The concept of dye-sublimation printers (or just “sublimation printers”) is seldom well-explained for those who know little about their functions. As someone who’s looking into the printing business and was just recommended to check one out, there are a handful of important distinctions to make that will help you find the right printer for your chosen line of work whether it’s photo-boothing, printed merchandise or digital art displays.
The first point is that, yes, ordinary inkjet printers can sometimes be used for sublimation printing, but not all typical office printers are capable of accepting dye-sublimation cartridges.
If you’re looking to pump out prints for mugs, rugs, t-shirts and tiles, you’re recommended to at least purchase a photo printer that secondarily supports sublimation printing. Epson and Ricoh are known for their inkjet printers that also support dye-sublimation usage.
However, if you’re looking at a dedicated machine for applying graphics to merchandise, there are a couple metrics to look at. The first problem that many people have is the lack of software support, which usually begins with the sale of a printer that doesn’t come with drivers or installation discs. In these cases, you’ll need to look up the software online and install it before you can run the hardware. The other points of consideration are how large of an image you’re trying to print, the quality and type of ink involved, and how quickly you need it done. Generally speaking, sublimation printers work like any ordinary office printer except with different paper and ink involved, and that’s where your ordinary paperwork machine may not do the trick.
Also keep in mind that purchasing a sublimation printer requires investment in additional hardware such as a heat press. Rather than printing the image directly onto the item, you print it on high-quality paper that’s later given heat and pressure treatments to apply the image onto your chosen medium. Because of this, the factors that matter most when considering a sublimation printer will boil down to the quality and quickness of the initial printed image before other steps of the process are involved. This means that choosing the right printer shouldn’t be difficult, and we’re here to make it even easier by walking you through what makes or breaks various models when it comes to your particular needs.
Let’s jump into the comparison table and see what’s inside these 15 best dye-sublimation printers that might just form the core of your successful enterprise one day.
Best Sublimation Printer Comparison Table
|Product||Photo||Maximum Print Size (inches)||Max Resolution (dpi)||Connectivity||Check Price|
|Mitsubishi CP-9550DW||6.0 x 9.0||346||USB||Check Price|
|DNP DS820A 8"||8 x 32||300 x 600||USB||Check Price|
|HiTi P525L||6 x 8||300||USB, Wi-Fi||Check Price|
|Olympus P-11||4 x 6||310||USB||Check Price|
|Sawgrass Virtuoso SG800||11 x 17||1200 x 1200||USB, Ethernet||Check Price|
|DNP DS620A||6 x 8||300 x 300||USB||Check Price|
|Mitsubishi CP-D70DW||6 x 9||300||USB||Check Price|
|DNP Event Photo Printer DS-RX1HS||6 x 8||300 X 600||USB||Check Price|
|Mitsubishi CP-K60DW-S||6 x 8||300 X 300||USB||Check Price|
|Epson Workforce 30||8.5 x 14||5760 x 1440||USB||Check Price|
|Canon Selphy CP1200||3.9 x 5.8||300 X 300||USB||Check Price|
|Epson C88+||8.5 x 11||5760 x 1440||USB||Check Price|
|Kodak Dock||4 x 6||n/a||USB, Wi-Fi||Check Price|
|Kodak Mini||2.1 x 3.4||n/a||USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Check Price|
|Kodak Mini Shot||2.1 x 3.4||n/a||USB, Bluetooth||Check Price|
Best Sublimation Printer in Category
Mitsubishi CP-9550DW — Best Sublimation Printer for Mugs
Mitsubishi’s offering is focused solely on sheer detail and color reproduction, making it a top competitor for dye-sublimation usage.
While there are more expensive options on the table, price doesn’t always reflect quality, and this one is centered on improvements to the thermal head, processing chips and the whole nine to bring AMOLED-like color and razor-sharp resolution to prints that convert beautifully to the surface of retail merchandise. While it’s not the fastest printer out there, the difference in quickness is a mere matter of seconds and hardly a price to pay for the excellent photo quality.
Mitsubishi CP-9550DW — Best Sublimation Printer for T-Shirts
As before, this is going to be your best bet for quality sublimation printing regardless of the merchandise that you’re applying it to.
Keep in mind that unless the material is nylon or polyester, you’ll need to use a clear toner (overcoat) to form a functional medium upon which the print can stick. This is also important with mugs, but it’s a bigger problem with apparel because of how commonly people will attempt to heat-press imagery onto cotton shirts. If you can supply the cartridge for it, this printer will do it better than any other on this list.
