Getting into sublimation printing is easy and the most important equipment you need is the sublimation printer. Your choices in which printer to get include those that are already made for sublimation printing and those that you have to convert to one.
Find the right one for you from this List of Epson Printers That Can Be Converted to Sublimation Printers so you can get started on your sublimation printing as a hobby or to start a small business.
This list consists of both Epson WorkForce and EcoTank printers that you can convert to sublimation.
- What is sublimation?
- What type of printers can be used for sublimation?
- Should you convert an Epson Printer to a sublimation printer?
- How easy is it to convert an Epson printer to a sublimation printer?
- Epson WorkForce vs EcoTank for sublimation
- List of Epson Printers that can be converted to Sublimation Printers
What is sublimation?
Before jumping in to your sublimation journey, let’s get to know the basics. Sublimation is the process of permanently adding a full-color design on a sublimation blank such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, tumblers, garden flags, and more. These designs are printed using a special printer which are then pressed onto the polyester-coated sublimation blank using heat. When heat is applied to the design, the ink turns to gas and binds to sublimation blank.
What type of printers can be used for sublimation?
In order for a printer to be used for sublimation, it has to have a specific type of print head. The printers with the Piezo print heads work for sublimation and those with the Thermal print heads won’t work.
Thermal Print heads
Thermal print heads use heat to boil the ink and create an air bubble of ink vapor. This bubble is forced through the print head nozzle where it explodes and comes out of the chamber. It is quickly cooled at the end of the process as the ink gets deposited onto the paper. Thermal print heads use water-based inks to help with this heating process. Printers such as Canon and HP use this type of print head.
Piezo Print Heads
Piezo print heads have a thin film on its head that is exposed to an electric charge and in turn, causes it to vibrate. This vibration is a signal for the film to bend and flex, build up the pressure which forces the ink from the nozzle onto the paper. The quick vibration and flexion of the film gives it a more precise control of how fast the ink gets pushed out. This type of print heads are compatible with water-based, oil-based, eco-solvent, solvent, and gel-based inks. Printers such as Epson, Sawgrass, and Roland have this type of print head and can be used for sublimation. Just to note, there are other printer brands that have this Piezo Print Head but there are no sublimation inks for them.
Should you convert an Epson Printer to a sublimation printer?
Since there are printers that are sublimation ready, why are people choosing to convert an Epson Printer insead? There are many reasons and the main one is the overall cost. When someone is trying a new hobby or starting a small business, the bottom line is always important to keep in mind.
Sublimation printers that do not need to be converted
Both Sawgrass and Epson offer sublimation printers that do not need to be converted.
They start under $500 and can print 8.5×14”. Sounds like a great price right? But you also have to figure in the cost of ink replacements and printer availability.
Sawgrass ink can cost around $77 (2023 price and can change without notice) for each color cartridge and that can be a lot for someone who is just starting out on their home-based business or personal hobby.
The new Epson F170 are sublimation printers that do not need to be converted and the replacement ink, the T49M series are around $25 per color (2023 price and can change without notice).
The one issue with this is availability. These new Epson F170 Sublimation Printers were released in January 2021 and inventory at the authorized dealers were limited. Availability for these printers are better now a days. Setting up our Epson F170 was simple and we were printing within an hour.
REVIEW: — The Epson F170 is a true sublimation printer and does not need to be converted. Read about the pros and cons of the F170 Sublimation Printer in our comprehensive review which includes test print images and settings.
The major advantage of using a printer that is made for sublimation is it comes with a manufacturer warranty and technical support. If you have a problem, the manufacturer and in some instances, the authorized vendors, have a dedicated tech support team to help you solve your problem. If they are not able to fix it, a replacement printer can be sent.
- Find an authorized Sawgrass Dealer here.
- Find an authorized Epson F170 printer dealer here
- Find an authorized Epson F570 printer dealer here
Epson printers that need to be converted for sublimation printing
One of the main reasons why some decide to convert Epson printers to use for sublimation is because they are readily available at major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Office Depot, Staples, Adorama, and more.
Epson ecotank printers start at $170 so this low cost is another major factor for the decision. The new ET-2400 is the lowest cost and became available in 2022. Check out our review on the Converted Epson ET-2400 for Sublimation to see how well it does for sublimation.
