A sublimation printer can be a great way to bring your crafting business into the mainstream and turn your hobby into a small business. Or, maybe you have a good idea you’d like to place on a t-shirt or mug and market as a side hustle. Because these aren’t the printers you’d use daily, you’re probably wondering about the best sublimation printers for beginners.
Sublimation Printers: Business In a Box
Regardless of your medium or inspiration, a sublimation printer could be one of the best investments you could make for your artistic endeavors. You could almost consider it a business in a box if you’re using it for profit. If your goal is to use the printer to profit, all you need is the printer, your ink, and the materials you’d like to transfer your design to, and you’re all set.
However, you need a little artistic talent to dream of bringing your ideas to life. The ways you can use a sublimation printer are only limited by your imagination. The truth is, you can use these handy printers to transfer your creations onto a whole number of different items:
- And much more
If you’ve decided to take the leap and purchase a sublimation printer, you’ll need to have a few things set in stone first. Initially, the most crucial element that should go into your purchase is how much volume you’re expecting.
When you’re completely new to sublimation printing and your venture is in its fledgling stage, you’re probably not going to want to break the bank on the top-of-the-line printer. As a beginner, it’s a good idea to get something of a good quality that could be a little easier on the budget.
After you get familiar with the process and begin ramping up your production, you can think about something higher later. It’s understandable if you’re confused or even a little overwhelmed – there are A LOT of options.
Luckily, this guide should help point you in the right direction as to which printer might be the best for your startup journey. Follow along, and we’ll show you the top sublimation printers best suited for beginners.
The Best Sublimation Printers for Beginners
One thing should be noted before looking for the best sublimation printers. When scouting the internet looking for the best beginner sublimation printer, read the specs to know what you’re purchasing.
There are some differences between dye sublimation and the heat transfer process. The direct contrast is that dye sublimation soaks the ink into the surface using sublimation paper. Heat-transferring uses heat transfer paper, allowing your design to bond to the top of the surface of your material.
Dye sublimation is slightly different and doesn’t require the press because you’re technically not using the heat transfer technology. For dye-sublimation, all that’s needed is flat, firm pressure for about 60-seconds.
Each type has unique advantages, but dye sublimation is typically best for beginners. Depending on your requirements and the surface’s texture and color, one may be better than the other after you get some experience under your belt.
1. Sawgrass 1000 Sublimation Printer
The Sawgrass 1000 is an excellent printer available through the Subli line of the company. Sawgrass has long been considered the superior organization in sublimation printing. They specialize solely in the sublimation discipline, so their products usually come with more advantages, such as:
- Extended warranties
- Great tech support
- Included design studios
- Plug and play capabilities
- Free video tutorials
However, many beginners skip Sawgrass printers because of the price tag. The reality is that the price of these printers reflects their additional benefits, which cater to the needs of a novice user.
This model of Sawgrass sublimation printer uses Sublijet ink, which is superior to other brands. In addition, you’ll also have the option of using unique transfer sheets that make printing on lighter cotton possible.
Many beginning users choose the Sawgrass 500, an excellent printer we cover in our list. However, the 1000 is superior to the 500 in an important category – size capabilities.
The 500 only allows you to print onto 8.5 x 14 paper or 8.5 x 21 if you add a bypass tray. The 1000 will enable you to print onto an 11 x 17-sized without no extra help. If you include the bypass tray, you’ll extend your capabilities to 13 x 19.
The Sawgrass 1000 requires a bit larger budget, so you’ll need to weigh your options. If you print onto larger surfaces or have a slight background in sublimation printers, the 1000 could be great for beginners with higher volume requirements.
Multiple items are much better suited for the capabilities of a printer like the Sawgrass 1000. If you see yourself printing onto items like blankets, pillow cases, large-sized clothing, full-sized flags, garden flags, or other sizeable items, the Sawgrass 1000 is likely the most efficient
2. The Sawgrass Virtuoso 500
Sticking with the Sawgrass theme, this is the 500 model we mentioned above. The Sawgrass Virtuoso 500 is the sequel to the SG400, which was the initial beginner’s offering from the manufacturer.
As usual, this Sawgrass product comes with a two-year warranty, which is typical of their printers. Since its release, the Sawgrass 500 has received favorable reviews.
This Sawgrass model is usually the default beginner product from the company and a steppingstone to the Sawgrass 1000. However, we still consider the 1000 a better beginner printer because of all the additions that come with it.
If you’re on a budget and can’t quite fork over the money for 1000, the 500 is a great backup option. Alternatively, if you plan on solely printing onto surfaces smaller than an 8.5 x 14, the 500 is the best printer for your needs and an excellent way to save money even if you can afford the 1000.
