On an average day, how many items do you see with customized designs? Whether it’s t-shirts, mugs, or banners, many companies and brands plaster their designs on them – for good reason. It’s easy and free advertising! While it’s true these are most likely created by large companies with large industrial-sized printers, it is possible to print your own merchandise with sublimation printers.
In this article, we’ll go through a short review of what exactly is sublimation printing to review and dive into printers, both Sawgrass and non-Sawgrass printers, that are the best printers for sublimation. Each has been reviewed to meet the needs of everybody.
You need to apply heat to transfer ink onto objects. Think about your everyday printer – when you print onto paper, it comes out rather warm, sometimes hot. Sublimation printing is the exact same concept except it refers to printing digital images onto materials beyond paper like textiles, plastic and other non-paper surfaces.
Sublimation can also print onto paper surfaces but for most cases, you’ll be printing on other surfaces.
The steps your sublimation printer takes to complete this process is to first print onto special sheets of transfer paper. Once that step is completed, the printer applies a heat press to transfer the dye from the transfer paper onto whatever object or surface you desire. Due to the special dye and transfer paper material, you won’t be able to wash out or create cracks on your finished product.
Depending on the printer you purchase, some need to be converted into a printer ready for sublimation printing. Some printers, like the Sawgrass branded ones and the Epson Surecolor F170 mentioned below, are already ready for sublimation printing out of the box.
Popular printer brands, like Epson, Canon, and HP all have printers that can be transformed into printers for sublimation.
The only brand that manufacturers only printers made especially for sublimation is Sawgrass. While there are printers like the Epson Surecolor F170 that can do sublimation printing out of the box, Epson manufacturers other printers that aren’t meant for sublimation.
Depending on your needs, if you’re a beginner or looking to use your sublimation printer for low-volume purposes, we highly recommend avoiding Sawgrass printers as they are rather expensive. They are meant for businesses planning to print in large bulk.
The following 4 printers are the printers we recommend as the best printers for sublimation:
- Best Option for Beginners: Epson Surecolor F170
- Best for Printing Large Sizes: Epson Workforce Pro WF-7840
- Best Premium Printer: Sawgrass 500 (SG500) and Sawgrass 1000 (SG1000)
- Best for Dual Sublimation and Inkjet Printing: Epson Ecotank ET-15000
- Epson: https://epson.com/For-Work/Printers/Large-Format/SureColor-F170-Dye-Sublimation-Printer/p/C11CJ80201
The Epson Surecolor F170 is Epson’s sublimation printer meant to compete directly with the Sawgrass 500. Since the F170 is a true sublimation printer, you’re able to use it right out of the box without needing to do any conversion.
With every purchase of an Epson printer, you’ll have a warranty with great Epson technical support. The F170 is super easy to set up and doesn’t take much effort for a beginner to start using it immediately out of the box.
With a suggested MSRP of only $400, you’ll find the F170 an extremely affordable sublimation printer if you aren’t fully committed to trying out a sublimation printer. It is rather small, being able to print up to a maximum of 1200 x 600 dpi. It is not meant to be used as a wide format printer.
Other great features on the F170 include having multiple settings depending on the type of material being printed. You can select a soft or more hard option if you have more rough surfaces such as metal, aluminum or neoprene mouse pads.
Since the printer is Epson branded, you’ll have no problems finding ink for the F170. The ink is relatively inexpensive compared to other sublimation ink, especially Sawgrass.
All in all, the Surecolor F170 is an excellent choice for beginners looking to purchase a sublimation printer. For those more experienced, they’ll appreciate how simple and straightforward the F170 is. It does what it’s advertised to do!
- Weight: 10.2 pounds
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 13.7 x 7.4 inches
- Connectivity: Ethernet, USB, Wireless
- Maximum Resolution: 1200 x 600 dpi
- Affordable entry for a true sublimation printer
- Easy to set up for beginners
- Ink is affordable compared to competitors (e.g., Sawgrass)
- Cannot print large sizes given its small size (only A4 paper size)
- Doesn’t come with other useful printer features (e.g., scanner) as its focus is purely on sublimation printing
Best for Printing Large Sizes
Epson Workforce Pro WF-7840
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DXKBY6N
- Best Buy: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/epson-workforce-pro-wf-7840-wireless-wide-format-all-in-one-printer/6426725.p?skuId=6426725
The Epson Workforce WF-7840 is the predecessor of the most popular printers in the market to convert into a sublimation printer, the 7720. What makes the 7720 popular is due to its high-quality build, extremely simplistic setup. As it’s now discontinued, the newer WF-7840 continues its tradition of being an extremely reliable printer to set up for sublimation.
