by Anthony Clark
Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, everyone has a creative talent. Might be artistic talent, musical talent, feel for fixing things, could be anything really. How we choose to exploit this talent mostly varies from one individual to another.
For instance, an artist could paint and decide to showcase it at a gallery to earn some cash. The same goes for anyone with a creative mind. We mostly choose if we want to exploit our talent to earn decent money as an entrepreneur, office worker, or freelancer.
Designing is one of those things you either have a passion for or you don't. For you to be reading this post, it is safe to say you have a passion for designing. And not just designing canvass or any type of material. But specifically making and designing cool t-shirts.
There are different techniques one can take to design a piece of fabric. Some of these techniques depend on the region you reside in while others are generally accepted. For example, some parts of the world focus more on tie and dye techniques to design shirts and fabric in general. And although the designing process is unique to such a region, the overall steps involved are still available for anyone interested in it.
That said, one easy and generally accepted way of designing T-shirts is printing on them. This is not to say it is the easiest or cheapest method for designing t-shirts, however, it is pretty unique. This method is the use of Sublimation printers for t-shirts.
TIP: It is worth noting that this method does cost money and as a result is only advisable for prospective entrepreneurs. This does not in any way stop you from buying a sublimation printer to use as a hobbyist.
As with any machine, equipment, software, or technological gadget, you can't just rush to an online store or local store to get one. Every gadget, machine or equipment come with different cost-effectiveness and performance rating. Even gadgets or equipment from the same brand within the same price range tend to have varying prices and features.
In this post, we will explore all the possible things you should certainly consider while shopping for a sublimation printer. We would also help you with a list of the best sublimation printers for T-shirts on the market right now. The list would include the best features each printer offers and the biggest downside to using each of them.
Sublimation printers produce very high quality prints. The best sublimation printers use 6 colors to produce full color images, but if you have good software that support CMYK then only four color are used. This include Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black). Full color images will have a slightly higher cost with sublimation printers because they need to use more ink.
Sublimation printing is a technique of printing on polyester using heat transfer paper where the printout appears white and the fabric's dye reacts to boiling water turning it transparent. It can be also used to print on ceramic and metal.
Sublimation printers can transfer a full color image onto a T-shirt in less than 30 seconds. There is no need for expensive screens and the process of making them. The ink used by sublimation printers is specially made for this purpose, but if you wish to make your own designs you can use normal inkjet printer and print on special heat transfer paper.
The materials needed for sublimation printers are relatively inexpensive, but if you wish to keep your initial cost down you can also use standard office laser printers with heat transfer paper to produce the design of your choice.
The best part of using sublimation printers is that they do not use water based inks, which means that the designs will not fade after several washes. The fabric's dye is actually fused i
In this section, we will discuss the important factors you need to consider before buying a sublimation printer for your work. This is for you if you want to fully understand the importance of each feature a sublimation printer has. With this, you can easily even go to your online or local store to get yourself a sublimation printer without fear of making the wrong decision.
As you already know, sublimation printers help print designs that you can then transfer (by applying heat) to your T-shirt, mug, mousepads, shorts, or what have you.
So consider the materials you intend to print on and find out whether previous users have any complaints related to such material(s).
This is simply the method of T-shirt design printing the printer uses. Some printers have specially designed mechanisms that let you print directly on the surface of your material. However, some require the application of heat before the design can appear on your material.
Ink Cartridges have varying costs when it comes to refilling or replacing them. To make things even more critical, some sublimation printers use more than one cartridge at a time. You need to work out the cost-effectiveness and longevity of a printer's cartridge. This would give you a good idea of whether or not you will be able to maintain the printer in the long run.
The resolution a printer prints in greatly influences how clear, vivid, and even live like a printout is. Printers capable of producing high-quality prints tend to be expensive. However, you don't want to simply buy a cheap sublimation printer whose prints do not meet the quality standard you wish for.
A printer's connectivity options include all the methods by which you can connect the printer to a PC. It also includes any options available to connect the printer to a local Area Network. Most sublimation printers have USB ports or Wi-Fi Direct capabilities. A premium few supports Ethernet connection over a private network.
It would be highly inappropriate to bore you with unnecessary talk about how a sublimation printer works. The fact that you are reading this article points to the increasing popularity of sublimation printers for T-shirts.
When it comes to picking the best sublimation printer for you, there are only two major brands to consider. Not that there are no other brands that produce Sublimation Printers. However, these two brands simply guarantee simple, excellent, and user-friendly machines.
