7 Best Sublimation Printers for T-shirt 2022 (Affordable)

So, we will be looking into the best sublimation printers for -t-shirt commercial printing services. 

Though there are many t-shirt sublimation printers in the market. Getting the right printer for our business is of utmost importance. 

The choice of our printer, heat press system, and office size will determine the amount of work we can take on at a time. 

Furthermore, as a t-shirt sublimation printing business owner, you have to be sure of the best sublimation printer to buy that will suit your business size. Or if you’re looking for a replacement, the printers discussed here will help you make a good decision.

On that note, let’s look at the best 7 sublimation printers you can get your hands on for your business.

What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is the latest printing system used mostly to print designs on t-shirts, mugs, ceramics, etc. Sublimation printers make use of dyes that are transformed into gas when heat is applied to them by the heat press system. Thereby, printing a specific permanent design intended on the fabric.

You will need some sublimation supplies like a sublimation printer, sublimation dyes, polyester shirts, and others. The sublimation supplies will be discussed in detail on the preceding pages.

Summary of the best sublimation printer for t-shirts

The Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4830 is the best printer for t-shirt sublimation if you are looking for a budget printer that still does the job excellently. It is nicely followed by the Sawgrass SG1000 printer which offers better print quality.

Table of content – in case you are in a hurry, you can check out our review of individual printers that you are interested in.

  1. What is Sublimation Printing?
  2. 7 Best Sublimation Printer for T-shirts
  3. 1. Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4830 (Cheapest Sublimation Printer for T-Shirts)
  4. 2. Epson Workforce WF-7710
  5. 3. Epson EcoTank ET-2800 (Best Epson Sublimation Printer)
  6. 4. Sawgrass SG500
  7. 5. Sawgrass SG1000
  8. 6. Epson EcoTank ET-2750 (Best Epson Inkjet Printer)
  9. 7. Epson Artisan 1430
  10. What to Look at When Buying a Sublimation Printer for a T-shirt
  11. The T-Shirt Sublimation Process
  12. Frequently Asked Questions

7 Best Sublimation Printer for T-shirts

Here are the best sublimation printers for your T-shirts.

1. Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4830 (Cheapest Sublimation Printer for T-Shirts)

Ink cartridges: vivid DURABrite® Ultra inks

Print quality: The WorkForce Pro WF-4830 (AIO) provides high-speed printing. And has two big paper installation drawers and an auto auto-duplexing ADF feature. The printer is good for commercial purposes as from customers’ reviews gathered so far. It prints high-quality-looking text, graphics, and photos. 

So, you can get this printer for your sublimation printing services if you own a small printing business. It’s not moderate if you deal with a lot of sublimation printing services.

Another importance of this printer is it can deliver semi-equivalent jobs such as the WF-7820 and WF-7840. So, if your firm is not printing huge images to customers. You should consider WWF-4830 as your best choice because it’s cheaper also. And has more value than the WF-4820 and WF-3820.

LCD screen display: 4.3″ color touchscreen

Connectivity technology: The WorkForce Pro AIOs come with the same interfaces such as Wi-Fi for networking, Ethernet, and USB 2.0, Wi-Fi Direct, and Bluetooth LE for direct connections. In the left compartment, it has a USB port where you can connect a USB printing cable and print from any device or PC.

2. Epson Workforce WF-7710

Print quality: Epson Workforce WF-7710 is a wide-format sublimation printing machine. With others having a size of 11 by 17 inches, this machine comes in a size 13-by-19-inch format. Therefore, allowing you to print larger files.

Its printed graphics look good though. But there is minor banding in some photos that has dark backgrounds and gradients. Also, when printing files, the colors are sometimes sieved from lighter tints to darker ones thereby reducing their acceptability in the market.

Also, during our further test-running of the system, some test images came out looking dull and washed out. And a test with a premium glossy paper from Epson, we couldn’t produce something very tangible.

Even though the printing quality is poor. the printing effects are not so bad that you can’t produce some good materials. So, if you think of managing this printer, I suggest you check the other printers below before making your decision.