Due to the 7840 not being an official sublimation printer, you will need to convert it to one. It is rather simple as all you need to do is clean out the current ink and inject sublimation ink into the same cartridges. A simple YouTube guide should get you started.
Keep in mind if you choose to convert the 7840 or any printer to a sublimation printer, you will void the warranty and be unable to convert the printer back into an inkjet printer.
Beyond its quality build and responsive control panel, the 7840 is the only printer in its class when compared to its competitors that can handle super tabloid page sizes at 13 x 19 inches. If you’re looking for a sublimation printer that can handle larger page sizes, then we highly recommend the 7840.
On the downside, the 7840 is rather slow and has poor color accuracy at times. The 7840 is the best printer for sublimation if you’re looking to print at smaller volumes and larger sizes.
- Weight: 57.7 pounds
- Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 38.4 x 20.5 inches
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB, Wireless
- Maximum Resolution: 4800 x 2400 dpi
- Great for printing large-sized pages: two large paper trays and an input tray
- Super tabloid and borderless tabloid printing
- Affordable purchase price
- Per page cost is relatively high
- Poor color accuracy at times
- Amazon (SG500): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08C2FW6M1
- SG1000: https://www.sawgrassink.com/printers/SG500-and-SG1000
In the world of sublimation printing, it is impossible to avoid hearing about the Sawgrass brand. Sawgrass has been producing reliable sublimation printers for a long time. If money isn’t an issue, then Sawgrass is the go-to brand when deciding on the best printer for sublimation.
The Sawgrass 500, and its larger counterpart, the Sawgrass 1000, both are able to print up to 4800 x 1200 dpi. The difference between them is the printing size and pricing. The Sawgrass 500 is able to print up to 8.5 x 14 whereas the Sawgrass 1000 can print up to 11 x 17.
You can increase the printing sizes for both printers but just like the base printer, the bypass tray add-on is also very expensive.
In terms of print quality, you’ll find Sawgrass printers to be top of their class for sublimation printing. The printers have efficient printing speeds that can print reliability over and over. The downside is that the required ink is rather expensive, costing much more than any other ink when compared to its competitors.
Nothing else needs to be said about Sawgrass as you’ll find hundreds upon hundreds of reviews of the reliability of Sawgrass printers online.
- Weight: 27.2 pounds
- Product Dimensions: 22 x 21.6 x 13.2 inches
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, USB, Ethernet
- Maximum Resolution: 4800 x 1200 dpi
- Very high quality printing
- Efficient printing speeds
- Backed by reliable Sawgrass brand
- Very expensive (both printer and ink)
- Great only for sublimation printing and nothing else
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084TV6NTZ
- Best Buy: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/epson-ecotank-et-15000-wireless-all-in-one-inkjet-printer/6397577.p?skuId=6397577
Unlike the printers previously mentioned, the Epson Ecotank ET-15000 has dual features of retaining its ability to act like a normal inkjet printer while at the same time, being able to act as a sublimation printer as well.
This provides a unique advantage that makes the ET-15000 an extremely popular printer in general, you can use it for everyday use as well as for your sublimation needs. With extremely large tanks, the ET-15000 heavily advertises on the fact that you don’t need to reorder refills as often as their competitors.
With great print speeds, and reliable print quality, the ET-15000 is the go-to printer in many people’s homes. The ET-15000 is the best printer for sublimation if you require dual-usage as a normal printer.
The one downside is the amount of manufacturing defects that the ET-15000 has. There are numerous reviews on having issues upon opening. While Epson is quick to provide customers with new, fixed printers, it is a hassle to call Epson support to ask for a brand-new printer that has defects upon arrival.
- Weight: 27.5 pounds
- Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 17.6 x 13 inches
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, USB, Ethernet
- Maximum Resolution: 4800 x 1200 dpi
- Can be used both as sublimation and inkjet printing
- Great print speeds
- Very large ink capacity
- Doesn’t support double sided printing (duplex) despite having inkjet capabilities
- Manufacturing defects is notable for the ET-15000
You don’t need large industrial-sized printers to get started printing different prints and designs on various objects. Everyday consumer printers can easily get the job done without the large investment.
We’ve reviewed several printers that are great for sublimation printing. For those looking to get started, the Epson Surecolor F170 is a great entry point. It is affordable and can print right out of the box without much setup. For those looking to print larger prints, the Epson Workforce Pro WF-7840 is a great alternative.
No conversation of sublimation printers is without mentioning the Sawgrass brand. The SG500 and SG1000 are both reliable but rather expensive. Finally, for those looking to use their printer beyond sublimation, the Epson Ecotank ET-15000 is a great option.