Best Sublimation Printer for Heat Transfer in 2021

Sublimation printers create such beautiful, high quality prints, and long lasting products that customers absolutely love, they sell really well and often for premium prices. And that’s just one of the reasons I’m so excited to put together this article and artists’ guide on the best sublimation printers for heat transfer!

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If you are in a hurry, here is my top pick for the best sublimation Printer in 2021. If you have more time, then keep on reading!

Best overall
Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550 Wide-Format Six Color Printer with Scanner

Best Sublimation Printer for Fine Art / Photography

Best Premium SuperTank Printer

Type: Inkjet Printer

Maximum Print Size: 13" x 19"

Maximum Resolution: 5,760 x 1,440

Printing Speed: 16 PPM BW :: 12 PPM Color


Table of Contents

I’ve often thought that I need to be a little bit careful with technology – both in my own work and in writing these blog articles. These days it’s so easy to get distracted by technology – the cool gear and gadgets, the amazing advances and innovations, all of it – and so I should always ask myself if a new piece of tech is not only interesting but also serves my creative process. And indeed I sometimes do run across a printing technology so cool, and so interesting, and yet one that also allows me – or any artist or crafter – to create really beautiful, high print quality pieces. And the best example I’ve found in a long while is sublimation printing.

  • What is Sublimation Printing?
  • What is the Difference between Sublimation and Heat Transfer?
  • What Printers can do Sublimation?
  • Are Epson Printers the Best Sublimation Printers?
  • What Do I Need to do Sublimation?
  • Is Sublimation Difficult?
  • Do Sublimation Printed Products Sell Well?

What is Sublimation Printing?

Sublimation printing is a way to put your artwork, logos, designs or any other image onto a wide variety of objects. The image can be made on the computer or scanned and digitized from paper or any other physical media, and can be transferred, with absolutely beautiful results, to:

  • T-Shirts
  • Jackets, Hats and Any Other Clothing
  • Mugs, Glasses and Tumblers
  • Mouse Pads
  • Phone Cases
  • Fabric for Wall Hangings 
  • Bed Sheets
  • Christmas Ornaments

…and lots, lots more!

Maybe the best way to think about sublimation prints is as an ultra high quality form of heat transfer printing – like iron-on transfers, for example. But sublimation printing gives much more vivid, clear, colorful and long-lasting results than any other heat transfer process I’ve found. Really striking, attractive, premium quality print that stays beautiful for a long, long time!

While normal heat transfer prints bond to the top of whatever piece you’re applying them to, sublimation prints become gaseous when you apply heat, and so they don’t just lay on the top, but actually go into the material of the t-shirt, hat, mouse pad or whatever you’re using, and bond with it on a much deeper level.

This makes the transfers much more rich and colorful, sharper and overall a lot more impactful, and they last much longer than other iron-on or heat transfer processes. This also makes them very desirable to customers, and, again, sublimation printed items tend to sell very well and at good prices.

Of course, making items to sell is just one idea – albeit a great and profitable idea! You can also make gifts for friends and family, promotional items for clients, beautiful display pieces, or just clothing for yourself, to really show off your own personal style.

Is Using Sublimation Printer Difficult?

I don’t want to get into a whole how-to article here, but I can say right from the beginning no, sublimation printing is not difficult or tricky at all. In fact, it is as easy as any other type of printing, and the transfer process is as easy as – in fact, basically the same as – heat transfer printing.

That said, I am basing this on the assumption that you have a printer specifically for sublimation. See, the ink used in the sublimation process is very different from normal ink, and so if you try to use your everyday printer for the sublimation process you would have to replace or refill the cartridges and flush the system each time, and there’s still a chance the sublimation inks might clog your print heads.

Anyway, many normal printers don’t work well with sublimation inks, so you really do need to get a dedicated printer for this work. Luckily, some of the printers are quite inexpensive, and the results are fabulous. 

But even with some of the more expensive printers, we’ll feature in this article, we should keep in mind that sublimation printed items are so beautiful and so high quality, and tend to sell so well, that if you seriously pursued even a small-scale business making and marketing them, soon enough your initial investment would seem like nothing at all.

How Can You Get the Best Results with Sublimation Printers?

Again, we won’t get into a whole step-by-step tutorial here, but I will at least mention what you need for sublimation printing, and then offer a few tips to help you get the best results.

The basic kit includes:

  • A Sublimation Printer
  • Sublimation Ink
  • Sublimation Paper
  • A Heat Press
  • Items to Transfer the Prints onto

Below we’ll get into great choices for each of these items, including the best printer for sublimation, the best heat press for sublimation, the best sublimation ink and more.

