The Best Sublimation Printers on the Market

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Did you know that the best sublimation printer can help you take your business or creative side to a whole new level?

Have you ever seen those unique, customized coffee mugs that have a catchy business slogan that immediately makes you think about ordering a tall café latte from your favorite downtown coffee?

Or what about those unique T-shirts or hoodies that have a perfectly printed logo of a local business that is sponsoring a community activity?

Sublimation printing is one of the best ways to take your creative, artistic side and transfer that creativity onto different types of surfaces for a more “permanent” and durable message.

Sure, that growing downtown coffee shop could have printed out a couple of thousand flyers to spread the message of their recent grand opening. After the first rainstorm, however, those paper flyers (and their message) would be long gone.

With sublimation printing, however, you can create a unique, artistic message and pattern it onto a durable surface for a more enduring and long-lasting effect.

There are dozens of different uses for sublimation printing, which makes it one of the most exciting applications for the printing industry.

In this article, we offer a thorough explanation of what sublimation printing is and how it works. We then explain some of the benefits of investing in a sublimation printer for your business, community, organization, or even for your personal use.

Unfortunately, not all sublimation printers are made equally, and for that reason, we also offer specific suggestions for what to look for in the best sublimation printers on the market.

Finally, we offer detailed, in-depth reviews of the top 10 best sublimation printers on the market today! Read on to find out why investing in the best sublimation printer can be a great asset for you or your business.

What is a Sublimation Printing?

Let’s start by explaining what exactly sublimation printing entails. Though the name may sound confusing, sublimation printing is essentially a computer printing technique that uses high levels of heat to transfer dye onto materials such as a plastic, card, paper, or fabric. In scientific terms, sublimation refers to the transition of a substance directly from a solid-state to a gas state.

Most commonly, substances pass through the liquid state before turning into a gas form (think of an ice cube turning to water before eventually evaporating as water vapor).

However, with specific environmental conditions such as certain levels of temperatures and pressure, elements can go directly from the solid state to the gas state.

Sublimation printing, then, refers to a printing process wherein the dye that was used makes the transition between the solid and gas states without going through a liquid stage.

If you are not a science expert, you might be wondering why all of this matters, and what it has to do with cool coffee mugs or unique hoodies that have messages directly printed onto the fabric.

With sublimation printing, the creative design that you want to print out is first printed onto a special type of paper that is a type of transfer paper.

This printing process creates a mirror image of the design you want and uses a type of special dye that is specifically designed for the sublimation printing process.

Once the image has been transferred to the special paper, you have to align the design onto whatever surface you want to transfer the design. This can include ceramic, fabrics, and other types of surfaces.

A combination of high heat and pressure is then applied to the area, causing the special dye-sub ink to transition from the solid form directly into a gas.

Once the ink has transitioned into gas form, it can penetrate the other type of material. For example, when using a sublimation printer for shirts, the ink can deeply and permanently penetrate the individual fibers of the fabric.

A t-shirt sublimation printer is thus able to use this chemical process to permanently bond the image to the fabric and fibers of the shirt.

The best sublimation printer for t-shirts will be able to help you create a highly defined print with high levels of intricate detail that will bond permanently to the fabric.

Though some people wrongly assume that sublimation printing can only be used for cotton fabrics, it can also be used on various textiles including cotton, lycra, polyester, and more.

Similarly, the best sublimation printer can also be used to transfer images, patterns, text, and other types of designs onto several different types of surfaces, including:

This impressive versatility of sublimation printing essentially allows people and businesses to transfer their designs, images, photos, logos, branding components, and other types of artwork onto a huge variety of surfaces and items.

Benefits of Investing in a Sublimation Printer

So why exactly should you consider investing in the best printer for sublimation? For starters, a quality sublimation printing machine will allow you to take your creativity to a whole new level.

Also, sublimation levels can allow businesses to invest in unique advertising campaigns and create promotional tools that can complement traditional marketing channels.

best sublimation printer

Below, we outline five of the top benefits that come with investing in a printer for sublimation. 

  1. The Best sublimination printer will be powerful, fast, and cost-effective:

    Though you could certainly outsource that task to a specialized printing company, you would probably end up paying significantly more.
    By purchasing your cheap sublimation printer, you could end up saving significant amounts of money for whatever printing task you have.

    If you are considering printing thousands of different coffee mugs to give out to your employees, or if you are wanting to create unique T-shirt designs as part of the process of designing a new brand of clothing, then a sublimation machine should probably be high on your list of priorities for new purchases.