Connectivity technology: Like other expensive two-drawer sublimating printers. The WF-7710 has all the connectivity needed for convenient printing services. Such connectivity technology includes Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Ethernet 10/100bps, connecting to a single PC via USB, and near-field communication, or NFC. With Wi-Fi Direct and NFC connectivity, you can print from your WF-7710 without the printer being part of your local network.

Screen Display: 4.3″ color touch screen

Summary

  • Workforce WF-7710 Wireless color printer. 
  • It has copy and scanning abilities.
  • Touch screen and advanced printing features.
  • Storage Dimensions: 22.3″ W x 19.1″ D x 13.4″ H
  • Epson’s all-in-one printer can print, scan, copy and fax
  • PrecisionCore technology lets you create borderless prints up to 13″ x 19″ in size
  • The 250-sheet paper tray can also hold up to 20 sheets of photo paper or 10 envelopes

3. Epson EcoTank ET-2800 (Best Epson Sublimation Printer)

Print quality: This is a supertank sublimation printing system from EcoTank. With Epson EcoTank ET-2800, you can print a good number of pages without running out of inks quickly. With the supertank ink cartridge, you will have a good economy of ink bottle refills.

Additionally, with the ink economy, EcoTank ET-2800 can print photos and images with resolution. From the copies printed in our company, we can say about its smooth gradient and vibrant, and fairly accurate colors.

The challenge we had with the printer is difficulty to reach sheet rollers when there is a paper jam. And the printer in its ability to print duality photos, prints slowly, and its document are supplied manually. That means you have to supply each paper for any print.

For companies with huge printing jobs, EcoTank ET-2800 is not ideal for your business. Unless you’re starting out and with a low budget.

Resolution and Colors: 1200 x 2400 DPI -resolution and T522 — Black: 4,500, Color: 7,500

Ink cartridges: Innovative Cartridge-Free Printing with EcoFit® ink bottles

Connectivity technology: Features wireless, plus hands-free voice-activated printing

Screen Display: 1.44 Inches

Compatible Devices: Print from your smart device with the intuitive Epson Smart Panel® App.

Summary

The Epson EcoTank ET-2800 is a good sublimation printer for domestic use. At least, the ink refill bottles are affordable and maintenance is quite easy. Its print quality is good and encouraging but can’t handle commercial printing requests. This is because its lack of an ADF makes the digitizing of multi-page documents sluggish.

4. Sawgrass SG500

Print quality: Here we have the Sawgrass SG500 which is very ideal for high-quality printing purposes. 

It has a printing resolution of 1200 DPI and can also print quality photos with its optional ink cartridges. SG500 is quite affordable and can be a go-to for medium sublimation printing businesses.

From those I have discussed so far, the SG500 has proven to be all-around good than others. As you can sublimate on pillows, mugs, t-shirts, and others. And its printing speed is very fast to help you in rush hour.

I will personally encourage you to go with this sublimation printer as it will satisfy your business need.

Resolution and colors: 4880 x 1200 DPI resolution and White color

Ink cartridges: SubliJet UHD Sublimation Inks

Connectivity technology: To provide printing convenience. The printer comes equipped with the latest connectivity technologies. You can send work from your PC, laptop, and mobile devices.

Summary

Generally, the SG500 is the best sublimation printer to go with for the maximum sublimation printing business. And the features are worth the price. 

It can help your organization print dozens of high-quality graphics, photos, and images with incredible speed. And its accommodation of a large printing area is a big thumbs up. So, if I should re-rank my list by the top 1, the SG500 will come first.

5. Sawgrass SG1000

Print quality: You will be overwhelmed by the SG1000 printing size. Even as SG500 has a moderate print area of 8.5″ x 14″. SG1000 is equipped with an 11″ x 17″ as a standard printing area.

And you can extend this area by buying a bypass tray that allows you to print up to 13″ x 19″ inches. With this size, you can print items like medium-sized photo panels, apparel, and much more. And all come out in vibrant colors onto the transfer paper.

Resolution and colors: 4880 X 1200 DPI Resolution and White Color

Ink cartridges: SubliJet UHD Sublimation Inks

Connectivity technology: Sawgrass SG1000 comes with the latest technology connectivity features that allow you to print from your devices such as android, tablets, and PC. It has WI-FI connectivity, Ethernet, and also a USB port for cable connection.