For now, though, let’s look at the basic process, which is surprisingly simple. 

All you need to do, in fact, is: 

  • Create your graphic, logo, artwork or whatever on the computer (or scan it in)
  • Print it with your sublimation printer using the correct inks and paper
  • Transfer the printed image onto an item – a shirt, a hat, a mouse pad, a coffee mug
  • Sit back and admire your work!

There are a few rules, hints and suggestions, though, which can make the whole process of sublimation printing easier and the results much better.

Use Material Suitable for Sublimination

Sublimation inks bond to the polyester in whatever item you’re using, and so your item must be made of polyester or plastic for the process to really work.

T-shirts or other clothing should be at least 75-80 percent polyester. If you are trying to transfer onto metal, glass or ceramic, or any non-polyester/plastic materials, it won’t work unless you coat it with polyester first. Plastic mugs, mouse pads, phone cases and lots more work great, though, and without any alteration or preparation, but some plastic items are too thin and might melt, as will many lighter fabrics (and you want to stay away from natural fabrics anyway, or anything that isn’t plastic/polyester or at least polyester coated). Experimentation will help, but don’t experiment with anything valuable or irreplaceable!

Mirror Your Artwork

Like any iron-on or heat transfer process, your image will go onto the item reversed. This may or may not be ok with a pure graphic or picture, but remember that words will be backwards, so use the graphics software on your computer to reverse the image before printing, or carry a full-length mirror with you everywhere you go :).

Use Printer for Sublimination

We’ve talked about this already, but it is really important to realize that most printers – or at least the print heads on most printers – don’t work well with sublimation ink, and can get clogged and/or give terrible results. Use the right printer (like one of the recommendations below) and use it exclusively for sublimation printing.

Transfer Your Sublimination Prints onto Light Backgrounds

Whether you are transferring your sublimation prints onto clothing, hats, mugs or tumblers, mouse pads, phone cases or pre-cut jigsaw puzzles, or just onto a polyester sheet for displaying as a wall hanging, the item should be white or as light as possible to get true and vivid colors and make the details really stand out.

Use a Dedicated Heat Press

Don’t use an iron – sometimes with iron-on decals, or heat transfer prints, you can get away with a normal household iron, but sublimation printing works better with higher and more consistent temperatures. It is best to get a dedicated heat press, like the wonderful Cricut machine or one of the more traditional table-top models. Again, we’ll mention some great choices below!

Work Clean and Smart

Make sure your t-shirt, mouse pad or whatever is clean and dry before you attempt a transfer. Always lay a sheet of plain paper between the sublimation print and your heat press, and even another one behind the object when applicable. And, of course, make sure the print is flat and level. Also, use a good heat-resistant tape to make sure your transfers stay straight and aligned – I like Cricut Heat Resistant Tape.

How Can You Find the Best Sublimation Printer?

The rest of this article will be devoted to just that – finding the very best printers for the sublimation process, as well as the best paper, ink, and heat presses.

I’m going to draw on my own experience in this process, as well as all of the suggestions and feedback I’ve gotten from colleagues and friends, readers and students, and tons and tons of Amazon verified customer reviews, and we will find the best choices in the following areas:

  • Best Sublimination Printer
  • Best Sublimation Ink
  • Best Sublimation Paper
  • Best Heat Press for Sublimation Transfers

And at the end of the article, in the Bonus section, I will talk about a different approach – a complete starter kit, with literally everything you need to really get into sublimation printing as a hobby or as a business.

Of course, some of you might love the idea of getting everything all together, while others would prefer to select each piece individually – the printer, the heat press, the best paper, etc. But either way you go, you can rest assured that the choices below are as good as it gets, and will make your experience with sublimation printing easier and more successful, and your creations as beautiful and high quality as possible.

So let’s get into our buyer’s guide of the best printers, heat presses and more for sublimation!

