What Printer Can I Use for Sublimation?

If you’ve wanted to incorporate sublimation printing into your art or small business, you’ve probably already started looking into which sublimation printer will be the best option. The best sublimation printer for you will depend on what you will be using it for: Whether that be for crafts at home or in bulk for your business.

Some brands of printers allow you to easily convert an inkjet printer into a sublimation printer.

What Is Sublimation Printing? 

Heat is used in sublimation printing to fuse the ink into the paper or fabric. A pattern is first printed on special sublimation paper. When heat is applied to the inks, they transform into gas and then combine with the cloth to create a permanent print. 

Since the ink is embedded in the paper or base rather than merely lying on top like a regular print, the results are lasting and less likely to fade. The heat expands the pores in the fabric, and when the ink cools down it turns back into a solid-state through the applied pressure. The end product is a full-color, permanent picture that won’t peel, crack, or wash off the surface. 

The method helps the ink to transition from a solid-state to a gas state without becoming a liquid, similar to how dry ice works. The heat from the printer initiates the conversion, which is then regulated by pressure.  For smaller batch orders and designs that depend on intricate detail, this fast and accurate digital printing process is gaining popularity. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about sublimation printing and the process behind it check out our article: ‘What is sublimation printing?’.

Can You Use a Regular Printer for Sublimation? 

Much of the time, printing technology determines whether a printer can provide sublimation transfers through heat press applications. Thermal processing or Piezo technology are used in sublimation printers. Sublimation ink does not work in thermal printers whereas Piezo printers can use sublimation ink as they use pressure as opposed to heat. Can you use sublimation ink for regular printer? The short answer is no, for more info read our other article.

Can you use HP Printers for Sublimation?

HP printer for sublimation

Unfortunately, you cannot convert your HP home printer or office printer into a sublimation printer as most HP printers available use a thermal heat method to spread the ink onto the paper meaning the special sublimation ink would not be compatible. Although you cannot convert your home HP into a sublimation printer,

HP does have a model line that supports both UV ink and sublimation. However, these models are massive, costly industrial printers designed explicitly for the job.

Can you use Brother Printers for Sublimation?

Brother printer for sublimation

Most Brother printers are equipped with Piezo which is a pressure printing technology. This means that technically Brother printers are compatible with the process of sublimation printing. However, the more significant issue with Brother is that no one makes sublimation ink or replaceable cartridges for their printers.

Since you can’t set up ink profiles, the printing quality suffers significantly which is not what you want when it comes to sublimation printing.

Can you use Canon Printers for Sublimation?

Canon printer for sublimation

Office Canon printers are also unable to be converted to sublimation printers. As well as the HP printers, they print using heat, which is incompatible with sublimation ink.

Canon does however have a range of printers that have the ability to sublimate images onto transparent film using built-in sublimation heaters. They won’t let you put paper in and print sublimation prints.

Can you use Epson Printers for Sublimation?

Epson printer for sublimation

Piezo print technology is used in every Epson printer, giving them the ability to be easily converted. Epson doesn’t market their standard office printer as a sublimation printer as they also produce sublimation-specific printers. Due to this, you will not receive any software help or warranty if you decide to use sublimation ink with your Epson standard printer. 

Converting your Epson printer:

Converting Epson Printer for sublimation printing Infographic

Conclusion

The majority of standard home printers can’t be converted into sublimation printers. Since HP and Canon printers don’t use Piezo technology they are out of the question. While Brother printers do use Piezo technology, they haven’t caught on with ink manufacturers and therefore there are no printing profiles available. 

Until you need to create something that looks great on paper, you’ve probably never considered printing profiles. Printing profiles allow for closer color matching from screen to print output. If you don’t use a printing profile the results are hazy and off-color. Due to Epson’s use of Piezo technology they are the preferred choice when it comes to sublimation printing. Several ink manufacturers have also developed compatible sublimation inks with excellent color profiles. 

Note that if you want to convert your office printer you must purchase sublimation ink as it is not included in any of the printers mentioned above. The ink that is included is a pigment dye which is incompatible with sublimation printing.

If you have a small business, check out our article ‘best label printers for your small business‘.

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