DNP DS820A — Best Sublimation Printer for Photo Booth
When you’re hosting a photo booth, you need a printer that balances speed with quality while offering robustness to keep chugging for hours at a time.
What sets this bad boy apart from most of the printers that we’re reviewing is the exceptionally polished texturing feature that adds “Fine Matte” or “Luster” overlays to photos, helping to preserve them and bring out that much-desired professional look and feel. The DS820A takes this one by a landslide despite a handful of other options on the list offering similar but inferior matte and glossy overlays for their prints.
Epson C88+ — Best Sublimation Printer for Small Business
This is one shockingly good deal for the price, which is right down the alley of small-time enterprises that have a limited budget but need quality prints to gain vertical in their line of work.
This machine accepts any type of ink, can handle inkjet and dye-sublimation processes easily, and it delivers surprisingly good image quality. Just as important is the optimizations to prints for improved heat transference onto merchandise, making this a great solution for small printing businesses.
HiTi P525L — Best Sublimation Printer for Events
There are many metrics to look for in a printer that does the whole events gig best, and admittedly, there were other sublimation-capable printers here that offer higher-quality prints. However, none of them offer the combined portability and robustness that the P525L does.
The only catch is that you might need a laptop to upload the media with since the wireless support is cited as lacking on this machine, but if that’s no problem for you, this is going to be a printer that you can confidently bring along for enterprise-level prints whether they’re for photo booths or simple sublimation presses.
Olympus P-11 — Best Sublimation Printer for Beginners
This one’s as inexpensive and easy as sublimation printers can get. Plug it in, hit the power and hook it up to your PC or laptop to begin. It only prints in 4×6, so there aren’t any settings to muck around with, and you simply load the media of choice and print it off like you would with any ordinary inkjet printer. This is an inexpensive dye-sublimation solution that’s ideal for an introduction to the process of dye sublimation, especially when you’re getting your wheels off the ground and don’t have the funds to afford more powerful solutions.
Kodak Dock and Wi-Fi Photo Printer — Best Cheap Sublimation Printer
This was a close toss-up against the Epson C88+, but we were looking for something a little different in the cheap department.
While this may not be quite the beast that Epson’s machine is, Kodak’s docking dye-sublimation printer works with nearly any media source and conveniently hooks right up to your smart device wirelessly. It provides quick, pro-level prints without a hitch, and the printer itself is quite compact and affordable. The sheer convenience, reliability and quality that comes bundled with this printer makes it an excellent low-cost solution for general purposes, but it can also be used in a business setting if needed.
Best Sublimation Printer Reviews
Mitsubishi CP-9550DW – Best Sublimation Printer for T-Shirts and Mugs
Dropping in at about 37 pounds, this is one printer that you’ll want to set on a spacious, sturdy surface.
This machine primarily focuses on color reproduction with a bevy of “revolutionary” and “unique” systems, all jargon that basically adds up to this: Your colors are going to be spot-on, rich and ocean-deep. It also brings 346 DPI for a crisper than usual result in addition to adaptive thermal head management.
Altogether, you have an ideal setup for dye-sublimation printing that’s delivered from 16-bit processing, which means that you’re getting some nice-looking prints with this machine.
Reviews don’t indicate any issues with this model, which is almost disappointing: There’s nothing negative to say! This is a solid recommendation for photo booths and dye-sublimation printing that requires great emphasis on detail and especially color.
- Exceptional color reproduction and depth
- Exceptionally detail imagery
- Quite fast
- Improved thermal head system that improves dye-sublimation print quality
- You won’t want any other printer out there
Is that a microwave? Nope — that’s the DNP DS820A, a full-featured printing solution to facilitate your business.
It ships with a power cable that’s compatible with US electrical sockets, and why this specific detail is relevant enough to list at the top of the specs list, we’re not here to say. However, Americans, this one’s apparently for you!
In any case, if you’re working with a price tag that’s this hefty, there has to be something worth redeeming it for, and digging deeper, it appears that the DS820A is supererogatory in a few regards. Let’s talk about this.
You can pump out images with these benefits at up to 125 prints per hour, which is well worth a place in a fast-paced business environment on its own where you’d need to invest or two or three others to make up the difference.
It fills a niche, but if you’re in the business of selling high-quality prints fast, DNP has the product that you need. It also covers a wide spectrum of print types ranging from the standard 8×10 and 8×12 all the way up to 8×32 and going as small as 8×4 if needed. These sizes can actually be worked out into a stitched-up panorama piece although you’ll need to print the individual pieces and then assemble them accordingly. With an improved thermal print head and a standby mode that hacks power consumption down to a mere two percent, this is a formidable machine on all fronts.
