Can You Use Any Printer For Sublimation?

Sublimation printers print ink on special paper and then to fabric. You probably don’t have a sublimation printer at home, so the genuine question comes: Can I use any printer for sublimation?

In general, you cannot use any printer for sublimation unless you convert it to be suitable for sublimation printing. For instance, to convert an inkjet printer to a sublimation printer, you need to replace the old ink with the special sublimation ink.

Regular Printer

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In this article, we’ll explain about which type of printers you can convert to sublimation, the cheapest sublimation printer conversion for beginners, the overall best option, and more.

We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of getting a sublimation printer verse changing an inkjet printer to a sublimation one. Enjoy!

What Is Sublimation?

Technically, in sublimation a chemical compound transitions directly from a solid-state to a vapor, resulting in the fusion of materials through heat.

Sublimation printing uses heat and pressure to transfer chemical inks to the desired surface. The process is unique in that the substances never pass through the liquid stage of existence.

Frost is an example of this occurring naturally, as frost bypasses the water state.

To get further information on this check out the ultimate guide to sublimation printing.

What Do You Need To Do Sublimation Printing?

Printing by sublimation requires special gears. The amount and the cost of the equipment can scare away hobbyists. Still, technological advancements have made the required gear accessible to most crafters.

Here’s a quick overview about the tools required for Sublimation printing:

  • Sublimation Paper
  • Heat-press tool or transfer system
  • A Sublimation printer with sublimation inks
  • Heat resistant tape and adhesives (to keep your design in place during adherence
  • A design
  • Materials that work well with sublimation (ceramics, high-heat plastics, polymer-coated products)

The specific tools you select will depend on the shape or product you are transferring your design to and the type of scale.

To get detailed insights about the budget expectations of sublimation printers, head over to this guide on how much sublimation printers cost.

The Sublimation Printing Process

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Any method requires practice to refine, but in general, the sublimation printing process will follow these steps:

  • A user creates a design in software that communicates with a sublimation printer.
  • When the user sends the print instruction, a sublimation printer prints the design onto sublimation paper.
  • The sublimation paper (transfer paper) gets strategically placed on a textile or product.
  • A heat transfer press or process applies the design to the material.
  • Once applied, the paper backing gets removed, and the design remains on the textile or product.

Poorly applied designs can leave white marks where creases form, and odd patterns due to poor adhesion. Products can also burn if the heat applicator is too hot, causing the operator to lose time, money, and materials.

Industrial Dye Sublimation Printer. Printing industry.

Can You Use Any Printer for Sublimation Printing?

The quick answer is no, because not all printers use the same print method or ink chemistry. Sublimation printing requires a dedicated sublimation printer, or a standard laser or inkjet printer converted for sublimation printing. 

Even within inkjet and laser printers, you must select the printers with the right technology to perform the conversion. Check out this guide on the use of laser printer for sublimation printing and the use of inkjet printer for sublimation printing to learn more.

What Inkjet Printers Are Suitable For Sublimation Printing?

Inkjet printers uses one of two types of printer heads, Piezoelectric or thermal. Only one type works for sublimation printing:

Piezoelectric Printhead. Electric charges and microscopic piezoelectric elements force precise ink amounts onto the piezoelectric printhead. Common piezoelectric elements are ceramics and crystals, allowing precise control over the ink through using spherical ink droplets.

Thermal Printhead. A thermal printhead uses heat instead of electricity to force ink from the nozzle. Afterwards, the intense heat vaporizes the ink and creates a bubble that expands until it bursts. A quick cooling chamber allows for rapid replication of the process.

Only inkjet printers with piezoelectric printheads can be converted for sublimation printing. That’s because the heat generated in thermal printheads may interfere with the performance of the sublimation ink. Therefore, check with your manufacturer for the printhead type before performing any conversion work.

For further information on this topic, check out this guide on the best inkjet sublimation printers.

What Are Inkjet Printer Brands Suitable For Sublimation?

Epson and Sawgrass printers are commonly converted for sublimation. Any printer using a thermal heat process to transfer the ink won’t work for sublimation conversions. 

Inkjet Printer for Sublimation

Quick Spi explains that while many printer brands (including HP, Canon, and Brother) sell sublimation printers, they don’t sell anything that can be converted. 

