When working on sublimation projects, one of the most important accessories to worry about is the ink. The ink determines how much the final project resembles the original design, and how vivid the colors are.
As you know, sublimation is the process where a solid material turns into gas while skipping the liquid phase. The best sublimation ink, encouraged by heat, transfers from the paper to the working surface completely and almost mess-free.
It seeps through the surface, binding itself in the gas state to the polyester, keeping the original color and design.
Best Sublimation Ink of 2020
The ideal sublimation ink has low viscosity and does not clog your printer’s tubes, and small particles that make for a smooth process. While vibrancy is crucial, what we really should look for is dependable accuracy on inks.
That means that the colors are not only vivid and bright but can also show the depth and subtlety needed to print skin tones and nature scenes.
1. Printers Jack Sublimation Ink
Printers Jack is one of the first brands that come to mind when the subject is the best sublimation ink. It has the right balance between price, quality, and client satisfaction.
This set comes with six different colors, unlike most batches that include four pigments. It is ISO9001 certified, which means it is up to international quality standards.
Compatible with all types of piezo-electronic printers, it offers a high transfer rate and very vivid colors that look good on mugs, t-shirts, banners, and other projects.
As a downside, the Printers Jack does not come with an ICC profile. A profile is useful for accurate color reproduction, so it can take a little trial and error to get it right.
2. Sawgrass Ink Cartridge
If you own a Sawgrass, the only printer specialized in sublimation composition, you will need a particular type of cartridge.
Sawgrass produces these shells itself, filled with four base ink colors made in the USA. This is actually a set and it also includes 220 sheets of sublimation paper, so you will be getting all the tools you need to start your project, plus the peace of mind that they are all compatible.
This is not a cheap product, but the color recreation is great and you can trust the manufacturer.
Customers are pleased with how fast the shipping is, and Sawgrass also offers great customer service.
3. InkOwl Refill Kit
If you do not want to buy the more expensive original cartridges from Sawgrass, the InkOwl is a safe bet. The package comes with four ink tubes, accompanied by injectors you will use to fill up the cartridges.
They work like syringes – simply remove the cap of the ink cylinder inside the printer and fill it up using the injectors. Several customers reported they observed the same color profile as the original Sawgrass ink.
It is made in the UK and the particles are small and do not clog the printer. You should notice that the Sawgrass printer will exhibit a message “non-original ink cartridges” that you can accept and continue the project.
Be aware that most printers’ warranties do not cover damage made by non-original products, so read the fine print.
4. INKXPRO 4 Ink Sublimation Refills
Sometimes lesser known brands beat the big names when it comes to quality, and this is one of these times. With sublimation ink or any printing ink for that matter, the test of color depth is the black hue.
More often than not they come out on shades of purple, blue or grey, and not a true black. With INKXPRO you can expect a very deep black, and that is also accurate for the rest of the colors.
You can do vibrant, vivid and authentic designs using this ink. To make sure your printer accepts them type your model to the “confirm fit” bar and check they match.
They have the best results and least clogging on Epsom printers but are compatible with many more.
Another fact that helps with the color transfer is the ICC profile, available for Windows and Mac download, making the whole experience easy and beautiful.
5. CoylBod Sublimation Ink
Another fantastic budget option, the CoylBod ink has a useful advantage over other brands, its convenient refilling system. An extended tip that receives a needle-type nozzle is used to insert itself into the cartridge.
The bottle is squeezable and that arrangement means you don’t even need to take the cartridges out of the printer to refill them. Very handy. Apart from that, the colors are vivid and accurate and work as well on mugs as t-shirts.
It is compatible with Sawgrass printers so this is an acceptable replacer for their original ink.
6. Printers Jack Pack of 4
A good option if you want to have Printers Jack quality ink but save some cash is to get the pack of four colors from the brand.
Printers use four or six color bases to recreate a whole spectrum of shades, and six base colors will offer more diversity than four. Still, home crafters or people who use basic designs are well served with this kit.