Besides this caveat, we recommend the DNP DS820A as an affordable business asset that brings speed, quality, and grace in a fairly small package.
- Excellent contrast, color and clarity in prints
- Fast printing
- Can add glossy or matte textures to photography prints
- May encounter driver conflicts with Windows 10
Coming back down to mid-range territory, we have a dye-sublimation printing solution by HiTi. While it fills the usual range of activities — reasonably fast printing, acceptably high-quality prints, good color accuracy and so on — its winning distinction is the durability of its internal components, which is said to handle even the toughest tasks.
This might be important for some users since some printers are known to fall apart or break down with continued use over time; there are just so many moving parts that can lead to problems with generated heat and missteps in mechanical syntax. The P525L is also a compact little machine, meaning you can bring it along for photo booth and dye-sublimation printing events with ease.
This is advertised as the first printer to use RFID technology to eliminate the need for media keys when swapping out media. It supports the ever-typical 300 DPI, which does just beautifully for standard-sized prints. Its usage is primarily described as ideal for setting up at special events to pump out pro-level prints for pressing into merchandise or selling as simple photos for guests, which makes it a great investment for a visual business venture.
This sublimation printer is recommended if you need a portable printing solution that’s durable enough to handle constant, high-speed tasks over the course of a day with a laptop or PC to host the media with. With enterprise-level print quality, you shouldn’t have any qualms with the color and detail in the prints.
- Robust internal mechanisms
- Fine balance of portability and quality makes it ideal for bringing along for events
- Doesn’t require that you swap media keys thanks to an RFID chip that’s built-in
- Wireless support leaves much to be desired
A simple yet affordable offering, Olympus has a 310-DPI solution at a low dollar cost that prints slowly but effectively.
In an attractive chassis, you have 4×6 prints that punch out every 33 seconds, translating to slightly less than 120 per hour — not bad for what you pay! There’s nothing special about this machine, and it doesn’t try to be anything more than the definitive beginners dye-sublimation printer to help you learn the ropes. It only prints in 4×6, so don’t expect any options, but the image quality is cited to be indistinguishable from pro-level prints in some cases.
- Only supports 4×6 prints
Sawgrass Virtuoso SG800
Based off Ricoh’s line of sublimation printers, this complete printing kit takes a leap into the more expensive side of things with support for high-definition CMYK ink cartridges and weighing in at a slammin’ 38.3 pounds — that is, put it on a solid surface.
At 28x14x20 inches, it’s not a tiny machine, but if you’re paying this kind of money for a sublimation printer, chances are solid that you have a spacious setting to keep it in. Naturally, this is the type of printer that you’d go for if you own a business and need high-end specs to meet client expectations.
These enterprise-level factors include 1,200 x 1,200-DPI prints for ludicrously deep detail that’s surgically applied to the paper with SubliJet-HD ink, which is specially formulated to push a 26-percent gain on color gamut. This means that not only will the results be astoundingly sharp; they’ll also be quite colorful. It’s almost like having Samsung’s AMOLED on paper — yeah, that sort of saturation. Of course, vibrancy means little if it doesn’t print accurately, but Virtuoso’s big, bad dye-sublimation printer does all that and cooks your dinner too.
Finally, there’s the BusinessBuilder software that comes with your printer, which basically drives home the whole idea of Virtuoso’s Ricoh-based machine being enterprise-oriented. This software is designed to help you take the steps toward a successful printing business with webinars, guides and a planner that’s meant to serve as home base for your operations.
- 1,200×1,200 DPI resolution promises incredibly sharp prints
- Deep, accurate colors
- Comes bundled with several business-oriented software offerings that help you get your printing business off the ground
- It quotes large and heavy, so you’ll need to dedicate ample space for it
- It’s not cheap for a small printing business
DNP is a cool cat when you want to-the-point, no-gimmicks desktop sublimation printing, and we’re right back in the game of “valid for professional dye-sublimation” with the DS620A.
Although the price tag is a bit heavy, you’re promised the full spectrum of cables and software provisions for linkage to your PC, and you’re given the standard array of printing options to boot. At 8.3 seconds per 4×6 print, it’s not the fastest sublimation printer that we’ve reviewed, but it’s certainly above the average. It also supports between 200 and 400 sheets depending on size, which is fair but nothing special.
While the 300-DPI resolution may seem a little weak, DNP has maximized the crispness that’s offered at this figure, and you’d struggle to tell the difference apart from an inferior printer at much higher resolutions.
