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Epson Inkjet Printer Choices

General

We discuss Epson inkjet printers that can use sublimation inks in this section. Which sublimation printer will best suit your needs is an important decision for you. You may want to study this page carefully.

 
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The only supported desktop inkjet sublimation printers are made by Epson and Ricoh with micro Piezo print head technology. Only these types of printers are suitable for printing sublimation ink correctly. This type of print head forces the ink through the jets, without using heat. No other type of desktop inkjet printer will work.

The printer is just an ordinary printer. What makes it a sublimation printer is the special sublimation ink used in them.

It is also important to remember that not all Epson printers support sublimation ink.

Other than deciding what you can afford, which printer is best suited for your needs depends upon the specific features that benefit you the most and what you need to accomplish with the printer.

What follows is information to help you make your best business decisions.

Current printers Discontinued printers
WorkForce30 - supported: yes
WorkForce1100 - supported: yes
Artisan 1430 - supported: yes
C88+ - supported: yes
7700 - supported: yes
WorkForce7010 - supported: yes
9700 - supported: yes
C120 - supported: yes
R1900 - supported: yes
R1800 - supported: yes
Stylus Photo 1400 - supported: yes
4880 - supported: yes
1280 - supported: *Ink only
C88 - supported: yes
C86 - supported: yes
C84 - supported: yes
980 - supported: *Ink only
3000 - supported: yes
4000 - supported: yes
4800 - supported: yes
7600 - supported: yes

*Ink only means the printer is only supported with a bulk system and bottle inks.


Printer Pro/Con information

Our information about some of the printers is minimal because our focus is primarily about printer utilization for sublimation. If you want detailed technical information, go to the printer manufacturers below.
http://www.epson.com - http://www.ricoh-usa.com

Prices for complete bulk ink systems are at Starter Deals.
Prices for sublimation supplies (bulk ink, cartridges and paper) are on the Prices page.


Epson Stylus Pro 4880

Very Wide Format (up to 13" x 19" sheets). 100’ rolls of paper, in four widths are also available.

This professional, 8-color printer is the largest “desktop” printer Epson offers, before going to the super-wide 24” and 44” printers.

This is the printer of choice, for a great number of professionals. We happened to be a beta tester on this sublimation system and can attest to the Epson Stylus Pro 4880’s robustness, color reproduction, reliability and efficiency.

Our take on the Epson Stylus Pro 4880

Pro

  • Incredible speed. Running on a USB cable or network adapter, the printer is over 30% faster than the Epson 4000. It is even 15-20% faster than the little Epson C88.

  • The printer is the easiest to start-up that we have ever seen. While the initial setup takes about an hour, when finished we basically did one nozzle check (perfect) and then started printing.

  • We did our first sublimation print (as retailers then) in 1981 and are not easily impressed. We were totally impressed with the color replication. It’s incredible! One of our clients even swears that it equals the output of his Heidelberg printing press. We find that hard to believe, but since we certainly don’t own a Heidleberg, we will have to take his word for it.

  • We were also impressed with the resolution and clarity in fine details. This is because of the 3.5 picoliter ink drop size and 180 nozzles (times 8) per color, used in printing images.

  • We always did a nozzle check, each day, before printing. However, in the three months that we ran the printer, it was always perfect! Anyone who has used an inkjet printer knows how astounding this revelation is.

  • Hassle-free operation. The bane of decorators is often having to “diddle” with an inkjet printer, when running it every day. We didn’t.

  • Print cost is about as low as is practical, when using the 110 mil or 220 ml cartridges .

  • The printer has an internal paper slitter and this makes using rolls of paper very efficient and economical.

  • It is the only printer that we would consider, if we needed high volume production ability.

Con

  • Printer and initial cartridge cost is a bit pricey even though the cost per print is the same as smaller printer setups. For a hobbyist or occasional “weekend-warrior” it may not be practical. For a truly professional setup, it’s cheap.

  • This is a “big-boy”, measuring 33.4” (w) x 14” (h) x 30” (d), weighing in at almost 90 lbs. Make sure that you have space for a good home for this beauty.

  • When using sublimation ink cartridges in this printer it has a “nag” screen when installing new cartridges not shown if you were using OEM cartridges.


Epson Stylus Pro 4800

Note: We offer a special package for this printer type that includes everything you need to get started at Starter Deals.

Very Wide Format (up to 17" x 22" sheets). 100’ rolls of paper, in four widths are also available.

This professional, 8-color printer is the largest “desktop” printer Epson offers, before going to the super-wide 24” and 44” printers.

Our take on the Epson Stylus Pro 4800

Pro

  • Incredible speed. Running on a USB cable, the printer is over 30% faster than its predecessor, the Epson 4000. It is even 15-20% faster than the little Epson C88.

  • The printer has a “Firewire”, USB port and network adapter.

  • The printer is the easiest to start-up that we have ever seen. While the initial setup takes about an hour, when finished we basically did one nozzle check (perfect) and then started printing.

