Sublimation Printer For Shirts – Top 5 Selections with Comparison

Are you someone who likes printing designs on T-shirts and looking to buy a sublimation printer?

Here you are about to know about the sublimation printers for shirts that are currently available on the market, taking into consideration factors such as print quality, speed, durability, and ease of use.

Before we dive deep into understanding which printer to buy, a few questions must be answered:

  • Will you use your sublimation 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, investing in a good sublimation printer can surely put aside all the stress and hassle of sublimation printing.

Let’s have a quick look at the ideal printer for sublimating on shirts.

 Epson ET-8550
Epson ET - 15000

  • Top choice for sublimating on S, M, L, XL, XXL t-shirts.
  • Best convertible Inkjet printer in terms of print quality.
  • Print speed is Up to 30-40 seconds for a color rich image.
  • Works well with 4 color Hiipoo or Printers Jack sublimation ink.
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 Sawgrass SG-500

  • Made for Dye Sublimation
  • Print speed is Up to 40-45 seconds.
  • Comes with Creative studio software and a print manager.
  • Quick setup, Plug-n-play (Gets you started within minutes) Ideal for beginners
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Epson ET - 8550
  • Borderless photo printing up to 13” x 19”
  • Best compatible sublimation ink is the 6 color set from Cosmos brand
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F-570Epson Surecolor F-570
  • Premium, made for small businesses.
  • Costs $2000+
  • Page size: Up to 24 inches wide
  • Print speed: Up to 60 seconds
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Before we begin let’s discuss – is there any special sublimation printer for t-shirts?

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 sublimation printer, 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 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 colors on 100% polyester fabrics.

One important point to remember while choosing a T-shirt to sublimate is, the fabric of the garment needs to be light in color. Try to avoid using dark-colored T-shirts. Though there are a few hacks to sublimate on black or dark-colored cotton shirts, I have mentioned this in this post.

However, You will get the best results sublimating on white or light-colored 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.

5 Best Sublimation Printers for T-shirts

1. Epson EcoTank ET-15000

Epson EcoTank ET-15000 is a value for money yet easy to use convertible sublimation printer for shirts and t-shirts. All you need to do is to pour sublimation ink into the respective tank and start printing.

Being a tank printer, it comes with standardized CISS. Although it is a 4 color 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. It is compact and fast with amazing functions like an A4 scanner and copier, a color 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 ink tank ensures no refilling every now and then
Setup

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 ink tank. Take extra precautions and add respective sublimation ink in the right slot.

Then follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup. 
Run a test print.

Speed
  • Black: 17 ISO ppm†; 
  • Color: 9 ISO ppm
Availability

This printer is always available on Amazon, Staples, and the Epson website.

2. Sawgrass SG500/SG1000

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 sublimation 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 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.

Key Features Quick Reference

  • Both printers come with WiFi connectivity.
  • Sawgrass SG1000 is backward compatible with accessories of SG800, and SG500 is compatible with SG400 accessories.
  • Sawgrass’s inks and RICOH’s printhead technology give a rich, widest color range.        
  • The LCD control panel gives a clear indication of all 4 ink colors quantity in the cartridge.
  • They have the highest resolution of 4880 X 1200 DPI of any sublimation printer in the market.
  • While Sawgrass SG500 prints up to 8.5”x14”, Sawgrass SG1000 prints up to 11”x17”
Setup

To set up the 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.
Run a test print.

Speed
  • 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.
Availability

It is available on various websites like USCutter, Sawgrass, and Digi print-USA.

3. Epson F-570

I loved the Epson F-570 printer for its compact, space-saving design allowing me to optimize my craft room. 

PrecisionCore technology enables this printer to deliver professional-quality prints of outstanding clarity. Specialized paper transfer for rigid and soft media, an auto feed tray with 50 sheet capacity, inbuilt cutter are some of the features of this device. 

Key Features Quick Reference

  • Intuitive operation with 4.3” LCD color touchscreen 
  • Flexible connectivity via USB, Ethernet, and WiFi
  • The maximum print resolution that can be printed is 2400 x 1200 dpi
  • The maximum width of the media that can be printed with this printer is 24”
  • With large-capacity ink tanks, you will not have to replace ink very often in these printers
  • Color saturation and high contrast are extraordinary, resulting in bright and brilliant images.
Setup

Remove all the packing material from the printer. Open the ink container and remove the Shake every ink bottle for about 15 seconds. Invert the respective bottle into the correct ink tank. Let the ink fill in the ink tank and not overflow.

Plug in the printer and power it on. Complete the initial set-up following the on-screen instructions. The initialization will take about 75 minutes. Take the paper you want to load and load it, following the instructions on the screen. 

Set up the wifi settings and download the drivers and firmware on your computer. Install the drivers and firmware on your computer. Now you can go ahead and do your sublimation prints.

Run a test print.

Availability

It is available on various websites like Markerflocrafts, Espon, Digi print-USA, all American print supply company, etc.

