellow, cyan, or magenta cartridges which means that the base colors for the print are quite limited. On the other hand, even though the same base colors are used by a sublimation printer, they have the luxury to diffuse and mix when in a vapors state which allows them to deliver superior output.

4 – Printing Capability

Your regular printer, whether inkjet or digital is designed to normally print on regular paper. Although it can be customized to print on photo paper, its basic function is to deliver printers on everyday used paper.

Similarly, a sublimation printer is designed to print on sublimation paper. Many beginners often get the understanding that a sublimation printer can print on any material. But we are telling you, it is not the truth. One needs to print the image onto the sublimation paper and then transfer it to any other material using a heat press.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Now that you understand the difference between the two printers, let us look at the pros and cons each of them has to offer to the printing world.

Advantages of Regular Printer

  • Deliver high-quality images on paper
  • Ink cartridges last longer
  • Much more cost-effective
  • Can print large-sized images
  • No labor required

Disadvantages of Regular Printer

  • Prints tend to fade over time
  • Require drying time as liquid dyes are used for printing
  • Can only produce resultant images on regular paper or photo paper.

Advantages of  Sublimation Printer

  • Smaller in size hence portable and require a small area
  • Easy to use, interactive user interface
  • Potential for continuous colors
  • Fade-resistant prints
  • Require no drying time, hence preventing blurry and distorted images
  • Can print on non-traditional materials such as t-shirts

Disadvantages of Sublimation Printer

  • Can only use compatible sublimation paper and ink dyes as recommended by the manufacturer
  • Higher cost in terms of additional labor
  • Slower in terms of speed

So, if you are looking to invest in one, make sure to compare your needs with the pros and cons to decide which out of the two would be best suited for you.

Frequently Asked Questions 

If you are planning on starting your own home-based business, the sublimation printer is one of the best investments you can make. Over the years, with the advancing technology, it has become one of the best printing methods. Plus, it requires a low setup cost, is highly versatile, and is easy to use for all.

Yes and no both. A regular printer that comes with piezo technology is the only printer that you can use for sublimation. But as we know, most regular printers come with thermal technology and hence can’t be used for sublimation. Furthermore, it is also essential that you only use sublimation dye for that regular printer and never add regular ink to the cartridges.

The main difference between a sublimation and regular printer is the printing technology. In a regular printer, thermal technology is used to spray liquid ink onto the paper to deliver a resultant image. On the other hand, a sublimation printer uses digital printing technology that converts solid dyes to vapors using electric current for the transferring process.

There are no such major drawbacks of sublimation printing. But if you were to compare it with other printing techniques, then the process is much slower and requires additional steps which can be time-consuming and a bit pricier in terms of additional labor.

Yes, you can use a Cricut for sublimation. But remember, you can’t sublimate with it. You can only use it to get designs from the Design Space and cut them to accurate sizes and shapes using your Cricut. You will have to transfer the image onto the material using the heat press just like a regular sublimation printer.

Yes, you need a sublimation printer or a regular printer that comes with piezo technology. Not all regular printers are compatible with sublimation dyes. So before using them, make sure to check your printer’s technology.

Not. All HP printers cannot be transformed into sublimation printers. It is impossible because they come with thermal technology whereas you need piezo technology for sublimation. So only the HP printers that come with piezo technology can be converted for sublimation.

If you have such a printer, then all you need to do is switch the cartridges with sublimation dye and replace the regular paper with sublimation paper to get the desired results.

Yes, sublimation is better than vinyl in terms of end results. Sublimation offers superior image quality and allows you to transfer prints and designs to a wide range of materials. But at the same time, the set-up cost for a sublimation printer is higher than a vinyl printer but worth every penny.

If you are a beginner, you can get free sublimation designs from the internet. There are different programs such as Inkscape, Silhouette Studio, and Design Space. But you can also use the different customization software to create your designs as your start to excel in the field of sublimation.


In the world of printing, dye sublimation vs inkjet printer is a huge topic. But you need to understand that there is no comparison between the two and there is no clear winner as both the printers are designed to produce different results.

An inkjet printer works best for everyday photos and texts. It would deliver superior quality images, you can print at a large scale and produce larger prints. But, at the same time if you wish to customize your clothes, ceramic, mugs, tiles, and even wood, then sublimation printers are your best choice.

So, whether you are comparing dye-sublimation printer vs laser printer, sublimation printer vs Cricut, sublimation press vs regular heat-press, or sublimation vs DTG printing, remember each printer is designed to deliver specific results. So as per your preference, invest in the printer that best fits your needs.

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