Overview: Best Sublimation Printers in 2021

  1. Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550 Wide-Format Six Color Printer with Scanner
  2. Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550 Wide-Format Six Color Printer with Scanner

    Best Sublimation Printer for Fine Art / Photography

    Best Premium SuperTank Printer

    Type: Inkjet Printer

    Maximum Print Size: 13" x 19"

    Maximum Resolution: 5,760 x 1,440

    Printing Speed: 16 PPM BW :: 12 PPM Color


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Epson EcoTank Pro ET-16650 Wide-Format Printer with Scanner
  4. Epson EcoTank Pro ET-16650 Wide-Format Printer with Scanner

    Best Sublimation Printer for Commercial Use

    Best Professional Super Tank Printer

    Type: Inkjet Printer

    Maximum Print Size: 13" x 19"

    Maximum Resolution: 4800 x 1200 optimized dpi

    Printing Speed: 25 PPM BW :: 25 PPM Color


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Epson EcoTank ET-15000 Wide Format Color Printer with Scanner
  6. Epson EcoTank ET-15000 Wide Format Color Printer with Scanner

    Best Wide Format Sublimation Printer

    Type: Inkjet Printer

    Maximum Print Size: 13" x 19"

    Maximum Resolution: 4800 x 1200 optimized dpi

    Printing Speed: 17 PPM BW :: 9 PPM Color


    Buy Now on Amazon
  7. Epson EcoTank ET-2800 Color Printer with Scanner
  8. Epson EcoTank ET-2800 Color Printer with Scanner

    Best Value Sublimation Printer for Home Use

    Type: Inkjet Printer

    Maximum Print Size: 8.5" x 47.2"

    Maximum Resolution: 5760 x 1440 dpi

    Printing Speed: 10 PPM BW :: 5 PPM Color


    Buy Now on Amazon

Epson SuperTank Printers as a Better Alternative to Sawgrass Dye Sublimation Printers

Lots of sublimation printer buyer’s guides out there list the Sawgrass printers, such as either Sawgrass SG500 as the best dye sublimation printer on the market today, and at their price, they should be. But in fact, they are not really that great in terms of design, build quality, or usability, and are not just more expensive than others, but use dye sublimation ink cartridges that are much, much more expensive!

For people who have real experience with sublimation printing and transfers, though, there is another, much better, and more obvious choice – Epson EcoTank printers. These inexpensive printers actually offer better resolution than the Sawgrass, are better built and easier to use, and can be refilled with inexpensive but high quality sublimation ink from lots of different companies.

Please keep in mind that these printers will all come with normal ink, but you should not ever use that ink, or even put it in the tanks! You will need to get specialized sublimation inks separately (see below), and, again, you should use this printer only for sublimation. 

That said, all of these printers also have excellent built-in scanning beds, so they can also be used as a scanner and art digitizer, a copier and even a fax machine – if anybody even faxes any more…

Best Sublimation Printer Overall

Best overall
Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550 Wide-Format Six Color Printer with Scanner

Best Sublimation Printer for Fine Art / Photography

Best Premium SuperTank Printer

Type: Inkjet Printer

Maximum Print Size: 13" x 19"

Maximum Resolution: 5,760 x 1,440

Printing Speed: 16 PPM BW :: 12 PPM Color


Yeah, it is a little more difficult to find the six-color sublimation inks you need for the Epson ET-8550 printer, but what a difference they make! For color accuracy, range, subtlety, saturation and impact, this is a markedly better printer than even the other excellent Epsons on our list of best printers for sublimation.

And not just the colors, but also the resolution, the paper handling (up to 13×19 inch borderless prints), the superb build quality and reliability, and even the quality of the built-in scanner – in every way this is a really beautiful unit.

In fact, while it is a bit pricey, I would not hesitate to say that this is not just the very best sublimation printer overall, and the best for sublimation printing of fine art and photography, but one of the best values on the market today! 

Best Sublimation Printer for Commercial Use

Best for Commercial use
Epson EcoTank Pro ET-16650 Wide-Format Printer with Scanner

Best Sublimation Printer for Commercial Use

Best Professional Super Tank Printer

Type: Inkjet Printer

Maximum Print Size: 13" x 19"

Maximum Resolution: 4800 x 1200 optimized dpi

Printing Speed: 25 PPM BW :: 25 PPM Color


For ruggedness, reliability and fast printing, the Epson ET-16650 is really a cut above the other printers on our list of best sublimation printers for 2021. It is an overbuilt beast of a printer, but still capable of producing sublimation print transfers of real beauty, high resolution, superb color registration and overall accuracy. In fact, the more you use the 16650, the more you understand that the best professional printers are not just about speed, or about build quality and reliability, but quality on all levels, and they really do make better looking prints.

The Epson ET-16650 EcoTank printer, with built in scanner and copier, is all that and more. Simple to use, built to last, and offering incredibly good and consistent results, it is the best sublimation printer for commercial use in 2021. 