Screen Display: Backlit LCD Screen

Summary

This is a suitable commercial desktop dye sublimation printer. And its printing quality is high as it produces vibrant quality printed photos and images with smooth color. The printing speed is fast which serves you better in an urgent situation. 

In essence, the SG1000 is a powerful sublimation printer ideal for your sublimation printing business. It’s easy to operate for beginners and professionals already know its nooks and crannies. So, you can place your order for it, and rest assured you’re getting the best.

6. Epson EcoTank ET-2750 (Best Epson Inkjet Printer)

Print quality: This is a wireless all-in-one sublimation printer ideal for students and home use. The Epson Expression ET-2750 EcoTank is cost-friendly and comes with a big ink tank. That means you can print thousands of copies before running out of ink. Just like Epson EcoTank ET-2800, it prints slowly and is not ideal for business purposes. And it doesn’t provide a neatly printed image.

Though the printing quality is quite decent for students, but not for commercial use. And the color accuracy is not encouraging. So, printing with this printer will have your photo colors scattered or appear differently.

Resolution and colors: black/5,200 color

Ink cartridges: ISO/IEC 24711 and 24712

Connectivity technology: This is a wireless sublimation printer and comes with hands-free voice-activated printing and WIFI.

Screen Display: 1.44 color display 

Compatible Devices: Easily print from iPad®, iPhone®, Android tablets, and smartphones; includes Wi-Fi Direct

Summary

The Epson Expression ET-2750 is a cheap printer for low project usage. You can get this system if you have a low budget or are a student. As a sublimation printing business owner, you should steer clear of this printer. It can’t provide the print that will be appreciated by your customers. Another good part of this printer is that it can automatically print double-sided photos.

7. Epson Artisan 1430

Print quality: Epson Artisan 1430 is not ideal for business. On our test run of the printer, the print on plain paper was completely washed out. It’s color accuracy, and it’s not a yardstick to buy for business purposes. When we printed on Presentation Matte and Photo Glossy, the copies were fantastic. It had a complete color balance and saturation.

That’s to say that the Artisan 1430 is a sublimation specialty printer. For business purposes, you can’t have it alone. You will need an additional supporting sublimation printer to handle some tedious printing work.

Resolution and colors: 5760 x 1440 dpi resolution

Ink cartridges: 6-color Claria® Hi-Definition dye ink
Connectivity technology: It comes with wireless connectivity and is Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™, USB printing, Bluetooth connectivity, and lots more. 

Screen Display: DX5™ MicroPiezo® print head technology

Compatible Devices: smartphone, iPhone, tablet, and other mobile devices — no computer necessary

Summary

The Epson’s Artisan 1430 is an ideal sublimation printer if you are involved with arts and designs. It provides fantastic printing qualities on papers other than plain papers. 

So, if you’re a photographer, this printer is ideal for you. It will give your pictures the vibrant color needed. And as said earlier, it’s for home use and has a printing area of 8.5 x 11-inch or 11 x 17-inch output.

The price is quite affordable and fits its six-color ink system for the perfect color printing job. To have the perfect print as a photographer, you will need the right paper than printing on plain paper.

What to Look at When Buying a Sublimation Printer for a T-shirt

Here are some essential criteria to consider when buying a sublimation printer for your t-shirt business.

Heat Press System

You should consider buying a heat press system if it has these three applications; time, pressure, and temperature.

You should be able to control the heat press time, temperature, and pressure. Without these, you can produce quality material.

Budget and Printing Cost

Sublimation printers cost between $200-$1000. And can also reach up to $90,000 for a big commercial firm’s purpose. The printers are graded based on their features. And the purpose they’re manufacture. So, a home sublimation printer can’t have many ideal features of commercial printers. And commercial printers are ranked based on the firm’s value using them. A sublimation printer you can use at home and for commercial purposes ranges from $5000. And you can get a good home printer at $500.

Print Quality and Resolution

Your printer resolution affects your printing quality. Therefore, you need to define the purpose of buying the sublimation printing machine. The more the resolution, the better-quality result. The Epson EcoTank and workforce has a resolution of 5760 x 1440 dpi, which is the best resolution we can recommend you go for. Sawgrass provides 1440 x 1440 dpi resolution. 

