Gone are the times when sublimation was some industrial level sorcery. Ever since it’s generalized to the local communities, the famous printer industries have started manufacturing desktop sublimation printers at jaw-dropping price points that fall on everyone’s budget.
We’re focusing on the printers range between $100-$500 and the best cheap sublimation printer in this range is the Epson SureColor F170. Being sublimation ready, it’s a huge hit in the market that easily put Sawgrass on stake. Though, we’ve taken the cheapest Sawgrass as well, the Sawgrass SG500 (costs under $700), and as per the market is rising with more compact dye-sub printers, we expect a marginal price cut soon.
- 1 Cheapest sublimation printer:
- 1.1 1. Epson SureColor F170 – Best Desktop Sublimation Printer
- 1.2 2. Epson EcoTank ET-2800 – Best convertible Sublimation Printer
- 1.3 3. Canon Selphy CP1300 Wireless – Best Compact Photo Printer
- 1.4 4. Epson SureColor T3170 – Best Cheap Desktop Sublimation Printer
- 1.5 5. Kodak Dock Wi-Fi Portable 4—6inches – Best Instant Photo Printer
- 2 What to compromise in a cheap sublimation printer:
- 3 Buying Guide
- 4 FAQs
- 5 Final Verdict
Cheapest sublimation printer:
Many experts argue that the Epson EcoTank series is the cheapest one in the market, that surely is, but they’re not sublimation printers. Each unit first gets converted with the sublimation ink, which ends the warranty and you’re all on your own. However, you’ll still have strong support from the online sublimation community, (come to us if anything goes wrong).Also, we’ve taken fresh models and we suggest you do the same. Even a second-hand printer would cost you nothing less than $200, with potential drawbacks you might not be aware of. At the same price, you may get the brand-new EcoTank 2800. While, with a $100-200 added budget, you’ll have hundreds of options at your end that too from Epson, Canon, or even DNP.
Epson SureColor F170 Desktop Sublimation Printer
Epson EcoTank ET-2800
Canon Selphy CP1300 Wireless Compact Photo Printer
Epson SureColor T3170 Desktop Sublimation Printer
Kodak Dock Wifi Portable 4x6Instant Photo Printer
1. Epson SureColor F170 – Best Desktop Sublimation Printer
A low-budget and high-bars? Epson SureColor F170 is the one and only way! It’s the first ever sublimation printer by Epson and has kept on with multiplied selling volumes ever since its launch in Nov. 2021. This is a full-fledged desktop printer that you can use to print all your bulky work. It’s suitable for small-to medium scale t-shirts, mugs, tumblers, and key-chain sublimation. Plus, at the 4 colored ink paired with 1200 x 600 dpi resolution, the quality it provides is completely reliable.
The outer design comes improvised with a deep white color. Compared to the EcoTank versions, its size is further contracted, making it space-saving as well as fast-performing. The printer weighs just 10 lbs, however; the paper holding tray pays the price of its compactness, storing up to just 150 sheets. And we don’t recommend any bypass trays with it.
Like all the other Epson printers, it also uses the PrecisionCore technology but a higher power one so it’s faster comparatively. You can’t question the printing quality thanks to its vibrant ink delivery technology and amazing color contrast and saturation. That’s not all, the MicroTFP Print head used by this machine makes sure the ink is used with precision and not even a drop is wasted, which clearly makes the ink last longer than usual. Also, the responsive navigation bar is there for you to calculate and control all your prints.
Under $400, F170 is a beast of a machine for printing over a significant volume. It’s super compact and packed with high resolution with 784 nozzles, for detailed, sharp, and long-lasting transfers.
2. Epson EcoTank ET-2800 – Best convertible Sublimation Printer
9.4/10 – Our Score
- It can work fastly by saving a huge amount of ink if compared to other printers.
- PrecisionCore technology enables it to perform swiftly
- Easily be connected through Wi-Fi
- A high-density print-chip is used to get extraordinary performance from the printer
- Doesn’t come with touchscreen
The EcoTank ET-2720 was the king in the best cheap sublimation printer lineup until Nov 2021, when the company stopped production. However, in the replacement, they bring to the table the 2800 model with improved interface, resolution, and paper handling–all at the same price.
Like the previous Epson models, it uses the PrecisionCore Technology which we know is equivalent to the best performance. The model prints at 5760 x 1440 taking hardly 3-4 minutes, which we found quite bearable as even some pricier models take up 6-10 minutes at the similar picture outlook.
