Ever see the number of customized designs on t-shirts, mugs, stickers or even other household goods and wanted to design your own? Regular printers don’t cut it but a specialized category of printers, sublimation printers, can easily get you setup with printing your own designs without much hassle.
In this article, we’ll go through a quick review of sublimation printing and then dive into simple printers that can get you setup without much hassle. Each printer has been reviewed to ensure its simplicity and ease for brand new beginners for sublimation printing.
When your everyday office printer prints out pages, notice how they’re hot to the touch if you were to grab the sheet of paper immediately? Printing is essentially applying heat to transfer ink permanently onto an object.
Sublimation printing uses the same logic and specializes in printing ink onto other surfaces beyond paper including plastics and textiles.
Sublimation printing has a special intermediate step. Instead of printing directly onto the surface, it will print onto a special sheet of transfer paper that then transfers directly onto your object afterwards. Similar to regular printing, you won’t be able to reverse the printing once you’ve transferred the ink onto the finished product.
Most printers are not sublimation-ready and will need to be converted into a printer that is ready for sublimation printing. You’ll see several printers recommended throughout the internet, including the famous Sawgrass brand.
Do a quick Google search and you’ll notice nearly every result will recommend the Sawgrass brand. This article does not recommend Sawgrass for new beginners given the high cost of their printers.
Sawgrass is unique in that they manufacture only printers made for sublimation printing. Popular household printer brands like Epson, Canon, and HP, on the other hand manufacture printers that can be transformed into printers ready for sublimation.
The process to transform a printer is rather simple and highly recommended for beginners which is why we recommend choosing alternatives over Sawgrass printers. Sawgrass printers are meant for small to medium sized businesses planning to print in large quantities.
If you were recommended either the Epson WF-7710 or WF-7720, then the person who recommended to you has not looked at the current printer market in a long time.
Epson has discontinued both printers and you’ll be purchasing the remaining limited stock 3rd party sellers have left. You may find them for easily over $1,000 and at that point, I would recommend a Sawgrass over them.
Both the WF-7710 and WF-7720 are often recommended for sublimation printing due to their reliability and quality. However, since they are difficult to come by, we’ll walk through the best alternatives. The printers mentioned below are also by Epson and are the best alternative for beginners looking to get into sublimation printing without breaking the bank.
We recommend the following four printers as the best sublimation printers for beginners:
- Best Option for Beginners: Epson Surecolor F170
- Best Budget Pick: Epson Ecotank 2720
- Best Budget Pick with Improved Printing: Epson Ecotank 2850
- Best for Sublimation and Inkjet Printing: Epson Ecotank ET-15000
- Epson: https://epson.com/For-Work/Printers/Large-Format/SureColor-F170-Dye-Sublimation-Printer/p/C11CJ80201
As also recommended in our best printer for sublimation article, the Epson Surecolor F170 is the best sublimation printer for beginners.
The reason we recommend this printer for beginners is because you’ll be able to use it right out of the box without any needlessly complicated conversion. As Epson created this printer to compete directly with the Sawgrass 500, you know you’re working with a product meant for sublimation printing.
With a suggested MSRP of $400, you’ll find this printer reasonably priced and on-par with other inkjet printers that can be converted to be able to do sublimation printing. Why risk ruining your printer when you can work with one that specializes in sublimation printing?
While the Surecolor F170 is excellent for sublimation printing, that is all it’s great for. It lacks modern features such as scanning capabilities and does not do well when printing simple everyday things such as text on a paper. You will need to have another printer, such as an office inkjet printer, for those tasks.
- Weight: 10.2 lbs
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 13.7 x 7.4 inches
- Connectivity: Ethernet, USB, Wireless (Wi-Fi)
- Maximum Resolution: 1200 x 600 dpi
- Extremely affordable for a true sublimation printer
- No setup required
- Ink is cost effective when compared to competitors (e.g., Sawgrass)
- Can only print up to standard A4 paper size (8.5 x 14 inches)
- Not great beyond sublimation printing as it has no common features such as scanning capabilities
- Does not work efficiently if you want to print simple text (uses a lot of ink when compared to inkjet printers)
- White (Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PYDNF7L
- Black (Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PW3Q92W
The Epson Ecotank 2720 is highly recommended if you are looking to cut costs and may be on the fence about sublimation printing. As the most affordable option in this article, you’ll find the printer extremely easy to work with for beginners.