Ideal for photo booths, this well-rounded dye-sublimation solution is simple but keen at what it does and makes a worthy match for professional printing businesses of small caliber. Keep in mind that it’s quite heavy at a wholesome 34 pounds, but the form factor is manageable.
- Well-rounded balance between quality and printing speed
- Comes with the full spectrum of attachments and software for compatibility unlike some printers
- Supports a standard array of print sizes
- Resolution is a little underwhelming for the price
From the get-go, the visage that’s bestowed upon the Japanese company’s sublimation printer inspires a sense of uncompromising utility with the port bristles and stately build.
However, you don’t care about that; you want to know what the sublimation printing is like, and the reviews are glowing. Although the specifications don’t look exceptional on the surface — 300 DPI is pretty average-sounding, we admit — it’s another example of punching well beyond the numbers on paper. The exact number is undisclosed, but it’s said to support high-volume printing operations with “ultra-fast” speeds, which translates to usefulness in a nimble business-driven environment. Reviews indicate that the figure is around 200 prints per hour for 4×6 prints.
It also brings “ultrafine”, “superfine” and “fine” print modes with glossy and matte texture finishes. A printer of this caliber is great for photo booths, but its sublimation printing is also up there in quality, allowing you to stick professional-level imagery to shirts, mugs, skateboards and more with confidence.
Amazingly, Mitsubishi managed to pack this much power into a rather slim package that can be ported around easily and tucked wherever you have a little room left over. The CP-D70DW supports a limited range of print sizes, but they all fall within standard configurations, so we don’t think this will be a limitation for most users.
- Incredibly fast printing that averages out at around 200 prints per hour for 4×6 prints
- Crisp print quality
- Compact and lightweight, making it easy to port around for events
- Print sizes are somewhat limited but likely not an issue for most users
It’s certainly not the most attractive box that you’ve ever seen, but you don’t care about that, do you?
You want the finest prints, and admittedly, this doesn’t do it in $10,000 of style, but it manages pro-level prowess at 2×6, 4×6, 5×7 and 6×8 to cover an expanded spectrum of items for delivery or personal decoration. With a focus on photo-boothing, event photography is the name of the game with DNP’s eerily 90’s-fashioned machine, which is said to consume 25 percent less power — than what, we don’t know, but we’ll go with “efficient” on that note.
The DS-RX1HS is cited by some to be bulkier and heavier than preferred, but this should be an insignificant detail for serious users who will surely have a study end table to keep it perched on if nothing else. The reviews are generally very positive about the DS-RX1HS. There aren’t any issues with the functionality itself. The only actual problem that anyone has with it is the sheer bulk and weight, which makes it difficult to place anywhere but on sturdy desks, or worse, the floor itself.
- Wide spectrum of printing sizes
- Simply reliable; no functional inconveniences
- Unwieldy size and weight combination
Straddling the lower mid-range on price, there’s a healthy plethora of good and better under the hood with Mitsubishi’s take on sublimation printing.
It seems odd that a company known best for its automobiles would create this, but when you have a standby mode that cuts the average power consumption by 96 percent and a new, high-resolution image processing technique that irons out the jaggies at 300 DPI, we’re not complaining. This is a well-rounded machine with an attractive matte finish and a two-print option that cuts back on the amount of time and resources required to push your prints out, making the CP-K60DW-8 a point of pride for its corner of the office.
We’d recommend this printer to anyone who’s looking for a well-rounded and attractive dye-sublimation solution for their business, especially with photo booths. Personal use should probably be relegated to a cheaper solution, but the CP-K60DW-S should fill the role just fine if you’re willing to pay for it. Keep in mind that its five pages per minute isn’t the fastest out there, but smaller enterprises can move merchandise fairly quickly at this rate.
- Reliable, well-rounded solution
- Allows for the printing of two images from one media, conserving resources and time
- Ultra low-power standby mode cuts back on consumption by 96 percent, saving on utility costs
- Some find that it jams frequently
Epson WorkForce 30
The specifications on Epson’s sublimation printer aren’t shocking for an Epson printer so much as a printer of this price range.
For starters, let’s discuss that DPI — all 5,760 x 1,440 of it. That’s crazy to think about when average printers push roughly 300 even on the professional end of the scale. Since we’re talking about enterprise-level material here, it’s important to look for printers that yield higher resolutions, but to go this far was certainly not expected, and we mean that in a good way.
Rated at the ability to pump 16 ISO pages per minute with strictly black ink and 5.5 ISO with color, this thing isn’t just potent; it’s also quite fast. Draft speeds can also reach up to 38 PPM.
