How to Make Sublimation Prints Brighter and More Vivid

You set up your sublimation printing workspace and print your first-ever design, only to discover that it doesn’t look as good as expected. But why does it happen?

Why are the colors dull and completely muted? I, too, faced the same problems when I printed my first-ever sublimation design using my converted Epson printer.

Despite trying to follow the best practices, my output prints were bland, and the result on the object was equally mortifying.

However, I still had hope and did a lot of experiments to fix the sublimation print’s color problems. I will list multiple reasons your sublimation print designs look dull and help you resolve them for a more vibrant and vivid output.

Beginners Troubleshooting

If you have just installed the ink and printed your first print, it came out dull and muted. Don’t get frustrated. The inks are still not all the way to the printheads. So print about 5-6 copies and see how’s the result. And also apply all the other points I have mentioned below.

Few Ways to Make Sublimation Brighter

Let’s understand a few reasons which could be messing up the sublimation prints output:

  1. Your printer is running low on ink.
  2. You are using the default printer color profiles.
  3. The printer heads are worn out or clogged.
  4. You are not using high-quality sublimation ink and paper.
  5. You aren’t following the target material’s temperature and pressure settings.
  6. You are using low-quality images with poor resolution.
  7. The target material contains a lot of moisture.

Now, you know the possible reasons for your foiled sublimation printing output. But don’t lose hope. I faced the same perils and overcame them with much trial and error.

Here are the best tips to make sublimation brighter and more vivid

To make the sublimation brighter look for these three most important aspects – choose high-quality ink compatible with the printer, the right “temperature – pressure – duration” combination, and print settings on your print manager.

We are going to talk about these points in detail.

1. Choosing a Good Quality Printer

When you are starting, it is challenging to ignore the idea of buying a used printer. Reseller platforms like eBay have some enticing offers. But that is where everything can go wrong.

You can end up with a printer with clogged, dried, or non-functional heads and cartridges. If you try to print sublimation designs using such printers, the result will be far from acceptable standards.

Instead, you can convert a brand-new printer to produce sublimation designs. The present-day pricing of Epson EcoTank and Workforce are beginner-friendly and won’t break the bank.

You can get an EcoTank for as low as $200; the Workforce series are even cheaper. 

2. Tweak Print Settings

Whenever you print something for the first time, the printer assumes and applies the default settings, which it thinks will be best for you.

Unfortunately, this automation needs to be personalized, or you end up with faded prints. It is because the printers use settings that produce a balanced color output and also save some ink in the process.

This approach might work for office environments where each saving color is a priority. But for sublimation printing, you need the best color production that the printer can do.

Recommended Print settings on Mac

So, before printing your next sublimation design, head over to the print settings and select the Vivid print quality.

Also, disable the Fast Draft or High-Speed option, as both produce washed-out colors.

Recommended Print settings on Windows

If you use something like Silhouette Studio, use the High-Quality print with the Vivid color option

3. Use a Befitting ICC Color Profile

If the default or custom printer profiles still produce a non-vibrant output, you must use an ICC color profile to sort out the mess.

Installing an ICC color profile is easy. You only need to download the profile that works best for you. The catch is that the print color output can vary significantly from what you see on the computer display.

The ICC color profiles help the printer understand and translate the exact out you need for your sublimation design.

I found that Hiipoo has custom profiles for Epson printers, which improved my designs’ color accuracy and vibrance.

Bonus: Click here to download Hiipoo color profiles for several Epson Ecotank models.

However, if you use some other ink brand, I’m sure they also offer custom ICC profiles. Once you install the profile, select that before printing a design and ignore the default printer profiles. 

4. Opt for High-Quality Sublimation Ink and Paper

You need a special type of ink for sublimation printing, otherwise known as sublimation ink. You aren’t on the right path if you think you can use regular printer ink for sublimation printing.

I use Hiipoo as my go-to ink brand for my converted EcoTank printer. But if you have another brand printer like Sawgrass, always prefer the reputed ink sellers.

Also read: A detailed guide on the best sublimation inks

Don’t buy cheap sublimation ink because it can do more harm than good. You will spend hours draining the ink and refilling it. 

The same is the case with sublimation papers. You cannot use regular sheets because they have less absorption capacity. It won’t work well when you attempt to press the design on a material.

So, I prefer premium sublimation papers and use the right page side for printing the design.

5. Temperature Settings

Even if you get the design print right, other factors can impede the brightness of sublimation printing on the target material. It isn’t one shoe-fits-all approach; different materials have their own temperature settings.

Also read: Here is a detailed guide on sublimation heat press settings.

For instance, a polyester fabric needs 270° F for spectacular output, while cotton needs 380°F. 

Trick Only for Converted Epson printers:

If your colors are still a bit mute you can then try using Adobe & gamma 2.2 instead of using Epson gamma 1.7 / 1.8. and don’t worry about printing via PDF either .png in RGB format is fine.

Similarly, other materials, such as ceramic or other fabrics, have a pre-determined temperature for sublimation printing. Also, note that the timing will vary with fabrics and materials. If you keep the press on for too long, the resulting sublimation print will bear a brownish tint.

So temperature and duration during heat pressing are the key factors to make sublimation prints brighter.

6. High-Resolution Prints

All printers cannot produce high-resolution copies. Usually, you will find this feature in slightly premium printer models. But, if you can’t afford them at the moment, leverage what you have.

Always select the highest output resolution before pressing the print button. Choose low speed and premium matte paper settings on your print manager before printing.

In addition, make sure that the designs you create are in PNG or SVG and have better resolution. More resolution translates to more detail and hence a clear sublimation print. 

7. Inspect Printer Components

You should start with printhead cleaning if you see a lot of banding or are using the printer after a long time.

Ink tends to dry and clog the lines, so it cannot flow smoothly. So, pull apart the printhead and clean it with a paper towel. While you are at it, clean the cartridges as well. After thoroughly cleaning and completely drying, fill in the ink and reattach the components. 

You will have to initialize the printer and check the color output. Repeat the test until you see zero errors, and the test prints turn out bright and vivid.

Otherwise, you must replace the cartridges and printhead or buy a new sublimation printer.

8. Retest Until Perfection

I have tried to jot down my experiences, but every sublimation problem is unique, and many factors determine the final output. Test different printer settings and ICC profiles and play with color correction and temperature settings. Don’t settle for mediocre-quality prints; always use the best quality sublimation ink you can afford.


Sublimation printing is a challenging project. I spent months before producing my first collection of quirky t-shirt logos. Make sure to rule out any hardware issues with your printer before making a new printer purchase decision. Or, you can use a maintenance professional’s help to fix the problem, if you use a dedicated sublimation printer. 

For converted printers, it is challenging to find an official repair service. I would suggest reaching out to fellow sublimation printing enthusiasts and sharing your plight. You may find someone who faced the same issue and can guide you through the process. 

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