Are you looking for the best sublimation printer to buy? Sublimation printing is an excellent, cost-effective way of producing long-lasting, vibrant prints on a variety of different substrates. Investing in the right sublimation printer for your crafting needs is crucial before turning your creativity into reality.
CheapestEpson ET - 2800
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Best Overall (#1 Choice)Epson ET - 15000
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For Occasional PrintingSawgrass SG-500
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Best for high-volume printingEpson Surecolor F-570
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EconomicalEpson Surecolor F-170
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Whether you’re looking to create custom t-shirts, mugs, or any other personalized item, a sublimation printer is a must-have piece of equipment to have in your crafting storeroom. We will browse true sublimation printers and even convertible models that are suited for small to large-format prints. These printers are ideal for those who want to start sublimation from home or small business owners looking to step up production.
Different types of sublimation printers explained
You can segregate sublimation printers according to their operational modes or even the nature of usage. By the time you may already know there are small format and wide format sublimation printers. Some are purpose-built, while some are convertible but at the same time affordable. Some are good for polyester fabrics, while some make sense only with harder substrates.
1. True Sublimation printers
These printers support sublimation out of the box. It is noteworthy that printers do not support other printing jobs and only work with sublimation inks, ensuring optimal print efficiency and quality.
However, this wholesome sublimation printing experience begins at $649 (for the printer only) if you buy something like the Sawgrass SG500. But this will be good enough for small designs only.
For larger designs, you must buy something like the Sawgrass SG1000, which prints 8.5˝ x 14˝, or the Sawgrass VJ 628 for 24″ designs.
Epson has some attractive options in the SureColor series, which is a true-sublimation printer. Don’t forget the recurring cost of ink and paper, and if you pick the official brand products, they put a sizeable dent in your pocket.
Apart from all these features, you get an assured warranty and technical support from the manufacturers. So, even if something goes wrong, you have someone to talk to and sort out the mess.
2. Convertible printers
It’s a type of inkjet printer that uses piezo print heads like Epson printers. HP and Canon inkjet printers will not work for sublimation because they use thermal print head technology.
However, on replacing the regular ink cartridges with sublimation ink cartridges, you can use them for sublimation printing.
The main selling point of a converted printer for sublimation is the cost: you save a lot of money. A brand new Sawgrass printer retails upwards of $500-600, while you can buy a brand new inkjet printer and convert it into a sublimation one for half the cost. You can slash the cost further if you opt for a secondhand inkjet printer (something we don’t recommend).
After a successful conversion, you will need sublimation inks and paper, which don’t cost much (Hiippo and a few other brands). However, it would be best if you often clean the print heads in a converted printer to get the correct output. Something you don’t have to do in Sawgrass, as it has an auto-maintenance feature.
It is a minor tradeoff but will still affect the overall cost per print.
Epson inkjet printers come in two models: EcoTank (easy to refill) and standard cartridges. The latter is hard to refill, and you must use syringes to get it done.
While the initial investment will be cheaper than a buying purpose-built sublimation printer, you won’t get the much-needed technical support or dedicated color management software. On top of that, you will void the warranty of your inkjet printer as soon as you put the sublimation ink in it.
The most obvious examples include the Epson EcoTank ET-2760 and Epson Workforce WF-7210. Other Epson printers from the WorkForce and EcoTank series also qualify, including a few SureColor printers, like the SureColor P800.
Best sublimation printer
Each of these sublimation printers makes it to the list for a reason matter your budget or sublimation needs, one of the printers below should fit the bill. Rest assured the recommended printers are all from reputable manufacturers in this field.
1. Sawgrass SG-500: Best beginner-friendly printer
- Sawgrass Virtuoso SG500 sublimation printer. Brand new.
- Sublijet UHD Sublimation Inks CYMK (starter kit ink cartridges).
- Known for producing high-quality images.
- 10/10 in terms of setup ease to cost ratio.
- Widely available like most Sawgrass printers
- Can even print digital images if you give the printer some time to work on the design
- Print size is limited
- Not the best bet for high-volume sublimation transfers
- Ink is costly. 4 packs of SubliJet Sawgrass ink costs $300+.
If you are new to dye sublimation printing and looking for the best sublimation printer for beginners, this affordable and easy-to-use option might be worth looking at.