So far, this is looking like a well-rounded package that fills the basic needs of a printing business without the gimmicky extras that some boxes come packed with to justify a bloated price tag. However, there are a handful of drawbacks that counteract these benefits.
First off, wherever you go to buy the printer, beware that continuous ink systems (CIS) may be mentioned in related product categories. As it happens, Epson’s printer here doesn’t actually support CIS, and while you can certainly try to use one with it, it’s going to result in all kinds of miscalibration on ink readings and reloading. Additionally, the toner is cited to run down quickly and then cost a fortune to reload, making continuous upkeep an expensive endeavor with this machine. Other users note that the print feed system is lackluster, the device can be noisy at times, and it won’t accept denser paper types besides standard copy paper.
We recommend this as a quick, high-resolution dye-sublimation printer for those who don’t mind rolling dice with possible complications down the road or paying through the nose for toner.
- Excellent resolution
- Fast printing
- Dual-cartridge system improves the quickness of black prints
- Easy on the power bill
- Chews through toner like crazy
- Toner itself is quite expensive compared to other printers
- Small issues that add up such as difficult feed tray and noisy operation in some cases
Canon SELPHY CP1200
Dropping back to the budget side of the fence, we have a very affordable sublimation printer that doubles over awesomely for standard office printing purposes.
What else did you expect from Canon? This sucker comes with a standard load-out on board:
- Inbuilt Wi-Fi for easy connection,
- Support for Apple’s Airprint for wireless printing directly from your iPhone or iPad,
- SELPHY ink support,
- And a paper capacity that supports 18, 36 or 54 photos in an efficient package.
It’s not difficult to see that Canon was aiming for something that anybody can afford and bring along on the road for quick synching with a smart device. Of course, that part is great for office printing as much as dye-sublimation printing; it’s just a question of whether you’re looking for a solution that doesn’t tether you to a workstation. The flaw with this, however, is that you can’t apply sublimation prints unless you have the other necessary technology on hand — think heat press along with the optional polymer coating tools for application to any merchandise that isn’t already nylon or polyester for the most part. For this reason, it seems that the CCP1200 is geared mainly for traditional printing purposes.
Canon’s little machine taps out prints in card size, postcard, L-size and square labels. This is a sufficient spectrum of printing sizes to cover most basic needs and should prove more than useful for on-the-road prints.
We wholeheartedly recommend the Canon SELPHY CP1200 for anyone who’s looking for on-the-fly printing right from their own portable smart device, especially if you tend toward Apple’s products. While it’s capable of sublimation printing, we think that it’s better suited for personal photo prints due to the image quality being on the low end for a printing business. But if you’re just looking to make your own press-on prints without any enterprising in mind, this should fill the role just fine.
- Uniquely capable of utilizing an optional battery pack for on-the-go printing
- Seamlessly connects to Apple smart devices but can also be used nicely with Androids
- Print quality isn’t professional-level and probably shouldn’t be used for business-driven sublimation printing
Epson is one of the companies that’s known well for its dual-functionality printers that can handle both classic office printing and dye-sublimation solutions in a single package.
Keep in mind that printers of this type shouldn’t be switched incessantly between the two functions, so pick a path and stick to it.
That said, the results of this printer play exceptionally nice with heat transference, which helps cut down on the second half of the process if you’re in the game to create merchandise or brand your journals with your own photography. Unlike the last two entries in this review, this is a standard-sized offering that sits on a desk next to your monitor, coaster and coffee cup. Ah, the completeness is real.
The C88+ was designed to be clog-free on the paper and ink fronts. This is particularly important if you’re trying to rap out prints for sale, and you’d find yourself buying this device to take advantage of the HotZone360 ink system that’s assembled right into it. This system can accept any type of printer ink for the purpose of heat transfer, but ideally, you’ll stick to dye-sublimation if you’re planning to heat-press your images into items and apparel.
Checking out the results of a solid print, however, you can see that they’re quite detailed and color-rich. There’s little more to say — it’s a basic, all-purpose sublimation printer that can handle office requirements on the side if you need it to.
- Accepts any type of ink
- Great dual-function printer for classic and sublimation uses
- Decently crisp prints with good color
- Prints are optimized for heat transference
- Lacks Wi-Fi or the cables that are required to connect to a PC, limiting connectivity out of the box
- Doesn’t come prepackaged with ink — if that matters to you
Kodak Dock and Wi-Fi Photo Printer
With a different attitude toward the idea that Canon’s SELPHY CP1200 took aim for, Kodak’s nameless machine keeps the price tag on the affordable side of the spectrum while offering an overwhelming gamut of features that punch well beyond the cost.
