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Can You Use Any Printer for Sublimation?

If you have been around the printing industry recently, we are certain you have heard of or encountered the sublimation trend that’s taking over.

Sublimation transfers ink onto a substrate straight from a solid to a gas state using heat and pressure without turning it into a liquid. And as you can already guess, this requires specialized inks that might not work with just any printer.

So if you’re trying to break into the sublimation game, you might wonder what printers to use. The simple answer is you will need an inkjet printer that utilizes the Micro Piezo printing head technology, such as printers from the Epson brand. However, you can still customize some inkjet printers for sublimation printing.

But if you’re still uncertain what all this means, this post will explore whether you can use any printer for sublimation printing and how to convert some inkjet printers. Keep reading to learn more.

What is Sublimation?

Sublimation printing is a process of printing digital images onto a substrate using sublimation ink. At the same time, sublimation ink is a specialized type of ink formulated to turn into a gas when heated, allowing it to bond with the fibers of the substrate and create a permanent, vibrant print.

Sublimation printing is primarily used to print designs onto polyester fabrics, but other materials, such as ceramics, metal, and plastics treated with a polyester coating, also work.

The sublimation printing process involves three main steps: printing, heat transfer, and fixation.

First, a digital image is printed onto a transfer paper using a sublimation printer and sublimation ink. The image is then printed in reverse to appear the right way up after the heat transfer process.

Next, the printed-on transfer paper is placed on top of the substrate and held in place using heat-resistant tape. Then, heat is applied to the transfer paper using a heat press, causing the sublimation ink to turn into a gas and bond with the fibers of the substrate. The heat and pressure applied during this step ensure the ink is fully transferred onto the substrate, resulting in a high-quality, vibrant print.

Finally, the transfer paper is removed, and the substrate is cooled down to allow the ink to bond with the fibers of the substrate fully. This is known as the fixation process, which ensures the print is permanent and long-lasting.

The sublimation process is a popular method for creating high-quality, custom prints on various substrates, most commonly used to produce t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and other personalized products.

Now that we better understand how sublimation works let’s look at what makes a sublimation printer.

What is a Sublimation Printer?

A sublimation printer is a printer specifically designed to print using sublimation ink. Moreover, all sublimation printers are inkjet printers, but not all inkjet printers are sublimation printers. The difference is that a sublimation printer also needs to have a Micro Piezo printing head, which allows it to deposit ink precisely onto a transfer paper.

Furthermore, you should also note sublimation printers don’t use thermal print heads. This would activate the sublimation ink and start the sublimation process, leading to clogs or a smudged finish. Heat-free piezoelectric printheads, such as the ones on Epson’s ecotank printers, are preferable.

Another thing that sets sublimation printers apart from their counterparts is they use specialized sublimation ink cartridges, different from the standard ink cartridges used in regular printers. Sublimation ink is designed to produce bright, vivid colors and is formulated to sublimate and bond with polyester and other compatible materials.

Because of this unique formulation, you cannot use regular cartridges and print heads to disperse sublimation ink. However, you can convert a regular inkjet printer to a sublimation printer. But before we delve deeper into that, first, let’s look at a few examples of Epson’s sublimation printers.

Best Epson Sublimation Printers

Epson is a well-known brand in the sublimation printing industry, and they offer a range of high-quality sublimation printers suitable for various printing needs. Here are some of the best Epson sublimation printers on the market.

1. Epson SureColor P800


The Epson SureColor P800 is a high-end sublimation printer designed for professional designers who demand the best possible printing quality. This printer features an 8-color UltraChrome HD ink set that produces rich and vibrant colors, as well as deep blacks and smooth tonal transitions.

In addition to its advanced ink system, the Epson SureColor P800 also features an advanced MicroPiezo AMC print head that delivers precise and consistent ink droplet placement for sharp and accurate prints. This print head also features a unique coating that helps to reduce clogging and improve print quality over time.

Another advantage of the Epson SureColor P800 is its versatility. It works with various media and sizes, including fine art paper, glossy paper, and even thicker media like poster board and canvas. It can also print up to 17 inches wide, ideal for producing large prints and banners.

