On a hunt to find the best sublimation printer for heat transfer? Read on to find out the top picks.
Sublimation printers are one of the best printing methods for transferring clean design onto a fabric or rigid surface. Whether you’re looking for a sublimation printer for your home, studio or your own business, I have added an option for all you needs.
You can use the sublimation printers for mugs, ceramics, clothing and a lot more products. Once you print your design on sublimation paper, you’d need to use heat transfer for transferring it on the sublimation blank.
Things to consider when selecting a sublimation printer for heat transfer
There are always a few key features that you need to keep in mind while selecting the best printer for sublimation
- Print field size – Most sublimation printers or inkjet printers don’t print on the edges, so if the ideal size for your finished apparel is 11″ x 17″, you’d need to get a 12″ x 18″.
- Printing multiple images – If you sell multiple designs simultaneously (say cell phone images) you have to get a sublimation printer that prints multiple images.
- Printing speed – This is something that needs to be considered when you need to create large volume printing.
- Number of ink colors – Sublimation printers creates tons of output colors by mixing a selected number of base ink colors. Most of the printers work on 4 color ink-set, but some use 8-colors for super high resolution.
- Brands – Currently Epson and Sawgrass are the two best brands in sublimation printing industry. Ricoh sublimation printers were also in the list few years ago.
For those who are short on time, here is a quick table featuring best sublimation printers for beginners –
|S.no.||Sublimation Printer||Standalone Feature||Print Time||Warranty|
|1.||Sawgrass Virtuoso SG500||High quality SubliJet UHD sublimation inks||N/A||2 years|
|2.||Epson EcoTank ET 3760||Consistent print quality||N/A||1 year|
|3.||Sawgrass VJ 628||Fully integrated 25", 8-color desktop sublimation printer||Up to 52 ft2 (4.9 m2) / hour||1 year|
|4.||Epson Workforce 7710||Prints on CDs and DVDs||2.8 ISO ppm (monochrome and color)||1 year|
|5.||Epson Stylus C88+||Works well on different substrates - soft and hard||22 pages per minute||1 year|
|6.||Epson Workforce WF 7210||Excellent quality t-shirt prints||N/A||1 year|
|7.||Epson SureColor F570||Best dye sublimation printer with build in cutter||11.4 s||1 year|
7 of the Best Sublimation Printer for Heat Transfer
Sawgrass Virtuoso SG500 is one of the highest rated, best sublimation printers for heat transfer in the marketplace. SG400 is basically an upgraded version of SG400.
This dye sublimation machine is great for printing a variety of polymers. You can print sublimation t-shirts, coasters, mugs, phone cases and other high margin items. It can effectively print on media up to 8.5″ x 14″ (22 x 36 cm).
There are two advance features that you’d like as a sublimation product designer. One is the Creative Studio Online Designer that goes hand-in-hand with Sawgrass printers and lets you create elegant designs without using Photoshop or any additional software.
Next is the Sawgrass Print Manager which is basically a color management software. It offers complete control over print designs. You can also use the Print Manager for printing from graphics programs like CreativeStudio, Adobe and Corel. There are a lot of other features like multiple color profiles for different substrates, custom color palettes and custom paper sizes.
I’d say there is a bit of a learning curve, but the resources on Sawgrass official site makes it easy to get started.v
Talking about the inks, Sawgrass SG500 only works with good quality inks for providing the best print. You can use SubliJet UHD 4-color ink set that works well with both hard and soft substrates – polyester or vinyl. If you want the best sublimation printer for t-shirts, just use it along with ChromaBlast HD or EasySubli ink.
If you are someone who just wants to upgrade SG400, then you ‘d like how swiftly the precursor’s accessories like bypass tray fits with SG500. You can also sell online like artokingo store.
|Good for high sublimation prints||Sawgrass inks are pretty expensive|
|Long warranty period and lifetime support|
|Energy efficient and WiFi connectivity|
Epson EcoTank ET 3760 is a fairly new addition in my list of best sublimation printer for heat press. You can use it for creating beautiful sublimation design without fading design. You can use it along with Hippo sublimation ink and create awesome tees.
One of the best features we liked about ET-3760 is the supertank design that allows cartridge free ink refilling. You no longer need to buy tiny and expensive cartridges.
The print quality is consistent, so if you are printing a good volume, it will be a great option. Also, for those who don’t know, you can not use the convertible Epson printer for both regular printing and sublimation. It needs to be completely clean of ink before you add the sublimation ink, or you will get streaks.
|Great print quality and low running cost||Not originally designed for dye sublimation|
|Excellent mobile connectivity options|
Sawgrass VJ628 is a turnkey solution packed with everything you need to start creating your heat transfer products. It is the best sublimation printer for heat transfer for high volume business.
VJ 628 is a heavy duty sublimation printer that offer four 8-color ink sets –
- Dual CMYK – Perfect prints or interior signage, textiles, personalized gifts and promotional products.