Out of the box, it functions as a simple office inkjet printer. If you are looking to do sublimation printing, all you simply need to do is fill the tanks with ink specialized for sublimation printing.
The great feature about the Ecotank 2720 is that if you get cold feet and are looking to convert the printer back into an inkjet printer, you simply need to replace the ink with inkjet ink!
As the Ecotank 2720 is beginner and budget friendly, you’ll find very little in terms of features or printing capabilities. The Ecotank 2720 can print at most the standard A4 paper size (8.5 x 14 inches) and has very limited functionality beyond a scanner function.
- Weight: 8.8 lbs
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 14.8 x 8.7 inches
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB
- Maximum Resolution: 5760 x 1440 dpi
- Setup is simple as pouring in sublimation ink
- Can convert between sublimation or inkjet printing with ease
- Readily available and more affordable than others
- Not great for printing anything beyond A4 size (8.5 x 14 inches)
- No-frills printer with no touchscreen capabilities
- White (Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B096N85ZHW
- Black (Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B096N828X5
The Epson Ecotank 2850 is the best sublimation printer for beginners if you’re looking for a little more quality over the budget conscious Ecotank 2720.
On paper and visually, the 2850 seems to be almost a carbon copy of the 2720 with one main difference: the printing efficiency and quality has been improved over its predecessor. With an improved internal printing system, you’ll find the Ecotank 2850 to print progressively faster with less ink usage, especially when printing in black.
In addition, due to the improved parts, the Ecotank 2850 interacts much better with heat transfer paper or light cardstock when compared to the Ecotank 2720, making it a superior choice if you are looking to print higher quality prints.
On the flipside, Epson has strangely removed ethernet capabilities in favor of keeping the printer wireless.
If you are a beginner looking to print only for fun and not worried about print quality, you’ll find the added cost when compared to the Ecotank 2720 simply not worth it.
- Weight: 11.9 lbs
- Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 22.3 x 10.2 inches
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, USB
- Maximum Resolution: 4800 x 1200 dpi (White), 5760 x 1440 dpi (Black)
- Prints faster and more efficient with black ink compared to the Ecotank 2720
- Prints better with heat transfer or light cardstock compared to the Ecotank 2720
- Does not have ethernet capabilities
- Added cost may not be worth it for those looking to print very little when compared to the Ecotank 2720
- 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
The previous printers recommended did not have the ability to act as both a sublimation printer and inkjet printer at the same time. The Epson Ecotank ET-15000 is a printer designed to fill in the gap for those who need both functionality but would rather not have two separate printers in their home.
At a whopping 27.5 lbs, the Ecotank ET-15000 is a massive printer with large tanks that’ll hold all the inks for your printing needs. Epson themselves advertise the fact that due to the large tanks, you don’t often need to reorder refills as often – a bonus to some.
A popular printer overall, it is highly rated due to its very fast print speeds as well as consistent print quality even over time.
While a little pricey, it is often cheaper than buying both printers separately.
The one downside to the Ecotank ET-15000 is the notable number of reviews on manufacturing defects it may arrive in. The printer is very popular overall and is still being purchased despite the less than stellar manufacturing quality. Reviewers have made a note that while it is a hassle to call Epson support, they were quick to provide a brand-new printer when defects were an issue.
- Weight: 27.5 lbs
- Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 17.6 x 13 inches
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, USB, Ethernet
- Maximum Resolution: 4800 x 1200 dpi
- Can use as an office inkjet printer and sublimation printing at the same time
- Very fast print speeds with reliable printing output
- Very large tank capacity
- Cannot do double sided printing (duplex) despite also being an inkjet printer
- Notable amount of manufacturing defects from reviews online
Sublimation printing is an easy and fun hobby to get into. While purchasing a printer may seem daunting at first, you’ll find many options, including the ones listed here, that can get you immediately set up to print in no time.
We’ve looked at several printers in this article to determine the best sublimation printer for beginners. Remember, Sawgrass sublimation printers may not be the best option for beginners given their high price point and market toward small-medium sized businesses.
Finally, those looking to minimize the number of printers in their home and having a printer that can do it all – both an office inkjet and a sublimation printer – should consider the Epson Ecotank ET-15000.
Looking to instead choose a sublimation printer not geared toward beginners? We have an article recommending the best printers for sublimation to check out!