Whether you are looking to print shirts for yourself or are considering starting a clothing business, you are going to need the best sublimation printer for shirts as part of your setup. There are no real specifics for shirts when shopping for the best sublimation printer, however, you will likely need a larger model, than say, for tumblers.
I have taken into consideration factors such as print quality, speed, durability, and ease of use to separate these printers from the rest.
Best Overall (#1 ChoiceEpson ET - 2760
|Check Lowest Price|
2nd ChoiceEpson ET - 15000
|Check Lowest Price On Amazon|
CheapestEpson ET - 2800
|Check Lowest Price on Amazon|
There are a few questions below to consider before making any purchase:
- Will you use your printer for your hobby printing, or is it for professional reasons?
- What is the size of the shirt/t-shirt that you are going to do sublimation on?
- How much space do you have in your room for the printer?
- What is the price point that suits you?
Whether you are in the custom printing business or a DIY enthusiast, buying a good sublimation printer can surely put aside all the stress and hassle of sublimation printing. You want a suitable printer to ensure you give the best t-shirts for sublimation justice.
- 1 Do you need a special sublimation printer for shirts?
- 2 Best sublimation printer for shirts
- 3 Best sublimation printer for shirts: features & considerations
- 4 FAQ
- 5 Final word
Do you need a special sublimation printer for shirts?
Sublimation printers were introduced in 1957 in France and were called dye-diffusion printers. In the last few years, a few well-known brands have introduced desktop-sized printers for sublimation as sublimation printing is trending now among crafters.
Although you need a special printer for sublimation, there is no special printer for sublimating on t-shirts.
You can use any purpose-built sublimation printer or an inkjet printer converted into a sublimation printer. The dye sublimation printers need special ink for sublimation and sublimation transfer paper. A heat press is required to transfer the design from the transfer paper onto the polyester fabric.
The t-shirt material with at least 60% polyester count or higher can be sublimated. The higher the polyester count, the better the results of sublimation. You will get the most vibrant full-color prints on 100% polyester shirts.
One important point to remember while choosing a T-shirt to sublimate is, that the fabric of the garment needs to be light in color. Try to avoid using dark-colored T-shirts. There are a few hacks to sublimate on black or dark-colored cotton shirts.
However, You will get the best results sublimating on white or light-colored cotton shirts.
Best sublimation printer for shirts
Besides t-shirt printing, you can sublimate on ceramic mugs and tiles, home decor items, keychains, glass sheets, polyester mouse mats, cushion covers, aprons, etc. Regardless, here are the best models for T-shirts.
1. Epson EcoTank ET-15000
- 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).
EcoTank ET-15000 is a value-for-money yet easy-to-use convertible printer for sublimating on shirts and t-shirts. All you need to do is to pour ink into the respective tank and start printing.
Being a tank printer, it comes with standardized CISS. Although it is a 4-tank printer, I love its print quality. Prints of this machine are rich in color, and no details are lost when the images are transferred.
You can print A4, A3, and A3+ sizes comfortably with this printer converted to sublimation. It is compact and fast with amazing functions like an A4 scanner and copier, and an LCD display screen with USB / WiFi connectivity.
What draws me the most to this printer is that I can add sublimation papers to the paper tray and give the print command, and the printer will continue to print uninterrupted as long as there is ink in the tank and paper in the paper tray.
I believe in minimal waste generation and love that 1 ink bottle equals 80 individual cartridges.
You can print up to 7500 black and 6000 color pages with each complete refill.
Key Features Quick Reference
- Easy to set up and easy to maintain 4-in-1 Wireless & Ethernet printer
- Mobile printing enabled
- The paper tray can store up to 250 sheets of A4 size and 35 sheets of Automatic Document Feeder (ADF)
- Scans up to 8.5” x 14” through the ADF
- Three sizes printing possible – A4, A3 and A3+ sizes
- Supersized tanks ensure no refilling every now and then
To set up the printer, plug in and start the printer, and input the date and other details. Then open the scanner and the lid. Open the individual lid of the tanks. Take extra precautions and add respective ink in the right slot.
Then follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup.
Run a test print before printing on the shirt.
- Black: 17 ISO ppm†;
- Color: 9 ISO ppm
2. Sawgrass SG500/SG1000
- Sawgrass Virtuoso SG500 sublimation printer. Brand new.
- Sublijet UHD Sublimation Inks CYMK (starter kit ink cartridges).
If you want a jewel in your craft room, then any of the Sawgrass printers (SG500/SG1000) is the one you should opt for, to sublimate on shirts. These printers have increased image resolution and new ultra-high-definition ink sets. WiFi connectivity enables you to give prints using your phone too.
While Sawgrass SG500 is for hobbyists or moonlighters, Sawgrass SG1000 is for growing businesses or ambitious entrepreneurs.