    The best sublimation printer will make it easy to print large quantities of items.

  2. The best sublimation printer will provide high-quality printing results with minimal peeling or fading:

    All of us have probably seen low-quality sublimation printing on T-shirts, coffee mugs, mousepads, and other types of surfaces.

    Unfortunately, there a lower quality sublimation printer for t-shirts may result in a final product that only lasts for a couple of months.
    After two or three times through the washing machine, the printing may begin to fade, peel, or otherwise decompose.

  3. The best sublimation printers also allow you to market and sell unique, customized products:

    No matter what type of business you are in, consumers today are looking for unique, customized products that allow them to stand out from the rest.

     Consumers are increasingly aligning their purchases with their identities, and a high-quality sublimation printer can allow you to create unique, customized products that will help you differentiate your brand from the mass-produced products that are flooding the market today.

    Even if you are not an expert in sublimation printing, investing in a simple sublimation printer for beginners can allow you to take your creative impulses to a whole new level and create exclusive and distinctive products that will allow you to attract new customers.

  4. Sublimation printers can allow for exceptional marketing campaigns:

    Almost every type of business has to spend some money on marketing and publicity campaigns. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the funds spent on marketing are essentially wasted.

     While you could spend thousands of dollars for a short 30-second spot on the radio or TV, the people who do see or hear that advertisement will most likely not remember the name of your company five minutes later.

    Due to the bombardment of social media and other forms of online advertising, most consumers no longer pay much attention to these “traditional” forms of marketing.

    With the best sublimation printer, however, you can print unique, high quality, and catchy images, phrases, and artwork that can be embossed emblazoned, or otherwise advertised on several types of promotional items.

    With sublimation printing, you can then carefully decide how to distribute those items for the most lasting effect.

    For example, a local coffee shop that offers free mugs with their logo to their customers will most likely reap huge benefits from that modest publicity investment.

  5. The best sublimation printers allow you to experiment with your artistic genius:

    Lastly, a high-quality sublimation printer can allow people with an artistic side to experiment with new avenues for their artistic expression.

    Though sublimation machines certainly can be used for business and branding purposes, they also can be used by artists for new forms of artistic communication.

     Even if you´re not an expert in this type of printing, sublimation for beginners can allow artists to transfer their digital drawings, paintings, and creations onto different types of surfaces.

    A high-quality piece of artwork printed onto a specialty glazed ceramic tile offers a completely different “look” than when that artistic creation is printed onto paper or canvas.

    Similarly, a sublimation printer for shirts can also allow illustrators, sketchers, and cartoonists to experiment with new avenues for marketing their art.

What to Look for in the Best Sublimation Printer?

What to Look for in the Best Sublimation Printer

It should be evident by now that investing in the best sublimation printer can bring several benefits and advantages to all different types of people.

Advertising managers looking to increase their loyal customer base, elementary school teachers wanting to print hundreds of customized T-shirts for a school-wide activity, and artists looking to find new contexts for their creations are just a few of the different types of people who might benefit from a modest investment in a sublimation printer.

However, it is extremely important to know that not every sublimation printer is made alike and to the same standards.

The cheapest printer for sublimation may save you a couple of dollars at the outset, though it may end up being more expensive in the long run due to malfunction or shoddy final products. 

Furthermore, some sublimation printers may be designed for specific use, such as a sublimation printer for T-shirts.

When searching for the best sublimation printers on the market for your particular needs, it can be helpful to ask yourself the following questions:  

  1. What print quality do I need for the objects or items I am wanting to print?

    Nobody wants to invest in a sublimation printer that is going to create shoddy final products that are going to leave you with faded images that are going to begin to peel and crack in a short amount of time.

    A cheap sublimation printer, however, may offer limited durability and lower print quality. On the other hand, you could spend thousands of dollars on the highest quality sublimation printer that will offer high definition, crystal clear images that will last for a lifetime.

    Before purchasing a sublimation printer, make sure to read customer reviews, and make a cost-benefit decision based on the types of items you will be printing, their intended use, and what print quality you desire.

  2. Does my sublimation printer need to have the fastest possible output speed?

    If you are planning on printing thousands of different objects regularly, then you will most likely want to invest in a higher-quality sublimation printer that has a higher output speed.

    For example, if your business plans on releasing huge volumes of custom-designed T-shirts every month, then you will probably want the highest quality sublimation printer for t-shirts that can get the job done most efficiently.

     However, if you only plan to use your sublimation printer occasionally, or if you have a limited number of items that need to be printed at a time, then slower output speeds may be tolerable, and may help you to save some money on the upfront purchase cost.

