principle of operation, choice, best models


Every day, a large number of users are faced with the need to print photos. For this, devices are used that use various methods of fixing information on a given surface. A sublimation printer, or, as it is also called, a thermal sublimation printer, is just one of such devices that allows you to print photos in high resolution without losing quality.

Is high quality always justified? Probably not, but if you have a need to work with bright colors and high resolution, then the sublimation process will be preferable. So, let’s take a closer look at this device.

How it works

What is a sublimation printer? His work is based on the principle of sublimation, in other words, the process when a substance passes from one (solid) state to another (gaseous), bypassing the middle phase (liquid).

In all cases, there is a special element inside the sublimation machine that raises the temperature to start the process itself. Between such an element and thermal paper stretches film, more reminiscent of ordinary food grade polyethylene. This film itself contains three primary colors (dye): cyan, magenta and yellow. When a print start command is received from the PC, the film heats up quickly, after reaching the required temperature, the liquid evaporates from the dye. Photo paper has rather large pores, which expand even more when heated, as a result of which the application of a dust cloud consisting of ink occurs quickly and evenly. The paper captures all the paint material, absorbing it into itself. As soon as the printing process is completed, the pores immediately decrease in size, reliably fixing and storing information on their surface.

sublimation technology

The printing process consists of three parts, the paint is not applied all at once, it happens in stages. Today, many models can secure themselves and complete the print with an additional, fourth run before issuing a photo. This is necessary to create a protective film on the surface of the paper, which will additionally preserve the image from direct exposure to ultraviolet rays and other environmental influences (dirt and fingerprints).

Almost all thermal sublimation devices use a three- or four-pass printing system, but the principle of operation itself is unchanged in all models.

Thanks to thermal sublimation, you can achieve the highest quality photographs. Such shortcomings as rastering, banding are not found on such devices due to a different principle of operation, in contrast to inkjet printers, where the quality of the final product often suffers greatly. Another constructive plus of thermal sublimation printing is uniform layer of paint on the surface of the photo paper. There are no boundaries between the ink drop and blank paper due to the absence of the drops themselves. The sublimation process does not apply ink to the surface, but places paints under the top paper layer, behind which the image acquires additional protective properties, becomes resistant to fading.

Sublimation Printer Principle

There is a special softwareallowing for the finest temperature adjustments. With this software, you can achieve unique image clarity and contrast, as well as display midtones and shades in a variety of gradations. Another clear advantage is the ability to apply almost indistinguishable light tones, a high degree of intensity of dark tones and blacks.

What materials can be sublimated printed on?

This type of printer is remarkable in that it can print on almost any surface. The user has a choice of the following materials.

  1. Paper. Sublimation can be used to print photos, business cards, brochures, menus and more.
  2. Glass and ceramics. If desired, you can apply any pattern or pattern to a mug, bowl and other utensils.
  3. Metal. A sublimation printer can be used to print on such souvenirs as ashtrays, flasks, spoons.
  4. Stone. If desired, the device can be used to apply inscriptions and portraits on monuments.
  5. Textile. With the help of a sublimation printer, it is easy to decorate a boring T-shirt or sneakers with bright prints. You can also decorate the curtains in the room.
  6. Plastic. Drawing the image is available on trays, plastic utensils and any other items made of this material.

T-shirt printing

But there are also products that are not recommended for printing on with such a device. The ink does not adhere well to leather, wood and natural fabrics.

And for printing on glass and stone, these surfaces must first be prepared for applying paint. To do this, they are processed with polymer compositions. You can print on natural fabrics only if you first apply a special primer to them, which ensures dense absorption of the paint.

What is needed for printing

First of all, you need special paper and ink to draw a picture. In the event that it is required to print on other materials, an additional heat press may be required.. In this case, the principle of operation of the device changes slightly. First you need to transfer the image to paper, and then transfer it to another material using a heat press. The process takes place under the influence of high temperatures and pressure.

Depending on the application, one of the following heat presses can be selected.

  1. Flat. Such a device is required for printing on flat ceramics or glass.
  2. baseball. Heat press, which is necessary for printing on caps, baseball caps and other hats.
  3. For dishes. Such a device is used for printing on plates and glasses.