The first thing you’ll notice about this sublimation printer is the size: It’s tiny. Intuitively, you can dock an Android or Apple smartphone or tablet to the upper slot and import your photos for on-the-spot printing, and a tray extends from the bottom to capture the finished results.
There’s always something fascinating about tiny contraptions that unfold to improve functionality; it imparts that satisfying “transformation” effect a la Super Saiyan.
This printer also brings inbuilt Wi-Fi in tow and punches out 4×6 photos with substantial saturation and resolution. Admittedly, the level you’re getting isn’t going to be pro-quality, but not all printing businesses start on such highbrow notes.
Still, keep in mind that this machine is much like Canon’s in that it supports basic printing needs more effectively. However, the overcoat feature makes for an interesting exception to this argument. Adding to the many sources for your prints is support for digital cameras, SD cards and USB flash drives. It seems that Kodak has a confident product here, and throwing in outbound charging just solidifies the awesomeness inside.
- Accepts media from a wide variety of digital sources
- Convenient docking for smartphones and tablets, and doubles as a charging station for them
- Tiny form factor makes it easy to place anywhere
- Great quality for the price whether you’re using dye-sublimation or classic ink cartridges
- Only supports a single print size
Kodak Mini Portable Mobile Instant Photo Printer
“Mini” is indeed the term for this compact printer, which supports both classic inkjet and dye-sublimation prints as needed.
Like many printers of this form factor, Kodak’s portable solution packs wireless connectivity and full support for iPhone and Android on the go.
Interestingly, this printer uses PMC ink cartridges that “combines paper and color ink”, simplifying resource loading and consumption. One supposes that for a tiny printer, it makes sense to consolidate resources for compactness and convenience, but how paper and ink can be mashed into one item, we’re not sure.
Additionally, there’s a free companion app that can be loaded on your smart device for seamless interaction with the printer, making it easy to push your media over and pop it out on paper in seconds.
Naturally, at the given cost, you’re not getting top-of-the-line prints; however, Kodak’s prowess is recognized in visual hard- and software, and reviews speak to this extent with praise for the clarity and color outlay. Complementing the quality is an equally impressive print rate that’s undisclosed but still remarked for its surprising ability to receive digital media and make it physical almost immediately.
This may be another example of hardware that’s overextended beyond its means. When you manage to pack this much capability in such a tiny machine at an affordable cost, you run the risk of some delicate internal balance toppling over.
- Great clarity and color
- Faster than you’d expect
- Quite compact
- Syncs up wirelessly with Android or iOS smart devices with the help of a well-designed companion app
- Very affordable for what it offers
- Many reviews note that the device’s internal components begin to critically fail after a relatively short while
Kodak Mini SHOT
Well, now we’re dealing with a unique printer concept! The Kodak Mini SHOT is a printer — and a camera. You hold it steady, take aim and shoot like any other media capture device, and then you print the results on the spot like a Polaroid.
Apart from getting cool points for the modern touch to that old-fashioned detective feel, you never actually have to worry about plugging it in and setting it up on a desk or transferring media from an external source; it’s all built straight inside the pocket-sized chassis with an LCD screen to boot. The reviews are raving too.
You’re also getting auto-focus, exposure adjustment, gamma correct and white balance features that are standard in typical digital cameras. So it goes without saying that the camera company didn’t cut corners on the finer touches of your photography experience.
Unfortunately, the LCD display is all of 1.7 inches, which is smaller than a flip phone screen by all accounts other than quality. Still, you may consider exporting your images through Bluetooth to your Android or iOS device before printing them if you’re serious about quality. Then again, that defeats the point of the Mini SHOT’s whole concept in the first place. Considering the epic level of photography that’s available on smartphones these days, we don’t think the Bluetooth feature will be used for much more than preserving digital copies of images that unfortunately weren’t captured on your handset instead.
We recommend this printer only if you, for some reason, need the convenience of on-the-spot photo printing with an integrated camera in a pocket-sized form factor.
- Innovative concept that eliminates the need for external device communication or desktop setup, turning the scene in front of you into a print within seconds
- Slides right into your pocket
- Reasonably good print quality for the size
- Bluetooth radio to export images to smart devices
- LCD screen is way too small
- Cartridges are difficult to find
- Forget sublimation printing; this is only good for photos
Best Sublimation Printer Buying Guide
What Is A Sublimation Printer?
