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If you’re looking begin your sublimation printing adventure without buying a new printer, you might be looking at the option to convert your current inkjet into a sublimation printer. This detailed article will guide you through the practical process of “how to turn inkjet into sublimation printer”, including selecting the right printer, the type of ink required, and the exact steps to complete the conversion. Happy sublimating!

Key Takeaways

  • Sublimation printing uses heat to turn sublimation ink into gas, embedding it into materials for vibrant, durable prints; it’s well-liked for customizing various items and requires specific printers like the Epson EcoTank or SureColor series.
  • Converting an inkjet to a sublimation printer involves choosing a compatible Epson model, filling it with sublimation ink before its first use, and adjusting settings for optimal print quality; ensuring cleanliness and maintenance can improve print results.
  • Successful sublimation printing requires particular supplies, including sublimation paper and a heat press; troubleshooting common issues involves adjusting heat press settings and ensuring the use of high-quality inks and papers to prevent problems like ink bleeding and dull prints.

Understanding Sublimation Printing

Sublimation printer with flames emitting from the top

Sublimation printing, a chemical process that embeds ink into materials like polyester, produces vibrant and durable prints. This method is employed to transfer dye onto a wide variety of items, including sublimation ink bottles, which are essential for:

  • T-shirts
  • Mugs
  • Tech accessories
  • Home decor

Sublimation printing has gained substantial popularity, particularly among Cricut crafters, due to its ability to yield high-detail, durable results on materials such as ceramic, metal, and polyester.

Not to mention, sublimation printing provides seamless designs without the risk of cracking or peeling, a common issue with iron-on vinyl and screen printing.

The Science Behind Sublimation

But what makes this process so fascinating? It starts with sublimation inks. These inks contain solid dye particles suspended in a carrier fluid, which become highly viscous under the action of heat. The heat and pressure applied during the printing process cause these inks to turn into gas, enabling the dye to penetrate and occupy the open polymer molecules of the substrate. As the substrate cools, the polymers close around the dye particles, which solidify to create a permanent, high-definition print.[1]

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Fascinating, isn’t it?

Advantages of Sublimation Printing

Moving beyond the science, we can discuss the advantages sublimation printing offers. Here are some key advantages:

  1. It creates durable prints that are resistant to fading or chipping when washed, as the ink chemically bonds with the substrate material.
  2. The colors are exceptionally vibrant, and prints can achieve superior color fidelity and high-resolution due to the continuous tone capability of each ink dot.
  3. Sublimation ink dries immediately upon printing, allowing for the immediate handling and use of the item.
  4. Sublimation printing requires fewer maintenance efforts due to fewer moving parts in the process.

Lastly, the process is highly versatile, allowing printing on both hard and soft substrates, which makes it ideal for customizing a wide variety of products, including textiles and rigid items in both large and small quantities.

Choosing the Right Printer for Conversion

Row of blue printers in a shop

Having understood what sublimation printing entails and its advantages, the next step is to consider converting your printer. But not just any printer! The Epson EcoTank and SureColor series printers are the only recommended models from Epson for sublimation conversion due to their design, which can accommodate sublimation ink. To ensure the best results, it’s essential to invest in a high-quality dye sublimation printer.

Models such as the Epson EcoTank ET-2800, ET-15000, ET-2400, and ET-8550 offer a range of Epson inkjet printers from entry-level to wide format options for sublimation printers, with various price points and features that fit different needs and scales of projects.

Printer Compatibility

Why specifically Epson, you might ask? The preference for Epson printers is due to their MicroPiezo Print Heads which do not rely on heat, a factor that can cause issues with sublimation ink. Other printers such as:

  • HP
  • Canon
  • Dell
  • Lexmark

typically use thermal printheads and are not suited for conversion to sublimation printers.

Epson EcoTank models like ET-3760 and ET-4760 are compatible with sublimation ink, with EcoTank printers featuring a tank system that is easier to convert than the cartridge system in WorkForce printers. So, if you’re planning to convert a printer for sublimation, an Epson printer with Micro Piezo printheads is your best bet. Our Epson sublimation printer reviews might cover some of the queries you might have.

Factors to Consider

Selecting the ideal printer for conversion involves taking into account several factors. Balancing the initial investment of a dedicated sublimation printer like the Epson SureColor F170 against the cost of converting an EcoTank model can lead to long-term savings and fewer problems, thanks to the included warranty.

The EcoTank series, like the Epson EcoTank ET-2720, offers an affordable option that, when converted, provides quality prints and is cheaper to refill with sublimation ink, costing around $20-35. Ease of setup is also crucial. Purpose-built sublimation printers may present fewer hurdles and more customer support compared to converted printers.

The Epson EcoTank ET-2720, though superseded by the ET-2800, remains a viable option for conversion due to its simplicity in filling the ink tanks with sublimation ink.

Converting Your Inkjet Printer

Two white printers on a desk with arrows pointing towards each

After selecting the suitable printer, you can initiate the conversion process. To convert an Epson EcoTank to sublimation, you’ll need a new Epson EcoTank Printer and compatible sublimation ink. It’s crucial not to turn on the printer or use any original ink before starting the conversion process to maintain the printer’s readiness for sublimation ink.

