Previously, sublimation printing was meant to be done in large industries only as they used to have giant machinery capable of doing that work. Thanks to Sawgrass and Ricoh, desktop sublimation printers are now at your end. In fact, hundreds of Epson models support sublimation conversion and they recently launched their first sublimation-ready printer. Though, we’ve calculated its huge rise in the industry as of 2022-2025. Since the technology is relatively new, a huge mass is unaware of things to consider when buying a sublimation printer.
Many inkjet printers are compatible with sublimation ink, but it comes to the technology which is what disappoints most of the entry-level artist. In order to eliminate the disappointment, you first need to learn about the factors that the sublimation printers have and how to make the most of them. In addition, there are certain features that some printers provide and some don’t. Depending on the use, you can decide better. So let’s get into the details of what each factor is, to make a wise purchase.
- 1 Format of the Printer:
- 2 Printing specifications:
- 3 Maintenance:
- 4 Connectivity and Storage:
- 5 Price:
- 6 Compatibility with heat transfer/ Cricut:
- 7 Converted or Ready-to-go Sublimation printers:
- 8 Conclusion:
Format of the Printer:
Probably, the first thing to ask yourself when buying a sublimation printer is “what format of printer you’re going to carry your work with? Before you decide, let us give you the type of formats with the features associated with them to help you narrow down your choice
Wide-format or large-format:
Wide-format printers print between 24” to 74”. With these, we can print large sublimation designs. They’re heavy-duty as well and are often called industrial or commercial printers for the same reason.
Of course, for home-use, you don’t want to spare room to store a hefty printer with a gigantic printing area, unless it’s Sawgrass VJ 628, which fits easily on a table or compact workspace while providing 24” prints per sq ft. Besides them, the desktop wide-format printers feature 13” x 19”, under which the Epson WorkForce series is popular.
Desktop format sublimation printers are the same as the typical office printers. They’re not bulky and offer a good range of printing size between 4 x 6 to 8.5 x 13. Also, you can buy them for homes as well.
Narrow-format sublimation printers are generally made for photo printing and they’re ideal for photo-booth–if you’re buying a dye-sub printer. The size they provide is technically smaller, but they’re speedy and super accurate. Even a beginner can easily use them.
Printing specifications state the overall working of a printer such as the efficiency at which the printer can work. By far, the specification of the printer is based on three following factors.
Understand resolution as your printing quality. The more resolution the printer will have, the better the quality. The Epson EcoTank and workforce lineup has a resolution of 5760 x 1440 dpi, which is the best resolution a printer can offer in the industry. Sawgrass will provide you with 1440 x 1440 dpi resolution.
Printers don’t come with this good resolution, they’ll ideally provide you with 300 x 300 resolution at max, which too, isn’t a poor option considering a low-budget best option. However, you must never consider a printer with less than 300 x 300 resolution.
The sublimation printer must have a size that you want your prints to be sublimated. For example, a mug needs a 4 x 6 size, while for bags or T-shirts, you’ll need standard paper size i.e. 13 x 19.
For example, if your printer supports 8.5 x 11 inches size and you want a 13 x 19 inches print, you’ve to cut down the design, which obviously isn’t favorable. So, first, get the size of the substrates figured out, and then go for the printers offering that size. However, you can also have a printer of various sizes to save you from getting the wrong one.
The speed decides the pace of your business that you can go along with. Many business entities use the high-speed factor as leverage to charge more, i.e. providing the customers their printing work early with an extra fee. Speed also allows high-volume printing with which you can create more designs and don’t have to stay behind the outputs.
In typical printers, such as converted Epson, the speed varies in accord with the resolution you’re using. At 600 x 600, the speed will be 20-30 seconds, whereas if you want a high-definition print, expect the output in 3-5 minutes–and that is the fastest speed at 5760 x 1440 dpi. If you opt for Sawgrass, you may get prints done in 1-2 minutes, however, it doesn’t provide higher resolutions. In case of rare sublimation work, you can also have slow speed as you’ll be saving a good amount in the printer’s cost here.
Maintenance of the sublimation printer stands as one of the critical factors since there’s a huge running cost, besides the purchasing expense. Most printers get unfunctional if you stop using them for over a week. The inks get dry, and then you’ve to repair them by cleaning or consulting any specialist. Besides that, many printers usually run into cartridges, connectivity, and many other issues. Apart from that, ink and paper expenses stand as extra accessories which cost over $300 per annum. These are just one of the disadvantages of sublimation printing. However, there are alternatives and quick fixes to these.
To overcome these issues, look out for the warranty and see what damages it covers. However, this condition cannot apply to Epson’s printers since you’ve gotta convert them, which ends the warranty.
Good quality construction ensures the least maintenance. Efficient ink usage, smooth printing ability, and above all, connectivity (also explained below) are the features you may look into to save yourself from hectic upkeep.
Connectivity and Storage:
The printer must have a proper connectivity system, since most printers suffer from connectivity issues. Wireless or mobile connectivity is a must-have feature to consider as it’ll save you from sending files to your computers and then continuing the process. With Wi-Fi connectivity, you can browse the designs online and get them printed with no hassle.
Along with the connectivity, storage is also important to save the printing work, assuming that you may want to use your designs again so you don’t have to go through the settings. Most of the sublimation printers come with internal storage or memory card, however, in both components, consider the number of GBs that the printer is providing.
Sublimation printers usually range from $200 for the cheapest convertible inkjet printer to $90,000 for the top-notch commercial units. The printer specs and features depend on its price. For example, if you’re opting for a commercial sublimation printer with advanced features, the price typically rises up to $5000. Conversely, a home-use sublimation printer can be obtained for around 500 dollars with a good build–many Epson convertible units fall in this category.
Besides that, technology has a greater hand in these drastic price variations. Printers with features such as LCD, Alexa compatibility, etc usually have higher price points due to their ease of printing. Apart from that, printers with just the basic features and least advanced technologies have low-price costs.
Now, the question is, which one should you opt for? Technological or basic? Well, the answer depends on your calculated application of the printer. If you tend to use the printer for business purposes, then definitely the greater investment is worth it otherwise basic printers work fine if it’s only for home and casual sublimation printing.
Compatibility with heat transfer/ Cricut:
Any printer with the label “dye-sub” technology, instantly gets any beginner. Well, dye-sublimation printers use dying technology which means the ink gets heated in the printer during the heating process. Most of these are photos printers that print cards, photos, and other hard substrates permanently. Meaning that, you can’t transfer the design further.
Whereas, when we say “sublimation”, we’re referring to the design transfer for T-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, phone covers, and several other fabrics, ceramics, and other materials. Therefore, we need the transfer printer–precisely, with piezo heads, so the ink dries on the paper and can be heated further.
Converted or Ready-to-go Sublimation printers:
As we spoke above, dye-sub and sublimation printers are different. With dye-sub, there are multiple options to choose from in Mitsubishi, Canon, Hp, brother, and many more. However, for transferring, your options are narrowed to converted or ready-to-printers. Of course, the dedicated sublimation printers are pricier, because they originally come with sublimation friendly features, and are tailored made to do sublimation with their required ICC home decor and fun, than a converted model will suit you well. However, be mindful that you won’t be having the warranty, but the sublimation community will always have your back.
So tell us now what factors you’re going to look into when buying a sublimation printer and we’re expecting you’re not getting into a photo printer expecting it to sublimate. Nevertheless, as the technology continues to evolve with more advancements in the sublimation printer, you can also have some additional features. However, you must make sure you’re never, for any reason, compromising on the efficiency and quality of the printer.
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