Best Premium Sublimation Printer for Home Use

Best Premium for Home use
Epson EcoTank ET-15000 Wide Format Color Printer with Scanner

Best Wide Format Sublimation Printer

Type: Inkjet Printer

Maximum Print Size: 13" x 19"

Maximum Resolution: 4800 x 1200 optimized dpi

Printing Speed: 17 PPM BW :: 9 PPM Color


To get substantially better performance than the amazing and inexpensive Epson ET-2800 below, you have to go all the way to the top of the Epson home printer line-up, with the ET-15000. The 15000 is a much faster printer, and handles larger paper (up to 13 inches wide), and while the quoted resolution is in fact lower than the ET-2800, this premium printer clearly prints with greater sharpness and impact, having higher quality print heads, better mechanical quality and registration.

That same superior mechanical quality that helps this printer produce such sharp and energetic prints also ensures that it is a very reliable and long lasting unit, suitable for even large volume printing. The Epson ET-15000 is, in fact, my first choice for a home business, and for any serious crafters and artists interested in producing the highest quality items it is without a doubt the best premium sublimation printer overall, as well as the best wide-format sublimation printer.

Best Value Sublimation Printer for Home Use

Best Value for Home use
Epson EcoTank ET-2800 Color Printer with Scanner

Best Value Sublimation Printer for Home Use

Type: Inkjet Printer

Maximum Print Size: 8.5" x 47.2"

Maximum Resolution: 5760 x 1440 dpi

Printing Speed: 10 PPM BW :: 5 PPM Color


We’re going to make this easy (and cheap) – while more expensive Epson ecotank printers for the home offer slightly higher print speeds, and automatic two-sided printing (which isn’t even applicable here), along with other minor improvements, the new and improved Epson ET-2800 actually offers better resolution, and is a real workhorse of a printer. And, besides being a stellar sublimation printer for almost no money, the 2800 is also a highly accomplished scanner, for digitizing artwork and for copying documents.

For the money one of the best values in printers today, and a perfect choice for a beginner sublimation printer, the Epson EcoTank ET-2800 is highly recommended and a supreme value!

Best Ink for Sublimation Printers

  1. Printers Jack 400ML Sublimation Ink for Epson EcoTank Printers - 4 Colors
  2. Printers Jack 400ML Sublimation Ink for Epson EcoTank Printers - 4 Colors

    For Epson C88 C88+ WF7710 ET2720 ET4700 ET15000 ET2760 ET2750 WF7820 Inkjet Printers Heat Press Transfer on Mugs, Plates, Polyester Shirts, Phone Cases etc


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Printers Jack 600ML Sublimation Ink for Epson EcoTank ET-8550 Photo - 6 Colors
  4. Printers Jack 600ML Sublimation Ink for Epson EcoTank ET-8550 Photo - 6 Colors

    Press Heat Transfer Ink for Artisan 1430 Stylus Photo 1400 T50 L800 L805 837 730 835 810 Printers Artisan 1410 1500W RX560 RX580 on Mug Cup T-Shirt Pillow


    Buy Now on Amazon

Wow, this is the easiest buyer’s guide I’ve ever assembled! Not only is there only one really great choice for the best sublimation printers – Epson EcoTank – there is also one clear winner for the best sublimation inks – Printers Jack.

Yeah, there are a lot of different brands and choices, all of which at least claim to be perfect for sublimation printing and transfer, but some of them don’t work at all, some of them are pretty pale and sad, some of them are absurdly expensive, and none of them are Printers Jack.

For relatively little money you can get a full set of either six (for the Epson ET-8550 Photo printer) or four (for all other printers on our list) color inks which are designed for, and work beautifully with, the sublimation process, and make absolutely beautiful images and transfers. With real permanence, both in bonding and in color saturation and appearance, Printers Jack sublimation inks work great and look great every single time.

Don’t even mess around with other brands or products – whether more expensive or less expensive – when Printers Jack sublimation ink offers such quality and such value. It’s easy to understand why their products are the best selling and the most highly rated – they are easily the best inks for sublimation printing on the market today.

Best Paper for Sublimation Printers and Heat Transfer

Another clear choice, this time in the best paper for sublimation. A-Sub paper is specifically designed for sub printing, and is made to the very highest standards, to provide clear, sharp images and superb color fidelity and saturation every single time. 

And, surprisingly given its exceptionally high quality, A-Sub paper is quite reasonably priced!

Sure, there are less expensive choices out there (slightly less, at least), but given that sublimation printed products can be of such beauty and high quality it makes sense to select a paper that will make them turn out as good as possible, and offer such a high level of consistency in results as well. That’s what A-Sub paper does, and why it is the best sublimation printing paper available.