The disadvantage to keep in mind is that these printers do not come with tech support if you use it as a sublimation printer. And adding sublimation ink to it voids the manufacturer warranty too. So if you have any problems, you would have to figure out how to fix it on your own. But don’t fret because there are tons of social media and public forum groups where you can try to get help.
|Type of Printer||Cost||Ink||Warranty||Tech Support|
|Converted Epson Printer||$170+||$12+||no||no|
|True Sublimation Printer||$400+||$25+||yes||yes|
How easy is it to convert an Epson printer to a sublimation printer?
You will be surprised at how easy it is to convert a regular Epson printer to sublimation.
When you purchase your Epson printer, make sure you also purchase sublimation ink from a third party ink vendor. When setting up your printer, install the sublimation ink instead of the regular inkjet that came with the Epson. And that’s it. You now have a converted sublimation printer. This simple conversion only works for the EcoTank series.
The WorkForce series needs a little more work to convert. You will have to buy the ink and cartridge from your sublimation ink supplier. Those cartridges need to be filled with the ink using a syringe. Then install those cartridges instead of the regular inkjet ink.
One problem that most converted WorkForces have is when Epson updates their firmware. When that happens, the chip in your third-party cartridge will not be recognized and your printer will not print. Because of this, most people do not update their Epson WorkForce printers.
should you update the firmware?
Updating the firmware in your Converted Workforce printers can make your cartridge chips unreadable. The recommendation is to NOT update the firmware for Workforce printers.
It’s ok to update the firmware in the converted EcoTanks because there are no chips or ink cartridges in these printers.
Disclaimer: Once you use a sublimation ink in your Epson printer, it is no longer under warranty by Epson. This is because those EcoTanks and WorkForce printers are not designed for sublimation and using them for that voids the warranty. One way to avoid this loss of warranty is to purchase a printer that is made for sublimation and does not require a conversion.
Additional steps for conversion
Before you start printing sublimation transfers, you may need to download and install the sublimation ink’s ICC profile to your computer. These are available from the vendor that you purchased your sublimation ink from. There are also some ink that do not require these ICC profiles too which makes things a little easier.
What is an ICC profile and is it needed?
ICC stands for International Color Consortium and it is a set of standard data that manages the color output of your printer. The color profile’s main goal is to get the printed output as close as possible to your design software’s color instructions. Remember that what you see on your screen may not be printed exactly because other factors such as screen calibration and design software play roles in the final printed output of your newly converted Epson printer.
To find out more about sublimation designs and how ICC profiles play a role on how vibrant your images print out, our easy to understand guide, Sublimation Designs And Color Basics, will be helpful.
There are a few sublimation inks that does not need an ICC profile. We’ve used both Printers Jack Sublimation Ink and Cyclone Ink for a couple of our Converted EcoTanks and both printed well without the ICC profiles. Check out how they performed in the Converted ET-2400 Printer Review and Converted ET-2803 Printer Review.
Epson WorkForce vs EcoTank for sublimation
At this time, you have the option of choosing between Epson WorkForce and EcoTank printers to convert to sublimation. The main difference between the Epson WorkForce vs the EcoTank is the type of ink cartridge it requires.
The WorkForce printers require an entire ink cartridge with a sublimation ink to be inserted into the printer whereas the EcoTanks have a built-in ink tanks that you just fill with the sublimation ink.
Since the WorkForce printers require ink cartridges, problems such as cartridge chip errors can occur. So with the EcoTanks only requiring an ink refill into their already built-in tanks, it is the easiest type of Epson printer to convert to sublimation.
List of Epson Printers that can be converted to Sublimation Printers
Discontinued Epson Printers
The following Epson printers can be converted to sublimation printing but they have been discontinued by the manufacturer. You may still find these as a refurbished printer direct from Epson or may even be in the used market place. One thing to be cautious when buying them second hand is to make sure their print heads are still functional. If the printer has been unused and unplugged for a while, chances are print heads are dried up. So, buyer beware.