- Flex – This is good for sharp images. And comes with exceptional CMYK output, plus orange and orange and blue and fluorescent pink and yellow cartridges for true fluorescent colors.
- Pro Photo – Best for fine art products or professional photography. It offers enhanced skin tones, rich blacks and smooth gradients.
- Pro Photo XF – Tons of colors, best for ChromaLuxe panels, professional photos and fine art prints.
With an 8-color ink set, this printer creates high density, vibrant designs and reduces graininess. The dual CMYK offers 5,48,000 colors in a clean format making it perfect for all kinds of products. Whether you want to print multiple mugs, or some over-sized sublimation products, Sawgrass VJ628 got it all covered.
This sublimation printer uses, SubliJet-HD, a technology that allows you to print on multiple sublimation blanks (everything from polyester fabrics to polymer coated hard substrates) including metal, ceramic, glass, FRP plastic, poly-performance fabrics, hardboard and more.
Being backed with PowerDriver makes it easy to optimize color settings for photographs, vector graphics or spot colors.
On the downside, it’s a classic model so you can only connect it with ethernet and not the USB. Also, it doesn’t work with some of the Apple computers with the M1 ARM processor. Sawgrass Print Manager makes it easy to proceed the prints.
|Intelligent Interweave Technology that reduces banding to almost zero||Not compatible with some of the Apple computers|
|Long warranty period and lifetime support|
|Good for Large volume sublimation prints|
Epson Workforce 7710 is the best sublimation printer for heat press. Talking more precisely, it is more of an inkjet printer that can be converted to dye sublimation printer. The reason it is considered the best sublimation printer is the compatibility for a wide variety of sublimation inks and the price of this printing machine. You’d have to buy a sublimation conversion kit for your printer.
Just like most of the Epson printers, this model offers built in PrecisionCore technology that lets you perform borderless printing for up to 13 X 19 inches. For those who don’t know, borderless printing is a useful technique for printing large graphics without white margin at the sides of the print.
This Epson printer comes with a 250-sheet paper tray that can hold up to 20 sheets of photo paper or 10 envelopes. This printer comes with 4x DURABrite Ultra Ink cartridges (Black, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow) and goes along with a wide variety of sublimation inks. Some of my favorite for CISS or refillable cartridges Epson printers are –
- Ink Owl
- AOPANE Anti-UV
You can also use it for scanning (11” x 17”) and the wireless connectivity allows the user to print from mobile phones as well.
Overall, Epson 7710 offers vibrant printing (especially due to the multiple conversion kits available for Epson printers) and transfers clean graphics on heat press.
|Easy to install software||Only one paper cassette|
|Ink cartridges make this a very economical printer.|
|Known for excellent sublimation prints|
Another good option for the best sublimation printer for heat transfer is Epson Stylus C88+.
Unlike many of the printers, this model works with both the pigment as well as sublimation inks, making it a good fit for those who use multiple heat transfer method (of course you’d have to use sublimation paper or heat transfer paper based on your needs).
C88+ is good for frame ready prints (borderless), mugs, t-shirts and other sublimation products. You’d like the sharpness of this sublimation printer.
The ink cartridges for Epson are usually cheaper than Sawgrass. There are a lot of ink options in addition to DuraBrite.
Overall, it’s an amazing sublimation printer for heat transfer, provided that you use the right ink-set. It can be used for 8.50″ x 44″ (maximum) print.
|Vibrant and good quality sublimation prints||It is a bit noisy|
|For both home and office use|
|Works well with multiple substrates|
Another option on my list of best sublimation printers for heat press is Epson Workforce WF 7210 – one of the best selling and most recommended sublimation printers.
Just like most of the Epson products, you’d have to use the sublimation conversion kit for starting to use it. You can print up to 13 x 19 inches in little to no time. Another thing that makes it good for sublimation businesses is the design optimization done by the manufacturers. It offers features like 500 sheet capacity, 80% energy saving (for less printing cost) and more.
|Two printer trays||Requires Epson ink for high quality prints|
|Great for t-shirt printing|
|Wi-Fi Direct and ethernet connectivity|
Epson SureColor F570 is one of the few sublimation printers that doesn’t require a conversion kit.
It is good for photo gifts, mugs, tumblers, signs, clothing and more. The high performance printer was launched a while ago and gained popularity since then.
Backed by PrecisionCore technology makes it easy to print faster without affecting the quality. It comes with two full sets of CMYK inks that can print 24″ x 100″ roll and 17″ x 100″
Another feature that boasts its efficiency are the built-in cutter and high capacity ink bottles. Overall its good for those who want a desktop sublimation printer and have enough production volume to spend $2000+
Note – There’s a lot of backorders on this Epson printer and thus you’d have to wait a month or more for getting this printer.
|50 sheet auto feed tray and build in cutter||Not available on most of the retail sites|
|Drivers for both windows and Mac|
Other printers that I removed from my list and why –
- Canon Selphy CP1300 – Many print sites recommend it as a sublimation printer, whereas originally it is a photo printer that you cannot use for sublimation.