2. Epson EcoTank ET-2760


The Epson EcoTank ET-2760 is a budget-friendly sublimation printer for home office and small business use. It features a 4-color ink set and can print up to 8.5 inches wide, making it an ideal choice for producing high-quality sublimation prints on a smaller scale.

One feature you will like about the Epson EcoTank ET-2760 is its low operating costs. This is because it uses refillable ink tanks instead of traditional ink cartridges, which help reduce ink costs by up to 90%.

In addition to its cost-saving features, the Epson EcoTank ET-2760 also offers excellent print quality. It features a PrecisionCore print head that delivers precise and consistent droplet placement for sharp and accurate prints.

Moreover, it also handles various media types, including transfer paper, cardstock, and photo paper, making it a versatile choice for producing sublimation products.

Another reason you will like the Epson EcoTank ET-2760 is its ease of use. Its user-friendly UI makes it easy to set up and navigate, even if you’re new to sublimation printing. It also has a mobile printing app, allowing you to conveniently print from your hand-held devices.

3. Epson EcoTank ET-2803


The Epson EcoTank ET-2803 is another budget-friendly sublimation printer for home office and small business use from the brand. It features a refillable tank which is much less expensive than traditional ink cartridges.

The unit also has a built-in scanner and copier, making it versatile. It also has a color monitor, physical buttons, and voice-activated printing to introduce a modern touch and ease of use.

Besides good looks and low maintenance costs, the ET-2803 also has decent print speeds of up to 10 ppm and a sizable paper tray that holds up to 100 sheets. This makes it excellent for printing small runs of sublimation papers. Additionally, the included connectivity options, such as wireless printing and USB, make it a joy to work with.

How to Convert a Regular Epson Inkjet Printer Into a Sublimation Printer

The good thing about using Epson’s line of printers for sublimation is they are all inkjet printers with Piezo print head technology. This means if you have a non-sublimation model, you only need to buy sublimation ink, which will work fine.

However, you should note that this voids your warranty and leaves you with no protection if your unit should experience any malfunction during its warranty period. Besides this, you should be able to use any transfer paper with any converted Epson printer without challenges or additional hardware.

Below we look at the steps required for the conversion:

1. Purchase Sublimation Ink

The first step is to purchase sublimation ink compatible with your printer model. Using sublimation ink from Epson is essential as it’s designed to work with their print head technology.

2. Empty the Printer’s Ink Tanks

Remove the original non-sublimation ink from the printer and empty the tanks completely. Removing all traces of the original ink is essential to avoid unwanted color mixing.

3. Fill the Tanks With Sublimation Ink

Fill the emptied tanks with sublimation ink. Epson refill bottles have a special nozzle that makes refilling convenient and mess-free.

4. Adjust Printer Settings

Adjust the printer settings to optimize for sublimation printing. This may include selecting the correct media type, adjusting the print quality, and choosing the correct color profile.

5. Print a Test Page

Print a test page to ensure the ink is printing correctly and the colors are accurate. Make adjustments to your settings if the colors are not right.

6. Use Sublimation Paper

Use sublimation paper to print your designs. Then transfer it to a substrate to visually inspect the quality of your transfer to determine if any more adjustments are necessary.

Best Epson Inkjet Printers you can Convert to Sublimation Printers

Below we look at a few non-sublimation printers from Epson you can convert to sublimation printers.

1. Epson WorkForce WF-3540

The Epson WorkForce WF-3540 is a versatile all-in-one inkjet printer designed for home office and small business use. It offers printing, scanning, copying, and faxing capabilities, making it convenient and efficient if you need a multifunctional unit.

In terms of print quality, the WF-3540 produces crisp and vibrant prints with its 4-color DURABrite Ultra pigment ink system and Piezo print head. This also means you can convert it to a sublimation printer using Epson’s sublimation ink.

It can print at a staggering resolution of 5760 x 1440 dpi, which is more than enough for any home office or small business printing needs. The printer is also relatively fast, with a maximum printing speed of 15 pages per minute for black and white prints and 9.3 pages per minute for color prints. However, we cannot comment on how changing the ink type will affect your printing speed.

Nonetheless, the WF-3540 has automatic duplex printing capability; you don’t need to flip pages manually. This can not only save you on paper costs but time on long print jobs.