You can bid goodbye to your setup worries with Sawgrass SG-500. From getting deep into the sublimation process to handling ink refills, everything feels like plug-and-play.
- Sawgrass comes with Sawgrass Creative Studio software. For other printers, you have to go with Photoshop, coral-draw, Gravit, Inkscape, or Canva.
- No printing alignment papers or installing a color profile,
- It has an auto-maintenance feature.
- Comes with a 2-year warranty.
- 30 min 1-to-1 help to get it up and running.
The transfer paper size that you can use with this dye sub-printer is restricted to 8.5 x 14 inches.
- Availability – 10/10. It’s always available in both online and offline retail stores.
- Price: 5/10 – Costs mid $500. That price includes starter ink cartridges, Trupix sublimation paper, Creative Studio software license, and free one-on-one onboarding support.
- Setup 10/10 – Easiest to set up like plug-and-play. The software is available for both Mac and Windows.
- Speed: 7/10 Sawgrass takes about 35- 45 seconds to print a page.
If you are looking for a sublimation printer that is easy to set up, the Sawgrass SG -500 is the one to pick. While the step-by-step guide works really well, it is the dedicated SPM (Sawgrass Print Manager) that makes configuration simple enough.
As for the speed, you can create designs in mere minutes, making it the best Sawgrass printer for bulk work. I ended up finishing three DIY T-shirt design projects in 10 hours. Even though it is an entry-level Sawgrass printer, it works really well with high-resolution image prints. I used it for my 4800 x 1200 dpi prints for a high-profile client, which was a walk in the park.
It goes without saying that you can use the SG-500 better with SawGrass ink. I would recommend the Sublijet-UHD ink variants for max color vibrancy. A full set of cartridges can set you back by $250. Despite the price, expect each one to last for 300 pages, give or take. Based on my experience, you can print 400+ tumbler designs or 300+ shirt designs without even needing to refill it up.
At anywhere between $500 to $600, this entry-level Sawgrass printer doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket. And while the 1-year warranty feels good enough, you can easily extend the same to 2 years, per preferences. And finally, the proprietary Creative Studio software makes your design easier to create, followed by the top-of-the-line Wi-Fi connectivity is a good addition.
Also, if you prefer dark-color printing or even HTV cotton printing, focusing on t-shirts and compatible fabric, this Sawgrass sublimation printer also sports Siser EasySubli cartridges. Do note that these ink variants only work with EasySubli heat transfer sheets and relevant heat presses.
My experience with the EasySubli inks was restricted to the Sawgrass Virtuoso series of printers, with each cartridge costing somewhere close to $77.
Note: If you are new to dye sublimation printing and looking for an affordable and easy-to-use option, the Sawgrass SG500 might be worth looking at. Almost every feature, barring the print size and support for bypass, is similar to the Sawgrass SG-1000.
Considering all these factors, Sawgrass SG-500 is the best sublimation printer currently available in both online and offline retail stores.
2. Epson ET-2803/2800: Best budget printer
- Innovative Cartridge-Free Printing ― High-capacity ink tanks mean no more tiny, expensive ink cartridges; Epson’s exclusive EcoFit ink bottles make filling easy and worry-free.Operating Temperature : 50 to 95 °F (10 to 35 °C).Operating Temperature : 50 ° to 95 °F (10 ° to 35 °C)
- Dramatic Savings on Replacement Ink ― Save up to 90% with replacement ink bottles vs. ink cartridges (1) – that’s enough to print up to 4,500 pages black/7,500 color (2), equivalent to about 90 individual ink cartridges (3)
- Stress-Free Printing — Up to 2 years of ink in the box (4) – and with every replacement ink set – for fewer out of ink frustrations
- Zero Cartridge Waste – By using an EcoTank printer, you can help reduce the amount of cartridge waste ending up in landfills
- Impressive Print Quality ― Unique Micro Piezo Heat-Free Technology produces sharp text – plus impressive color photos and graphics – on virtually any paper type
- Exceptional print quality at this low price range.
- The Eco Tank technology helps keep ink costs low
- An affordable printer
- Manages to print smaller prints in under 120 seconds
- Still, a regular inkjet printer that requires conversion
- The printer warranty will no longer be there after converting it into sublimation.
