Transferring beautiful pictures onto things is an incredibly fun, creative endeavor, and when you want something higher quality than that iron-on sheet, you have to look into other methods for doing so. One of the best ways I found is through the use of a printer for heat transfer.
A good printer for heat transfers is always the first consideration when starting a business for printing t-shirts or even doing it as a hobby.
The most common question that I see people ask is, “Can I use my basic home printer for my t-shirt printing venture?” The short answer has always been a resounding NO, especially for folks looking to use the printer for more than just a hobby!
Of course, some persistent DIY’ers have a way of making it work with these run-of-the-mill units.
But believe me, the quality is never great.
They also involve a stream of headaches that are not worth going through given their poor performance.
In most instances, these printers offer poor color saturation, weak image quality, and durability that is prone to crack or start peeling off after one wash at best. Needless to say, this is not the quality that you want to sell to your clients or even produce for yourself.
Even if you do heat transfer arts as a hobby, you’ll soon be tired of designs that don’t last more than a few days.
Luckily, there are several printers dedicated to heat transfers. that are tried and true choices by both professionals and hobbyists alike
Choosing Quality Heat Transfer Printers
Printing Mediums & Compatibility
Every heat transfer is different when it comes to available mediums (or compatible printing materials).
Look for one that is compatible with a variety of mediums, including vinyl, cardstock, and fabric.
Available printing mediums typically depend on the type of ink that is used. If you’re looking for heat transfer printers for t-shirts, then choose one that is compatible with fabric.
You’ll also want to look into system compatibility. Some models are only compatible with the Mac operating system, while others only work with Windows.
This isn’t common, but you’ll still want to confirm that the printer is compatible with your computer (compatibility with both operating systems is ideal).
Printing Speed and Printing Quality
Printing speed can range anywhere from 1.5 to 10 minutes per sheet (also referred to as pages per minute, or ppm).
Be sure to check into the speed of color printing and not just black-and-white since transferring colored images often takes longer.
Also, check the speed based on image size since large images will obviously take longer than smaller ones.
We all love a speedy printer, but speed means nothing if the image transferring quality is lacking.
Print quality should be a top priority, so look for a printer that comes with optional auto-correct features that ensure images to come out with crisp features and smooth color gradients.
It plays a huge role in image quality as well as medium compatibility. Look for a printer that comes with a variety of ink colors; many come with 4 color cartridges (K, Y, M, and C), but the best printers can hold between 6 and 8 cartridges for better color definition.
You should also have a solid understanding of pigment and dye-based ink types.
Pigment inks are much weaker and less vibrant than dye-based inks, but dye-based inks are not ideal in humid environments since they are water-soluble.
Although pigment inks aren’t as vibrant, they are more resistant to water and less likely to fade over time.
Size Of Medium
The printing field of a printer determines the maximum size of the images that it can print out.
If you plan on printing large images, choose a printer with a large printing field.
It’s a good idea to get the exact dimensions of the printing field and compare them with the sizes of the images you plan on printing.
Durability & Ease Of Use
Nobody wants a printer that will last only a few months, and even a year isn’t considered a long-term investment.
Find a durable model and will get you through years of heat transfer printing.
Ease of use is another biggie, especially if you don’t consider yourself tech-savvy.
The best printer for heat transfer paper will come with a screen with step-by-step instructions on the printing process.
On the topic of ease of use, you’ll want to pay close attention to your cartridge options.
Look for a printer with cartridges that are easy to refill or easy to replace. Changing ink cartridges can be a messy business with a low-quality printer, but it doesn’t have to be.
Price & Warranty
The best printer for heat transfers can be costly, but there are a few budget-friendly devices on the market.
No matter the price you pay, your printer should come with a warranty period of at least 90 days, but more ideally 1 year.
Types of Printers for Heat Transfer
There are three types of printers for heat transfer: inkjet, dye-sublimation, and laser.
Each type has its own set of pros and cons, but inkjet or laser printer for heat transfers are the most popular.
An inkjet printer for heat transfer is the most affordable and the most versatile, so it makes sense that it’s the most popular.
These work well with several different mediums and ink types (like pigment-based and dye-based).
The only downside is that some heat transfer techniques are not compatible with inkjet printers, so check into this beforehand.
They are the least common. And use heat to transfer ink directly to the printing medium, like paper, plastic, and certain fabrics.
This type of printer struggles with direct printing onto cotton, so it’s not considered the best printer for heat transfer T-shirts.
A laser printer for heat transfer uses heat to “burn” ink onto the printing medium.
These are used for paper heat transfers, so they’re a great addition to any office space.
They’re not the ideal choice for color photos and detailed graphics, and they don’t offer the same quality as the best inkjet printer for heat transfer
The 6 Best Printers for Heat Transfers
The ideal heat transfer printers for most users are based on overall quality, user experience, and price point.
Each of the items we cover delivers top-quality performance depending on your needs and the complexity of your heat transfer projects.
Here are the best heat transfer printers you should own today
Epson Stylus C88+ Color Inkjet Printer
If you’re in the market for a reliable, robust, inexpensive yet effective machine, the Stylus C88+ is a formidable option.
Epson Stylus C88+ comes with a capability of CISS for both pigment-based and sublimation inks, which makes it an effective printer for transferring prints.
It also comes with an in-built image editor software to give your prints those final touches.
This is the best printer for home users, in our opinion. it is for the sole reason that it can handle regular printing jobs at home with equal ease as it can handle prints on heat transfer paper.
Further, it also supports borderless printing. Epson Stylus C88+ Color Inkjet Printer can support incredibly high-quality prints of resolution up to 5760 x 1440 optimized dpi.
And comes with 4 different pigment inks, which means you get superior print quality with every print.