When I bought the Sawgrass SG1000, what blew me away was when the sales team informed me that the onboarding team would contact me for the initial set-up of the printer. The representative called me over Zoom call, and the set-up was done remotely.
In case of a problem, the service representative troubleshoots the issue and ensures the printer and software are installed correctly and working as expected.
Sawgrass sublimation printers have two software programs: Sawgrass Print Manager and Creative Studio.
As the name suggests, Sawgrass Print Manager is installed on your computer, and you can print your images. You can change the sublimation blanks type to shirts & T-shirts using the print manager, and the printer formulates the ink laydown. Changes in a page layout and mirroring of the images are also done with the print manager. Programs like Photoshop can be connected with the print manager effortlessly.
Creative Studio is an online design software. You can use various templates from the creative studio for designing your image. It is best for someone who is running short of time or someone who needs more creative ideas.
To set up the sublimation printer, attach the power cable and plug it into the socket. Press the power button to start the printer. You will now be prompted to open the ink cover to insert the ink cartridges. Place the respective ink cartridges in the respective slot. The printer will run an initial set-up. Follow the on-screen instructions.
Place the transfer paper’s shiny side down into the paper tray. If the printer is connected to the WiFi, do the WiFi settings.
Install the Creative Studio and Print Manager to start using the printer.
- High Speed (600×600 dpi) – 15 seconds
- High Quality (600×600 dpi) – 29 seconds
- Advanced Photo (1200×600 dpi) – 48 seconds
- Ultra Fine Photo (4800×1200 dpi ) – 6 minutes 40 seconds.
It is available on various websites like USCutter, Sawgrass, and Digi print-USA.
3. Epson EcoTank ET-2850
- 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
- Dramatic Savings on Replacement Ink ― Save up to 90% with replacement ink bottles vs. ink cartridges (1) – that’s enough to print up to 7,500 pages black/6,000 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 and pigment black ink produce extremely sharp text – plus impressive color photos and graphics – on virtually any paper type
The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 stands out for its sleek and efficient design, providing you with a space-saving solution ideal for optimizing your workspace. This all-in-one supertank printer offers a host of features that cater to your printing needs. With innovative Cartridge-Free Printing, you can bid farewell to expensive ink cartridges. Instead, high-capacity ink tanks, including easy-to-fill EcoFit ink bottles, ensure you’re always well-supplied.
The ET-2850 guarantees impressive print quality, thanks to its Micro Piezo Heat-Free Technology and pigment black ink, which delivers sharp text, vivid color photos, and graphics. Additionally, its built-in scanner and copier, combined with auto 2-sided printing, streamline your printing tasks. The printer also boasts modern connectivity options, including wireless features and hands-free voice-activated printing. Setting up this printer is hassle-free, and you can enjoy up to two years of ink right out of the box, reducing the frustrations of running out of ink. This Epson printer offers reliability and quality that you can count on.
4. Epson ET-8550
- 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
If you love photography and printing your clicks, you should opt for the Ecotank ET-8550 printer. It uses transparent film inkjet printing technology, giving the photos deep, rich colors with vibrant colors. The photo quality is as good as any lab photos.
It is an economical, compact machine for affordable in-house printing, perfect for your home. Although the upfront cost of this machine is on the skyward side, the maintenance cost, especially the cost of the ink, is very low.
You can save as much as 80% on ink for this printer. In all likelihood, with the quantity of ink that comes packaged with this printer, you won’t have to buy ink for almost 2 years for this printer.
This printer, however, is not suitable for you if you have to print 16×20 or 16×24 rather regularly. For smaller prints, this machine works great. With this printer, you can print 13”x19” borderless photos.
- The tilting touchscreen with the menu makes setting up and using this printer easier.
- Plug in the power cable and start the printer.
- Open the printer to access the ink tank. There are 2 blacks in this machine, so pour the right black into the respective ink compartment. Do not squeeze the ink bottle when you fill-up the tank. The ink bottles are designed to use gravity to fill in and avoid spillage.
- Follow the on-screen instructions. You will have to wait until the initialization process is completed.
After initialization, you can follow the instructions to do the wired and WiFi network connection.
It can print 4×6 photos in approximately 15 seconds.
Best sublimation printer for shirts: features & considerations
Now let’s talk about the key factors to consider before choosing a dye sublimation printer for sublimating on shirts. Here are a few things to help you choose a suitable high-quality printer.
The first factor is the size of the sublimation design you want to print onto t-shirts.
There are 4 sublimation paper sizes you can print in:
- 8.5”x11” – This size is typically suitable for tumblers, glasses, small-size t-shirts, etc.
- Larger than 24”
Ideally, to print on small and medium-sized shirts, the 8.5 x 11’’ prints go perfectly. ET-2800 series of Epson printers or the Sawgrass SG-500 is the ideal small format sublimation printer for printing on small and medium-sized shirts.
