Everything You Need To Know About A Sublimation Printer

Are you planning on starting your sublimation business and need high-quality prints? If yes, then the sublimation printer is the most vital investment that you need to make. But the question that comes to mind is, what is a sublimation printer? And how it varies from the other regular printers?

Well, not to worry because we have got your back. Today in this guide we are going to be discussing what a sublimation printer is, what it can be used for, how to use a sublimation printer, and factors you need to consider before investing in one for your business or personal use.

In short, everything that you need to know about a sublimation printer can be found below in this comprehensive guide. So, continue reading to find out more and make one of the best decisions of your life because the quality, output, and versatility of the prints depend on it.

What is a sublimation printer?

Sublimation printers are specially designed and manufactured printers. Their purpose is to convert digital prints to hard prints much like a normal printer. But they differ in terms of the printing technology used. In a regular inkjet printer, dyes are sprayed onto the water. Whereas in the case of a sublimation printer, dyes are converted into a vapor state using heat and are then transferred to the paper.

It might be news to you, but certain regular HP and Epson printers can be converted into sublimation printers. Over the years, sublimation printers have evolved a ton. The newer options such as the ones manufactured by Sawgrass and Epson offer variable media sizes, high-resolution prints, and easy-to-use software. 

What Can Sublimation Printers Be Used For?

Sublimation printers are one of the best printing solutions. They can be used for adding colors and prints to a wide range of materials ranging from fabric to ceramics and glass. Homeowners and professionals alike, use sublimation printers for the following purposes;

  1. Decorating – You can use sublimation prints to decorate your home. Add prints to your pillowcases, cushions, vases, upholstery, curtains, and more.
  2. Advertising – Sublimation can also be used for large-scale printing such as for banners, billboards, and posters. The image quality offered by sublimation is unmatchable thus giving you a competitive advantage over your competitor in the field of advertising.
  3. Apparel Customization – You can design your clothing lines, and customize your existing boring clothes such as pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, and more.
  4. Personalized Gifts – You can use sublimation prints to create personalized items such as t-shirts, caps, jewelry pieces, mugs, keychains and so much more.

Related: Best Sublimation Printer For Mugs

How To Set Up A Sublimation Printer?

You must be wondering how do sublimation printers’ work. Well, the sublimation printing process is much similar to regular printing. Using a sublimation printer is quite easy. All you have to do is set up and after that, it is all about hitting the print button.

So, let us go ahead and look at a step-by-step approach to set up your printer.

1-     Unpack The Printer

The answer to the question ‘what do I need to start sublimation printing’ is a sublimation printer. Once you have it, it is time to unpack it. Most Epson printers come with a complete sublimation package which includes an ICC profile, sublimation settings manual, and sublimation dyes.

Take everything out of the box. Remove the plastic wraps and covers and have everything laid out in front of you so you can easily each piece together.

2-     Install the Sublimation Dye Cartridges

Once you have everything, the first thing that you need to do is install the ink cartridges. For this step, we suggest that you read the manual provided by the manufacturer in the box. Most Epson printers come with ink bottles and ink tanks. The best way to transfer the inks from the bottles to the tanks is to use syringes.

 Once done, start the printer and it will go through an ‘ink setup’ on its own. This process will take you about 10-20 minutes the first time. But once you get it right, you can easily change the inks later. Plus, you can always go through the ‘how to change ink in printer’ section on the manual again, if and when needed.

3-     Connect the printer to the computer

The next step is to connect your sublimation printer to the computer. Most printers come with USB cables that you can use for connectivity but there are some advanced printers as well that allow you to connect via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

4-     Install your printer’s driver

The next step is to install the software for sublimation printing. Many first-time users wonder what program to use for sublimation printing and often end up downloading the basic drivers from the internet. But we suggest that you don’t download them.

Instead, use the driver CD that came with the printer. It will allow you to use your printer to its full capacity and you will have access to all the settings. Also, in some cases, drivers are automatically downloaded from the web once you connect your printer to the computer.

5-     Customize printing settings

Lastly, you need to apply the required settings. Once you install the drivers, you will notice that the printer offers a wide range of printing settings. You can adjust the print quality, resolution, paper type, and printing type.

6-     Hit the Print button

And you are all done. Now select your design, place the transfer paper, and hit the print button!

Factors To Consider When Buying A Sublimation Printer 

Wondering how to start sublimation printing? Well, by getting a sublimation printer. But before you go ahead and make the investment, you must understand what makes a printer a sublimation printer, what kind of printer I need for sublimation, and what printers can be converted to sublimation printers.

Well, before you buy a printer that can be used for sublimation, here is a list of factors that you need to consider to make the right decision.

  1. Print Technology – Printers with piezo technology are the ones that can be used for sublimation printing. If the printer comes with thermal printing technology, then you should not get it as it won’t be able to support sublimation dyes.
  2. Print Materials – Make sure to check which materials the printer can print on. All sublimation printers will print on transfer paper but only a few will print on fabric, ceramics, and other material types. So, make sure to check before purchasing.
  3. Ink Cartridges – The printer is a one-time investment, but the cartridges are an ongoing investment. Make sure to check how long will they last, meaning, how many pages can they print. Also, check if you can use each one individually.
  4. Maximum Layout – Check the size of the print tray and whether it is adjustable or not. The size will determine the maximum layout size that you can print.
  5. Resolution – This is important because you require high-quality prints. The higher the resolution, the better. Make sure to ask the manufacturer for a test print before making the purchase.
  6. Connectivity – Look for ways in which your printer can connect to your computer. Most printers will come with USB cables, but some advanced versions offer Wi-Fi connectivity options as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

The difference between a sublimation printer and a regular printer is that a regular printer comes with thermal technology, on the other hand, a sublimation printer comes with piezo technology that converts solid dyes to vapors for printing.

