Most of us know that to perform sublimation printing, you need to print your design on a piece of sublimation paper and then heat transfer it to your substrate or surface of choice. However, what sort of printer can you use? Can you put sublimation paper in any printer?
You can use sublimation paper to print with sublimation printers or regular inkjet printers that have been converted to use sublimation inks. It cannot work with just any laser or inkjet printer that uses regular ink. Using sublimation paper with regular inkjet ink or laser toner usually results in printouts that may smear.
This article will discuss the differences between regular and sublimation papers, the kinds of printers you can use with sublimation papers, and explore how to make your present inkjet printers compatible with sublimation papers.
How Does Sublimation Paper Differ from Regular Paper?
Sublimation paper differs from regular paper in that it has a special coating that can hold onto sublimation ink. Some sublimation paper may also be thicker than regular copier paper. However, the coating cannot work with regular inkjet ink or laser toner. It is also more expensive than regular copier paper.
Layers: Regular copy papers are simple. They are basically tree pulps, bleached, and then pressed into thin sheets of paper. There are no additional layers or treatments applied to it.
Sublimation papers are commonly regular copier papers made slightly thicker, with an additional layer of coating on top. This coating on top helps the paper to absorb sublimation ink. It is commonly made of about 35% silica and 5% binder when dry.
Thickness/Weight: Since sublimation papers have additional layers, it is often thicker and heavier than regular copier paper. When shopping for regular copier paper, you often see them in either 70 or 80GSM (gram per square meter). With sublimation paper, however, most will range around 110-130GSM.
Suitability with Inks: Regular copier papers can work with many types of inks. These papers work well for printer inks, toners, and inks from pens and markers. As a result, regular copier paper is a staple in many offices and households worldwide.
Due to the special coating, the sublimation paper can only work well with sublimation ink. You may not get a good result with other inks, especially compared to regular copier paper. This is because it is not designed to absorb regular ink.
Suitability with Printers: Regular copier papers can work with all types of printers, from a laser and inkjet to even the classic dot-matrix printer. However, sublimation paper can only work with dye-sublimation printers or regular inkjet printers with piezoelectric printhead technology that runs sublimation ink.
Difference Between Sublimation Paper and Regular Paper
|Regular Copier Paper||Characteristics||Sublimation Paper|
|Single layer||Layers||Paper with an additional layer of coating|
|Thinner and lighter||Thickness/Weight||Thicker and heavier|
|Works well with almost all ink, but not sublimation ink||Suitability WIth Inks||Works well with only sublimation ink|
|Works well with almost all ink, but not printers with sublimation ink||Suitability WIth Printers||Works well with printers using sublimation ink only|
What Printers Can Work With Sublimation Paper?
In general, sublimation papers are intended to work with sublimation printers or inkjet printers that use sublimation inks. You can’t use sublimation paper in laser printers or inkjet printers that use regular inkjet ink. You can’t put it in dot-matrix printers either.
Sublimation papers work best with dedicated sublimation printers such as an Epson SureColor F170 or Sawgrass Virtuoso SG500. The manufacturers design and build them specifically to use sublimation ink and sublimation papers.
You can use sublimation paper in regular inkjet printers, but only if the printers use piezoelectric technology and only after converting them for sublimation printing.
You convert the printer by simply changing the regular ink used in the printer into sublimation ink.
Sublimation paper does not work with any inkjet printers that use regular ink. This is because sublimation paper requires sublimation ink, which has a different chemical makeup than regular ink.
You will get excellent printouts and great sublimation results with both printers, although printers originally designed for the purpose have certain advantages.
Production is faster, and your images may have clearer, more defined edges and lines.
Although you can switch a laser printer’s ink to sublimation ink, you can’t do the same with laser printers.
Sublimation paper also does not work with laser printers., because laser printers do not use liquid-based ink but toner, which is usually in a dry powdered form. As a result, toners have no way to not adhere well to sublimation paper.
If you’re looking to learn more about sublimation papers to pick the best one for your needs, check out our guide on the best sublimation papers.
Why Can’t Sublimation Paper Work With Regular Printer Ink?
Sublimation papers differ from regular printer ink because their chemistry works with special inks and papers. As a result, sublimation paper cannot absorb and retain regular printer ink like regular copier paper can.
Sublimation papers take and hold onto sublimation ink as they print. The ink usually transfers to and bonds with a substrate (print surface), a process commonly known as sublimation.
A sheet of sublimation paper is different from your regular copier paper. The printed surface of sublimation paper contains a special layer of about 35% silica and 5% binder, which takes, holds, and retains sublimation ink as the ink is printed on it.
Sublimation ink also has a different chemical makeup than regular inkjet printer ink.
The suppliers designed the ink specifically for the sublimation process, where once it’s heated, the solid ink turns into gas and binds to polymeric materials.