Do you have a budget in your mind? Well, you can invest in the Epson’s EcoTank series with the ET-2803/2800 printer. You can easily get the printer for under $200 without the ink, making it the cheapest convertible sublimation printer on the list.
Its print quality is as good as Sawgrass. And it’s much cheaper, costs around $200. This printer uses refillable tanks which are relatively easy to fill with sublimation ink than cartridges.
Because this isn’t a purpose-built dedicated printer but a convertible one, you will need to do the setup correctly and print a few alignment pages after installing the ink. Also, one will need to work with the print settings.
The Epson EcoTank ET 2803/2800 is widely available and manages to print a standard 8.5 x 11-inch sheet in under 120 seconds. As for the print quality, it can support prints up to 5760 x 1440 dpi.
Just so you know, you would need to convert this printer to use it for sublimation. A quick way to get the job done is to fill up the ink tanks with sublimation ink.
For compatible sublimation ink variants, it is better to go for the Printer’s Jack or Hiipoo inks. Hiipoo sublimation autofill bottles are $36.99 for a set of 4(four) 100ml bottles.
Conversion trick: The best way to approach refiling is to open one tank, fill the same, and close the cap before moving to the next one.
3. Epson ET-15000: Best Wide-Format
- Epson printing system is designed to be used exclusively with Epson Genuine Cartridges. Use of non-genuine ink could cause damage not covered under the printer’s ltd. wnty.
- Save up to 90 percent on ink with low-cost replacement bottles vs. ink cartridges (1) — about 1 cent per color ISO page vs. about 20 cents with cartridges (1).
- Epson EcoTank is the No.1 Best Selling Supertank Printer
- Versatile paper handling — print up to 13″ x 19″ through rear feed; copy and scan up to 8. 5″ x 11″ (via the scan bed) or 8.5″ x 14″ (via the ADF).
- Print for up to 2 years with each included or replacement ink bottle set (2) — each set includes enough ink to print up to 7,500 pages black / 6,000 color (3); you could save dollars 620 with each one (1).
- Excellent wide-format print capabilities
- Brings in specialized printing modes
- Top-notch print quality
- The Epson EcoTank ET technology makes sublimation inks more affordable
- On the slower side
- A regular inkjet printer that needs converting
- Do not support auto maintenance
ET-15000 is a wide-format 13”X 19” printer that also offers cartridge-free printing. The low-cost replacement sublimation ink bottles reduce ink costs significantly.
This Epson EcoTank printer boasts two specialized printing modes — duplex printing and a document feeder mode for that design flexibility. As it is a wide-format sublimation printer, it can help you get the best prints on the best t-shirts for sublimation, solid surfaces, and other substrates like smaller banners.
This printer is anything but fast. Larger prints can even take more than 5 minutes to come out. Also, this is also one of those inkjet printers that you need to convert for sublimation printing.
This printer costs around $700 and with ink, it can go up to $750 (I recommend going with Hippoo inks). For capabilities extending up to 13 x 19 inches and 4800 x 1200 dpi in terms of resolution, this isn’t an exorbitant price to pay. Setting it up is moderately difficult as you need to play around with the settings.
It supports almost all sublimation inks but I suggest sticking with one brand only not mixing different brands together.
As for the quality, you can expect a resolution of 4800 x 1200 dpi, which is more than adequate for a large format printer as such. You can use Printer’s Jack ink supplies, priced at $23 for the set, with this printer. As for the price of the printer, you can get one for under $700.
As far as the printing timeframe is concerned, this inkjet printer, when converted to a sublimation printer, can take close to 240 seconds for an 8.5 x 11-inch sublimation blank.
4. Epson F-170: Best for high-quality graphics
Here is a printer from the Epson SureColor series that is ideal for shirts and other surfaces that require high-end graphics.
Unlike the Epson EcoTank printers, the Epson SureColor F-170 is a dedicated sublimation printer that is made for sublimation. This printer comes with support and a warranty from Epson repair services.
The Epson SureColor F170 is a small format printer, which might not be good enough for larger surfaces. Also, the cost might be on the higher side, especially if you want this for starting your sublimation printing journey.
It is important to note that the Epson SureColor F170 isn’t the most readily available sublimation printer around. However, it’s an extremely easy printer to set up just like the eco-tank ones. As for the pricing, you might have to shell out anything between $400 to $500 for the Epson SureColor F170.