Once you’ve filled the tanks with sublimation ink, plug in the printer and follow the instructions for alignment and printing setup.

Replacing Ink Cartridges

You might be wondering how to replace the ink cartridges. Here’s how:

  1. Open the top of the printer and the ink reservoir covers.
  2. Fill the tanks with sublimation ink by aligning the bottle nozzle with the tank hole or using syringes provided.
  3. Ensure not to exceed the top line indicated on the windows of the tanks.

It’s critical to use exclusively sublimation ink and to avoid mixing it with other types of ink to ensure proper printer functionality and print quality.

Cleaning the Printer

Before embarking on the conversion, it’s necessary to meticulously clean the printer, particularly if it has previously been used with pigment ink. When converting from pigment ink to sublimation ink, simply performing a printer nozzle cleaning command is insufficient; a manual teardown and thorough cleaning of the printer head, ink pipes, and replacement of pads is required.

Dust and contaminants on the transfer paper or substrate surface can result in faded areas or imperfections in the print, so keeping a clean workspace is essential. You could use a special cleaner like Koala’s printer flush designed for cleaning sublimation printers after printing with sublimation inks.[2]

Adjusting Printer Settings

Finally, optimizing your printer settings for sublimation printing is a crucial step. Here are some tips to follow:

  1. Select ‘Plain Paper’ in your paper settings.
  2. Choose ‘High’ or ‘Best’ output quality to ensure proper ink laydown without bleeding.
  3. Optimize your prints by setting image resolution to a maximum of 200 DPI for textiles.
  4. Use Adobe RGB color mode and gamma 2.2.
  5. Adjust the slide bar for cyan, magenta, and yellow to fine-tune your color balance and prevent ink bleeding.

Don’t forget to save your adjusted settings as a printer preset to facilitate consistent and efficient printing for future sublimation projects. You can utilize design-oriented programs like Paint or Microsoft Word, or specific cutting machine software like Cricut Design Space, to manage sublimation print settings effectively.

Essential Supplies for Sublimation Printing

Heat press machine and some other supplies

With your printer primed for sublimation printing, it’s time to review the necessary supplies. Basic supplies for sublimation crafting include:

  • Sublimation paper: specially designed to handle sublimation inks and facilitate the transfer process
  • Heat press: critical for sublimation printing, as it applies the heat and pressure necessary for transferring the sublimation ink from the paper onto the substrate
  • Heat-resistant tape: ensures the sublimation paper does not shift during transfer
  • Protective paper: such as parchment or butcher paper, guards the heat press and substrate from excess ink

Additional accessories for the printing process can include:

  • Heat gloves
  • Thermal tape
  • Spray adhesive
  • Teflon sheets
  • Silicone sheets
  • Heat transfer pillows
  • Sublimation heating pad

These accessories can enhance the printing process and workflow.

Recommended Sublimation Inks

As for the ink, Hiipoo EcoFill sublimation ink is specially designed for converting Epson EcoTank printers for sublimation use. Hiipoo ink features user-friendly aspects such as quick drying, smudge resistance, and no need for ICC profiles, simplifying the printing process.

Other recommended sublimation inks, including dye sublimation ink options, are:

  • Cosmos Ink, known for its color accuracy and eco-friendly formulation
  • Printers Jack ink
  • Sawgrass Sublijet HD ink tailored for professional use
  • Epson UltraChrome DS ink optimal for textile image printing

Selecting the Right Sublimation Paper

Selecting the right sublimation paper is also crucial for successful sublimation prints. Using paper not designed for sublimation can result in faded prints; sublimation-specific paper ensures a better transfer of ink and vibrant results. Quality sublimation paper must have a special coating to hold the ink, allow for high heat resistance during the pressing, and prevent ink bleeding for clear images.

Heavier sublimation paper like 125g is preferred for saturated designs, but for seamless designs or specific printer issues, a lighter paper such as 105g may be more suitable. A-Sub and Hiipoo are recommended brands for sublimation paper, especially for use in printers like the Epson EcoTank series.

Project Ideas and Tips for Sublimation Printing

A t-shirt and sublimation tumblers on a kitchen table

Armed with the requisite knowledge and tools, we can now unleash our creativity! You can customize items using dye-sublimation printing for a variety of creative projects. Some ideas include:

  • Key chains
  • Mugs
  • Phone cases
  • Large 40 oz tumblers
  • Hats
  • Custom coffee mugs

Remember to stay stocked on sublimation blanks and use preparatory steps to minimize the risk of shortages, allowing time to test and troubleshoot designs.

Enhance your sublimation skills and project outcomes by watching tutorial videos and reading blogs about the sublimation process. Utilize design software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel Draw, or Sawgrass CreativeStudio for specific project adjustments like resizing and editing images. The potential of sublimation projects as personalized gifts for occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and Christmas is limitless, suitable for recipients of all ages and relationships.