The WF-3540 has a large paper capacity, with dual 250-sheet paper trays and a rear feed for specialty paper. This means you can load multiple paper types at once and switch between them easily.

Regarding connectivity, the WF-3540 offers a range of options, including Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and USB. It also supports mobile printing through Epson Connect and Apple AirPrint, allowing you to print remotely from a smartphone or tablet.

2. Epson WorkForce WF-3520

Another Epson printer you can easily convert into a sublimation printer is the Epson WorkForce WF-3520. It’s a versatile all-in-one printer that delivers high-quality prints and fast printing speeds. The unit’s advanced features and easy-to-use interface make it perfect for any work environment.

Like other Epson printers, it has PrecisionCore technology, producing sharp, crisp text and vibrant, true-to-life colors. Moreover, the results, whether printing documents or photos, will always be impressive.

The WF-3520 has a 15 ppm speed for black and white prints and 9.2 ppm for color prints, which is not bad for such a form factor. This relatively fast speed makes it an ideal tool if you need to deliver a large volume of sublimation prints quickly.

In addition to its print capabilities, the WF-3520 includes a scanner, copier, and fax machine. Moreover, it also has an automatic document feeder that holds up to 30 sheets of paper, making it easy and convenient to scan, copy, or fax multiple pages simultaneously. And with its intuitive touch panel and easy-to-navigate menu, using these features is a breeze.

3. Epson WorkForce WF-3620

Our last convertible inkjet printer from Epson is the Epson WorkForce WF-3620. It offers printing, scanning, copying, and faxing capabilities, making it a convenient and efficient solution for everyday tasks.

The printer boasts fast printing speeds of up to 19 ppm in black and 10 ppm in color. It also features automatic double-sided printing, which saves time and paper. However, unlike the refillable EkoTank tanks, the WF-3620 uses four individual ink cartridges; you only need to replace the colors that run out, saving you money in the long run.

One of the standout features of the WF-3620 is its large 2.7-inch color touchscreen display. This makes navigating through the printer’s UI easy and even allows you to preview and edit photos before printing.


As sublimation printing continues gaining popularity, more and more people will join the industry, stretching the available resources even further. As things stand, finding a good-quality sublimation printer can be challenging, but as we’ve seen, that doesn’t have to be the end of your sublimation printing aspirations. You can easily convert some inkjet printers using Micro Piezo printing head technology into sublimation printers.

Moreover, we recommend using Epson printers as they are one of the few brands fully equipped with this technology, making printing and conversions more convenient. So if you’re using a specialty sublimation printer or converting an inkjet one, we wish you all the best in your sublimation printing. We also hope you find this content helpful and that you find success in your creative or business endeavors.


What is the difference between a regular inkjet printer and a sublimation printer?

The main difference between the two is the type of ink they use. Sublimation printers use specialized sublimation ink that turns into a gas when heated, allowing it to bond with the fibers of the substrate and create a permanent, vibrant print. On the other hand, regular inkjet printers use water-based inks that do not bond well with substrates.

Can I convert my regular inkjet printer into a sublimation printer?

It’s possible to convert some inkjet printers into sublimation printers by replacing the ink cartridges with sublimation ink and adding a specialized print head.

What kind of substrates can be used for sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing is primarily used for printing on polyester fabrics, but other materials such as ceramics, metal, and plastics treated with a polyester coating can also be used.

Are there any limitations to sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing is only effective on substrates with a high polyester content. It also requires a specialized sublimation printer and sublimation ink, which can be more expensive than regular inkjet printers and ink.

How long do sublimation prints last?

Sublimation prints are long-lasting and durable, with a lifespan of up to several years. However, the durability of the print will depend on the quality of the substrate and ink used, as well as environmental factors such as exposure to sunlight and moisture.

Can sublimation printers be used for other types of printing?

While sublimation printers are primarily used for sublimation printing, some models can also be used for regular inkjet printing with the appropriate ink cartridges. However, it’s recommended to use separate printers for each printing type to avoid cross-contamination.

Are sublimation inks the same?

Sublimation inks are all not the same. Like with most things, the quality of ink depends on its price and the ingredients used to make it. Its essentia