4. Epson WorkForce WF-7720

I always wanted an all-in-one printer, and Epson WordForce WF-7720 fits the bill. It can print up to 13” x 19” (A3), hence is perfect for wide format printing and scanning up to 11” x 17”. This is a big workhorse, which will occupy a lot of space in your craft room.

You can connect to it through wires or wirelessly. It’s rather easy to give print commands from tablets and smartphones.

Key Features Quick Reference

  • You can navigate and control effortlessly using the 4.3” color touchscreen.
  • Use this all-in-one printer for auto 2-side printing, copying, scanning, and sending a fax. 
  • The dual tray and rear feed for special sublimation paper have a capacity of 500 sheets. 
  • Compared to color laser printers, these printers use 80% less power.
Setup
  • Plug in the power cord and power on the printer. Follow the settings and do the settings.
  • Place the ink cartridges into the respective slots as mentioned on the printer.
  • The initialization process will take a little bit for it to be completed.
  • Select the paper size you want to print on and adjust it according to your chosen paper size. 
  • Connect your WiFi to your printer to give the print command from your tablet, laptop, or phone.
  • Run a test print.
Speed
  • 18 ISO ppm (black) 
  • 10 ISO ppm (color)
Availability

This printer is available on Amazon, Epson, Walmart, and Best Buy websites, etc. 

5. Epson ET-8550

If you love photography and printing your clicks, you should opt for the Epson 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 sublimation 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.

Key Features Quick Reference

  • Easy and quick printer set-up
  • WiFi capability ensures wireless printing
  • All-in-one printer with copier and scanner
  • It has 6 refillable ink tanks – black, photo black, cyan, magenta, yellow and grey.
  • Dedicated grey ink ensures the good print quality of black and white print and overall details in colored photos.
  • Thicker fine art paper (up to 1.3mm thick) can be loaded through multiple media loading slots.
  • 4.3-inch full-colour touchscreen intuitive display 
Setup

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. 

Run a test print.

Speed

It can print 4×6 photos in approximately 15 seconds.

Availability

This printer is available on Amazon, Epson, office depot, staples website, etc. 

How to Choose a Sublimation Printer for Shirts

Now let’s talk about the key factors to consider before choosing a dye sublimation printer for shirts. Here are a few things to help you choose a suitable high-quality sublimation 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.
  • 11”x17”
  • 13”x19”
  • 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 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 Epson Ecotank ET-15000 or Sawgrass 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 Sublimation Printer – It is heavy on the pockets, needs expensive special sublimation 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. And 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 third-party sublimation 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 color profiles of the sublimation ink you will be using.
  • Once the warranty is nullified, there will be no support or warranty for the printer. 

Also read: How to convert an Epson printer into sublimation

Purpose

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 Epson 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 Epson eco tank series printer for faster print output.

Cost

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 Epson 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 sublimation printers are expensive because they come with the special sublimation ink required for the printer.

Here’s a table with the printer’s specifications you may find helpful.

Printer NameTypeSize of PrintCostSupport
Epson ET-2800 or ET-2803Converted8.5” x 11”$199.99 + InkNo
Epson WF-2830 or WF-2860Converted8.5” x 11”$84.99 + InkNo
Epson F170Purpose-Built8.5” x 11”$399.99No
Sawgrass SG500Purpose-Built8.5” x 11”$599.99Yes
Sawgrass SG1000Purpose-Built11” x 17”$1499.99Yes
Sawgrass SG1000 with Bypass TrayPurpose-Built13” x 19”$1499.99 + Bypass Tray cost (Approximately $214)Yes
Epson 15000Converted13” x 19”$699.99 + InkNo
Epson ET-8550Converted13” x 19”$799.99 + InkNo
Epson F570Purpose-Built24”$2499.99Yes
Mimaki TS100Purpose-BuiltWider than 24”$9995.00Yes

After using all the printers, 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 Epson EcoTank printers are a cheaper option if you want a sublimation printer on a budget. 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 into a sublimation printer, it can’t be used as a regular printer.

Use sublimation inks only for purpose-built and converted printers for consistent best results. The tank printers upfront cost much higher but, in the long run, turn out to be cheaper, as the cartridges are expensive compared to the ink refills.

FAQ

What printer is used for sublimation for T-shirts?

Many purpose-built and convertible sublimation printers can be used for sublimation on t-shirts. Among the best printers are Epson-15000, Sawgrass SG-500, SG-1000, Epson -F570, Epson WorkForce WF-7720, Epson F170, Epson ET-2400, Epson ET-2800, Epson ET-2803, and Epson ET-8550T.

What kind of printer do you need for sublimation for shirts?

You will need convertible Inkjet printers which use thermal piezo heads or true sublimation printers to sublimate on shirts. Some good printers are Epson ET-15000 and Sawgrass Sg-500.

Which Epson sublimation printer is good for t-shirts?

We have reviewed some printers and found the following to be the best based on various parameters – Epson ET-15000, Epson Surecolor -F570, Epson WorkForce WF-7720, and Epson ET-8550T.

What size sublimation printer do I need for t-shirts?

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 or large format printers that print 24” wide.

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