Designing Your Sublimation Print

When designing your sublimation prints, here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  1. Use full-bleed images for comprehensive design coverage.
  2. Mirror the design horizontally, especially when incorporating text, to preserve the correct orientation upon transfer.
  3. Be aware of potential shifts of up to 2 inches in graphics when printed, which impacts designs that require precise placement.

Following these tips will help you create high-quality sublimation prints.

When the design doesn’t cover the full product area, adding a transparent background can help blend the design more smoothly with the material. Utilize downloadable design templates to accurately visualize and position design elements before committing to print, ensuring correct product alignment and satisfaction with the final outcome.

Pressing Techniques

Regarding the pressing process, a heat press temperature of approximately 320 degrees Fahrenheit is vital for most sublimation projects. This must be coupled with precise and adjustable pressure settings to guarantee uniform temperature distribution and high-quality prints. For higher quality prints with minimal ink bleeding, using a cotton/polyester mix for transfers, adjusting the pressing time, and ensuring the printed transfer paper is dry before pressing are recommended strategies. Using protective sheets such as silicone or Teflon helps distribute pressure evenly during pressing, further reducing the chance of ink bleeding on various substrates.

To avoid white creases on textiles, an all-over print method is used where the fabric is printed first, then sewn together, while sensitive materials may need pre-pressing to remove moisture and flatten the substrate. The sublimation pressing process, which embeds the print into the material for a durable result, is crucial for enhancing the overall appearance of the final product.

Troubleshooting Common Sublimation Issues

A cartridge being ejected from a printer

During your sublimation printing journey, you may experience some challenges. Common sublimation printing issues include faded or dull prints, ink bleeding, and undesired lines around the image. Sublimation prints can look dull or washed out straight from the printer but will become vibrant once heat and pressure are applied. Utilizing sublimation inks with a particle size half the size of the ink outlet, such as Hiipoo Ink, can help prevent clogging.

Regular maintenance and potential printer parts replacements might be required due to clogging, particularly when the printer is out of warranty. Regularly conducting tests with color strips or an RGB color chart can fine-tune the sublimation process variables such as temperature, time, and pressure for optimal results.

Faded or Dull Prints

One common problem in sublimation printing is the emergence of faded or dull prints. This might be due to incorrect heat press settings, where the temperature may be too low or the pressing time too short for the ink to transfer effectively. Ensuring the right combination of heat, pressure, and the absence of moisture is key to avoiding problems like faded or spotty transfers in sublimation printing.

An overused sublimation paper can result in faded prints; the coating of the paper that aids ink transfer might be compromised after multiple uses. To verify effective color transfer in sublimation, print a color chart and press it onto a 100% polyester cloth, noting that colors often appear different after sublimation compared to on paper.

Ink Bleeding

Another frequent problem encountered in sublimation printing is ink bleeding. Using high-quality sublimation ink and paper designed for dye-sublimation printing can reduce the likelihood of ink bleeding. A heat press with consistent and even pressure across its surface prevents ink from spreading too thinly or unevenly, which is a major cause of ink bleed.

Graphics software can be leveraged to handle color management and reduce color bleed by keeping colors within printable gamuts and ensuring accurate placement on substrates. Regularly cleaning the printer head and maintaining the printing equipment helps to prevent issues that could cause ink bleeding.


In summary, sublimation printing is a fascinating process that allows for the creation of vibrant, long-lasting prints on a variety of substrates. Converting a regular Epson EcoTank or SureColor series printer into a sublimation printer is a cost-effective way of joining the sublimation community. It’s critical to choose the right printer, use high-quality sublimation ink and paper, and maintain proper heat press settings for successful sublimation printing. With the right tools and knowledge, you’re well on your way to turning your creative ideas into beautiful sublimation prints!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you turn any inkjet printer into a sublimation printer?

No, not every inkjet printer can be converted into a sublimation printer because it needs to be able to handle sublimation ink, which is specifically designed to turn into gas when heated and back to solid when pressed onto substrates.

Can inkjet ink print on sublimation paper?

No, inkjet ink cannot print on sublimation paper. Only printers that use a Micro Piezo printing head are suitable for sublimation printing.

What is the role of a heat press in sublimation printing?

The role of a heat press in sublimation printing is to apply heat and pressure for transferring sublimation ink from paper onto the substrate. It’s essential for the printing process to work effectively.

What should I consider when choosing a printer for sublimation conversion?

When choosing a printer for sublimation conversion, consider the initial investment, ease of setup, and specific printer model. Epson EcoTank and SureColor series are recommended options for this.

What are the common issues in sublimation printing?

When sublimation printing, watch out for faded prints, ink bleeding, and undesired lines around the image to avoid common issues.


  1. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (1998, July 20). Sublimation | Definition, Examples, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/sublimation-phase-change
  2. How do you clean and maintain the printer heads, nozzles, and rollers to prevent clogging and smudging? (2023, April 12). www.linkedin.com. https://www.linkedin.com/advice/1/how-do-you-clean-maintain-printer-heads-nozzles#:~:text=To%20clean%20them%2C%20you%20can,dipped%20in%20water%20or%20alcohol.
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