Combined heat press for sublimation printing

When comparing ordinary and sublimation paper, the difference is that the second one has a special ultra-thin coating. It ensures the fixation of the paint on the material and its most effective application.

Sublimation printers use special solid ink, which, when heated, turn into a gaseous state. You need to choose them based on the model of the device and the material on which the image will be applied.

See also: all types of modern printers.

What kind of paper is used in devices

The sublimation printer allows you to use paper of different sizes. Most commonly used for printing formats A2, A3, A4. However, you can also work with smaller scales (A5, A6) or larger ones (A0, A1). For drawing images on sheets of large format, special models are used, which are called large-format plotters.

Large format sublimation printer

Before you buy paper, you need to understand what kind of printing you need it for. The following division is commonly used:

  • A5, A6 — printing on small items such as dishes, business cards;
  • A4 is used for drawing a pattern on large-sized fabric items (t-shirts, shorts);
  • A3 — printing of photographs, booklets;
  • A0, A1, A2 are used when applying images to posters or flags.

You can buy sublimation paper either in sheets or in rolls, which indicate its quantity and format.


Despite the fact that the principle of operation is the same for all thermal sublimation devices, it is necessary to make differences in their use. Distinguish between custom printers and devices that are called professional.

amateur suitable for small print volumes. As a rule, consumables for home sublimation printers are quite expensive, and their use is not always cost-effective. In any case, before purchasing such an expensive gadget, you need to calculate all the costs.

hobby printer

Professional devices are most often purchased by firms that provide printing services. This is due to the fact that such devices (for example, Fujifilm products) have larger dimensions than user equipment, therefore, they require more space and consume more electricity. The advantage of this type of equipment is a relatively reasonable price tag for consumables. True, this is offset by the very high cost of the device itself, which will not be affordable for every consumer.

The scope of thermal sublimation printers is very extensive:

  • small and medium printing production;
  • advertising and printing services;
  • color printing services (photos, books, magazines, leaflets, posters and banners) provided by private entrepreneurs.

Such widespread use is achieved due to the versatility of the sublimation method, which allows you to produce images for fabric and plastic, and not just put them on paper.

Professional printer

The sublimation printing method is widely used all over the world and is gaining more and more popularity due to the good quality of the products.

Advantages and disadvantages of technology

Like any complex technological solution, sublimation printing is not without advantages and disadvantages. First, let’s list the pros.

  1. Remarkable level of detail and safety of the finished photo.
  2. Unique color spectrum for a wide range of image processing solutions.
  3. Flexibility of thermal settings (if you use professional software).
  4. The print has a top protective layer.
  5. Relatively fast printing.
  6. Long shelf life of the finished image due to its chemical composition and thermal effects during printing.

The disadvantages are also obvious:

  • high cost of consumables (especially in the case of amateur equipment);
  • high starting cost of the device itself (regarding professional equipment) and the average cost of materials in the future.

How to choose a sublimation printer

To choose the right printer, you need to compare many different parameters. First of all, it is important to pay attention to the brand of the device. It is best to choose equipment manufactured by Epson, Datacard, Mimaki. It is important to pay attention to the following features of the printer.

  1. Availability of CISS. The continuous ink supply system allows you to refill the device much less frequently.
  2. Number of colors. Most often on the market you can find 3 or 4-band sublimation devices. However, six-color models can be found. They provide the highest quality printing.
  3. Drop volume. This parameter is very important when choosing a device for sublimation. In devices with insufficient drop volume, the print head is much more likely to become clogged, and therefore it will need to be cleaned regularly. For sublimation, a printer with a value of 3 pl.

See also: how to clean dried ink cartridges in the printer.

To work with large objects, it is recommended to purchase large-format plotters. If you need to apply an image on small products, a device that prints on A3, A4 paper is enough.

It is also important to pay attention to the ink. Unlike ordinary printers, they differ not only for different device models, but also for the types of surfaces on which printing will be performed.

Top Models

Based on reviews on the Internet, one can draw generalized conclusions about what this or that model is, but one can finally be convinced of its characteristics only by starting to use it in practice. Below we will consider three models popular in reviews, give a brief overview of their characteristics, their advantages and disadvantages.