With speed, accuracy, and performance it can be easily connected to your laptop or smartphone using Wi-Fi. However, one thing it missed is the touchscreen. The printer only has an LCD, but the controls are maneuverable through a computer connected setup. The low cost serves as a beautiful dessert after having a delicious meal! However, there might be a little salt in your sweet dessert and that is the printer can’t be used straight after unboxing. First, it needs conversion and then printing three times on the regular paper with all the dimensions available to clear the nozzle flow, and then you’re good to go. And don’t worry the kit costs between $20-$30, and for the process you can direct here;
This EcoTank ET-2800 by Epson is the best sublimation printer that you can get easily for under 300 bucks. Other than the price, it provides an easier interface, industry-leading resolution, and eye-appealing colors, which we think is more than the price it comes with.
Expert Setting up Epson Ecotank ET-2800
3. Canon Selphy CP1300 Wireless – Best Compact Photo Printer
Sawgrass is the first ever original sublimation printer brand, standing at the top with the three globally recognized printers. Its SG500 is the cheapest sublimation printer and fun-sized unit carrying just 30 pounds. Though it’s an advanced version of SG400 despite that, if you’ve leftover accessories, you can make use of them with this.
What’s new is the CreativeStudio Online Designer and Print-Manager. The designing software comes with a 1-year free subscription that provides you with different options using a free stock design library, while the print manager lets you set the colors at top-notch vibrancy. These two facets make sublimation a piece of cake for newbies.
Not only it provides good features but also promises an incredible post-purchase customer treatment through its 2-year warranty along with a special partner plus customer support. And that’s not all. The printer brings on the table a fully equipped set of Sublijet UHD inks along with the 220 complimentary sheets of the Sublimax sublimation paper. Besides being the market-leading sublimation essentials, these also save 12% of the added cost over the printer.
While this might be the best printer you can get for your bulky print orders at a reasonable price, the price is still more when compared to others on the list.
If you plan to establish a proper sublimation setup with a long-term road map, then the only key to success is the Sawgrass SG500. The upkeep may be pricier though, but compared to the profits it yields, it still is the best bargain.
4. Epson SureColor T3170 – Best Cheap Desktop Sublimation Printer
After Epson and Sawgrass , Canon is a brand you can blindly trust when it comes to Sublimation printers. However, canon usually produces high-end printers with a pretty hefty price tag. But this one here broke that trend. You can get this Canon Selphy CP1300 Wireless Compact Photo Printer for as low as under $200 at 4 x 6 size. Because of its compact size, it’s highly portable and you can set it up anywhere, anytime, all you need is a Wi-Fi connection and your smartphone and here, you’re good to go!
Other than being highly portable, this printer also features water resistance, which makes it even more durable. And if you look into technicalities, you can create a print up to 256 levels per color resolution, and that too with a pretty great operating temperature ranging from 5 to 40 degrees Celsius. That’s enough? Well, don’t forget to add the cute little LCD screen it comes with that allows super easy control over your print.
However, the additional cost of the sublimation cartridge, once it ends, can be a bummer, unless you use this printer to sell customized items, i.e. mugs, mouse pads, phone covers, etc with which you’ll be able to aside the cost accrued on maintenance.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use compact photo printer at a cheap price, this is the best you can have. However, the problem is that refilling the cartridge will cost you a little too much, so you need to make sure that you use the built-in cartridge wisely, and don’t end up ending your cartridge every other month.
5. Kodak Dock Wi-Fi Portable 4—6inches – Best Instant Photo Printer
Kodak Dock is a well-budgeted but a slightly distinct unit from our other picks. Though it uses dye-sublimation printing technology, the ink gets heat up during the process and thus, there’s no way it can be transferred further.
It uses the D2T2 Thermal Transfer technology which helps you get the best quality color photos with speed and precision at a 300 x 600 dpi resolution. The Kodak Instant Photo App is a must-have when using this printer because with that you can edit your pictures using filters, stickers, backgrounds, color schemes, etc. on the spot.
It’s so compact that you can carry it anywhere, also it works on battery so you don’t need to worry about finding a switch to connect it. All you need to do is click a picture and connect your phone to this printer using Wi-Fi, and Voila! You have the hard copy of your picture within just 20-30 seconds.
The fast charging technology allows you to have a full battery within an hour and works well, for good continuous use of 2-3 hours. We reckon this is the best cheap sublimation printer, however, this is a kind of printer not made for all, or you can say it’s specially designed for those who love taking and collecting pictures because it comes with limitations. You can’t print bigger images with this one. But overall, this printer is a hit in the dye-sub arena!
