Sublimation printer vs Cricut: which one to choose?

When you are new to sublimation crafting, the biggest question is what to start with. Which machine do you need to perform sublimation? Can you use a Cricut machine for sublimation printing? What is the difference between sublimation and Cricut printing? Which one is better?

Don’t panic! Here is a simple guide on both the variants that you can choose from.

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Image source: leapoffaithcrafting.com

Sublimation printer or Cricut: which one to start with?

So, how can you make the right decision when you are still a newbie to the sublimation world?

The sublimation process sounds like a tricky task to you, and you are afraid of starting with a big mistake that can put an end to all your sublimation projects.

To avoid this, a good rule of thumb is to formulate your goals in sublimation.

While many people can start by comparing the initial prices, they forget about the whole list of points to consider:

  • What is your sublimation skill level? This point matters a lot when you choose your first sublimation machine. For beginners, it is better to start with Cricut machines as they are easier to use. However, when you have more sublimation skills, you can opt for a more advanced and expensive sublimation printer.
  • Why do you want to start sublimation projects? Are you curious about fun crafting or planning your business by selling sublimation items? Formulate your aims on sublimating so that you can decide which device can work better for you.
  • Which one is more costly? Depending on your goals, there is no point in paying more for a costly device if you don’t need it professionally. As a newbie to sublimation printing, I started with a Cricut machine to try some projects for fun. Then, getting enough skills, I proceeded with a more expensive sublimation machine for starting my own business.

What is the difference between sublimation printer and a Cricut?

#1. First of all, you have to understand that dye sublimation printing and Cricut paper crafts are two different things. 

Sublimation printers are designed for dye sublimating directly through the sublimation paper whereas common Cricut devices are designed for designing and cutting different types of materials.

However, Cricut devices and sublimation printers can interact when you know a few simple hacks on how to do it.

Besides, the Cricut line offers a few types of heat presses that can be used similarly to common sublimation machines.

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Image source: cricut.com

#2. You can sublimate either with the printer or with the help of Cricut Infusible Ink sheets. While printers transfer your chosen design onto the sublimation paper, Cricut Infusible Ink is the pre-made sheets that are already full of sublimation inks.

In the heat press, the sublimation ink is infused into the sublimation blanks to stay there permanently.

A good point about Cricut Infusible Ink is that they are fully compatible with any kind of sublimation blanks!

Besides, any typical printer for sublimation can perform this task for you as Cricut Infusible Ink sheets are super-versatile and compatible with many types of heat presses.

#3. You have some differences in the choice of designs. While Cricut Infusible Ink offers a limited choice of colors and designs, you can customize any of your designs with a sublimation printer before transferring them to the blanks.

So, if you prefer to embody your designs, then using a traditional sublimation machine is a better option for you.

What are the pros and cons of a sublimation printer?

In my experience, using professional sublimation supplies is the best option. You are not limited in your choice of designs, you have high-quality designs, and you don’t have anything super-difficult to deal with.

However, like with any other type of printing, there are both pros and cons that you have to know about.

Let’s take a closer look!

Pros

  1. The first and biggest benefit is that you can learn this process very quickly and easily! It took a couple of times for me to practice sublimation so I got all the necessary hacks on how to do it properly.
  2. You have an almost unlimited choice of designs to print. Unlike Cricut Infusible Ink sheets which are compatible only with a limited amount of colors and designs offered inside the line, you can opt for almost any design you wish!Except for white-based colors, any colors and images are available for your future design. In other words, you can embody any sublimation project ideas you wish!
  3. You can sublimate on the hard surfaces. As well as with fabrics, sublimation ink is possible to integrate into such rigid items as mugs, plates, clock dials, and many others.
  4. The result is permanent and durable. Unlike heat vinyl designs, the sublimation ink becomes a part of the unit and can’t peel off (in fact, it doesn’t even feel on the surface!) The only tip is to keep the printed unit away from UV ray exposure so your design will last long.
  5. Sublimation is a great idea for your own startup business! As soon as I trained enough to make perfect prints, I turned this process from a hobby to a way of getting money. Since the sublimated units are insanely popular nowadays, you will get enough orders to produce.
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Image source: pinterest.com

Cons

Along with all the advantages of sublimation printing, there are also several drawbacks that you need to know about:

  1. Sublimation supplies work only with 100% or at least 2/3 polyester fabrics. Their fibers have the perfect structure for print infusing. Thus, if you want to sublimate on any other type of fabric, you won’t succeed properly.
  2. You can sublimate your designs only on white or other light-colored surfaces. The sublimation process is possible only on light surfaces to be perfectly visible, so you can’t create any designs on your dark T-shirts. From this point, heat vinyl prints work even better as they are possible to perform on any color of surface you want.
  3. As a result of the drawback above, you can’t use white-based sublimation ink. Since you can work only on lighter-colored surfaces, there are no white sublimation ink types available for printing.
  4. If you sublimate on something non-textile, there must be a layer of special coating. Unless the chosen surface has a layer of polyester coating, you can’t perform sublimation on this material.
  5. Keep the sublimated items away from direct sunlight as the sublimation ink is prone to fade under long UV ray exposure.