But on a low-budget printer, you can get a resolution of 300 x 300 resolution at max. so, unless for home use only. This resolution is not ideal for commercial use.

Sublimation Ink

Inkjet printers are known for their high-quality color printing system. They can mix up to thousands of colors to produce a fantastic result. Most printers come with four-color units of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK).

While some other printer models come with up to eight base colors. Such colors include light cyan, light magenta, red, orange, blue, etc. The eight-color systems allow for different ink sets to be applied in different applications.

Size of Print Media

You should have a stated sublimation size you want your sublimation printer to print on. For instance, a t-shirt needs a standard paper size of 13 x 19. While a mug needs a 4 x 6 size.

Check to know the size you can set your printer to. Some support 8.5 x 11 inches in size. In this case, you can’t print an item bigger than this. So, make sure to buy a sublimation printing machine based on the usage purpose.

Wireless and Easier Connectivity

You should buy a printer that has a proper wireless and wired connectivity system. Printers have been shown to have wired connectivity problems. Therefore, you should go for a printer with wireless connectivity.

With this, you can send files to the printer with your phone over Wi-Fi.

The T-Shirt Sublimation Process

So, you’re now at how to sublimate your t-shirt. Well, it’s quite easy and simple if you follow our guide keenly.

Thanks to the scientific discovery of states of matter: liquid, gas, or solid. These are the steps sublimation printing takes to sublimate your t-shirt. Since you will be making use of sublimation dye that will be transformed as gas to print on your shirt. We will see how to get that done without damaging your shirt with the dye.

Take a look at the basics of the printing process:

Before you take a step to sublimate your t-shirt. It’s important to know the basics of sublimation printing.

  • You will need a graphic design of what you want to sublimate. You will need an image. Or, download graphic designing software to make your special design. With your design or image, the printer will recreate the exact copy on your t-shirt.
  • Once you have your digital image available. You will need a transfer paper for this process. the transfer paper is where your sublimation printer transfers your digital image to before printing on your t-shirt.
  • And you will use the heat press system to seal your design on the sublimation transfer paper. Which then transfer to your t-shirt and recreate the design you need.

Here is the background process of your sublimation printer. The printer turns your dye with its heat-reaction system into a gas. The gas then infiltrates into the fibers of your fabric and aligns to produce the design you used.

This process can be affected by your fabric style. Your fabric should be able to loosen up its pores when exposed to intense heat and pressure. And should reseal when cooling. This will help enclose the dye particles tightly on your t-shirt.

Sublimation printing is special for making designs on shirts. Thanks to its heat-reactive transfer system. This transfers your design as gas to your shirt thereby bonding with the shirt fibers. With this, you can make a permanent design on any t-shirt.

Sublimation Supplies

On the preceding page, I talked about discussing sublimation printing supplies. 

So, here are the basics you need to know about sublimation supplies. You need this basic supply for any sublimation printing. And, we will see how to use this supply to sublimate a t-shirt for educational purposes. 

  • Your first step here is to get or buy a sublimation printer. You can get a sublimation printer at a cost range of $200-$1000. The kind of printer you need depends on the purpose you want to use it. And the size of your firm if it’s for commercial purposes. And it’s important to get a sublimation printer that integrates with a sublimation dye. 
  • Secondly, you will need a heat press system for your sublimation printing. It’s not ideal to make use of your domestic iron for the heat press. But if you need to make small sublimation printing. You can go for the small heat press system (CircutEasyPress). For commercial purposes, we suggest you buy a large heat press system. These costs range from $300-$3,000.
  • You will need to have a sublimation transfer paper. These transfer papers are made with chemicals that evaporate the dye particles into a gas. You should go for the thick transfer paper that doesn’t wrinkle easily. It is worth to know not all heat transfer papers can work with a sublimation printer. That’s why you need a sublimation heat transfer paper.
  • Another supply you will need for sublimation printing is dye refills. The sublimation printer makes use of digital primary colors of CMYK. You may see these dye refills from amazon.
  • Let’s say you intend to launch your t-shit sublimation printing business. Then, you will need to create your special design. For this purpose, you will need knowledge of Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape.
  • Lastly, you will need some t-shirts to test run your printing before going into the market. And note, you need 100% polyester shirts for sublimation. So, on how to get cheap polyester t-shirts, read on.