The Epson EcoTank ET-15000 is arguably the best sublimation printer in the world. It is not your typical inkjet printer. It is highly efficient and uses about 90 percent less ink than other inkjet printers. It does this without any compromise or reduction in the quality of print carried out.
Even better, this sublimation printer uses low-cost ECoTank ink that is very affordable. It is powered by PrecisionCore technology that ensures powerful machine performance.
The printer has a large printing capacity thanks to its high-density printing chip. This means the Epson EcoTank ET-15000 can handle any graphics printing work you throw at it.
It comes with a small 2.7-inch touchscreen color display that lets you easily navigate and operate the machine. It is capable of carrying out borderless printing which is a rare ability among inkjet printers.
One cool feature we love about this printer is its hands-free voice prompt printing feature. This feature, powered by Amazon Alexa, lets you print[ without even touching the printer. All you have to do is say the right command prompts!
As you might have already guessed, the hands-free printing feature only works when the printer is connected to a network. The interesting thing about this is that you can connect your printer to the internet via Ethernet and Wi-Fi Direct.
To be quite honest, the only drawback of using Epson EcoTank ET-15000 is that operating it can take a while to master. And this is not due to the lack of a detailed user's manual.
As earlier stated, most of the best sublimation printers on the market are from two major brands - Epson and SAWGRASS.
The Epson EcoTank ET-4700 is one of the latest, wireless printers from the Epson brand. It comes with several features designed to help increase your productivity as well as the quality of your prints.
The sublimation printer has a decent paper holding tray that can hold about 250 sheets. It has amazing printing speed even when you want to print in large volumes.
NOTE: Users of the Epson EcoTank ET-4700 only use the A-Sub sublimation paper. There are lots of reviews that show just how premium the finished print looks and feels.
Epson EcoTank ET-4700 also supports borderless printing. It can also perform double-sided printing simultaneously provided you select the option.
The cost of running this printer is quite affordable. In place of the expensive ink cartridges found in most inkjet or color laser printers, the Epson EcoTank ET-4700 uses a sublimation ink tank. To give you a bit of perspective on how cheap it is to use this printer, one EcoTank sublimation ink bottle contains about 80 cartridges of ink. Now if that's not cheap, I don't know what is.
One feature we love a lot about this printer is its support for hands-free printing. Provided you use the right voice activation commands, you do not have to touch your printer to carry out printing work.
Yes! Another Epson sublimation printer. Few printers can provide the features and functionality the Epson EcoTank ET-2720 does in its price range. It is one of the best budget sublimation printers for T-shirts available on the market.
The machine is capable of handling large volume printing work. Added to the fact that it costs relatively cheap to run and maintain.
On purchase, you would be glad to know that the manufacturer includes a 2-year ink bottle refill for free.
Like most of the other Epson Printers on this guide, the Epson EcoTank ET-2720 is also powered by PrecisionCore Technology. This tech, however, means the printer can only use Original Epson ink to guarantee high-quality prints and excellent performance.
The Epson EcoTank ET-2720 does not use as much ink as other printers in its price category. It also comes with a 2-year warranty (parts and repair). The warranty is only valid provided you registered the purchase of your printer.
The first sublimation printer on the list is not from the Epson Brand. The SG500 sublimation printer is an upgrade to the older SG400 model.
To give you a standalone idea of what you are getting, here are some of its best features:
- The SG500 sublimation printer uses Ultra HD ink that provides maximum resolution prints at all times.
- On purchase, you automatically receive 220 sheets of premium sublimation paper best suitable for the Printer to help you get started.
- Powered by a simple but efficient designing software. The software has a rich database of stock designs that you can edit for your use.
- It comes with a 2-year warranty that starts counting from the day you first activated it. The warranty covers all expenses incurred while fixing any hardware defect or damage in the printer. It is worth noting that this warranty does not cover accidental damage such as the printer falling.
- It only uses original SAWGRASS ink. The use of any other ink can damage the printer and would generally lead to poor print quality.
- The SG500 printer is a Dye-sublimation printing machine. It uses 80% less ink than other inkjet printers.
As good as it all sounds, the printer sadly is not suitable for printing designs you want to transfer on a cotton T-shirt. However, any other material would work just fine.
Another thing worth mentioning is the lack of detailed technical information on how to operate the printer. You have to learn as you use it.
To be fair, there are not that many Dye-Sublimation printers on the market today. In fact, the Epson brand produced the largest percentage of the ones available. This is why Epson is regarded as the pioneer of Dye-Sublimation printers.