  • We were also impressed with the resolution and clarity in fine details. This is because of the 3.5 picoliter ink drop size and 180 nozzles (times 8) per color, used in printing images.

  • We always did a nozzle check, each day, before printing. However, in the three months that we ran the printer, it was always perfect! Anyone who has used an inkjet printer knows how astounding this revelation is.

  • Hassle-free operation. The bane of decorators is often having to “diddle” with an inkjet printer, when running it every day. We didn’t.

  • Print cost is about as low as is practical, when using the extended 220 mil cartridges. 110 mil cartridges are also available.

  • The printer has an internal paper slitter and this makes using rolls of paper very efficient and economical.

  • It is the only printer that we would consider, if we needed high volume production ability.

Con – We can only think of two – cost and size

  • Printer and initial cartridge cost is a bit pricey even though the cost per print is the same as smaller printer setups. For a hobbyist or occasional “weekend-warrior” it may not be practical. For a truly professional setup, it’s cheap.
  • This is a “big-boy”, measuring 33.4” (w) x 14” (h) x 30” (d), weighing in at almost 80 lbs. Make sure that you have space for a good home for this beauty.


Epson 1400

Wide Format (up to 13" x 19" sheets)

Note: We offer a special bulk ink package for this printer type that includes everything you need to get started at Starter Deals.

This 6-color printer replaced the Epson 1280 will be of high interest to many. The page format is up to 13 x 19. The six colors definitely produce a wide gamut of discernible colors, for the discriminating eye.

We were impressed when we took our first 1400 out of the box and began using it. The printer is very well built. It is quiet and prints much faster than the old Epson 1280. The bulk ink system for this printer uses replaceable bags of ink, rather than refillable bottles.

Our take on the Epson 1400

Pro – This is an excellent system for anyone if:

  • You know that you want to be able to print larger than 8.5x14.

  • You want the advantage of the wider color gamut offered by the 1400.

  • You know that you will be printing complex images, with a lot of detail.

  • You want the least expensive set-up that allows you to print 11x17 or 13x19.

  • You will be using a bulk ink system.

Con – Consider these thoughts in your thinking:

  • The printer and bulk ink system start-up costs are higher than for the C88+ (prints up to 8.5 x 14) startup costs.

  • Currently, only a bulk ink system is offered (this would be important to anyone wanting to test the “water” with just cartridges).

  • The printer takes up enough space that it is not practical for many kiosk, cart and table-top operators.

Final Thoughts: This would be our printer of choice if the Epson 4800 was just not practical or possible.


WorkForce 7010

Wide Format (up to 13" x 19" sheets)

Note: We offer a special bulk ink package for this printer type that includes everything you need to get started at Starter Deals.

For less than the cost of other startup options you can print up to 13" x 19" prints. The printer utilizes 4 colors on a semi-wide format for less startup costs.

Our take on the Epson WorkForce 7010

Pro – This is an excellent system for anyone if:

  • You know that you want to be able to print larger than 8.5x14.

  • You want the least expensive set-up that allows you to print up to 13x19.

  • You will be using a bulk ink system.

  • You want to load two different size papers at once with two tray technology.

  • Holds up to 300 sheets of sublimation paper.

Con – Consider these thoughts in your thinking:

  • The printer and bulk ink system start-up costs are a little higher than for the C88+ or WF30 (that only prints up to 8.5 x 14).

  • Currently, only a bulk ink system is offered (this would be important to anyone wanting to test the “water” with just cartridges).

  • The printer takes up enough space that it is not practical for many kiosk, cart and table-top operators.

  • Printer has to be dedicated to sublimation.

Final Thoughts: This is a great printer for less money than other options..


WorkForce 1100

Wide Format (up to 13" x 19" sheets)

Note: We offer a special bulk ink package for this printer type that includes everything you need to get started at Starter Deals.

For less than the cost of an Epson 1400 you can print up to 13" x 19" prints. The printer utilizes 4 colors on a semi-wide format for less startup costs.

Our take on the Epson WorkForce 1100

Pro – This is an excellent system for anyone if:

  • You know that you want to be able to print larger than 8.5x14.

  • You want the least expensive set-up that allows you to print 11x17 or 13x19.

  • You will be using a bulk ink system.

Con – Consider these thoughts in your thinking:

  • The printer and bulk ink system start-up costs are a little higher than for the C88+ (that only prints up to 8.5 x 14).

  • Currently, only a bulk ink system is offered (this would be important to anyone wanting to test the “water” with just cartridges).

  • The printer takes up enough space that it is not practical for many kiosk, cart and table-top operators.

Final Thoughts: This would be our printer of choice if the Epson 1400 was just not practical or possible.