  3.  What printing method is best for my desired purposes?

    Next, it is also important to determine the type of printing method that will be best for the items you are printing. Some sublimation printers can apply ink directly onto the material.

    Other sublimation printers work differently in that they rely on a heat transfer technique instead.

    Choosing the best printing method for your purposes can help you save time during the printing process, and also create the best quality images.

  4. What types of materials will I be printing on

    Material compatibility is extremely important when choosing the best type of sublimation printer.

    For example, if you run a small computer repair store, and you want to print thousands of different mouse pads that you can give away to your customers, then you will want to ensure that the printer you choose can print directly onto rubber, fabric, microfiber, vynex, or whatever material your mousepads are made from.

    Similarly, if you are planning on using a sublimation printer for T-shirts, then you will want to ensure that the printer you choose is compatible with the type of fabric you are using.

    Along the same lines, it is important to state that some sublimation printers may not be able to adequately print onto darker colored fibers or fabrics.

    If you are wanting to print lighter colors onto a dark background, make sure that the sublimation printer you choose has that capability.

  5. What do I need to know about the special ink cartridges used for sublimation printing?

    Most people who own a small printer at home know that purchasing a new ink cartridge is often more expensive than purchasing an entirely new printer.

    Sublimation printing machines use special ink cartridges that are also expensive to replace.

     Thus, when choosing the best sublimation printer, make sure to find out the cost of the ink cartridge and how long they generally last.

    Not only can this save you money in the long run, but it can also help you to correctly price the products that you make with your sublimation printer by taking into account the cost of replacing the ink cartridges.

  6. Will my sublimation printer be able to connect with the device I am using to create the designs or artwork?

    As with any digital device, it is also important to take into consideration the connectivity options that come with each printer.

    Almost every sublimation printer comes with a simple USB port that will allow you to plug the printer directly into your laptop or home computer where you are creating the designs, branding logos, or other types of artwork.

     However, some people may prefer to work on their phones, tablets, or other types of devices. If this is your case, you may want to prioritize a sublimation printer that also comes with Bluetooth connectivity, wireless printing options, or a printer that has Wi-Fi direct capabilities.

  7. Will the printing field size of my sublimation printer affect the output of my final design?

    Every sublimation printer will have a printing-field size that will determine the maximum size of your final design.

    Sublimation printers that are advertised as “desktop format” are generally easiest to use and allow you to create prints on common paper sizes ranging from 8.5″ x 11″ to 13″ x 19″.

     Narrow format sublimation printers will be more expensive, though they will allow you to print images anywhere from 24 to 44 inches wide.

    Lastly, wide format sublimation printers are generally industrial grade and can allow you to print anywhere from 44 to 104 inches wide.

    As a general rule of thumb, the most cost-effective option is to purchase the smallest possible printer that can create and print the largest image you need.

  8. Why do some sublimation printers claim to have a higher number of ink colors?

    Most people probably know that regular printers use four base colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to create thousands of different color schemes.

    However, some of the highest quality sublimation printers use eight base colors, including options such as light cyan, light magenta, red, orange, blue, and others.

     With these additional base color tones, these sublimation printing machines can produce higher-quality images. If you are wanting to print top-quality photographic images or high-resolution images without any blurriness or pixelation, it might be worth your money to invest in a sublimation printer that has a higher number of ink colors.

    For most purposes, however, a basic four-color sublimation printer will still be able to deliver vibrant, clear, and visually stimulating images.

  9. How much do I want to spend?

    Finally, it is important to ask yourself how much you want to spend on a sublimation printer.

    There is a huge difference in cost in the sublimation printers on the market, with wide format, eight color printers costing tens of thousands of dollars.

     Fortunately, even if you are new to the world of sublimation printing, there are sublimation printers for beginners that can offer stunning, visually enchanting images that will certainly attract an audience.

The Top 10 Best Sublimation Printers to Purchase

Okay; so now we have outlined what sublimation printing entails, we´ve explained some of the benefits and advantages that come with investing in the best sublimation printer, and we have offered a straightforward buying guide that can help you determine which sublimation printer is best for you.

However, choosing from the hundreds of different companies, brands, makes, and models of sublimation printers can certainly seem like a tall task. To help make your choice a bit easier, below we offer a thorough review, including a list of pros and cons, of the top ten printers for sublimation on the market today.

