Can You Turn Any Printer Into a Sublimation Printer?

A person opening a sublimation printer with a red top.

Sublimation printing uses heat to turn special sublimation ink into a gas, embedding it into the substrate being printed on.

It creates smooth, sharp graphics on a wide range of materials from fabrics to wood, plastic, aluminum, stone, and more.

Sublimation printing requires the use of a sublimation printer, which is specifically designed to handle sublimation ink.

Can you sublimate with any printer? You cannot sublimate with any printer. You will need to use a printer that has the proper pressure technology and that can handle sublimation ink. The best option is to use a special printer designed specifically for sublimation, but certain printers can be converted for sublimation printing.

Not all printers are created equal, and not all printers can work for sublimation printing.

Choosing the right printer for use with sublimation printing is the key to avoiding fuzzy, washed-out looking graphics.

This article will teach you everything you need to know to pick the right printer for the job. 

Requirements for Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printing requires a printer either made specifically for sublimation printing or one that is capable of being converted to a sublimation printer.

There are many people all over the world who have successfully converted printers (particularly Epson brand printers) for all of their sublimation printing needs.

You will also need special sublimation paper to print the design on.

You will be using a heat press to apply your graphic onto a sublimation blank, which is a substrate that either contains polyester or has a poly-coating, enabling the sublimation ink to infuse with the material once heated. 

The sublimation ink is a solid ink that changes form to a gas when exposed to heat, enabling it to permanently bond with the substrate.

A heat press is most commonly used to press the design into the substrate, but an EasyPress or iron can be used as well, as long as they get hot enough and are pressed to the material for the correct amount of time. 

What Is Needed for a Printer To Work for Sublimation

For a printer to work for sublimation it must have printheads that use pressure technology and be compatible with sublimation ink without heating it. 

Which Printers Can Be Used for Sublimation

Printers that use pressure technology and are capable of printing sublimation ink can be used for sublimation. 

Epson EcoTank ET-2760

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-16650
  • 3-in-1 with Wireless: Print / Copy / Scan.

This is a voice-activated printer that can also function as a scanner and a copier. Switch the regular ink out with sublimation ink and you’re good to go!

Epson EcoTank ET-4700

Epson EcoTank ET-4700 Inkjet Printer
  • This refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like new. The refurbishing process...

Yes, the refurbished ET-4700 printer can be converted to a sublimation printer.

All you need to do to get to printing is purchase empty cartridges for this printer and make sure the old ink is completely cleaned out!

Epson EcoTank ET-8500

Sale
Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500 Wireless Wide-Format...
  • Cartridge-free printing for lab-quality photos, graphics and creative projects — get vibrant...
  • Extraordinary media handling capabilities —print borderless pictures up to 8.5" x 11" on a variety...

The ET-8500 is a Supertank printer with a high-accuracy printhead that is cartridge free.

This printer can also be converted to a sublimation printer; remember that putting sublimation ink in a printer not specifically designed for sublimation printing can void any warranties!

Which Printers Will Not Work for Sublimation

Any printer that uses thermal technology will not work well for sublimation printing. You should avoid attempting to use any printers that rely on heat to print.

Any printers that don’t have sublimation ink or replaceable cartridges made for them are also out.

Regular HP printers, Brother printers, and Canon printers are not typically suitable for sublimation.

Additional Items Needed for Sublimation Printing

In addition to a sublimation printer, you will need the following sublimation essentials:

  • Sublimation ink
  • Sublimation transfer paper
  • Blowout paper
  • Sublimation blanks
  • Heat press

You may also need to use special heat-resistant tape (find it here at a great price) or adhesive spray for keeping the transfer paper in place while you are heat pressing it, a lint roller for removing dust and debris from fabric, and a protective pad or mat to protect your work surface.

Sale
6 Rolls 10mm x33m(108ft)High Temperature Heat...
  • Heat transfer tape is a polyimide film tape with a high temperature resistant adhesive.
  • Heat resistant tape comes off clean,easy peal and no residue.

You will also need digital design software such as Canva, Adobe Photoshop, or Illustrator for creating (and reversing) your graphics. 

How To Convert a Printer for Sublimation Printing

Any printer that uses Piezo (pressure) technology can be used for sublimation printing, although printers made specifically for sublimation printing tend to provide the best results.

To convert a regular inkjet printer into a sublimation printer, your first step should be to make sure it is a printer that doesn’t use thermal technology. 

You also want to choose a printer for which sublimation ink and cartridges are made.

If you have a printer that uses pressure technology but won’t take sublimation ink and cartridges, then you will end up with graphics that are lacking the crisp and vivid look that makes sublimation printing worthwhile. 

Beginner Tips for Sublimation Printing

There is a learning curve for everything, and sublimation printing is no exception.

It’s easy to get discouraged if your images don’t come out exactly as you had dreamed, but don’t let a few mishaps stop you! 

The steps for sublimation printing are fairly straightforward, and most errors or mistakes have an easy solution. The more you practice, the better you’ll get, until sublimation printing is a breeze.

Related Questions:

Can You Turn an HP Printer Into a Sublimation Printer?

Most HP printers cannot be turned into sublimation printers. A regular HP printer uses thermal technology to print ink, which makes it a poor tool for sublimation printing.

The heat generated from an HP printer can cause the sublimation ink to either become embedded in the paper or to vaporize out of the cartridges. 

Using sublimation ink in your average HP printer or in any printer that uses thermal technology can result in an image that is blurry and inadequate for use in your heat press, which is the next step of the sublimation printing process.

You can purchase HP printers that are made specifically for sublimation printing, but they are specialty printers made for use by professionals who wish to mass-produce, and they cost thousands of dollars. 

What Makes a Printer a Sublimation Printer?

A sublimation printer uses pressure technology instead of relying on heat. Sublimation ink reacts to heat, which is why you need to be sure to use a printer that does not rely on thermal technology.

A sublimation printer relies on vibrations instead of heat to print the sublimation ink on the paper.

As sublimation ink is a solid that turns to a gas when exposed to heat, it’s important to use the right printer for sublimation printing. 

Conclusion 

When purchasing a sublimation printer, you have two options.

Your first option is to buy a printer made specifically for sublimation, which will generally provide excellent quality prints and is ideal for those wishing to run a sublimation printing business. 

Your second option is to buy an inkjet printer that is capable of being converted into a sublimation printer.

If you go with this option, you’ll want to purchase a printer that uses Piezo technology and can take sublimation ink and cartridges. 

If you are converting a printer, it’s best to buy a new one that hasn’t had regular ink run through it yet, and put sublimation ink in instead.

If it has been used, you will need to flush the system and make sure all of the old ink has been completely removed from the printer before installing the sublimation ink.

Last update on 2022-09-25 at 07:28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print
Cara

Cara

I am a writer and an artist taking opportunities every day to transform my dreams into reality. I love learning new things and am always creating and innovating. I worked as an Art Instructor, teaching painting and art techniques to artists of all levels and ages. I have hosted countless paint parties and taught children’s art classes both in my home as well as an art teacher at a Montessori school.