Q. I am interested in Dye Sublimation printing at home. What kind of printer, inks and paper is ideal for beginners  and hobbyists ?


A. The non-professional or beginner, starting out to purchase sublimation paper and equipment for a home printing setup, will usually be expecting to produce reasonable results for a minimum cost. Professional grade hardware, paper and ink is not necessary.

Note: This guide does not discuss heat transfer presses.


How to Choose Dye Sublimation Paper and Ink

Hobbyist v. Professional

Hobbyists often use a modified Epson or Brother desktop inkjet printer with compatible paper and ink to produce very reasonable results, whilst many sublimation businesses use the purpose built Ricoh or Sawgrass sublimation printers and associated ink and paper.
A home inkjet printer can be modified for sublimation printing by using either refillable cartridges, or a Continuous Ink Supply System, with suitable sublimation inks.


Both popular destop sublimation systems utilise non-thermal “piezo” printing technology, although advanced Ricoh based systems have more advantages such as greater durability and faster output, making them more suitable for business use.


Different inks and papers are manufactured to suit the two printing systems, and they are not interchangeable. For example, dye sublimation paper suitable for Epson printers will provide inferior transfer quality when used in a Ricoh or Sawgrass printer. Similarly, the higher viscosity inks which are optimal for Ricoh based systems cannot be used in Epson printers.


Sublimation PAPERS

The main difference between low (cheaper) and high end (more expensive) sublimation paper is the amount of ink absorbed during printing, and released during transfer. To some extent heat press times and temperatures can be adjusted to compensate.

 Ausjet A3 Dye Sublimation paper

Cheaper papers, such as the Ausjet Dye Sublimation paper, are only suitable for Epson (or Brother) inkjet printers, modified to use low viscosity sublimation inks. These are 'low release' papers, and should transfer at least 93% of their ink uptake to the final product.


The newer Ricoh and Sawgrass dedicated sublimation printers preferred by professionals, are designed to use 'high release' papers which will transfer 97% or more ink, for high resolution results.


Overview of Sublimation INKS

Some popular Dye Sublimation printers (desktop & large format) and the inks they can use -

Epson Desktop printers:  Stylus Photo 1400/1430, T50, R1800, R800, Artisan

  • ArTainium Ink (low viscosity aqueous ink - 1.02g/cm3)
  • SubliTrans Ink
  • Sublijet-IQ Ink


Epson Large Format Printers:

  • Sublijet-E Ink
  • Sublijet-IQ Pro Photo Ink


Ricoh ('GelJet') Printers:  SG 7100DN, GX 7700 , SG 3110DN

  • Sublijet-R Ink (High viscosity Gel Ink 1.1g/cm3)


Sawgrass Virtuoso Desktop ('GelJet') Printers: SG400-A4 and SG800-A3

  • Sublijet-HD Ink (Highest viscosity Gel Ink 1.?g/cm3)


Roland Wide Format Printers:

  • Subli-M Ink



The sublimation beginner will ideally look for a low cost entry-level system, such as a modified Epson printer and suitable inks. Inexpensive, low release papers, such as Ausjet sublimation paper, are ideal for these systems, and high quality results can be obtained.


Some sublimation businesses may also begin with Epson based printing, but may eventually invest in the more durable and faster output Ricoh or Sawgrass sublimation systems.

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