Crafting, Crafts & DIY

Can You Use Sublimation Ink For Regular Printing?

Although The Cloud and various other paperless storage systems have allowed many to get by without a printer, they’re still exceedingly pricey bits of gear, as is the ink we need to actually print things out, which is an issue for those who require both sublimation and inkjet printers.

With the upfront cost of ink being so high, it’s no surprise whether you can use sublimation ink for regular printing, or inkjet ink for sublimation printing is a common query — I had the exact same question when I got into sublimation printing.

Unfortunately, the quick answer is, no.

As well as doing a ton of my own research online, I consulted numerous experts and printer manufacturers to drum up a definitive answer.

In a nutshell, I was told that inkjet and sublimation printing are very different processes that require their own specialist inks and materials.

Now, there are some online resources that claim the contrary, but stick with me, and I’ll explain why attempting to use one ink for both printing formats is a dire error!

Why Won’t Sublimation Ink Work For Regular Printing?

Sublimation paper is quite costly, but unfortunately purchasing regular printing paper isn’t a suitable way to cut costs, the reason being, paper is nothing but an intermediary material in the sublimation process.

It’s designed to carry it over to another surface, and when this essential final stage is omitted, the ink never reaches its optimal form.

On regular paper, the ink will bleed and appear faded, as sublimation ink requires the transition to a second surface to darken and sink in fast.

I gave it a go just to make sure I had been given the correct information, and lo and behold, it was an unmitigated disaster!

And even if sublimation ink did work for regular printing, you’re much better off investing in a discrete inkjet printer anyway, as sublimation ink is far more expensive than inkjet ink.

Over time, you’ll save enough money on ink purchases to cover the cost of the second printer and then some.

Will Regular Paper Work With Sublimation Ink If You Use A Second Surface?

Your next thought was likely whether you could complete the proper sublimation process whilst using regular paper.

After all, if the problem is that the ink needs a second surface to cure, why not just solve the problem by adding a second surface to the equation?

Well, nope, this isn’t really an option either, as only a very small volume of ink is used in the sublimation process, and almost all of it must make it to the second surface to have the proper effect, but regular paper is much more absorbent than sublimation paper.

It essentially withholds ink from the second surface, so the sublimation process is never fully completed.

Once again, I gave this a try just to be sure I would pass on the correct information when composing this post, and the experts were proved right.

Regular printing paper is just too dang absorbent. It’s like a sponge, and once it has soaked up the ink, there’s no way to fully transport it to another surface.

Can You Use Sublimation Ink In An Inkjet Printer?

While some standard inkjet printers can be converted into sublimation printers, you cannot use sublimation ink before the conversion has taken place, as sublimation printers need to be able to leapfrog the ink from a solid to a gas, missing out the liquid stage, something inkjet printers can’t do, read more about how sublimation printers work here. .

Sublimation is dependent on intense heat and pressure, and even though inkjet printers do use heat during the printing process, they’re by no means capable of applying it in any useful way, it also will not work to print vinyl stickers, I tried it and failed horribly!.

What’s The Difference Between Regular Paper And Sublimation Paper?

Although it’s called paper, sublimation paper really isn’t papery at all. Much thicker than regular printing paper, it’s very much its own thing and will often have a watermark on the backside.

Sublimation paper isn’t anywhere near as absorbent as traditional copy paper.

The specialized fibers simply lock in the inky gas and hold it in place, ensuring the majority of it is transferred to the second surface when heat is applied.

Can You Use Inkjet Ink For Sublimation?

Okay, so what if you did have plenty of sublimation paper but were fresh out of sublimation ink… could you load up your sublimation printer with inkjet ink and keep on truckin’?

Again, I’m afraid the answer is a big no.

As established, sublimation paper really is unique in its composition. It’s primed to work in harmony with sublimation ink only.

If you tried to use inkjet ink to print on sublimation paper, the ink would blur instantaneously into a smudgy mess.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s The Difference Between Regular Paper And Sublimation Paper?

Although it’s called paper, sublimation paper really isn’t papery at all. Much thicker than regular printing paper, it’s very much its own thing and will often have a watermark on the backside.

Sublimation paper isn’t anywhere near as absorbent as traditional copy paper.

The specialized fibers simply lock in the inky gas and hold it in place, ensuring the majority of it is transferred to the second surface when heat is applied.

Can You Use Inkjet Ink For Sublimation?

Okay, so what if you did have plenty of sublimation paper but were fresh out of sublimation ink… could you load up your sublimation printer with inkjet ink and keep on truckin’?

Again, I’m afraid the answer is a big no.

As established, sublimation paper really is unique in its composition. It’s primed to work in harmony with sublimation ink only.

If you tried to use inkjet ink to print on sublimation paper, the ink would blur instantaneously into a smudgy mess.

I gave it a try just to be sure I wasn’t being misled by my research, and the results were pretty much as expected. The print was a complete monstrosity, so, yeah, don’t try this at home, folks!

Can You Use Sublimation Paper For Regular Printing?

The results of using sublimation paper for regular printing would be exactly the same as the result of using inkjet ink in a sublimation printer.

The ink would not hold fast on the paper, as the fibers aren’t absorbent enough.

You’ve probably guessed what I’m about to say now, huh? Correct! I gave this a whirl to see what would happen, and, predictably, it didn’t pan out all that well.

This paper is designed to lock in gas rather than absorb liquid ink, so you just don’t get a clean print at all — Total waste of time and money!

What Is Sublimation?

Remember earlier when I mentioned that sublimation printers need to be able to convert a solids straight into a gas without going through the usual liquid interim? Well, that’s the very definition of sublimation.

People often mistake the process of printing on fabrics as sublimation, but this isn’t the case.

Sublimation is a scientific term that strictly refers to matter skipping the free-flowing liquid state by changing from a solid directly into a gas and vice versa.

Can I Convert My Inkjet Printer Into A Sublimation Printer?

Unfortunately, you can’t convert any old inkjet printer into a sublimation printer, but there are quite a few out there capable of making the transition.

Epson printers are commonly suited to the sublimation makeover, but not all of them.

Before you buy anything for the conversion process, I’d recommend researching your specific model to find out if it’s possible; however, oftentimes, it’s not a case of can I, but should I.

Even if you discover that it is technically possible to convert your inkjet printer into a sublimation printer, it’s not always an easy process, and you may not get the results you were hoping for.

That said, it can be a fun project as long as you’re willing to make peace with things not going completely to plan.

Final Thoughts

No matter how you slice it, you’ll always need to pair the printers with appropriate paper and ink, otherwise, nothing quite works the way it should, and you’ll waste a lot of expensive ink finding out.

So, do yourself and your bank account a favor, and fork out for all the right stuff straight away and avoid any messy mistakes.

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Michelle Jacobs

Michelle Jacobs

Michelle is a young mom and crafts fanatic. In her free time she loves to write about her latest creations, and how other moms can entertain their children with some colored paper and a pair of scissors!
Michelle Jacobs

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