For a quick rundown, Dye-Sublimation printers work the same way as normal sublimations printers work. The biggest and most defining difference between the two types of sublimation printers is that one uses Dyes while the other uses Ink. The Dye-sublimation printers tend to produce more amazing results when used to print on Mousepads, mugs, and other products.
The Epson SureColor F170 lets you print at a high print resolution (around 1200 dpi). Because of this, your designs or prints tend to look more life-like on whatever material you print them on.
Powered by Epson's Precision Droplet Control technology, you do not have to worry about ink wastage. The technology ensures the printer uses less ink without any reduction in the quality of the print.
For connectivity, the Epson SureColor F170 printer lets you connect to your computer or local area network via USB, integrated Wi-Fi support, an Ethernet port.
Though not a drawback, the printer surprisingly requires constant driver update. This update is often for the color contrast.
The Epson EcoTank ET-2750 Printer is one of the best photo printers from Epson. Interestingly, it can also substitute as a sublimation printer depending on how high you adjust its printing resolution. This in turn makes the printer a useful and multi-functional one.
The main thing to note when converting this printer to one that can perform sublimation printing is its ink type. You need to use sublimation ink. Otherwise, you might as well be printing on your sublimation paper using a regular inkjet printer.
Since it is an amazing photo printer, the printer retains all its image processing features even when you convert it. You can expect smooth, sharp, and noise-free images on your T-shirts or objects after the transfer is complete.
On purchase, you can request to buy high-definition ink that would make printing on T-shirts possible and easy.
Like many other useful printers on this list, the Epson EcoTank ET-2750 printer supports a wireless connectivity option. With this, you can connect the printer to your smartphone or PC. It is also very affordable which for the features you get to enjoy looks like a steal!
The Epson Stylus C88+ Printer used to and still is a fan favorite sublimation printer. The popularity of the Stylus C88+ Printer is mostly due to its dynamic functionality and affordable market value.
NOTE: To get the best out of this printer, you need to have a heat press.
The Epson Stylus C88+ is compatible with all sublimation papers. It uses DURABrite pigment ink which is the only ink the printer supports. The ink ensures photo prints produced by this machine have vibrant and sharp colors. As a result, many professional photographers often use this printer.
It has an auto feeder so you don't have to sit with the printer all day while it printed designs for your T-shirt. You can easily proceed to transfer the image to your material or object while the next design is printing.
The printer comes with drivers compatible with both Mac and Windows PC.
Sublimation printing methods are increasingly being used by many T-shirt designers. This is due to the fact that there is a wide array of colors you can print with this technique, compared to the silkscreen method which prints only in black and white - or multicolor process printing. In addition, sublimation printing does not involve the use of ink - it is an all-digital process that simply transfers your artwork onto polyester or other fabrics.
The digital revolution has also drastically reduced the cost of sublimation printing but there are some things you must know before embarking on this kind of printing project. Also, if you want to be sure what type of fabric should be used for sublimation printing, read the tips below.
The first step is to contact a printer who specializes in digital imaging and other types of printing projects related to transfers as well as indigo dyeing/sublimation - as this involves a different process from regular sublimation. Before contacting a printer, you must start by determining the number of shirts and other garments to be printed. This is because the cost of printing depends on how many pieces will be printed as well as the size and color of each garment.
The sublimation printing process has three main steps:
In order to achieve a successful sublimation print, you must prepare your garment before transferring it. Do this by either washing and drying the piece on high heat or dry-cleaning it. This is because any kind of coating, wax, stain or other substances on the fabric may prevent your image from being transferred successfully - resulting in a poor quality print that eventually wears out after a few washes or uses.
The next step is to print your design onto a special type of paper made for sublimation printing called "sublimation transfer." This process requires digital imaging skills and experience using sophisticated computer software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop.
Once you get your hands on a transfer paper, it's time to get ready for the final step of transferring it onto your chosen T-shirt or garment. First, cut out the printed image using pinking shears to prevent fraying of the fabric. Then place it face down on your t-shirt - being careful not to put any wrinkles. Wearing gloves, use an iron set at 400 degrees Fahrenheit to press down for about 10 seconds all over the paper - ensuring that you do this carefully so as not to damage or burn your shirt due to excess heat! After heating up the entire sheet, lift it off slowly and admire your work.
What type of fabric should be used in a sublimation printing project? Here are some tips you must consider when finding the right material:
While polyester can be used in almost any application, cotton is preferred for making black and white prints only because it absorbs the dye better than other fabrics. In addition, 100% cotton will produce much sharper prints compared to other fabrics such as blends which may affect the quality of the print. Test out different types of fabrics if necessary or use a sample shirt before mass production or ordering in bulk - to make sure your design looks good in a particular material.