For users who plan on putting their artwork onto things like mugs, keychains, hair items, children’s clothing, business cards, jewelry, phone grips, and phone cases, the 500 is right up your alley. Technically, you could do larger designs with the Sawgrass 500 if you decided to take the occasional large-item order. However, it can be a pain – you’ve been warned.
The trick to printing onto larger pieces is to use additional amounts of sublimation paper. You’ll need to tape them together to create a larger surface for transferring your images, which might take some practice.
Or, you could stick to items like coasters, mousepads, and bookmarks. Using the 500 allows you to carve out your niche using these smaller items, which cater to the beginner since they’re much easier to transfer your designs to.
3. The Epson Workforce 7710
The Epson Workforce 7710 handles everything a beginner would need for a sublimation printer and was the most budget-friendly at one point. However, Epson discontinued this model, but you can still find plenty available. The price is increased because of its exclusivity, which is a testament to the quality of this fantastic printer.
This printer is the prequel to the 7720, which is next on the list. There isn’t much difference between the two except that the 7720 has an additional paper tray and can hold 250 sheets of paper.
One of the perks of this model is the fact that you can print onto blanks of 13 x 19, which isn’t possible with the Sawgrass beginner models unless you do some configuration (taping). This gives beginning users more advantages regarding the size of products they can add to their offerings.
Remember, you’ll need to swap out paper sizes when you use these for varying jobs. It’s important you don’t waste space, so it’s wise to use one size smaller if you’re printing things like coasters compared to flags or something more extensive.
In addition, when it’s time to clean the nozzles on these printers, make sure you remove the sublimation paper and insert regular copy paper. There’s no need to waste the higher-priced sublimation paper on cleaning and testing.
4. Epson Workforce 7720
The Epson Workforce 7720 was the sequel to the 7710. Like its older brother, the 7720 is also discontinued for new production, but you can find them readily available online.
Again, the perk of the 7720 model is its ability to print on larger sheets of sublimation paper. Another advantage includes the dual trays, which give users several benefits.
The first and most obvious is that you can generally hold more paper. Second, you can load regular paper in one tray and sublimation paper in the other.
This allows you to print on two different mediums and use this printer as an office and a printer for your designs. In addition, you won’t have to bother with changing paper out when you clean the heads and do a test run, assuming you have regular paper loaded into one of the trays.
One important thing to remember about Epson printers is that they’re not exclusively made for sublimation; they can provide this as an option. You’ll need to buy refillable ink cartridges and a sublimation ink kit.
It’s not a complicated process to make this transition. You fill your reusable cartridges with the sublimation ink and reinsert them into your printer, load your sublimation paper, and you’re good to go.
5. Epson EcoTank 2720
The Epson EcoTank 2720 is a superb beginner-friendly sublimation printer at a great price with an easy-to-use interface. This model can print on 8.5 x 14, so for anything more significant, you’ll have to do some makeshift taping as described above.
What sets the EcoTank models apart from the Epson printers listed above? The EcoTank series is slightly more convenient because you aren’t required to buy refillable ink cartridges – these Epson cartridges are compatible with sublimation ink.
You’ll need to buy the sublimation ink and pour this into your Epson cartridges instead of the included pigmented ink. The addition of the compatibility for sublimation ink makes the EcoTank more convenient and less confusing for a new user.
Another great benefit of printers like the Epson EcoTank is the ability to shift back to using it for a standard printer. If you decide that sublimation printing isn’t your bag, you can still use this printer for general s and office jobs.
6. Epson EcoTank ET-15000
The Epson EcoTank ET-15000 is currently one of the most popular sublimation printers. Again, it’s an all-in-one model, so you’ll be able to use it with dye sublimation and for inkjet office purposes.
The touchscreen interface is easy for beginners to navigate, and this printer is known for having a long shelf-life, much like other Epson printers. The Epson durability makes up for the fact that, unlike the Sawtooth model, they don’t come with an extended warranty.
This printer also works with WiFi and provides some of the fastest printing speeds. The compatible devices for this model include laptops and desktop models.
The best thing about this Epson model is the quality of the printed images. Although it’s a beginner-friendly printer, you wouldn’t know it from the laser-sharp images it produces.
With the EcoTank ET-15000, you’ll be completing your jobs like a veteran in the printing business. In our opinion, this model should be reserved for the more artistic entrepreneurs or beginners that are 100% dedicated to their printing business.
The ET-15000 requires a bit more of an investment, but you’ll understand where the additional money went when you begin printing. There’s no questioning that with this model, you get what you pay for.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Sublimation Printing
If you’re considering getting into the custom printing business, there are multiple advantages of using sublimation printing. As with any venture, there are a few possible roadblocks you should know about and prepare for so you can mitigate any challenges.