You can also download the ICC profile for them, a great help in color recreation. This ink is exceptional in texture, and it does not clog the tubes.
Colors are accurate and bright and you can expect the bottles to last a long time, it is one of the best sublimation ink packs for beginners.
7. Anti-UV Sublimation Ink for Epson
Compatible with Epson printers, this ink has anti-UV properties. That means that it is embedded with chemicals that protect your final design from sunlight, making it less likely to suffer from discoloration.
This is especially useful for t-shirts and other pieces of garment that are often exposed to the elements. The manufacturer promises to use high-quality raw materials free from toxic substances, a great plus for those who are environmentally conscious.
They also offer a 1-year warranty and an ISO 9001 certificate, so you know you are getting an excellent product at an even better price.
8. Subnnur Sublimation Ink
These bottles of ink are compatible with most Epson printers. It is high-quality ink and it stands to the test of time and water – meaning it does not wash out of the final products after washing.
Use them to refill empty cartridges inside your printer, and they will not disappoint. Note that this is not compatible with Sawgrass.
This is one of the best sublimation inks on this price range, so if you are starting out or want to test a cheaper brand, the Subnnur is a good choice.
Most customers even mentioned it does not require a color profile to deliver good color precision.
9. Trinity Sublimation Ink
As most of the models, the Trinity includes four bottles of 100ml each. It also contains four syringes that you can use to refill.
Just open your printer and the cartridges and use the syringe to transfer the Trinity ink from the bottles to the cartridges. This adds a lot of practicality to the process since you don’t even have to take the cartridges out of the printer.
Although this is a solid choice for affordable inks, we only recommend them if you are a beginner or just need to complete small, simpler projects.
Buying Guide for the Best Sublimation Ink
This is the first thing to check when purchasing sublimation ink. Even the best cartridge or refillable bottle will be useless if it does not work with your specific printer. Check not only for the brand of the printer but also the model, as this matters too.
The transfer rate refers to how much of the ink transmits from the paper to the working surface. You want a transfer rate of at least 90% for a bright and accurate design.
Since in sublimation the substance goes straight from the solid to the liquid phase, there should be minimal drying required.
Still, some cheaper ink brands use a lot of water in their composition, which increases the drying time significantly. The more water, the worse the ink is and the longer it takes to dry.
Sublimation ink needs to be smooth and composed of small particles. In addition to avoiding printer clogging, small particles also contribute to better end design.
When you use magnifying glasses on mugs, t-shirts, etc, printed using ink with big particles, you can see them all through the drawing. Ideally, the particles should not be greater than 0.1 microns.
Even though ink color needs to be vibrant, you don’t want them to be oversaturated. It is more important that they reproduce the original colors of the design, and that they have depth.
This is what will provide a professional-looking pattern, especially with faces and skin tones. The best way to check for this is by printing a black design and checking how pure it is, as opposed to deep purple or grey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it ok to keep changing sublimation ink brands?
It is better to always or the same brand of ink, or to empty the cartridge completely before changing to a different brand. This will avoid contamination and ensure your projects are consistent.
What is the difference between sublimation ink and normal ink?
Regular ink uses very small particles of colored material that, when printed, sit on top of the paper to create designs.
Sublimation ink, on the other hand, is transferred to the medium through a gaseous state and it completely encapsulates the polyester molecules, creating a lasting design.
What is an ICC profile?
Every printer needs to learn how to print thousands of color shades from just four or six base colors. Although they already come with this ability, different brands offer slightly distinct hues and that affects the end result.
An ICC color profile is a guide many brands offer to download so your printer can compare the colors of the ink to the original colors. The software can then adjust and correct differences and print a more accurate design.
Does sublimation ink fade?
A project done with quality ink should not fade. If it does look faded in the end, check for the temperature used, the pressure applied and the expiration date of the ink.
What is the sublimation ink shelf life?
While many people agree that it is ok to use ink a little past the expiration date, it is a good rule of thumb to use up the cartridges within six months of installing them in the printer.
The ink that is left for too long inside a printer with no use can develop particles and deliver less than optimal designs.