Printing the T-Shirt Design

So, you have read the t-shirt sublimation process. And just got through with the sublimation supplies. That’s awesome. So, let’s make a design for our t-shirt.

Let’s get our t-shirt ready for printing:

  • You need a heat press or electric iron to press your t-shirt to have a smooth, flat surface. Make sure to press it properly as any wrinkle will make the design rough.
  • If you’re using an EasyPress or another domestic press system. You should make sure the surface to apply the design is very smooth. And for commercial use, you will need the clamshell-style heat press.
  • Have a lint roller handy. Before you apply the transfer paper to your shirt. Use the lint roller to make sure the surface is very smooth and flat.
  • Now get the thick paper we recommended above and place it above or inside your t-shirt. This will prevent the dye from bleeding to other areas of the shirt when you use the heat press.

That’s it on printing on your t-shirt. But ask yourself, can I make use of the heat press effectively?

Remember, any mistake on the heat press appliance will damage your shirt. Therefore, you need to know how to use the heat press system for this purpose.

Using the Heat Press

Using a heat press system is just as easy as when you’re ironing your cloth. But what if you burn your cloth during ironing, how will you feel?

Now, heat press on sublimation printing is more advanced than burning your dress. Think of damaging customers’ t-shirts and ruining your business. So, to avoid this, let’s see how to use the heat press system.

1. Choose Your Press

You need to know the kind of heat press system suitable for your purpose. For a t-shirt designing business, you need advanced research for the best printer. A small heat press system is suitable for home use. While a large heat press system is suitable for commercial purposes.

you can view the collection of heat press systems here. And see the one that suits your choice.

2. Choose Your Material

As we said above. 100% polyester fabric is best for sublimation printing. Not every fabric can be sublimated. Because they could be sensitive to heat and wrinkle at the slightest high temperature. So, don’t make use of thin materials, or synthetic materials. 

Cotton, lycra, polyester, spandex, and nylon are good for sublimation printing. This is because they can withstand heat and high temperatures.

Also, make sure to wash any new fabric before printing. Washing your new materials will expose their wrinkles. And you can solve this by ironing them.

3. Choose Your Design

Now is the time to choose the design you want to make. So, if it’s your favorite soccer star, artist, or automobile. Get them to sublimate. Also, some people will need a special design to be made for them. That calls for you to learn the use of Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, or CorelDraw

4. Print Your Design

You have your design ready. This aspect is very important because this is where you could damage your t-shirt. 

So, pay attention here. You will make use of the thick heat transfer paper we recommended above here. You will need to place the transfer paper above or inside your shirt in the press.

There are different kinds of heat transfers depending on your design. And also, the type of printer you have, the color of your shirt. Let’s look at the most common heat transfer processes below.

  • Inkjet transfers: if you own an inkjet printer. You must get transfer paper compatible with its system. Also, know that inkjet printers don’t print white. That means you need to get off-white color for inkjet sublimation printing.
  • Laser printer transfers: This is another kind of printer to get its transfer paper. Though, users say the laser printer paper is not ideal for sublimation printers. You may stick with an inkjet printer.
  • Sublimation transfers: This transfer paper comes with a special ink. That’s why it’s most suitable for most sublimation printers. When applied to fabrics, it creates a permanent design. And it’s very suitable for polyester materials.
  • Ready-made transfers: If you don’t want to create your special image. You can get a preprinted image to use in the heat press. This will do the heat transfer for you. Also, if you have designs that have heat-sensitive adhesive. You can use the heat transfer to print it straight on your t-shirt.

When using transfer paper. You should be very careful and make sure to print on the right side. It seems easy to you, but printing it isn’t that easy.

Another thing to note is to print a mirror version of your design. This is because the mirror design will be reversed again during the press to print the exact copy. 

Like as will always be said. Before printing on any t-shirt, it’s important to test your design on an ordinary shirt. This is to check if there’s any error that needs attention and also to save paper.

Any design you print on transfer paper with inkjet is held with a coating film. The design will cover the whole paper, not just the design angles, and will show a whitish hue. 