It’s been on the market for well over a decade, and besides the lack of modern-day connectivity options, you really do not miss out on anything much – further, the presence of high-end pigment inks makes this a brilliant product for a relatively cheap price.
- Comes with pigment-based inks instead of regular inks
- 4 individual cartridges make replacements easier
- Borderless printing is an added plus with the printer
- Lack of some connectivity options which are expected in 2020
Brother HL-L2320D Mono Laser Printer
This printer is different from other options, given that it’s a black and white printer.
The intended use of it here is to utilize colored heat transfer paper, which is becoming much more common these days.
The print quality is such that those prints are much higher quality than colored heat transfer prints from most other printers.
This printer is a laser printer and built for high volume, and decent quality applications.
If you’re someone who deals with large quantities of heat transfer, you should definitely consider the HL-L2320D.
It also supports a direct USB connection, so if you have pre-designed prints you won’t need a computer at all!
For startups and small entrepreneurs, this machine can turn out some serious volume and becomes highly-cost effective over the long run.
However it also doesn’t feature wireless connectivity, but comes at a much lower cost than you’d expect of a laser printer.
All in all, a wonderful machine for large quantities of heat transfer prints
- Highly economical in the long run
- Gives you high volume of prints with a quality which is much higher than regular prints
- Compact, comes with a USB port to print directly
- Skimps on a number of modern-day connectivity options, but it is ultimately an economical printer
Okidata 62439301 C711wt Professional Printer
The weird name aside, this one is actually the only true heat transfer printer on this list. It’s only meant for professionals and hobbyists who use them very frequently.
Okidata 62439301 C711wt is also rather expensive and can handle up to 10,000 sheets of heat transfer paper before requiring servicing – a level of robustness nowhere to be found on other printers.
This printer comes with a laser based color and monochrome printing set up, which means much lesser waiting times and a much higher volume which can be dealt in a single print scenario.
It works great with pretty much all kinds of fabric you can think of. You can also directly use it to print labels, small banners etc.
This printer also comes fitted with a white toner – this gives you access to a wide range of colors, perhaps the widest color gamut of all printers reviewed.
It comes with its own set of recommended heat transfer papers, which could cause a jam if left unused – so be careful.
Otherwise, the volume and quality this printer delivers are nearly unbeatable
- Comes with the highest color gamut of all printers tested
- Supports a wide range of heat transfer papers and labels
- Can print a large variety of sizes and designs
- A bit dated to operate; feels as old as it really is
HP Laserjet Pro M452dw Wireless Color Printer
If you want quality, volume and reproducibility, you’re bound to consider this printer.
It comes with all the trappings and features that you’d come to expect out of a wireless printer in 2018, and then some.
Print quality is great if not the best, but then this is a printer you buy for volume – quantity is the reason d’être of laser printers.
This printer features the best of connectivity technology of all the printers we’ve reviewed here.
Further, it comes with a capacity of over 50,000 pages per month recommended.
It has a 1.2 GHz processor that can handle large quantities of prints and large images rather easily. However, the resolution is limited to a maximum of 600×600.
You can directly print via USB, WiFi-based options, or even NFC for devices that support it.
It can print a large variety of pages, all of which can be printed borderless for the best quality experience.
Further, you also get 4 different toner cartridges instead of the regular 2. For fast and high volume prints, this machine is a formidable competition to the rest
- Can print a huge volume of heat transfer prints in one print cycle: up to 150
- Comes with the best of connectivity tech of most printers this year
- Quality is decent for high volume applications
- Resolution might be too low for the highest quality of print
Canon MX492 Printer
The Canon MX492 printer is a portable model that is useful for a wide variety of purposes.
It is chockful of features that render it one of the most sought-after printers for heat printing purposes. For instance, it can be connected with mobile devices, including both Android and Apple smartphones.
This connection can happen via a number of mobile apps such as Google Cloud Print, Canon Print, and AirPrint.
These can then be used to send printing instructions to the printer, which it will subsequently obey.
The Canon MX492 printer is at least 30% smaller than the preceding MX printer models by Canon.
This renders it the perfect printer for people who have little space to spare. Among its several beneficiary features is the quiet mode.
This feature enables you to use the printer quietly without polluting the environment with the noise and constituting a nuisance to those in your vicinity.
And because it has a wireless connectivity feature, it can upload documents to the cloud.
Finally, the printer can be used to accomplish several functions apart from printing. This includes faxing and scanning of documents
- It has a wireless connectivity option
- It is compact and doesn’t take up much space
- Several people complain about the installation process being tedious
- There are also complaints of papers jamming in the printer after a couple years of use
PC Universal Sublimation Printer
The PC universal sublimation printer is yet another printer that you definitely want to consider if you are in the market for a heat transfer printer.
This printer was specially created for use in making t-shirts, mugs, and other objects that require the use of heat transfer to imprint images on them.
It is absolutely fantastic and capable of being used alongside a heat press machine to customize objects.
Unlike most printers employed for printing customized mugs and cups, which use a CISS (continuous ink supply system), this particular printer makes use of universal sublimation ink cartridges.
This helps avoid hassles that usually arises with the use of CISS as a result of the air bubble, desk levels, and ink levels.
This printer is highly rated by users due to how easy it is to use it, among other things. Its set of universal sublimation cartridges has four colors and it can handle a number of different operations. It also has a wireless connectivity option
- Having a wireless connectivity option
- It is a great sublimation printer
- It has additional functions including scanning and copying
- It cannot print extra-wide format
Reading through this article, it is certain that you will be imbued with the knowledge required to identify and choose a heat transfer printer that will fulfill your personal needs.
One thing you should have at the back of your mind is that high cost doesn’t automatically connote functionality.
In fact, a transfer printer for t-shirt, mugs, and other items mentioned in this article can be very expensive and yet won’t meet your needs.