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What You Can (And Cannot) Do With a Sublimation Printer

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Sublimation printing is how professionals print sharp, clean-looking graphics on materials ranging from T-shirts to tiles to tumblers.

It is a process that uses a sublimation printer with special sublimation ink and paper to create a design.

Heat is then applied to the design as it is pressed into the desired substrate (material). The result is an image that looks great and is long lasting.

What can you do with a sublimation printer? A sublimation printer prints designs on sublimation paper using sublimation ink. The paper is then placed on a substrate and exposed to heat to transfer the image. Substrates can be fabric, metal, ceramic, or plastic, provided it contains polyester or is covered with a polymer coating.

If you are interested in learning about the different projects a sublimation printer can be used to create, then this article is for you.

You will learn project ideas, what not to use a sublimation printer for, and whether money can actually be made from sublimation printing.

Sublimation Printer Uses & Project Ideas

A sublimation printer can be used for countless projects.

The main requirement is that the thing that you are printing on, called a sublimation blank, should contain some percentage of polyester or have a poly-coating.

The sublimation ink is designed to adhere to those materials, and most sublimation inks will not stick to 100% cotton fabric or harder materials that do not have a poly-coating. 

You will also want to make sure that the sublimation blanks you are using are white or of a lighter color.

Sublimation printing doesn’t work with darker colored materials. If you wish to print on darker colors, try heat transfer vinyl (HTV) instead.


Mugs are a favorite for sublimation printing.

You will need to have a special mug press for sublimation printing on a mug, or you can use a mug wrap and bake the mug in a convection oven (not one that you will use for food!). 


Sublimation printing works great on shirts.

Make sure that the shirts you are printing on contain polyester, or use a poly-spray (find it here) on the fabric before printing so that the sublimation ink has something to adhere to when heat is applied.

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You can sublimation print on polyester blends, but the ink will only bond with the polyester part, so the higher the polyester count the more vivid the finished image will be. 


The same rules that apply to shirts go for socks as well. Customized socks are a huge hit, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to image ideas!

Use sublimation printing to print pet photos, favorite foods, video game characters, and more on your socks.


Sublimation printing can be done on tumblers, bottles, and glasses, as long as they have a poly-coating.

You can wrap the drinkware with dampened sublimation paper and then use a heat gun to apply heat to the paper, or use a convection oven to bake the design on.


You can use sublimation printing to print indoor or outdoor signs.

Sublimation ink is close to permanent once it has been infused into the substrate, but it is still a good idea to put a protective coat of sealant over your finished work if it will be exposed to the elements.

Household Décor

When it comes to sublimation printing household décor, there are tons of sublimation blanks to choose from.

You can use sublimation printing on items as varied as oven mitts and photo frames to everything in between! 


Want the name of your business on a keychain? How about a picture of your dog? As far as sublimation printing on keychains goes, if you can dream it, you can do it. 

Pet ID Tags

There’s no reason to wait around at the pet store to get your pet ID tags engraved. Making your own customized pet ID tags is easy and fun with sublimation printing. 

What You Can Not Do With a Sublimation Printer

While a sublimation printer serves as the conduit for creating professional-looking graphics on a wide range of materials, there are limits to what it can do well.

These limitations include printing on regular copy paper, printing directly on materials, and switching back and forth between sublimation printing and regular printing. 

Can’t Print on Regular Paper

There’s no reason to use your sublimation printer to print on regular paper, unless you’re interested in throwing money away.

Sublimation ink can get pricey, so it’s best to use a regular printer to print on copy paper. 

Can’t Print Directly on Substrates

Sublimation printing can be confusing as it has multiple steps and takes a little more than just purchasing a sublimation printer and then printing on your desired material.

The sublimation printer should only be used to print on sublimation transfer paper.

The transfer paper is then applied to your substrate of choice, and a heat press is used to activate the ink, embedding the design into the material. 

Can’t Switch Easily Between Regular & Sublimation Printing 

If you convert a regular inkjet printer to a sublimation printer then consider yourself warned – it should remain purely a sublimation printer.

Switching between printing with regular printer ink and sublimation ink can end up costing you quite a bit of money in wasted ink as you would need to completely remove all of the old ink from the printer each time you switched projects.

It’s best to have separate printers to use for normal print jobs and sublimation printing.

Related Questions:

Are Sublimation Printers Worth It?

If you only want to use sublimation printing on one or two items or if you want to print a design on a darker colored material or an object that doesn’t contain polyester or have a poly-coating, then no, sublimation printers are not worth it. 
If, however, you are inspired by the project ideas in this article and can see yourself using sublimation printing to create multiple items and maybe even selling them, then it may very well be worth the initial investment of startup costs. 

Can You Make Money With Sublimation Printers?

You can indeed make money with sublimation printers! The key is getting good at sublimation printing and being able to offer quick turnaround to customers.
It’s also important to understand how to properly market your wares online, whether you are selling them digitally or in a traditional brick-and-mortar store.


Sublimation printers are an essential part of the sublimation printing process.

If you want to print high-resolution, durable images that can be applied to a large variety of materials, then purchasing a quality sublimation printer may be a sound investment. 

You can also buy certain regular inkjet printers and convert them into sublimation printers, but they must use pressure technology as opposed to thermal technology, and you need to make sure that they can work with sublimation ink.

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