Epson R1900

Wide Format (up to 13" x 19" sheets)

This is officially an 8-color printer, but in real-world application, only seven colors are used (cyan, magenta, yellow, orange, red, photo black and matte black). The eighth cartridge (never used, but necessary to make the printer work) is filled with a cleaning solution, to minimize costs. There are actually eight individual cartridges, one for each color.

This system uses “bags” (think blood transfusion bags, with lines running to the cartridges) of ink for the bulk ink system. In some circles there is a debate about whether this method really constitutes a “bulk” system. However, the manufacturer insists that it is a bulk system, so we present it as such.

Our take on the Epson R1900

Pro – This is an excellent system for anyone if:

  • You know that you want to be able to print larger that 8.5x14.

  • You want the advantage of the slightly wider color gamut offered by the R1900.

  • You know that you will be printing complex images, with a lot of detail or a lot of gray-scale colors (better in this printer than the 1400 because of the photo black and matte black sublimation inks).

  • The R1900 is fast! It can print in half the time of older printers.

Con – Consider these thoughts in your thinking:

  • The printer and bulk ink system start-up costs are higher than for the 1400 startup costs.

  • The printer takes up enough space that it is not practical for many kiosk, tabletop and cart operators.

  • The printer cannot use any other cartridge other than the first set used

Final Thoughts: This is a good system but unless you already own the printer may not be worth the higher startup costs (as compared to the Epson 1400).


Epson R1800

Wide Format (up to 13" x 19" sheets)

This is officially an 8-color printer, but in real-world application, only seven colors are used (cyan, magenta, yellow, blue, red, photo black and matte black). The eighth cartridge (never used, but necessary to make the printer work) is filled with a cleaning solution, to minimize costs. There are actually eight individual cartridges, one for each color.

This system uses “bags” (think blood transfusion bags, with lines running to the cartridges) of ink for the bulk ink system. In some circles there is a debate about whether this method really constitutes a “bulk” system. However, the manufacturer insists that it is a bulk system, so we present it as such.

Our take on the Epson R1800

Pro – This is an excellent system for anyone if:

  • You know that you want to be able to print larger that 8.5x14.

  • You want the advantage of the slightly wider color gamut offered by the R1800.

  • You know that you will be printing complex images, with a lot of detail or a lot of gray-scale colors (better in this printer than the 1400 because of the photo black and matte black sublimation inks).

  • You know (for whatever the reason) that you will only be using cartridges. (remember that cartridges are not offered for the 1400)

Con – Consider these thoughts in your thinking:

  • The printer and bulk ink system start-up costs are about $200 higher than for the 1400 startup costs.

  • The printer takes up enough space that it is not practical for many kiosk, tabletop and cart operators.

Final Thoughts: This is a good system but unless you already own the printer may not be worth the higher startup costs (as compared to the Epson 1400).


Epson C88+

This four-color printer is the newest of Epson’s small, desktop printers. It prints 8.5x11 and 8.5x14 pages. Print speed and print resolution is very good, for a small printer.

We offer cartridges and bulk ink systems (discussed on the next page of your tutorial) for this printer.

Our take on the Epson C88+

Pro – This is an excellent starter system for anyone if:

  • You have no need to print images larger than 8.5x14.

  • Space or maximum portability is important.

  • You have an opportunity to offer sublimated products but need to keep start-up costs as low as possible.

  • You will be printing photographs, graphics and other images, but not what the industry considers fine art, with highly complex colors and details.

  • You want to run the printer with cartridges, rather than a bulk ink system. Each color has a separate cartridge.

Con – Consider these thoughts in your thinking:
  • The 8.5x14 maximum paper size could limit some future opportunities.

  • Because sublimation work is printed with 720 dpi and this is a four-color printer, some detail will be lost on very complex colors and details.

  • The printer is robust (for an inexpensive printer) but may not be appropriate if you know that you will be printing hundreds of transfers a week, every week.


Other Epson printers that can be used for sublimation

Although some discontinued printers can still be found, we wouldn’t recommend purchasing a bulk system for them. If the printer dies the system will not work in other printers.

When your discontinued printer breaks down you will have trouble getting it repaired, making a bulk ink system useless.

The below list is other Epson printers (mostly older and/or discontinued) that can be used for sublimation. We would not buy any of the printers but if you already own one and want to get some cartridges, ICC profile and sublimation paper to “test the sublimation waters” that would make sense.


Our final thoughts on the printer/process selection

In addition to running our company, we are contributing writers for several information web sites and national trade magazines. One theme that is in all of our articles is the fact that there are many options, approaches, tradeoffs and realities in the sublimation business.

There is a wide selection of printer choices and sublimation processes. All have some advantages. We highly recommend that you spend a bit of time in research and planning.

Make sure that what the printer and process can do, matches what you need it to do.

The next page talks about the Ricoh printer options available for sublimation. The Ricoh printers offer speed and ease of use not found with Epson printer choices. Its worth a look to see if that would be a better choice for your business., click here to skip to our "Heat Transfer" page. It has valuable information.

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Updated: 6/10/2011
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