Furthermore, a sublimation printer uses sublimation dyes whereas a regular printer uses inkjet dyes. Both deliver different outputs. In the case of regular printers, you can see dots of colors put together to form the image. Whereas in the case of sublimation printing, dyes blend in a vapor state to form the image.

Yes, if you are going to be using it for business purposes, then it is worth investing in. It delivers high-quality prints and allows you to print on different materials which makes it possible for you to expand your sublimation business from just t-shirt printing to versatile printing solutions.

On the other hand, for personal use, we suggest that you invest in a regular printer. Why spend $500 on something that you are only going to be using rarely?

No, all printers can’t be used for sublimation. Only the printers that are equipped with piezo technology are equipped for sublimation. The reason is that sublimation dyes require high temperature to convert to a vapor state and regular printers can’t withstand that much heat or pressure.

So, we suggest that you get a dedicated printer for sublimation. The one that comes with compatible sublimation dyes, maximum print area, and of course high-resolution printing technology.

There are numerous differences between a regular and a sublimation printer. For starters, the type of printing technology used in both printers varies because of the different types of inks used. Inks used in inkjet printers are in a liquid state whereas sublimation dyes are in a solid-state.

Thermal printing technology is used in inkjet printers to spray the liquid ink onto the paper. On the other hand, piezo technology is used in sublimation printers to heat the dyes and convert them into a vapor state to transfer onto the transfer paper.

Furthermore, inkjet printers only allow you to print on paper whereas sublimation printers also allow you to print on other materials such as fabric. 

Sublimation printing is a high-end printing method used to transfer prints onto a wide range of materials. But like all other printing methods, this one also has a few drawbacks. Firstly, sublimation printing can’t be performed on dark surfaces. You need a white or light-colored background to get the print onto the material.

Next, sublimation dyes don’t do well when in contact with direct UV rays. If exposed for a longer period, the print tends to fade away. Furthermore, since sublimation dyes are in solid-state hence can often clog the print heads if not used within six months.

Yes, you need specialized sublimation printers to use sublimation ink. The thing you need to understand is that regular printer ink is in liquid form and is sprayed onto the paper in its liquid state. However, when it comes to sublimation dyes, they are transferred to the paper by being converted into a vapor state first.

This means that you need an intense amount of heat to convert solid dyes to vapors. A regular printer can’t provide or withstand such high temperatures. Therefore, you need special printers to get the job done. Those printers are designed to provide the temperature and pressure that the sublimation ink needs to transfer on materials.

No, not all inkjet printers can be used for sublimation. The thing you need to remember is that sublimation required piezo technology whereas most inkjet printers come with thermal technology. Plus, many of them are not even compatible to use sublimation dyes.

So, regular inkjet printers aren’t compatible. But if you get high-end inkjet printers such as the ones manufactured by Epson then those can be used for sublimation. You will need to make sure that it comes with piezo technology, and you can get sublimation dyes for the cartridges.

Not all HP printers can be converted. So, if you are wondering how to convert an HP printer to a sublimation printer, you can only do so if it is compatible.

If it is, then all you need to do is, add sublimate dyes to the ink cartridges and change the settings of your printer. Next, you will need to replace the regular paper with a transfer paper, and you are all set.

When buying a printer for sublimation, it is best to go through its features first. Different printers can print on different materials. Furthermore, it is also important to check their resolution. If you don’t know much about it, the rule of thumb is to go as high as possible.

Other than the basic features, you also need to check the maximum print size and other built-in supportive features. So, it is best to first evaluate the type of materials you want to sublimate on, how large you want your prints to be, and the quality of prints that you require.

Sublimation printers have become quite popular amongst the artists. Some use them for personal use while others have crafted a business out of them. Based on the customers, manufacturers have developed a wide range of sublimation printers, equipped with a variety of features that allow them to fall in different price ranges.

For personal use, you can get a sublimation printer that is worth $300 to $500. If you want a more high-end printer, you can always get the ones between $1,000 and $3,000. For more professional use, you can get printers that cost up to $10,000. For mass production, you need high-end printers but trust us they are worth the investment.

As per our experience and as suggested by professionals, it is best to use the sublimation ink within six months. Like all other things, sublimation inks also have a shelf life. When added to the cartridges, it is best to use them as soon as possible, as over time the ink begins to shift color, band with other colors, or causes head clogs.

However, if you are concerned about how long the print can last on a transfer paper, then we have kept them for over a year. But the trick is to store your prints in a suitable environment. Many suggest that you can keep the prints for an indefinite period as the ink won’t fade but it’s a theory we haven’t tested yet.


A sublimation printer is a great investment but also an important one. The type of printer that you get determines the type of materials you can print on, print sizes, and print quality. In short, your entire business depends on it but the higher the quality of the prints the better.

If you have a regular printer that you can transform into a sublimation printer then go for it. As a hobbyist, it should work perfectly for you. But at the same time, if you wish to get into the sublimation printing business, then we suggest that you get a dedicated dye-sublimation printer that is equipped with high-end features. Remember, versatility always means better. So, go with a printer that offers versatility.

We hope this guide helped you learn more about sublimation printers. Now that you know what a sublimation printer is, you can start setting up your business by investing in one. Good Luck and let us know which printer you got and how it has been working for you.

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