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Which cheap sublimation printer is best?

If you’re an artist, graphic designer, or just want to make your own T-shirts and mugs, a sublimation printer can be an excellent tool to add to your creative arsenal. 

There is no getting around the fact that the best quality sublimation printers can be a significant investment, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. There are quality budget models out there if you know where to look. The top pick is the Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000.

What to know before you buy a cheap sublimation printer

What is sublimation printing?

Sublimation printing allows you to print an image onto paper to transfer to another item, such as a T-shirt. 

Unlike typical inkjet printing, sublimation printing utilizes vapor ink, which has been heated until it turns into a gas, so it can better penetrate the sublimation paper. You can then use that paper to transfer the image to various items you are trying to print on using a heat press machine. 

The paper ultimately traps the ink inside the paper to create high-resolution images that are sharp, clear and even resistant to water damage. The key thing to remember about any type of sublimation printing is that you are printing into the coating and not the item. 

This process is more expensive because it requires a sublimation printer and compatible ink and paper. 

What products can be printed with sublimation?

Many different items can work with sublimation, including fabric, mugs and ornaments. These items can also be made from different materials. Still, the catch is that each specific item has to be explicitly made for sublimation because they require the same polyester coating.

What to look for in a cheap sublimation printer 

Paper size

If you’re planning to use your sublimation printer for a specific project, be sure to check the capacity for paper size. Some of the cheaper models can only support 8-inch by 11-inch prints, which might not be compatible with what you need. 

Ink supply

Since you need specialized ink, and sublimation printing may require more ink than a regular inkjet printer, you want to make sure you have enough ink on hand. Some printers come with backup ink and a supply that will last a considerable time. 

Some printers utilize ink cartridges, and others utilize high-capacity ink tanks so that you can refill each color manually as needed. 

Wi-Fi technology

If you want to get rid of the cables, look for a sublimation printer with a Wi-Fi connection so that you can print from multiple computers and in different locations. All you need is a reliable wireless connection. 

How much can you expect to spend on a cheap sublimation printer?

For the best of the best, you can spend upward of $2,500 on a quality sublimation printer, but affordable models are available for under $300. The trade-off is that they don’t have as many features, so make sure the sublimation printer you purchase is capable of what you need.

Cheap sublimation printer FAQ

What’s the best color material for sublimation printing?

A.  Sublimation printing tends to work better when printing on white or light materials compared to black or dark material, which can show through onto the design. For example, if you tried to print a yellow image on a black shirt, some of the black can show through and slightly change the color of the yellow. 

Can I use a sublimation printer and sublimation ink to print on regular paper?

A. Technically, yes, but it won’t look good because it’s not being used for what it was designed. It’s best to use sublimation paper and ink specifically for sublimation printing only. 

What’s the best cheap sublimation printer to buy?

Top cheap sublimation printer

Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000

Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000

What you need to know: Create brilliant and bright prints with this printer with professional HD photo quality. Operating at only 49 decibels, it’s also extremely quiet. 

What you’ll love: It’s smaller and more compact than other printers, so it should easily fit on your desktop. This supports two-sided document printing and comes with a 200-sheet front tray and a 50-sheet rear tray for specialty media. Don’t worry about keeping tabs on your ink levels because if you activate Dash Replacement, it will keep track of your ink levels and order you more when running low. 

What you should consider: Keep in mind that this works only with Epson ink cartridges. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cheap sublimation printer for the money

Canon PIXMA TR4520

Canon PIXMA TR4520

What you need to know: This is an affordable wireless printer that you can control from an app on your smartphone. 

What you’ll love: It comes with AirPrint, Mopria Print Service, built-in ADF and auto power capabilities. It’s also compatible with Alexa and can print everything up to legal-size documents in vibrant color, so color copies come out looking great. 

What you should consider: This printer comes complete with Dash Replenishment, which automatically detects when ink cartridges are low. Still, some customers feel that the ink gauge is not always accurate and reads low even after a refill.  

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Epson EcoTank ET-2720

Epson EcoTank ET-2720

What you need to know: This versatile printer with a built-in scanner is fast, affordable and easy to navigate, making it great for home use. 

What you’ll love: Say goodbye to ink cartridges because this uses high-capacity ink tanks that are easy to refill. It comes with a two-year supply of ink. The Micro Piezo Heat-Free Technology allows you to print vibrant color photos and graphics on just about any type of paper. 

What you should consider: Some customers have reported problems with Wi-Fi capability. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Ryan Dempsey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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