Now if you heat press this transfer paper, the film will be transferred to the t-shirt. And present the accurate design you intended to print. 

Also, before printing, make sure to trim your paper to fit the design area. This is to make the design not get to other areas of the material.

5. Prepare the Heat Press

Any heat press machine you want to use for your designs. You must master the usage and maintenance. Heat press systems come with temperature adjustments to help regulate the heat. And they also come with a timer for when the heat press is ready for use.

When you turn your heat press on, set the temperature. Just like your domestic iron, you can switch the heat level with the thermostat knob. Turn clockwise until you reach the heat level you want.

Once at the point, the heating light will come up. And when it’s hot enough, it will go off and you can use it then. Remember to turn the knob anticlockwise to off the heating. Less you mistakenly use it and damage your material.

Note that transfer papers usually come with their heat level stats. This will help you regulate the heat to apply on each transfer paper. Most transfer papers have a heat range of 350-375°F. so, don’t be disturbed if it’s high. This is to deliver a sticky and permanent design.

Your next step is to set the pressure. Turn the pressure knob clockwise to set it at the point you like. If your material is very thick, you will need a high-pressure point to print on it. And thinner materials require lower pressure points. Make sure to stick to this so that you won’t burn your dress or not make a sticky design.

6. Place Your Garment in The Press

Now you have prepared your heat press system. It’s time to print. Therefore, place your material inside the heat press. 

Make sure that the material is very smooth and flat as said above. Then, you should use the press to heat the material for 5 to 10 seconds. This will remove any creases on the shirt.

Also, make sure to stretch the shirt while in the heat press. By doing this, the print will adjust to fit the material and won’t have any cracks on the print.

The surface you want to make a design on should face up. And your t-shirt tag should adjust to the back of the press. This will make sure the material prints correctly. Some heat press has laser lights that show you how to correctly align your shirt.

Your printed transfer paper should face-down on the surface you are to make the design. And if you have an embroidered design, it should be placed adhesive side down. 

You may need heatproof material to place on your heat-press handle. Though, heat press machines come with heatproof protection.

7. Transfer the Design

With the guides so far, you should have placed your garment correctly. And also set your paper accurately. 

Now, let’s transfer our design. Bring the handle of the press down to lock on the material. Now set your timer with the transfer paper instructions (usually 10 seconds to 1 minute.)

Immediately the time elapses, open the press and remove your shirt. Remove the transfer paper immediately as it’s hot. You should now see your design recreated on your t-shirt.

So, use the steps again to make further designs. Remember to use less pressure on thin materials. And high pressure on thick materials. Always off your printer after use to avoid electric shock or accident.

With that in mind, let’s look at the best sublimation printers you can use.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does sublimation last on T-Shirts?

Sublimation prints don’t wear out. As we stated earlier, they are permanent and won’t crack as it ages. 

Therefore, your sublimation print will last as the polyester lasts. What can affect longevity is how often you wash your fabric. And the chemical you use when washing your material.

How to fix a sublimation mistake on a T-Shirt?

If you made a mistake while sublimating your shirt. You can fix this by pre-pressing your blank for about 10 seconds to dry up the discharges. 

The sublimation transfer will shift when you open the press. And this can cause what we call ghosting. This means your sublimation blank is hot enough to accept the sublimation ink from the transfer paper that you shifted.

How to remove sublimation from a T-Shirt?

The simplest method to remove sublimation from the t-shirt is to soak the material in cold water. When soaked in water, the ink will freeze faster and you can remove them with a spatula.

Can I convert any printer to sublimate?

You can only convert a brand new EcoTank printer that has never been filled with ink before. You use the InkOwl Performance-D Sublimation Ink on all Ecotank models.

See also: Best printer to convert to sublimation

Can I sublimate on any T-shirt?

You can only sublimate on a man-made fabric such as polyester, nylon, etc. natural fabrics like cotton cannot be sublimated.

Can I only use white materials for my sublimation projects?

Since sublimation is very suitable on white materials. We would recommend a white material also. 

Let’s take a look at this. You have a colored material when the gaseous dye wants to penetrate the material. The dye will be contaminated and can produce the expected result.

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