A sublimation printer, also known as dye-sublimation, is a printer that uses heat to apply ink to various media types.
The name of the printing process was initially created because it was thought that the heating stage caused the dyes to go straight to gas form without entering a liquid state. Since then, this has proven to not be the case and the name of the process is now known as dye diffusion. However, the original name of sublimation is still one of the most commonly used names for this printing process.
Sublimation vs Inkjet Printing
To understand how sublimation printers can beat many inkjet printers, you must understand how inkjet printers work and how they differ from sublimation options.
By combining various amounts of three primary colors, the microscopic droplets create different images. If you were to look at a photo that was printed from an inkjet printer under appropriate magnification, you would be able to see the microscopic dots that combine to make the overall image that you see with the print.
With inkjet printers, you will typically use standard paper to create things like office memos and other text or image documents. For photos, inkjet printers require a special photo paper media type that comes in various finish types.
How To Choose A Sublimation Printer?
When deciding how to choose a sublimation printer, it’s important to start with what your primary goal is.
Some primary reasons people use sublimation printers are:
- T-Shirt designs
- Creating custom coffee mugs
Most of the available printers that you will find can do a few of these things. However, very rarely will you find a printer that can do them all with just one unit. The reason for this is that different base media types require different application methods and print sizes.
Sublimation Printers for T-Shirts
Let’s look at custom t-shirts as an example. With t-shirt printing, you will need a dye sublimation printer with a larger printing capability. In addition, the printer must be able to accept a special type of high-release paper that is used to transfer your design via heat and pressure in a separate device directly to the fabric of the t-shirt.
Sublimation Printers for Mugs
For things like mugs, the process is somewhat similar. You will need a printer that can accept the right type of transfer paper for use on ceramic items like coffee mugs. You will also need a special press device that applies large amounts of heat and pressure to complete the transfer process to the mug.
Sublimation Printers for Scrapbooking
For simpler applications like scrapbooking, your options are much more open. You can use virtually any type of sublimation printer with appropriate paper types to create beautiful prints from home. Many of the printer options that are currently available even have protective coatings that are designed to extend the life of your prints when stored appropriately as well.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Sublimation Printer
Once you have an idea what your primary goal is, you can move onto other important factors like media size. Photo media size will determine what type of prints and projects you can complete using your printer.
Two of the most popular sizes to consider for use in things like frames are 5 by 7 and 8 by 10.
Printing Time and Volume
Once you have decided on the range of print sizes you prefer to work with, you can move onto other important features like printing time and volume:
- For smaller applications, basic printers are an excellent choice that sacrifices printing time for affordability.
- For commercial uses in things like photo booths, you’re better to stick with a larger printer that can produce prints at a faster pace that have larger paper capacities.
Portability is another important factor that you should take into account when shopping for a sublimation printer. While larger options for photo booths and other commercial applications are somewhat bulky, there are plenty of options available that are great picks for travel use.
If you’re looking for printers that are perfect for use while on the go, you should pay particular attention to their overall weight and battery capacity. Models with additional battery packs are another excellent choice to consider.
Importance of Device Connectivity
The last thing you should consider when shopping for a sublimation printer is the importance of device connectivity. The majority of commercially available printers that are available now support a broad range of devices like smartphones and tablets. Many of them are also compatible with things like SD cards and USB drives as well.
If you’re a fan of wireless technology, be sure to look for printers that are NFC and Bluetooth compatible to simplify operation.
How To Use Inkjet Printers For Dye Sublimation
With several of the models covered in our review, you will see that they are primarily inkjet printers.
There is only one inkjet model in our review so far: Epson Workforce 30.
With inkjet printers, the technology is slightly different than traditional dye sublimation models. However, they can still be used effectively for dye sublimation by following a few simple pieces of advice.
Besides making sure you are using the right type of ink, you will also need special types of paper. Most dye transfer papers are divided into categories based on the type of medium that you will be applying them to. Common examples include porcelain objects like mugs and cotton material like t-shirts. You need to make sure to select the right type of paper to ensure that you are getting the best transfer possible for your given project type.
As long as you follow these two points of advice, you can help guarantee that your home dye sublimation projects are a success. When in doubt, always remember to consult the owner’s manual that is included with your printer to make sure you use it in a safe and responsible manner.
Tips To Remember When Using Dye Sublimation Printers
While it may seem difficult to transition to dye sublimation printers, there are a variety of tips and tricks that can make the process easier for beginners.
Make sure to store your printing paper in a sealed container to prevent exposure. The reason for this is that dust can ruin a printing run and can become trapped in the heating elements of your printer.