- You can use multiple mediums when you use sublimation printers. Almost nothing is off-limits, including cups, T-shirts, flags, plates, and other items.
- These printers are incredibly easy to use, making them an excellent choice for any beginner looking to start a custom-printing side hustle or any other small business in the printing or design sector.
- One of the main advantages is that you can use any color. This significantly expands what you’re able to offer your customers, which is essential.
- There’s also a wide range of price points available to cater to nearly any budget. This allows you to test the waters and start on the lower end if you’re not sure you’re 100% committed. Alternatively, when you’re ready to step up, you can increase your quality and capabilities by selecting a more robust model.
- The print also ends up dry after you’re finished. This eliminates things like smudging or blurring if you mishandle the print or it moves a bit during the transfer process.
- The items that you print on work better if they’re white or a lighter color.
- After longer uses, some of the items may fade due to normal wear and tear.
- Depending on your chosen model, you could be limited in print size. However, as described above, this can be worked around by purchasing a model with more extensive printing capabilities or construction sheets by taping.
There are far more advantages than disadvantages to sublimation printing. In addition, any of the potential disadvantages have a workaround that allows you to easily avoid them.
Now, what about the two primary companies in the sublimation printing business? Which one is better?
Which Sublimation Printer is Better for Beginners: Epson vs. Sawgrass
Let’s discuss who the better manufacturer is in the sublimation printing business. Each company has its pros and cons that any new user must weigh.
Epson printers are known for their durability and being one of the most well-made machines in the industry. However, if you’re not careful, you could run into problems if you don’t select the right model.
If you make the mistake of purchasing a model like the Epson 7100 or similar, attempting to use the sublimation ink with refillable cartridges may seriously compromise the quality of your images.
One of the advantages of Epson is the fact that they’re a familiar brand of printer. This means any replacement parts of cleaning materials you need are easy to find.
The quality of most Epson models is also top-notch, and the quality increases with the more you spend. That said, plenty of models available provide beginning users with enough versatility to fit most budgets.
The Sawgrass brand provides printers manufactured strictly for the sublimation printing industry. These printers come in various models and price points, but we’re still convinced the two in this article are the best for beginners.
Sawgrass printers provide unique prints and surprisingly vibrant colors. You’ll also be able to print on larger surfaces with most models, which is excellent for a beginner who wants versatility.
Where Sawgrass truly stands out is its additional features. You get a dedicated customer service team that’s always available and highly knowledgeable.
In addition, there’s usually some type of studio included with their products. Beginners also have the advantage of viewing their tutorial videos, which can be a lifesaver if you hit a roadblock.
So, what should beginners look for when shopping for sublimation printers? It’s important to know what to keep your eye out for so you don’t end up with something that underserves or goes beyond your budget. Finding a happy medium is important, and this short guide will help.
When it comes to printers and electronics, you always get what you pay for. If you want to use your sublimation printer to provide a retail service, we assume you want high quality. Heavily scrutinize the image quality of any printer that you purchase. Pay close attention to the details to ensure that the transfer will give you a quality worth selling.
The Size of Your Printer
This is an extremely overlooked attribute when it comes to sublimation printers. It might not seem like a big deal now, but when you’re working with limited counter space in your home office, that additional inch or two can make a huge difference.
Connectivity is also overlooked during the buying process. If you choose an older model, you’ll probably need a cable for your connection. Keep in mind the different ways this might limit you. However, if you purchase anything made within the last couple of years, you’ll probably have Bluetooth capabilities, which can be highly beneficial.
When looking for the best sublimation printer for beginners, weighing all your options is important. Consider your space, needs, capabilities, volume, and customer demographic.
The more elements you consider when making your purchase, the greater the odds of your satisfaction with your new printer.
The Best Sublimation Printer for Beginners FAQs
What is the easiest printer to convert to sublimation?
Technically, because Epson is still considered an officer printer, this is the easiest brand to convert to sublimation. At the most, all it takes is a refillable ink cartridge and sublimation ink. Otherwise, all you need is the ink itself.
What printer is best to use for sublimation printing?
This depends on your needs. However, the best two models are Sawgrass and Epson.
What printers can I convert to sublimation?
Nearly any Epson model can be converted for sublimation use.
Can you print sublimation on any printer?
No, not every printer is compatible with sublimation. You must research and ensure the machine is compatible with sublimation ink.
Lori Ballen is a real estate agent in Las Vegas. She’s a digital marketing specialist, speaker, and marketing coach and loves to share her “Ballen Method” to generate website traffic and leads online. Lori’s specialties are SEO content writing (ranking on the search engines), social media strategies, and affiliate marketing. Need a website? Contact Lori’s brothers Jeff and Paul Helvin at Ballen Brands.