Sublimation printing is a process that has been around for a while, but the printers needed were expensive. Lately, there has been a move to convert normal inkjet printers into sublimation printers with ink that is a reasonable price and it has moved sublimation printing into the hobbyist realm. I decided to go on this journey and convert an Epson inkjet printer into an Epson sublimation printer.
If you are new to the idea of sublimation printing, you can read up on it in more depth in my article going through what it is and what equipment and materials you need.
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Epson Sublimation Printer
First, you need to get a printer. Epson is a great brand to use since it doesn’t use a heat process to print. Since sublimation ink uses heat to infuse materials, the printer cannot use heat. That is why Epson is a good brand to start with. There are Epson and Sawgrass printers that are specifically designed for sublimation printing, but the costs are high.
The printer I was looking at was the Epson EcoTank 2720. This is a combo printer/scanner and its main limitation is that it prints only up to 8.5″ x 14″ paper. Since I mainly do ornaments, this was perfect for me. This printer retails for $199 at the time of my purchase.
The reason I went with the Ecotank type printer is that they don’t use cartridges. They have tanks that the ink is poured into and you can even see the level of each of the colors. The ink is less expensive (even the sublimation ink), and it is just easier overall to use. There are other printers that use cartridges and you can then buy refillable ones to use with the sublimation ink.
The printer comes with ink in special bottles that have a nozzle that fits the printer. You do not want to use this ink since this is not sublimation ink. You can buy sublimation ink at Amazon or other online site, but make sure that it is sublimation ink (when you search on Amazon other regular replacement inks will come up in results).
Here are some inks that I have worked with, are great to use, and can be bought from Amazon:
Some of these inks will come with bottles made for the printer (special nozzles are included) and some do not. I have bought both types of ink and both work well. To make bottles for the inks without the nozzles, I just emptied the ink bottles that came with the printer (with the special nozzles), rinsed and let the bottles dry, and then filled with the sublimation ink. I just keep refilling the same nozzle bottles over and over.
Finished Epson Sublimation Printer
Once you have the sublimation ink in the correct bottle type, you can just follow the directions on setting up the printer. It is super easy, and there are so many things you can do with sublimation printing:
- Gift Bags
- Phone Cases
- Photo Canvases
- Bibs/Baby items
This list is just a few ideas of items that can be customized, you can buy all sorts of different sublimation blanks (items that have been coated for this purpose. These make great gifts, and you can even start your own business creating custom marketing items.