But if you wish to print on Large, XL, or XXL shirts then you can either go with the ET-15000 or SG-1000. Both of these support print sizes up to 13’’x19’’ inches.
Type of Printer
You can choose from two types of printers:
a. Purpose-Built Printer – It is heavy on the pockets, needs expensive special ink, and comes with firmware and color management software and support, and a warranty from the printer company.
b. Convertible Printer – It is cheaper, third-party sublimation ink can be used, which is normally much cheaper, and firmware and color management software aren’t available. The worst part is after conversion warranty will be voided.
In my opinion, you should buy a true sublimation printer. Here is why:
- The only positive of a converted printer is the affordable price, however, now there is a large range of affordable sublimation printers available.
- The sub-color profiles won’t be available, as you must use high-quality dye-based sub ink for a converted printer.
- The warranty on your printer is null and void even without taking your first print when you convert a printer into a sublimation printer.
- In converted printers, calibrating the ideal print settings can be challenging. As you have to do it manually and install ICC profiles of the ink you will be using.
- Once the warranty is nullified, there will be no support or warranty for the printer.
Are you a sublimation hobbyist or want to make a business out of it?
Entry-level printers are more suited to learning sublimation or practicing it as a hobby. You can start a small sublimation project with it, but running a full-scale business needs a more capable printer to print more copies per minute.
So, you need to decide whether you plan to do sublimation as a part-time venture/hobby or want to open a custom print store.
You can go for the Sawgrass SG-500/100 or the SureColor F170, both entry-level true sublimation printers. Pick the Sawgrass VJ 628 or a SureColor F570 Pro to run a sublimation business. It’s a great choice for small business owners. You can also use a converted eco tank series printer for faster print output.
A convertible sublimation printer will start from as low as $200, while purpose-built ones can go up to $10,000. If you are on a budget, then the converted printer from WorkForce WF-2830 or WF-2860 at a price point of around $90 is an option you want to explore.
The cost of a printer varies depending on the type of printer you opt for, the printing size required, the utility of the printer, etc. The purpose-built wide-format printers are expensive because they come with the special ink required for the printer.
Here’s a table with the printer’s specifications you may find helpful.
|Printer Name||Type||Size of Print||Cost||Support|
|ET-2800 or ET-2803||Converted||8.5” x 11”||$199.99 + Ink||No|
|WF-2830 or WF-2860||Converted||8.5” x 11”||$84.99 + Ink||No|
|Surecolor F170||Purpose-Built||8.5” x 11”||$399.99||No|
|Sawgrass SG500||Purpose-Built||8.5” x 11”||$599.99||Yes|
|Sawgrass SG1000||Purpose-Built||11” x 17”||$1499.99||Yes|
|Sawgrass SG1000 with Bypass Tray||Purpose-Built||13” x 19”||$1499.99 + Bypass Tray cost (Approximately $214)||Yes|
|ET-15000||Converted||13” x 19”||$699.99 + Ink||No|
|ET-8550||Converted||13” x 19”||$799.99 + Ink||No|
|Mimaki TS100||Purpose-Built||Wider than 24”||$9995.00||Yes|
After using all the printers to sublimate on shirts, I favor the Sawgrass SG500 / SG1000 because it is made for the crafter community. While the Sawgrass SG500 is the cheaper and smaller of the two and ideal for a home.
Both machines work well with Silhouette and Cricut cutters. The app for pre-made templates is good for everyone to use, including beginner crafters as well as seasoned crafters.
The EcoTank printers are a cheaper option if you want to buy the right sublimation printer for a lower price. Converting an inkjet printer is also an option you can explore. Thermal inkjet printers can’t be converted into sublimation printers.
A note of caution, once a printer is converted for sublimation, it can’t be used as a regular printer.
Many purpose-built and convertible printers can be used for sublimation on t-shirts. Among the best printers are ET-15000, Sawgrass SG-500, SG-1000, SureColor-F570, F170, ET-2400, ET-2800, ET-2803, and ET-8550T.
The size of the t-shirt you want to sublimate will determine the size of the printer. If you want to sublimate a smaller design, then you can opt for 8.5” x 11”, however, if you want to sublimate on a larger t-shirt or a bigger design, then you can opt for wide format printers that print up to 24” wide.
Sublimation printing works best on shirts made of polyester or polyester blend fabrics. This is because the sublimation ink bonds best with synthetic fibers, resulting in vibrant and long-lasting prints. 100% cotton shirts are not suitable for sublimation printing as the ink does not adhere well to natural fibers.
No, it’s not. It comes within the range of $200 – $5000, so you need to choose a printer according to your budget. Sublimation printers can vary in price depending on their specifications and features.
Finding the best sublimation printer is fairly easy. There is a load of options to go over, from convertible Epson printers all the way to dedicated models. Every option above is a highly recommended option, with each pick tailored to specific budgets and needs.