Having the instant prints of the pictures you take is the dream of every photographer, and this device is all about making that dream come true. You can easily get yourself a Kodak Dock Wi-Fi Portable instant photo printer within a hundred bucks and with no additional costs except for the photo sheets which are also pretty cheap. Hence, this is the best instant photo printer you can get!
What to compromise in a cheap sublimation printer:
Of course, when the manufacturer is offering you something at a low-cost, there always are the twists. Luckily, in sublimation printers, we’ve so much allowance to drop one of the market-leading facets in a printer and still have the same results. Here’s the list.
Auto-duplex printing might be the top-notch feature a printer possesses, but for transferring, you can’t make use of 2-sided paper. So, even if the printer doesn’t offer it, it doesn’t change a thing.
Scan/ Copy / Fax:
All these three functions are an added benefit, but still, you may never need them. Scanning and faxing is for documents, and for the sublimation, there’s nothing even near as printing document. You’ll be mostly dealing with graphics, logos, and images. And as for the copy, it’ll drop the quality by 80% if you print through the copy option, therefore, we always recommend sending the picture directly to print.
ADF works in correspondence with scan, copy and fax. It copies or scans in bulk and is used for making PDFs for computer sharing. Therefore, this feature is entirely void in sublimation. In addition, the ADF compatible printers are hefty as well, so it’s a loss in every way.
We’ve seen many buyers, (new ones specifically), get intrigued by the paper holding capacity the printer offers. Well, this one surely is a beneficial feature, but for those who print out the same design in huge quantities, i.e. 300 times, 500 times, etc. there paper holding capacity plays a key role, while in a cheap printer the minimum is the 150 which we think is enough if you’re saving a 100-300 bucks. In fact, some of the printers are only pricier because of their massive paper holding capacity. Whereas, in a smaller capacity, you can also benefit from the lightweight and compact design.
For the convertible printers, checking the ink quality is the most impractical thing you can do. Because you’re never gonna use it, not to mention inkjet inks are extremely pricier too. Besides, you’ll need a third-party ink, so your concerns should be what’s the best sublimation ink and their usage in the printer.
Now comes the features, that you shouldn’t–in any circumstance–should drop out. To make the right decision, you really need to know what makes them best and how they’re useful to you. Because in the end, no matter even if it’s little it’s still money and you need to be sure that you spend it right. Hence, take a look for the following things before you buy a sublimation printer;
The Color Quality
Sublimation printers are all about getting colorful prints hence, having a high-quality color printing is the most essential feature to look for in a sublimation printer. Honestly, if your sublimation can’t provide a promising color quality, you just wasted your money,Usually, because it’s of no use.
Usually color printing takes time, and when it comes to sublimation printers, the time taken in printing is a big turnoff. There are machines that take up to hours to provide you with your desired printed images. So, you need to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. We are not saying get a highly expensive machine that prints within seconds, no, but at least get yourself a machine that doesn’t take hours! Even if you’ve to settle, never go for a printer that takes over 6 minutes to print–no matter how cheap.
Well, the sublimation printers come in a lightweight but they can be too heavy sometimes. This weight depends on what kind of work the machine is doing, how many features it’s carrying with itself, and if it’s printing large images that too in bulk quantities it will definitely be heavy. And if it was used for normal-use to fulfill your basic color printing needs, it’d be lightweight. Hence, make sure you know what you need, as it also a deciding factor for the best cheap sublimation printer accordingly.
A major drawback of sublimation printers is that they only use special sublimation ink and sheets which are pretty expensive. So you need to make sure that if you’re going for a cheap sublimation printer in order to save money, you know how often it requires ink and sheets refill. Because who knows that all the money you saved up goes into this additional cost or even more?
The biggest thing that stops most people from buying a sublimation printer is the cost of it. Because this is the latest printing technology and has made human life a hundred times easier, it demands a heavy price. And to make it easier and convenient for you, we did a brief analysis of the market of sublimation printers and we’ve picked out the best choices for you and you can count on us. We hope that all the information we provided was enough to help you to make the right decision and all the products we mentioned did meet your needs.
However, if we’ve to pick one from these five, we’ll go for the first one, the Epson SureColor F170, because we think that this is the best cheap sublimation printer that fits all the needs, whether you want to deal with fabric sublimation or stick to the ceramic side, Hence, making itself the perfect choice!
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