Best Heat Press for Sublimation

  1. Cricut EasyPress 2
  2. Cricut EasyPress 2

    9"x 9" Heat Press Machine For T-Shirts and HTV Vinyl Projects, Raspberry.

    The best choice for transferring larger images


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Cricut EasyPress Mini
  4. Cricut EasyPress Mini

    Heat Press Machine For T-Shirts, Shoes, Hats and Small HTV Vinyl Projects

    Small heated surface, precise heat control and easy maneuverability


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Cricut Mug Press
  6. Cricut Mug Press

    Mug Heat Press for Sublimation - Compatible with Cricut Infusible Ink - Cricut Mug Blanks

    Good for mugs and, well, mugs. Ok, glasses, cups and tumblers too, and if you are making these items this press makes it much, much easier!



    Buy Now on Amazon

Lots of the buyer’s guides and tutorials out there recommend using a standard household iron, but for sublimation printing this isn’t really such a good idea. They often don’t get hot enough, or maintain a stable enough temperature, and the surface may not be consistent or optimal for sublimation heat transfer. 

A good arts and crafts press, on the other hand, will offer:

  • Precisely Adjustable Temperatures and Pressure Settings
  • Faster Pressing Time
  • Greater Working Area
  • Better, More Consistent and Predictable Results

Here we have a couple of great choices, which really come down to your own style and preferences.

On one hand, we can use the fabulous Cricut heat press, which is available in a few different styles. I have to admit that I’m a little in love with Cricut and all of their products, which are not only of incredibly high quality but also seem designed by and for artists and crafters, and are always quite clever and useful.

Currently, Cricut offers the three different heat presses above.

On the other hand, or, I guess, on the table, you can get a more conventional heating press, with their big working area and a swing arm to apply pressure. Such a press is definitely more stable and can give you more control, especially if your hand isn’t always steady, and table-top presses are preferred by lots of crafters for various projects.

There are a thousand choices, but I recommend the well made and easy to use Fancierstudio 1800 Watt 15×15 Inch Press as the best value, or their Fancierstudio 1800 Watt 16×20 Inch Press for larger designs.

  1. Fancierstudio Power Heat press
  2. Fancierstudio Power Heat press

    Digital Heat Press 15 x 15 Sublimation Heat Press Rhinestone Heat Press T-Shirt Heat Press 15x15 B/BLK


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Fancierstudio Heat Press
  4. Fancierstudio Heat Press

    16x20 Heat Press Sublimation Rhinestone Heat Press 16x20PW BLK


    Buy Now on Amazon

Any high quality heat press is easily one of the best investments an artist or crafter can possibly make, and either way you go here – Cricut or FancierStudio – you will get a really high quality press, which is not just good for sublimation transfer but in fact incredibly versatile. I myself like both, and am happy to recommend any of the three Cricut heat presses or the two FancierStudio table-top presses as the best press you can get for sublimation printing transfers. 

Bonus: Sublimation Printing Starter Kit for Beginners

I’ve titled my bonus section about the best sublimation printing kits in the form of a question, but it is one you may already know the answer to.

Or, more specifically, you probably already know if you personally prefer to buy bits and pieces, selecting each and every part of the kit individually, or just get it all done in one fell mouse-click with an all-in-one sublimation printing kit.

And if you are the latter, and like to make sure you have literally everything you could possibly need in one package so you can get right to the art-and-crafting, there is one kit on Amazon which really stands out.

The Transfer World sublimation printing package not only comes with a really high quality desktop heat press, along with various attachments for mugs and other items, but an excellent Epson Workforce printer as well, complete with a full set of sublimation inks, and literally everything else you could possibly need. The entire kit includes:

  • 15×15 Inch Heat Press with Speciality Attachments for Mugs, Hats, etc
  • Epson Workforce WF-3720 Printer
  • Chipless Ink Cartridges with Sublimation Inks
  • 100 Sheets A4 Sublimation Paper
  • Various Products for Sublimation – T-Shirts, Mugs, Jigsaw Puzzles, Mouse Pads, etc.
  • Cables, Additional Accessories and Instructions

From personal experience, I can only really vouch for the printer itself, which is a brilliant product and especially suited for sublimation printing. But, based on dozens of customer reviews, it is clear that this is a really great complete starter set, which makes sublimation printing as easy and fun as possible. Most often mentioned are the quality and usability of the heat press, the excellence of the printer and the great customer service and support the seller offers.

Thanks so much for reading my latest article – Sublimation Printing for Fun and Profit: A Detailed Description and Buyer’s Guide –  and please visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for tons of other inspiring ideas, resources, articles, buyer’s guides and a lot more!

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