For specialty projects like transfers to mugs and t-shirts, you will have to invest in a high-quality press. These devices reach very high temperatures and have adjustable clamps to ensure even heat and pressure distribution across the entire surface.
Sublimation printers are rapidly developing technology that most people still haven’t heard much about, so it’s difficult to fault anyone for needing a review guide to help them find the right printer for their needs.
There are quite a few metrics to look for, and between the confusion of DPI versus PPI, print sizes, thermal head regulation, color saturation, prints-per-minute and more, a shopping list of these technologies will often have you straddling the line between photo booth and dye-sublimation printers as if they’re good for the same purpose. Both are mighty fine markets to get into, but they focus on different areas.
Looking ahead, the sublimation printing market is booming and proving itself an easy gateway to entrepreneurship across the world. Anyone can pick up one of these printers with a heat press and start applying their own graphics to signs, rugs, portraits, textiles and more to cover a wide variety of markets.
This is an opportunistic time for the printing business, especially with online digital art gaining the prominence that it has with no sign of slowing up. It’s difficult to not find digital artists in every corner of the net, and the number of printing businesses is rising to match their market and push quality art to common household items and down-the-street garments alike.
Ten years ago, sublimation printers on the high end were punching out 25 prints per minute with a fraction of the quality that today’s printers do. This is a testament to the rising importance of this technology, and it’s only accelerating as the Internet opens the way for common citizens to create and upload art right from their handsets wherever they are. In time, we may begin to see micro-printer attachments for smartphones as the public warms up to the market of modular upgrades; we’ve already seen the rapid expansion of phone-mounted credit card readers in this fashion.
Robert Jones says
I arrange children’s parties for a living, and I like HiTi P525L. It seems like the best device ever designed for these purposes. But this is what bothers me: if I do not use roll and ribbon entirely during one event, the rest of it will become unusable, and for my next event I will have to refill the printer again?
Yes, as stated in this article, this is one of the best sublimation printers for any event. Do not worry though: the supplies do not become unusable if you do not use them all during one event. The only thing that can damage them or make them unusable is improper storage. It is also strongly recommended that you remove roll and ribbon from the printer before taking it on the road with you.
Hi! Can I customize the settings in Mitsubishi CP-9550DW so that it could automatically crop photos 4X6 in a photo-booth?
Hello Alan. Yes, there is such an option in this printer.
Jim Manner says
It appears I do not fully understand dye sublimation printing. Can either film or liquid ink type printers be used for transfer to items such as shirts or mugs?
William Hill says
Yes, some of them can, but only those models that work with sublimation ink.
Thank you very much for reviewing sublimation printers, William. My wife wanted to start a business, and this includes customized mugs. I was wondering what you think is the best sublimation printer for beginners? Both of us are not exactly the most knowledgeable when it comes to technology, haha. If you could suggest a specific model that will be efficient for printing mugs, but also wouldn’t give two folks in their 50s a headache, what would it be? We appreciate any comment; thank you.
William Hill says
Wow, I’m glad my review can help! And I agree that it can be difficult to understand technology nowadays. The good news is all the printers in their list have good interfaces and are easy to learn. But since you mentioned that you are printing mugs, I have to recommend the Mitsubishi CP-9550DW. You can easily find guides online, and I’m sure your printed mugs will stand out amongst your competition. The only negative I can see with this model is it’s a tad slow and bulky. Other than that, it would work well for your needs. Another recommendation I can think of is the Mitsubishi CP-D70DW, mainly if you have limited space. I hope this helps.
Hello, William! I am looking for the best dye sublimation printer. Based on this review, I think I’ll get the Mitsubishi CP-K60DW-S. I like how it’s not the priciest printer, but I’ll still get a ton of features. I don’t mind some jamming here and there because I don’t require a demanding task for the printer I’m buying. Other than that, what are some other negatives worth noting? Also, I’m pretty new to dye sublimation printers. Let me know some helpful tips in using them to help them last longer. Thank you so much!
William Hill says
Hello, and thank you for checking out our review. I hope we have helped you in your search. For the Mitsubishi printer you’re eyeing, occasional jamming is the only con we can mention about it. Of course, you can get something pricier if you hate that, but I think it provides good value for money. You also say that you’re not going to use it too demandingly, so I guess you can go for this printer! I also like that it’s economical to use, which saves the user more costs! About sublimation printers, it’s worth mentioning the importance of keeping them clean. Also, only use the proper unit for the products you’re printing. Please reread and bookmark our buyer’s guide, so you can reread it when needed.