Hey there! So you’re new to sublimation printing and feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the ink options out there. I totally get it. When I first started sublimating, I had no idea what ink to choose either. There are so many brands, types of inks and printer compatibility factors to consider.
But don’t worry, by the end of this guide you’ll have all the info you need to make an informed choice on sublimation ink as a beginner. I’ll walk you through the key factors to consider, recommend some top ink brands, and share tips on proper ink handling.
Let’s start with the basics…
What Is Sublimation Printing?
In simple terms, sublimation printing is a process of transferring dye onto a polyester surface using heat and pressure. The ink turns into a gas and permanently bonds with substrates like mugs, shirts, and other products.
The benefits? Vibrant, full-color prints that won’t crack, fade or peel like other print methods. Sublimation allows you to customize a huge range of products with photographic quality results.
But it all depends on choosing the right ink…
How Does Sublimation Ink Work?
Sublimation ink contains special sublimation dyes that turn into a gas when heated. The dyes infuse into poly fibers, resulting in permanent, resilient prints.
This is important – sublimation only works on polyester coated surfaces. Natural fabrics like cotton won’t work unless treated first.
The right ink will yield stunning, lasting prints. The wrong ink leads to washed out or ruined results.
Now let’s get into the factors to keep in mind when choosing sublimation ink as a beginner:
Proper Sublimation Ink Handling
To keep your ink and printer in top shape:
- Store ink properly – upright, away from extreme temperatures and moisture. Keep topped up.
- Maintain print heads with routine cleanings to avoid clogs.
- Flush ink system with distilled water to prevent sediment buildup.
- Use ink before expiry for best print quality and color accuracy.
Proper ink handling prevents many beginner mistakes! It also maintains print quality over the long term.
When working with sublimation inks, always take precautions – some brands contain toxic substances like phthalates and ethyl alcohol. Refer to this guide to know is sublimation ink toxic or not for handling it safely.
Key Factors to Consider When Buying Sublimation Ink
The first thing to check is that the ink will work in your printer. Sublimation ink is formulated specifically for either ricoh printers, epson printers or sawgrass virtuoso printers.
Be sure to research the printer manufacturer’s ink recommendations. Using the incorrect ink type can destroy print heads and void warranties.
Compatibility is crucial for good prints and protecting your investment. Always verify before buying ink.
Cost of Ink System
Sublimation ink is sold in two ways – in cartridges or bulk ink systems. Bulk systems involve refillable reservoirs connected to the printer.
Bulk systems have a higher upfront cost but work out cheaper per ml/oz over the long term. Cost savings range from 20% to 50% versus cartridges.
If printing frequently, a bulk system is recommended. For beginners doing occasional prints, cartridges involve less setup and waste.
Compare the cost per ml/oz when choosing ink – don’t just look at the upfront price. Consider your long term printing needs.
Of course, yield and vibrancy matter too. Here are key print quality factors to look for when comparing inks:
- Color saturation – richer, more intense colors last longer on products
- Durability – inks should withstand fading and cracking over time
- Print longevity – longer lasting prints without loss of quality
- Reviews – check reviews and comparisons of different ink brands
Better quality ink leads to better print results. Try ink samples if possible to test performance.
Not all inks work on all materials. Always test ink on the actual surfaces you’ll be printing on.
Polyester-coated ceramics, metals, acrylics, and wood should work fine. But you’ll need an ink with strong polymer adhesion for items like plastic IDs or nylon bags.
Follow any substrate prep best practices too – like coating woods and removing textured surfaces. Proper prep helps ink bond tightly.
Testing ink compatibility prevents wasted materials from trial and error.
Recommended Sublimation Ink Brands for Beginners
With the key factors covered, let’s look at some top sublimation ink brands to consider as a beginner:
1. Sawgrass Sublimation Inks
- Specifically designed for Virtuoso printers
- Offer excellent color saturation and print longevity
- Large color gamut for vivid prints
- Reliable consistency and performance
- Higher cost than third party ink brands
Sawgrass makes the popular Virtuoso line of sublimation printers. Their inks deliver outstanding prints for a premium price. A top choice if printing with a Virtuoso.
2. InkOwl Sublimation Inks
- Affordable third party ink
- High reviews for print quality and value
- Available for Epson, Ricoh and Virtuoso printers
- Lower startup cost than Sawgrass inks
- Limited color options
InkOwl is popular for its low price but high performing inks. Limitations are fewer color choices than premium brands. But overall an excellent value ink.
3. J-Teck Sublimation Inks
- Made in Italy, high quality inks
- Vivid prints and wide color gamut options -WordDict ink for lower printer maintenance
- Specialty options like neon pink and metallic
- Higher price point
J-Teck offers sophisticated inks with expanded colors like neon and shimmer. The excellent print quality comes at a higher price. Best for printing detailed graphics or specialty items.
4. Cosmos and Fotospeed Inks
Other beginner friendly brands to look at are Cosmos and Fotospeed. Both offer quality inks at lower prices. Limitations may be fewer color choices and less consistency. But worth considering for starter ink on a budget.
The takeaway? Try samples first whenever possible and read recent reviews. Even budget inks can give great prints with a quality printer.
Key Takeaways on Choosing Sublimation Ink
And there you have it – a complete guide to choosing sublimation ink as a beginner! Here are the key points to remember:
- Verify printer and ink compatibility before buying
- Compare ink prices by ml/oz – bulk systems save long term
- Seek inks offering excellent print vibrancy and longevity
- Always test ink performance on your actual print materials
- Maintain ink properly for best printer performance
- Top brands for beginners are Sawgrass, InkOwl, Cosmos and Fotospeed
Be sure to take your time researching and finding the right sublimation ink for your needs. Proper ink leads to stunning, vivid prints that last! Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions getting started.