When it comes to the finished product, there are several things you should expect when doing digital imaging and sublimation printing projects. For instance, light colors may not appear as bright while white garments cannot have sharp contrasts using this process. As a result, design simple logos or images if necessary - so that even if they have less contrast, they still come out looking great.
There are two main types of sublimation printing techniques: 1) Direct to Garment (DTG) and 2) Heat Transfer:
DTG printers use specialized inks that are applied directly to the fabric - meaning that design doesn't have to go through an additional step of being heat transferred. This process is quite popular because it's fast, easy and provides excellent print resolution.
Using a heat press machine, you can transfer your image onto garments using this technique which involves applying pressure and/or heat to transfer inks onto different fabrics. This process is widely used for sports jerseys and uniforms.
Sublimation printing is not just any type of printing. It requires special printers specifically designed for the processes involved in the use of sublimation printers. Yes, you can try to use a regular inkjet printer. However, such a printer would not render graphics well in dye as a dye-sublimation printer would.
One important thing you do have to keep in mind is that there are only two popular brands (Epson and SAWGRASS) when it comes to sublimation printing. Any authentic printer you buy from the aforementioned brands is less likely to disappoint!
This is a bit technical. The straight answer is NO since the result of even attempting any type of printer would only make the T-shirt look terrible. That said, nothing is stopping you from experimenting with normal inkjet printers, but you were warned!
The cost of printing any material, whether it is a sublimation design on a mug or a T-shirt, depends on the efficiency of your printer's cartridge. That said most products designed through sublimation printing cost half their selling price to make. In other words, a $100 sublimation T-shirt costs around $30 to $40 to make.
Both are modern printing techniques to design T-Shirts. They both come with unique benefits and disadvantages.
The biggest difference between the two is that the sublimation printing technique tends to produce more vibrant and lifelike designs on objects or fabric materials. Especially if the object or material is brightly colored.
Cotton is one of the most common types of fabric we wear. Yet, it does not completely support sublimation printing. The designs sometimes do not have as much resolution as they should when design transfer is complete. And this is not due to bad technique or lack of quality printer. Instead, it points to the fact that sublimation ink is not readily absorbed into cotton fabric.
Because of this, polyester materials are recommended as the best material to do sublimation printing on.
Epson EcoTank ET-15000 Wireless Color All-in-One Supertank Printer with Scanner, Copier, - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Epson EcoTank ET-2720 Wireless Color All-in-One Supertank Printer with Scanner and Copier - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550 Wireless Wide-Format Color All-in-One Supertank Printer with - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Sawgrass SG500 Sublimation Printer - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Epson EcoTank ET-4760 Wireless Color All-in-One Cartridge-Free Supertank Printer with - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
WorkForce WF-7710 Wireless Wide-format Color Inkjet Printer with Copy, Scan, Fax, Wi-Fi - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
WorkForce WF-7210 Wireless Wide-format Color Inkjet Printer with Wi-Fi Direct and - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Canon® SELPHY™ CP1300 Wireless Compact Photo Printer - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Kodak Dock & Wi-Fi Portable 4x6" Instant Photo Printer, Premium Quality Full Color Prints - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Epson EcoTank ET-4700 sublimation printer - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Epson EcoTank ET-2720 printer - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
SAWGRASS SG500 Sublimation printer - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Epson EcoTank ET-2750 Wireless Printer - Walmart, Etsy, Ebay
Epson Stylus C88+ Printer - Walmart, Etsy, eBay
Sublimation printers will provide a new function to the already unique electronic paper. Being able to print a color image, a color logo or a color font, the sublimation printer will allow for an endless range of possibilities with its use
Sublimation printing is not a process you want to undertake without having the necessary equipment for it. Hopefully, you now have all the information you need from our analysis of the top 7 best sublimation printers for T-shirts and buying guide. Let's know in the comments below if you have any questions!
About Anthony Clark
Anthony Clark always had a passion for digital drawing and printing ever since he was young. He would wander around his parents' house in Phoenix, Arizona drawing various things with his older digital tablet. Be it just a memory collection or a portrayal of anything: objects, parents, school, events, etc. He received his BA in Graphic Design at San Jose State University - the heart of Silicon Valley. Now Mr. Clark is excited to present his experience coupled with some colorful dips to help shape the future of printing.