Canon Selfie CP910

Canon is known in the world of printing technology primarily for the first-class quality of its products. It is hardly possible to find a specialist in printing who would not be familiar with the products of this company. The cost of this model is 6990r. The printer is equipped with color sublimation printing technology and has a desktop form factor. The maximum photo paper size for this device is A6, high-resolution photo printing is possible. In the presence of support for three standard colors, as well as the function «borderless printing«. The model has a very high speed: on average, one photo is printed in 47 seconds, which is a very good indicator. As consumables, ordinary photo paper is used. The body of the device has several USB-format interfaces, as well as support for Wi-fi and AirPrint. On the rear panel there is a connector for connecting an MMC and SD memory card for printing directly from them (the “direct print” function).

Canon Selfie CP910

Unfortunately, there is no declared support for PostScript, which means that working with fonts can be complicated.

The printer itself works with two operating systems (Windows and Mac OS). On the front of the case is a bright display. An important feature is possibility of battery operation. Peak power consumption 60W, in standby mode no more than 4W. The weight of the device is only 810 grams, so it can be classified as compact.

  • stylish appearance;
  • large display (2.7 inches);
  • easy to carry due to small dimensions and weight;
  • can work from the built-in accumulator;
  • two types of consumables, support for the format rsr-sr400 and rss-sr400;
  • convenient and easy-to-learn menu;
  • low power consumption.
  • the cost of the ink cartridge and photo paper;
  • poor photo editing capabilities;
  • automatic image calibration to the center

Mitsubishi Electric CP-D90DW

Representative of the class of professional equipment. Mitsubishi has been producing printing equipment for a long time to be well versed in it. This sublimation printer is a desktop printer that can print high resolution color photographs. The maximum possible print size of an image is no more than 152 by 229 mm. The number of primary colors is standard (3). The maximum resolution for black and white and color printing are the same, 300 by 300 dpi.

Mitsubishi Electric CP-D90DW

But in terms of speed, the CP-D90DW is a real champion: it is able to print a standard 10 by 15 cm photo in just 7.8 seconds. With such indicators for a full day, the device can carry a lot of information through itself. Printing is carried out both on photo paper and on special rolls. The amount of internal memory is small, only 128 MB. Of the interfaces, only USB 2.0 is available. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, there is no “post script” support, so questions may also arise when working with fonts. The device works with two operating systems (Mac OS and Windows, support for Unix and Linux systems is not announced). The weight of the device is just over 14 kg.

  • the highest quality of the press thanks to application of the most advanced technologies of the company;
  • high reliability of the device;
  • high performance (fast printing);
  • easy to manage;
  • long warranty service period;
  • a wide range of supported cartridges and toners;
  • fast printing without loss of quality.
  • high cost of consumables;
  • it can be difficult to get cartridges;
  • the high cost of the device itself.

Sony DPP-FP67

The leader of the top 3 is a thermal sublimation printer from Sony. Model DPP-FP67 is positioned as a device for home use, however, it is also possible to use in a small office. For a large company, the modest capabilities of this gadget are unlikely to be enough, for this it is not intended. Even the manufacturers themselves recommend using the model only for personal purposes, without overloading it. The price tag for the device stopped at a quite acceptable amount of 6500r.

The presence of a color matrix allows you to take photos of excellent quality. Desktop form factor. The largest print format is standard A6. Working with flowers takes place according to the classical sublimation principle, which is based on 3 primary colors. The device operates in «fieldless» mode. A medium-sized photo will have to wait noticeably longer than the model located above — 63 seconds. The machine feeds 20 sheets of photo paper. Of the interfaces on the rear panel, only the classic USB 2.0.

Sony DPP-FP67

Sony has always been famous for its extended support and work with portable sources of information, we can safely say that the tradition has continued in the case of the DPP-FP67: the number of supported formats is impressive, and you can print directly from memory cards and flash drives. The device does not support «post script» and works only on Windows OS. On the front side there is a convenient display that shows all the main commands. Peak power consumption is 72W, and in standby mode is only 1W. The weight of the device will be appreciated by lovers of portable technology — only 1 kg.

  • The optimum ratio of price and quality;
  • stylish appearance;
  • excellent quality of finished photos;
  • reliability;
  • low power consumption;
  • the device does not make loud sounds even at maximum load;
  • easily transported from place to place.


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