Consider some Epson models if you want to convert a printer to sublimation. If you just want a small inkjet-based printer for sublimation right away, use a Sawgrass printer instead.


The Sawgrass brand has printers specifically made for sublimation. Sawgrass printer models suit a range of needs and budgets. 

When you Purchase a Sawgrass sublimation printer, you also get appropriate software and hardware to get started right away instead of installing additional drivers or ink cartridges.

Sawgrass Virtuoso SG400Sawgrass Virtuoso SG500Sawgrass VirtuosoSG800Sawgrass
Virtuoso SG1000
Price RangeMid-RangeMid-RangePremiumPremium
Recommended UseSmall Business or Serious CrafterSmall Business or Serious CrafterBusiness or Larger ScaleBusiness or Larger Scale
Max Media Size8..5” x 14”8..5” x 14”13” x 19”13” x 19”

Print Speed

82 Prints/Hour

82 Prints/Hour

69 Prints/Hour

69 Prints/Hour

Ink Delivery System

High Capacity Cartridges

High Capacity Cartridges

High Capacity Cartridges

High Capacity Cartridges
Bulk SystemNoNoNoNo
Media Tray Capacity250 Sheets250 Sheets250 Sheets250 Sheets
Max Resolution600 x 600 dpi600 x 600 dpi600 x 600 dpi600 x 600 dpi
WiFi CapableNoYesYesYes
Color Management SystemPowerDriver for Windows, MacProfilePowerDriver for Windows, MacProfilePowerDriver for Windows, MacProfilePowerDriver for Windows, MacProfile


Epson has introduced sublimation-capable printers and still has the wide-width print options that desktop Epsons provide. Epson also offers desktop printers that include a roll-fed sheet stock as part of their standard equipment.

These printers can be converted for sublimation printing by changing the ink – using a sublimation ink instead of standard inkjet printer ink.

Epson Stylus C88+ Inkjet PrinterEpson EcoTank ET-15000Epson EcoTank ET-2720WorkForce WF-7710
Price RangeBudgetMid-RangeMid-RangePremium
Recommended UseHome UseSmall Business or Serious CrafterSmall Business or Serious CrafterBusiness or Larger Scale
Max Media Size8.5” x 44”13” x 19”8.5” x 14”13” x 19”
Print Speed Max330 Prints/Hour1020 Pages/Hour600 Pages/Hour1080 Pages/Hour
Ink Delivery SystemStandard Capacity CartridgesInk TankInk TankCartridge
Bulk SystemYesNoNoNo
Media Tray Capacity120 Sheets250 Sheets250 Sheets250 Sheets
Max Resolution5760 x 1440 dpi5760 x 1440 dpi5760 x 1440 dpi5760 x 1440 dpi
WiFi CapableNoYesYesYes
Color Management SystemPowerDriver for WindowsPowerDriver for WindowsPowerDriver for WindowsPowerDriver for Windows

You can convert many other Epson units to sublimation. However, these are the most notable competitors. The following sections will also detail the best and cheapest printer to convert to sublimation. 

How To Choose a Sublimation Printer

Which printer you should choose depends on your needs. If you want to print casually, you will need a different printer style than someone looking to begin a big commercial operation.

Maintenance Requirement. Users should print sublimation printers at least once weekly to maintain the ink nozzles. If they get clogged or dry up, cleaning may be necessary before being used again.

Print Size. Sublimation printers can print up to 13″ by 19″ on a desktop. Large format printers can print using rolls up to 104″ in width. Consider what you plan to apply your print for the best printer selection.

Print Volume Requirements. If you are producing a single unit at a time with no time pressures, a small printer with standard sublimation ink cartridges could suit your needs. If you continuously look for a large print scale, bag, or tank style printers would better suit your volume requirements.

Budget. Sublimation printing can be an expensive process to begin. Understanding your goals and how they align with your budget can ensure that you select suitable types of products and materials, which ultimately saves on costs. If your budget is limited now, it might be wise to limit your project types and sizes until your business or budget can manage it. 


Standard Inkjet Printer

What Is the Cheapest Printer You Can Convert to Sublimation?