The choice of ink cartridges remains standard. You can use the Epson T49M bottles that come with it — $100 for a set of four (100ml).
The print quality at 4800 x 1200 dpi is good enough for the price. As for the timeframe, printing sublimation blanks measuring 8.5 x 11 inches takes a little under 180 seconds. The smallest and the least complex prints can even take close to 60 seconds to work.
And while the T49M bottles are good enough, you can use the Epson SureColor F170 with Epson’s UltraChrome DS ink and the in-house software picks like the Edge Dashboard and Edge Print.
- Compact and easy to assemble
- Can handle high-end graphics prints with ease
- A perfect t-shirt sublimation printer
- Excellent print quality
- Not easily available in stock.
- Smaller format printer
- Only comes with a 4-color sublimation ink set
5. Epson F-570: Best for high-volume prints
If you are making projects for clients, then the Epson SureColor F-570 is easily one of the most suitable sublimation printers you can buy for your needs.
This is one of the most popular Epson printers to support wide-format printing. It can easily handle sublimation blanks that go as high as 24 inches. Also, the printers hardly take 60 seconds to come out, provided you want to work with a sublimation paper measuring 8.5 x 11 inches.
If you seek affordability, this isn’t the printer for you. The price point is close to $2500, something which only works if you have premium clients to work with.
It is a widely available sublimation printer boasting a decent print quality of up to 2400 x 1200 dpi. Like any other SureColor printer, it is also compatible with UltraChrome DS ink picks.
Also, as it is a premium sublimation printer, the setup isn’t as straightforward as with the Sawgrass variants. Epson has a driver setup with the proper color correction or ICC profile. It is best to make your design in CMYK.
This printer is a great choice for sublimating on dark shirts. You can use the Siser EasySubli HTV. This material will transfer to the surface of light, and dark-colored shirts, as well as cotton, polyester, and blends.
It also has advanced media handling capabilities that can handle a wide variety of sublimation papers and thicknesses. You can use Epson’s own sublimation paper or ASUB, printer’s jack sublimation paper for best results.
- Can print on large format sublimation paper
- Boasts excellent printing speed
- The ink cartridges are high-capacity ones
- Can handle an insane workload with ease
- Exorbitant pricing
- Setup is complicated
- Does not auto-clean.
6. Epson ET-8550: High-quality photo printer
- Cartridge-free printing for lab-quality photos, graphics and creative projects — get vibrant colors and sharp text with Epson’s high-accuracy printhead and Claria ET Premium 6-color inks; print a 4 x 6″ photo in as fast as 15 seconds (4).Product protection you can count on — 2-year limited warranty with registration (10). | Genuine Epson Ink for Genuine Epson Quality― Epson strongly recommends the use of genuine ink to ensure optimal print quality and performance. Use of non-genuine ink could cause damage not covered under the printer’s ltd. warranty.
- Extraordinary media support, including borderless photos up to 13″ x 19″ — accommodates cardstock, CD/DVDs and other specialty media up to 1.3 mm thick; auto 2-sided printing
- Amazing value — save a ridiculous amount on photos (1) and creative projects with affordable in-house photo printing; print 4″ x 6″ photos for about 4 cents each vs. 40 cents with traditional ink cartridges (1)
- Save up to 80% with low-cost replacement ink bottles vs. ink cartridges (3) — that’s about Dollar-2000 on each set (3), enough ink to print up to 6,200 pages color (5)
- Print up to 2 years (2) — with each included and replacement ink bottle set
- The Claria Photo ink setup makes room for the best possible prints.
- The ink system is refillable and cost-effective
- The printer comes equipped with advanced printing settings
- Large and difficult to assemble
- Still not a dedicated dye sublimation printing solution
To be honest, I love Epson Ecotank printing solutions for the quality of prints. And even though the Epson Surecolor series saves us the need for conversion, the Epson EcoTank ET 8550 is one of the better inkjet ink-supporting printers with a six-color ink system, based on the Claria Photo technology
If you want to print high-quality photos on your t-shirts, this Epson EcoTank printer is the one to go with. Plus, it also boasts high-volume sublimation printing support.
The initial cost of this printer can burn a hole in the pocket of beginners.