- Epson Artisan 1430
- Epson WorkForce WF-3620
- Epson WorkForce WF-3640
- Epson WorkForce WF-7110
- Epson WorkForce WF-7210
- Epson WorkForce WF-7710
- Epson WorkForce WF-7720
- Epson WorkForce WF-7610
- Epson EcoTank ET-2700
- Epson EcoTank ET-2720
- Epson EcoTank ET-2750
- Epson EcoTank ET-2760
- Epson EcoTank ET-3710
- Epson EcoTank ET-3760
- Epson EcoTank ET-4700
- Epson EcoTank ET-4760
- Epson EcoTank ET-7700
- Epson EcoTank ET-7750
Available Epson Printers
Here is a list of the available Epson printers that you can convert to sublimation printers. You can find these Epson inkjet printers at your major retailers and converting them to sublimation can be as easy as installing a third party sublimation ink. This, by no means, is not a comprehensive list but these are the most common Epson printers that have been converted, used by other sublimators, and have third-party sublimation inks available.
RELATED: Read our complete guide to Sublimation Printers to find out what the differences are between all these Epson Printers that you can convert to sublimation printers. Find their average cost and the maximum print size of each printer so you can decide which one to choose.
- Epson WorkForce 7820 (WF-7820)
- Epson WorkForce 7840 (WF-7840)
- Epson EcoTank 2400 (ET-2400) — Full Review of the Converted ET-2400 For Sublimation Printing is available.
- Epson EcoTank 2800 series (ET-2800, ET-2803) — Full Review of the Converted ET-2800 Sublimation Printer is available.
- Epson EcoTank 2850 (ET-2850)
- Epson EcoTank 3800 series (ET-3830, ET-3843, ET-3850)
- Epson EcoTank 4800 series (ET-4800, ET-4820)
- Epson EcoTank 5800 series (ET-5800, ET-5850, ET-5880)
- Epson EcoTank 8500 series
- Epson EcoTank 15000 (ET-15000)
- Epson EcoTank 16000 series (ET-16500, ET-16600, ET-16650)
If you’re only interested in converting an Ecotank, check out our complete list of the Epson Ecotanks you can convert for sublimation. Find out what the best one is in both the small and wide format.
We used a converted Epson EcoTank ET-2400 to make this sublimated kitchen towels with a design we made in Canva. As you can see in this Video Tutorial on How to Sublimate on Kitchen towels, the colors are amazing. So using the lowest cost Epson EcoTank works great for sublimation and you don’t need to spend a lot of money on a printer.
Wide Format Epson As A Sublimation Printer
If you are mainly looking at printing the larger 13×19-inch sublimation tranfers to make garden flags, door mats, blankets, and larger images on clothing, then you need a wide format sublimation printer. There are a few Epson Inkjet Printers that are considered Wide Format and can print that size. As of summer 2021, these Wide Format Epson Printers that you can convert to sublimation printers are hard to find but they do come in and out of stock. Patience is key when looking for one of these printers.
NOTE: The Epson EcoTank ET-15000 is hard to find. It is back ordered from all retailers. There are a lot of people that want this printer because it can print 13×19” which are great for larger sublimation projects such as XL shirts, doormats, and garden flags. There are also rumors that this printer is discontinued but that is not true. I contacted Epson directly and they confirmed that the ET-15000 has not been discontinued and they are having some manufacturing delays instead. See copy of their email below.
Now that we are in a couple of years after the supply issues caused by Covid, the availability of the ET-15000 is better. You can find it at its regular retail price but there are still lots of resellers selling them for an inflated price. Don’t buy them for more than retail…save your money for other sublimation equipment such as a heat press or mug and tumbler presses.
Suggestion if you’re having a hard time finding the ET-15000:
- Purchase a smaller format EcoTank that is available now so you can get started on sublimating. Place your order for the ET-15000 and while waiting for it, you can practice and learn sublimation with the smaller format Ecotank. Hopefully, the wait isn’t too long for the ET-15000 and once you get it, you’ll be ahead of the learning curve already.
- Consider getting a refurbished (aka reconditioned) ET-15000 from Epson’s Official Ebay store for around $600. They have been reconditioned and as good as the new ones. I haven’t seen anyone complain about it not working. I actually use a reconditioned Epson 1430 as one of my sub printers and have been happy with it.
- Get another model. Check out what other wide format Epson Ecotanks you can convert for sublimation in this complete list. They’re a little more expensive than the ET-15000 and also out of stock from most places but they become available more often.