The cheapest model you can convert to sublimation is the Epson ET-2720. An excellent sublimation printer, it costs very little. It features borderless printing, plenty of ink, and CDs to teach beginners how to use it. It comes with a two-year warranty.

Here are the specs of the Epson ET-2720:

  • 1.44-inch colored display
  • WiFi, USB, and Ethernet compatibility
  • Smartphone connectivity
  • Multiple sheet sizes ranging from a borderless 4″ x 6″ to 8.5″ x 47.2″
  • High-resolution scanner for accurate, pinpoint printing and sublimation
  • 13.7 x 14.8 x 8.7-inch dimensions
  • Prints up to 10 pages per minute
  • Available in black or white

As you can see, this printer has a lot for such a low-cost. It can be converted to sublimation by simply switching the ink before using it. It’s always easier to convert a printer to sublimation when it’s brand-new, since you don’t have to clean the old ink out of it.

If you want to see the best printer for sublimation conversion, read on.

What Is The Best Printer To Convert For Sublimation?

The best printer to convert for sublimation is the Epson ET-15000, as it has quick connectivity for instant conversions. It also has a wide display and compatibility with your favorite smart devices.

Here’s a list of the specs on the Epson ET-15000:

  • 2.7-inch colored display
  • WiFi, USB, and Ethernet compatibility
  • Smartphone, tablet, and computer connectivity
  • Sheet sizes that range between 8.5″ x 11″ to 13″ x 19″ (also includes borderless printing)
  • Premium resolution scanning that’s the best among sublimation conversion printers
  • 19.6 x 29.6 x 14.3-inch dimensions
  • Prints up to 17 pages per minute

While we think of this as the best choice on the market to convert for sublimation, Epson has a massive EcoTank lineup with dozens of choices. You can convert anything in the ET lineup to sublimation, so feel free to find the one that suits your needs and sticks to your budget.

That being said, some people prefer buying a pre-converted sublimation printer. Review the comparisons below if you do not want to worry about the conversion process or buying a kit.

Sublimation Printer vs. Conversion Kit

A sublimation printer usually costs more because the maker has already done the work. Essentially, using a conversion kit lets you choose the ink while keeping your favorite printer. There are more sublimation printer options than convertible printers, though.

People choose sublimation printers over a conversion kit because they don’t have to clean the heads and switch the ink. On top of that, not all printers can be converted to sublimation.

Many people prefer conversion kits, though. The kits let you choose a regular printer to change and save plenty of money, and the conversion process only takes a few minutes.

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Speaking of the sublimation printers, you might also be interested in learning about the difference between sublimation printers and inkjet printers.

Can You Adhere Sublimation Prints To Anything?

The technology has come far, but it still has problems in the science of the chemical sublimation process.

Polymer coating allows ink to enter the material when the ink is in its gaseous state, but makers can apply a layer when a surface does not have what sublimation inks need to work.

Materials Good for Sublimation Printing:

For the ink to adhere to a fabric product, it needs to have a polymer surface like polyester, nylon spandex, or lycra. You usually need to add a polymer coating to solid materials like wood.

Plastics provide an ideal surface for sublimation, provided they can stand up to the heat required. Ceramics and materials with a polymer coating are excellent sublimation surfaces.

Materials Bad for Sublimation Printing:

Any materials without a polymer or polymer coating will resist the sublimation process. Cotton without a spandex or polyester mix will fail your designs.

Other heat press transfer methods may be ideal for materials like a cotton shirt. Sublimation printing does not work if you aim to adhere a design to a natural material like wood, wool, or cotton.

Mug Printed in Sublimation

What Is The Difference Between Sublimation vs. Heat Transfer?

Sublimation might start to sound a lot like a “heat transfer,” but they differ in how the printed image adheres to the material. Undoubtedly, the difference can be confusing because both methods use heat and pressure to transfer designs.

Heat transfer uses heat and pressure to apply a layer of product to a material, which is why you can use any fabric material able to stand up to heat. However, heat transfer materials can be sensitive to hot washing, drying, or ironing, especially if the ink or paper is low-quality.

Sublimation is a chemical process and requires materials that can chemically bind with the inks, dying the fabric permanently instead of layering materials. Polymer or polymer-coated materials are best for the sublimation process. 

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