This is one of the best Epson sublimation printers for t-shirts and other types of materials. The dye-sublimation printer makes it easy to print on fabric and other types of sublimation surfaces. The printer comes with special ink for sublimation. Simply print onto specialty transfer paper and then use your chosen heat source to your chosen surface with reliable results. The printer comes with four 140ml bottles of ink (C, M, Y, K).

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For artists, designers, marketing professionals, and others who are looking for a printer that can deal with high-quality graphics and detailed images, the Epson EcoTank ET-15000 is a great sublimation printer for your needs.

As one of the best Epson ecotank printers for sublimation, it has some of the greatest connectivity options on the market, including the ability to use the hands-free voice prompt printing feature through Amazon Alexa.

You can also print directly from your phone and other connected devices. If you are looking to save some money, this is also a great option as this high-quality sublimation printer is one of the most efficient on the market. It uses about 90 percent less ink than other inkjet printers without sacrificing the image quality of your print.

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Many people might not be familiar with the Sawgrass brand. However, the Sawgrass SG500 Sublimation Printer is a great, reasonably priced option for beginners to the world of sublimation printing. One of the greatest benefits of this option is it comes as a “ready-to-use” printer, and includes hundreds of stock designs in their free library to help you get your creativity flowing.

It also includes complimentary SUBLIMAX printing paper so you don’t have to purchase the paper separately as you begin experimenting with your first sublimation prints. Additionally, the Sawgrass sublimation printer uses some of the highest quality specialty sublimation ink on the market to ensure the highest resolution for your prints.

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Another great option is the Epson Eco-Tank ET -2720. This All-In-One printer is another option in Epson´s line of EcoTank printers that can save you up to 90 percent of replacement ink costs when compared to other sublimation printers on the market.

This is also one of the cheapest sublimation printers on the market and can be used for transferring your prints to T-shirts, mugs, mousepads, ceramics, and other items with the proper heating technology.  

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If you are ready to invest a little bit more money, the Epson SureColor sublimation printer offers significantly more options for boosting the creativity of your sublimation printing endeavors. For starters, this printer allows you to print up to 24 inches, for larger printing jobs. Also, it includes high-capacity ink bottles so that you will not have to replace cartridges as frequently.

For high-volume printing, this Epson heat transfer printer offers super-fast printing. D-size prints can be printed in as little as 34 seconds. Furthermore, this printer has one of the highest image qualities out there, including its patented Nozzle Verification Technology.

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Not everyone will want to go through the process of printing your design onto specialty paper and then using heat source technology to transfer that design onto a different medium. If you want a simpler way to print directly onto different types of fabric, then the HRM Automatic A3 T-shirt Printing Machine is one of the best sublimation printers for T-shirts.

It can be purchased with a separate heat press machine to make for a quick and easy process for printing onto different T-shirt fabrics. According to the manufacturer it only takes about 3-5 minutes for transferring the print to a light-colored fabric.

Furthermore, the average size textile ink can print an estimated 540 A4 size pictures, making this a great option for people looking to print in large volumes onto T-shirts or other textiles.

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If you have noticed that there are several Epson products on this list, you´re probably catching on to the fact that Epson is one of the best brands for sublimation printers. This EcoTank Photo ET-8550 is the best Epson printer for heat transfers.

This is also one of the relatively inexpensive cheap sublimation printers and offers cartridge-free printing for lab-quality photos. You can also get vibrant colors for your artwork, graphs, sharp text, and other creative designs. This Epson Eco-Tank printer also accommodates photos and designs up to 13″ x 19″.

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The Epson EcoTank ET-4700 is a great wireless sublimation printer. It has a reasonably fast printing time, which can cut back on your workload if you are planning to print in volume. Furthermore. There are lots of reviews that show just how premium the finished print looks and feels.

This quality printer also supports borderless printing. Like all EcoTank products from Epson, it uses an ink bottle (instead of cartridges) that is about equal to 80 individual cartridges. This helps cut back on the cost of printing.

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The last Epson sublimation printer we review here is a great multi-purpose printer that can be used for regular photo printing. It can also be used to print, scan, copy, and fax. With a few changes, this product can also be used as a quality sublimation printer through some minor adjustments to the printing resolution.

Simply purchase separate sublimation ink, and you can use it to create smooth, sharp, and high resolution on images that can then be transferred to your T-shirts, coffee mugs, or other objects after the transfer is complete.

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Lastly, the Epson WorkForce sublimation printer offers great connectivity options, including Hi-Speed USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi direct, and Ethernet options. With this printer, you can make borderless prints up to 13″ x 19″. It also acts as a scanner, and can scan up to 11″ x 17″.

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