- Epson Artisan 1430 – I really like this sublimation printer for heat transfer businesses but unfortunately it is discontinued for now.
- EPSON SureColor F170 – This is a great compact sublimation printer released in November 2020, but due to back orders it is nearly impossible to get this sublimation-specific heat press printer costing $400 only.
Sublimation Printing Beginner FAQs (Everything you need to know)
Sublimation printing is one of the most popular and affordable ways to design products like t-shirts, tumblers and more.
What makes it even awesome is that you can print a wide range of designs. Unlike high-tech printing methods, sublimation printing is based on just the basic chemistry.
In this post we will be answering all of the questions you’d ever want to know about sublimation printing. Let’s get started!
What is Sublimation printing?
Sublimation (in terms of chemistry) is the transition of a substance directly from a solid to gas state.
Sublimation printing is a technique in which heat is used to transfer dye onto materials (better known as sublimate) such as plastic, paper, fabric and more. This printing method is a great way to create t-shirts with high quality graphics without having to make a huge setup-investment.
How does Sublimation printing work?
Now the real question, how does it work? The shortest answer is, the process brings together fabric and ink under excessive heat to transfer the design.
First the design is printed on sublimation paper, also known as heat transfer paper or sublimation transfers using a dye-sublimation printer. There are many inkjet printers that can be converted to sublimation printers using dye sublimation inks.
Once you have the printed design, it is infused with sublimation blanks. The sublimation blanks are basically blank sublimation products (t-shirts or mugs).
The sublimation blanks are placed under a heat press machine along with the design-printed sublimation paper for transferring the ink. After 3-5 minutes the solid ink is changed into gaseous form and transferred to the product.
And the best part is, the designs are both precise and vibrant, provided that you use the temperature and time based on your products.
What are the pros and cons of sublimation printing?
Sublimation is one of the most affordable, precise and high quality printing methods for fabrics and other surfaces. Let’s talk about the pros and cons –
Pros of sublimation printing
- Create all over seam to seam design on front and back
- Unlike other techniques, sublimation printing lets you print on a rigid surface (like mug or coaster).
- Sublimation creates well-detailed and precise design.
- Mix acquisitively with fabric and doesn’t feel as an additional layer on garment
- Sublimation printing is good for small quantity runs.
- There is no learning curve, you can print products right away.
- You will find the most vibrant color combination including four-color ink (CMYK) or eight color combinations.
- There is no additional print run cost, i.e. same print quality on all units.
- Most unique product categories (blank products) are available in sublimation printing.
Cons of sublimation printing
- Printed surface must be white or light colored.
- Need to be careful for accuracy when printing near edges.
- For non-textile substrates, only items which have a special polyester coating can be used.
What are the different types of printing?
There are multiple printing methods used in clothing as well as other industries for creating design based products. Some of the popular ones are –
- Screen printing – Screen printing is a technique in which mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate. It is usually used for bulk clothing or volume based productions.
- DTG printing – Direct to garment printer is one of the most expensive printing machines. It costs between $10,000 to $35,000
- Sublimation – Sublimation printing is the most affordable way for printing your designs on different products and selling them.
What are the best selling sublimation products?
The best part about this printing method is that it allows you to print on a wide range of products. You can print unique designs on fabric or polymers. Some of the top products are –
- Mouse Pads, Coasters, Placemats, Jar Openers, Can Wraps & More!
- Mugs, Steins & More!
- Vapor Apparel – Main
- Ceramic, Glass Tiles, Cutting Boards & More!
- All Tile Accessories
- Ceramic Plates
- Tote Bags, Puzzles,
- Aprons & Baby Bibs
- Coasters, Can Wrappers, Place Mats
- Ceramic Ornaments, Stocking Stuffer, Wine Bag
- Rowmark Sheet Stock, Magnets, Hard Top, Mouse Pads, & Coasters!
- Light Switch Plates, Shoulder bags, Floor & Car Mats
- Flags: Car, Home & Banner, Blank Towels, Laptop & iPad Cases
- iPad & iPhone Cases, Pet Bowls and Acrylic
What to do after selecting the sublimation printer for heat press
Finding the right printer is important especially when you are into sublimation business. There are a lot of brands but the brands I recommend are Epson and Sawgrass. Ricoh sublimation printers are also a choice, but most of their old models are no longer available.
That said, Epson WF models are the ones I’d recommend to most of the sublimation business owners. It offers both budget-friendliness and high quality prints.
Another important thing for higher margin is sublimation blanks wholesale products. You can find good quality and cheap substrates that will give you more room for profit.
Also, choosing the right ink-set for your sublimation heat transfer business is something that you should be careful about; selecting the right sublimation ink is important.
Want to select a heat press? Checkout our post on best heat press machine that you can use for Sublimation. In case you need help finding a thermal shipping label printer, then check out our latest guide.