As far as the features are concerned, this $800 odd sublimation printer might just be the one to offer the highest print quality on the list, supporting resolutions of up to 5760 x 1440 dpi. Each sublimation or transfer paper can be handled in under 90 seconds, making it pretty fast for its size.
This printer has 6 tanks, the best ink choice for this printer is the 6 colors (CMYKLCLM) pack of sublimation ink from Cosmos.
As you read above, choosing a sublimation printer can greatly impact the quality and efficiency of your printing projects. After considering several top options, you can buy printers such as ET-2800, SG-500, or ET-15000. These models offer exceptional print quality, fast printing speeds, versatile media compatibility, user-friendly features, and reasonable costs.
You should first think about your specific needs, such as intended usage, budget, and desired features, before making a final decision.
Things to consider before buying a sublimation printer
You simply cannot buy a top-quality sublimation printer if you do not know about the aspects to look at and your personal needs. Here are a few pointers to consider:
- Before you proceed with a desktop printer or a converted printer, it is important to note the size of prints that you would want the device to handle. Large format ones can print 13 x 19-inch designs, whereas if you buy a small format sublimation printer, 8.5 x 11 inches might be a good starting point.
- If you plan on getting your first sublimation printer, I would recommend a budget of $200. For the premium picks, you can even go as high as $3000 to even $15000.
- If you do not prefer tweaks, you can get a true sublimation printer. But then, if you prefer to go by the budget, a convertible printer can be a good pick.
- In case you prefer support while setting up a new printer, Sawgrass printers make really good picks.
- If you plan on saving money on ink, getting a convertible printer with third-party ink solutions like Printer’s Jack, Hippo, and Cosmos makes sense. These cost around $50 to $100 per usage. Sawgrass SubliJet cartridges are $300+ for a set of four 31ml cartridges and SureColor T49M ink bottles are $24.99 each, or $100 for a set of four 140ml bottles.
- In case you want printers with good warranty coverage, I would recommend Sawgrass due to the choice to extend the cover.
- If you want a printer for business DIY work, the likes of Mimaki, SG-1000, and SureColor 570 make the best picks.
Also, if you are on a strict budget, I would recommend the Epson ET-2803/2800 as the best and cheapest sublimation printer you can buy for your crafting needs.
- For ease of setup, there isn’t anything better than Sawgrass.
- Finally, if you are looking for a sublimation printer for beginners, I would ask you to pick the SG-500 from Sawgrass or the ET-2803/2800 over everything else.
What is a good sublimation printer for beginners?
Sawgrass SG-500 and Epson SC F170 are the best choices for beginners planning to learn and earn with sublimation. You don’t need to fiddle with settings much, as these are true sublimation plug-and-play printers.
Is it worth buying a sublimation printer?
Yes. Sublimation printers can help you customize your apparel and even start a small sublimation on-demand service. You can sublimate on mugs, t-shirts, and many other fabrics, and the results are very photorealistic.
What do I need to start sublimation?
You will need a sublimation printer (original or converted), sublimation ink and paper, a heat press or convection oven to transfer the sublimation, fabric, some heat-resistant tape and scissors, and a computer to feed and tweak designs before printing.
What is the easiest printer to convert to sublimation?
The Epson EcoTank series ET-2800, ET-2803, and ET-15000 is the easiest printer to convert to sublimation. Since it has an external ink tank instead of regular cartridges, replacing and refilling the sublimation ink is easier. You will need to get the color output right, but it is way better than converting an inkjet printer with cartridges. Refilling a cartridge is a painstaking process with a low chance of success.
Can all Epson EcoTank printers be used for sublimation?
Yes, you can convert any EcoTank series printer by emptying the regular ink and then refilling the sublimation ink. However, remember to only use a brand new EcoTank printer for sublimation and avoid any discontinued model released more than two years back.
What is the cheapest printer that can be converted to sublimation?
You can get an Epson EcoTank ET 2800 for as low as $170-200 on-sale events. You only need to buy Hiipoo ink worth $30 and an A4 sublimation paper. It is the cheapest printer and ink combination to start sublimation on a budget.
Whether you are looking to expand your painting business or just want to get creative, the best sublimation printer is the way to go. We detailed several high-quality dedicated sublimation printers and convertible models to meet every budget and need you could have.