Sublimation Printer: How Does It Work

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Do you want to know how a sublimation printer works?

Sublimation printers are an excellent choice for printing high-quality graphics on a variety of materials. 

They use heat and pressure to transfer the ink from the ribbon onto your chosen surface, creating beautiful images with vibrant colors that will last much longer than traditional screen printing methods.

If you’re looking for a way to print custom t-shirts or other apparel items, this is it! With no screens involved in the process, there’s no limit to what you can create with these machines. From full-color logos and designs on white shirts down to black text on dark-colored clothing – they do it all!

We’ll tell you everything from what makes up a sublimation printer to why they are so popular with businesses today. 

And we have some great tips to provide you too!

Keep reading if you want to learn all about sublimation printers!

What is Sublimation?

Sublimation is a process that turns the materials into gas and then solid again, without melting. Sublimating ink transfers the dye onto another surface in order to create an image or design. 

In sublimated printing, there are no screens involved which makes it possible for companies to print any color imaginable with unlimited detail in dark colors.

The first sublimation printer was developed in the 1940s by an American company called “Max S. Smith & Sons“, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when sublimation printers became popular with businesses.

How Does a Sublimation Printer Work?

The sublimation process starts with a design being created in a graphics program. 

Then, the graphic is either printed or sent to an ink-jet printer and onto sublimation film which has been coated with special heat-sensitive dye. 

The process begins by placing this print on top of the transfer paper where it’s heated up so that all the dyes are transferred into a gas form a surface.

Sublimation printers are also called dye sublimation printers because they use a heat process to transfer ink onto any material, including paper and fabric. 

They work by transferring the ink from film to a special type of paper coated with a clear layer that can be recycled after printing or left on for color changes during presentations.

This printer uses an energy-efficient system that heats up two rollers inside the machine until they become very hot (around 300 degrees Celsius). 

The first roller is used to apply pressure while the second one provides motion and it presses against the photo paper so that when printed images are finished, you don’t have smearing or fading problems like other types of printers do.

Benefits of Using a Sublimation Printer

  • Sublimation printers use heat as an energy source instead of electricity which makes them more environmentally friendly than typical photocopiers today. They allow companies to produce quality prints without using any harmful chemicals like photo-emulsion or solvents during processing!
  • Sublimation printers are capable of printing on a variety of different materials like acrylicpaper, and even fabric!
  • Sublimations don’t smudge or fade when you wash them which means they’re perfect for any company that sells clothing with designs printed onto the material.

Please note that sublimations should not be washed with water which can dissolve the colorant crystals inside your garment – so don’t do laundry immediately after you’ve printed something with sublimated ink.

What Printers Can Be Used for Sublimation? 

Different printers have different requirements for working with sublimation and you should consult the printer’s specifications before ordering it or using it in your work. 

For example, the printer needs to be able to work with non-toxic materials like acrylic and paper because such materials are not receptive to traditional inkjet printers that use water-based inks. 

Sublimation printers also have a heating element which is typically used during the development of some colorants where heat or pressure activates the colorant.

Something to consider is whether the printer will come with a heated platen – if so, this could help make sure that heat-activated ink products like Lumi Ink Gel Pens are easier to use by making them more receptive for printing on non-porous surfaces (such as acrylic).

It can also help ensure that pressure-sensitive cards do not get stuck during printing which can be an issue when using certain types of card stock instead of special photo paper. 

For example, glossy coated materials may cause problems because they don’t absorb ink well and might produce smearing or bleeding.

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What is the Cheapest Sublimation Printer?

We have made deep research on the internet and we have found that, for now, the cheapest sublimation printer is Kodak’s Mini Photo Sublimator.

The price of this ink printer is around $115 and you can buy it on Amazon or eBay.

This kind of machine works by applying heat to a print plate under pressure – make sure your design has been printed correctly on transfer paper before applying it to the heat-sensitive silicon plate.

This is a great printer if you want to make your own custom t-shirts for parties, or even just for fun.

It can also be used as an inexpensive photo booth without any need of using paper rolls and ink cartridges at expensive prices.

What’s the Difference Between Sublimation and Screen Printing?

  • Screen Printing requires the use of screens or stencils to create an image on a surface. Sublimation does not require this but still needs ink in order to transfer onto another material.
  • Another difference is that screen printing can be done in a variety of colors, whereas Sublimation printers are limited to one color.
  • Screen Printing also requires the use of ink and paper-rolls to print an image on a substrate like garments or other materials. Sublimation prints onto “transparent film” which is then applied directly onto the surface.

What Type of Ink is Needed for Sublimation Printer?

There are two types of Sublimation ink: a liquid that is applied to the “transparent film” and then exposed to heat, or pre-applied onto the surface. 

The first type of Sublimation ink offers more vibrant colors while the second option offers less expensive printing costs.

Important: Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for ink usage to avoid any potential damage.

Inks could be found at any office supply store but be sure to buy Sublimation ink.

There are many Sublimation inks on the market to choose from so it is important to know what type of ink will work with your particular printer.

Epson printers, for instance, have specific inks, the UltraChrome KX Series ones, which are designed specifically to be used with that printer and come in a variety of sizes depending on their application. 

One of the advantages these inks have over other options is that they can be used for both Sublimation Printing and Digital Printing.

Dealing With Low Ink Levels 

One of the common problems that people who use Sublimation printers often come across is low ink levels. 

This problem typically occurs because it uses more ink when printing. If you are experiencing low ink levels, it is important to know that they can be changed very easily by unscrewing a small part on top and exchanging for an empty cartridge or one with new inks inside.

When purchasing a Sublimation printer, always make sure it comes with multiple cartridges so this process is not as hard to do.

Which Kind of Paper is Used for Sublimation Printer?

The paper used for Sublimation Printer is either a heat transfer or photo quality

  • Heat transfer papers are less expensive and can withstand the normal wear and tear that everyday life brings, but do not offer vibrant colors as other Sublimation inks do. 
  • Photo quality sheets allow for more vivid color prints with an increase in price to match. The paper must be cut specifically for the printer and must be a proper size.

The typical one is about 18-inch by 24 inches.

Printing can be done on both sides of the paper, but extra consideration for a printer that prints one side per sheet needs to be made because it will require an additional paper size and cutting if needed. 


The sublimation printer is one of the most useful pieces of technology in the printing industry. It replaces ink and paper with a digital laser that can print on any surface imaginable.

What makes them so special? 

Unlike other types of printers which use an image created from pixels (or dots) as their source material for creating images on paper or fabric substrates, sublimations don’t rely on individual dot patterns but instead work by using single lines made up of small points to create an image.

We hope this article has helped answer your questions and feed your curiosity, if not let us know in the comment below!


Print On Demand World Staff

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