Get Started with Sublimation: Choosing a Printer

Note: This post is the second in our series “Get Started with Sublimation” which will be co-authored by our sublimation expert, Tom Chambers. In this series we will lead you through the steps you need to take to set up your own sublimation shop and will give you tips that will help ensure you get the right equipment and supplies for your needs. This post deals with choosing the proper printer for your sublimation needs

If you want to be successful with a sublimation business, the first thing to remember is that everything starts with the printer. The printer you elect to use will determine the overall quality of your prints, the size of the items you can sublimate, the speed of your printing, and how many headaches you may have to endure as you work to get the printer printing correctly. Obviously choosing the proper printer is important, but how do you determine which printer is the proper printer for you? Here are three things you should consider.

First, look at the size of the prints you will need. The size of the print is determined by the size of the items you plan to sublimate. Make sure you look at the largest item on your list, as that is the maximum print size your printer will need to create. If your largest item is a license plate or a coffee mug, you won’t need a printer that will print 13 x 19.

Second, consider how often you’ll use the printer and for what. Quality always matters, but so does the rate of usage of the printer and what you’ll be printing. Both Ricoh and Epson printers provide great quality. Epson printers may require more maintenance and more frequent use but (depending on who you ask) the 6 and 8 color models have a very slight edge when it comes to fleshtones and pastels. Epsons are generally preferred by professional photographers. Ricoh printers tend to be faster, generally have very few maintenance issues, can often sit for days or weeks unused without cleanings, and are designed more robustly.

Third, determine the cost of the print. For low to mid level Epsons, ink cartridges are considerably more expensive. Using a bulk system may lower cost, but it can also introduce a whole new set of potential problems into the mix. If you choose to go with a higher end Epson, you can get 8 large size cartridges at a bulk price, without having the headaches that a bulk system might potentially cause. The Ricohs, on the other hand, give you the best of both worlds, four inexpensive cartridges, but enough ink to qualify as large capacity and no need for a bulk ink system. To see more about ballpark price for prints, you can view the EnMart printer comparison and approximate printing cost PDF on the EnMart website.

After you’ve answered the questions and viewed the data, your choice of printer should be fairly simple. Once your printer has been chosen, it’s time to move on to the other major choice you need to make, choosing a heat press. That choice will be the focus of our next “Get Started with Sublimation” post.

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