Regular inkjet printer ink works differently than sublimation ink. The regular copier paper absorbs this kind of ink rapidly, creating a permanently printed piece.
Regular printer ink is also non-sublimable, meaning it does not turn into gas when heated and doesn’t bond with the print surface. So, sublimation paper and regular inkjet printer ink are incompatible with one another.
If you try to print on sublimation paper using regular ink, chances are you will get a terrible print result. You may also get a nice printout initially, but the ink smears immediately upon contact.
You get these results because regular inkjet printer ink cannot penetrate and be absorbed by sublimation paper.
Can Sublimation Paper Work With Laser Printer?
You can’t use sublimation paper with laser printers as it can’t hold onto laser toners. Attempting to print with a laser printer using sublimation paper may result in initial print results that look good but smear immediately upon coming into contact with anything.
Laser printers use negative and positive charges to attract dry powdered toners to the paper. It is designed to work best with regular copier paper. You probably won’t get the results you want if you print using a laser printer with sublimation paper.
However, you can, in fact, perform sublimation printing with a laser printer. The approach and process are very different from with inkjet printers.
You only need special sublimation toners to print your design on regular copier paper instead. You then heat transfer the print design onto your substrate (print surface) of choice using a heat press. Learn more about using laser printers for sublimation printing.
Will Regular Printer Ink Stick to Sublimation Paper?
Regular printer ink will not stick to sublimation paper, as it is designed to be absorbed by regular paper. The special coating on sublimation paper is designed for sublimation ink. As a result, the printout may smear immediately or upon contact.
Regular printer ink is designed to work with regular copier paper. Once printed onto the paper surface, the paper will absorb and hold onto the ink.
However, this process does not happen with sublimation paper, as the special coating does not absorb nor hold onto regular printer ink.
As a result, your printing may smear immediately as the printhead runs through your print.
Even if they do not smear immediately, the printout will come out from your printer with its ink on the paper surface and may smear upon contact.
Speaking of sublimation printing, you may also wonder if it’s possible to redo a sublimation project on the same substrate. So check out this guide on can you sublimate over sublimation for further information on this topic.
What Will Happen If I Use Sublimation Paper in the Wrong Printer?
If you use sublimation paper in the wrong printer, the paper will not be able to absorb or hold on to the ink. Your printout may either be dissimilar to your design, or the printout may appear well but may smear upon contact.
Regular inkjet printer with inkjet ink works with regular copier paper. The moment the ink squirts onto the paper surface, it is absorbed by the paper, helping the ink to remain on the paper and not smear.
However, if you use sublimation paper, the specially coated surface may not absorb regular inkjet ink since the coating is designed to hold onto sublimation ink.
As a result, the ink stays on top of the coating, unabsorbed. This means the ink may easily smear upon contact since it remains on the surface.
If fed into a laser printer, the toner may also have problems sticking to the coating on the sublimation paper. Similar to printing with regular inkjet ink, the toner may smear the moment it comes into contact.
How To Convert a Printer to Work with Sublimation Paper?
You can only convert a regular inkjet printer that has a piezoelectric printhead to work with sublimation paper. Start by removing old ink inside the printer and replacing it with sublimation ink. You then perform deep printhead cleaning to remove any old ink residue.
If you intend to convert an inkjet printer to work with sublimation paper, first make sure it employs piezo technology rather than thermal. If you are unsure, consult with your salesman.
It may also help to convert a brand-new printer because then you can remove old ink, which can be a hassle.
If you intend to convert an inkjet printer to work with sublimation paper, first make sure it uses piezo technology rather than thermal. And if you’re unsure whether sublimation ink can be used for regular printing, check out our guide.
Starting with a clean printer also reduces the likelihood of ink contamination, which may affect print results.
If you are going to get a new printer, we recommend the Epson EcoTank ET2720. It’s the cheapest inkjet printer with a piezoelectric printhead, and it also comes with external ink tanks.
The external ink tanks make the conversion and future refilling process much more manageable.
If you’re thinking about diving into the world of sublimation printing, you may be wondering about the costs involved. You can find detailed information on how much a sublimation printer costs to plan your budget more effectively.
Starting with a New Printer
Once you unbox your printer, fill the external tank with sublimation ink before turning the printer on.
During the process, be sure you’re using the correct ink color in each of the tanks. Fill up to a quarter of the tank with ink. Allow the printer some time to set up after turning it on.
Most printers with external tanks will begin pulling ink from the tanks to fill the tubes and internal cartridges.
Connect the printer to your computer and perform printhead cleaning. This ensures the printheads unclog and prime to print out excellent designs for you. The cleaning process will use some ink., so consider adding more ink to the external tank if the ink level has dipped too low.
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