Sublimation printer vs Cricut: which one is better? To answer this question let’s learn more about the second sublimation machine.

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Image source: allprintheads.eu

What is Cricut sublimation?

The first thing to keep in mind is that you can’t find a Cricut sublimation machine if you are going to search for one!

Since the Cricut device itself is designed for cutting some types of materials and performing vinyl and paper crafts, there are no printing capabilities in it.

So, how can you sublimate with the help of Cricut?

Generally, you have two possible ways: cooperate with your Cricut machine with your sublimation supplies, make use of Cricut Infusible Inks, or get any of the specific Cricut heat press types that are compatible with printing tasks.

Let’s take a closer look at what you can do!

#1. Make use of Cricut Design Space

If you don’t feel like getting a new heat press, you can make good cooperation with your printer and Cricut Design Space. 

Having both a Cricut machine and a printer for sublimation, I tried this feature successfully, so I can share some tips on how to perform sublimation crafts with the help of Cricut Design Space.

Choose the design you want for sublimation. Open it in the Cricut Design Space, then choose the Print Then Cut option.

After your image is ready, you can just send it to your sublimation printer and transfer it onto the sublimation blank.

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Image source: cricut.com

#2. Try the Cricut Infusible Ink transfer sheets

Do you think that transferring your sublimation print on the transfer paper is too fiddly? Then, Cricut Infusible Ink sheets are your best bet!

These sheets are already full of sublimation ink and they are almost ready to be transferred to your chosen sublimation blanks.

You don’t need any additional sublimation paper to transfer your designs before printing them on the sublimation blanks. All you need is just to adjust the desired area for transferring, and then print custom designs.

The good news is that Cricut Infusible Ink sheets are compatible with any type of printer, so you can use them freely.

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Image source: aperfectblendteaching.com

Get some other Cricut products

So, if you know that common Cricut machines can’t perform sublimation, then how can you do it?

If you are wondering about the third variant, you need to know more about a machine called Cricut EasyPress.

This is an awesome Cricut product that is designed for sublimation printing. In other words, this is a heat press that is suited for printing your own sublimation designs onto the clothes.

However, is Cricut EasyPress good for performing sublimation?

Cricut EasyPress is a much better option than heat transfer vinyl printing. Since heat transfer vinyl is prone to crack and peel off the surface, Cricut projects are more durable and permanent.

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Image source: pinterest.com

Cricut sublimation designs can be transferred with the help of Cricut Infusible Inks. As a common work of a heat press and Cricut Infusible Ink transfer sheets, the design is transferred onto the surface of your chosen product. Thus, the inks infuse into the cloth fibers and make a permanent printed design.

As a variant, you can also get Cricut Infusible Ink pens or Cricut Infusible Ink markers to create your handmade design on the shirt.

I tried this to make some unique points such as doodle drawings and handwriting elements. However, the printed designs look much more professional and are more in demand than vinyl printings.

Along with Cricut EasyPress, you can get some similar products. Cricut manufactures several other heat presses such as Cricut AutoPress and EasyPress Mini.

All of these machines are compatible with Cricut Infusible Ink sheets, so for a good and inexpensive start, you can try a mini-press to get the necessary skills and save your money.

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Image source: pinterest.com

What are the pros and cons of Cricut sublimation?

Now, that you know more about Cricut sublimation methods, we can regard all the pros and cons of practicing them. As a sublimation enthusiast, I tried many possible variants of using Cricut Infusible Ink and sublimation printing, so I made my notes on which points for and against they all have.

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Pros

  • Cricut Infusible Ink is compatible with many different types of materials, so when you think about the suitable surface for your sublimation designs, you have a wide range of options.
  • Cricut Design Space provides a wide range of useful features that you can try in the sublimation process. You can add pictures and photos up to your wishes, then choose the desired shapes and control the sizes of your projects. After you finish editing your future designs, you can simply send them to your printer and transfer them onto the sublimation blanks.
  • Using Cricut Infusible Ink is handy as they are already prepared for printing. You don’t need to transfer your design on the sublimation paper previously as you already have a prepared sheet full of sublimation ink. All that you need is to adjust the transfer sheet and place it into the heat press to perform the sublimation process!
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Cons

  • The biggest drawback of using Cricut Infusible Ink sheets is the limited choice of printing patterns and color palettes which are available in Cricut’s product line. In case you want to create a different design, you won’t be able to perform it within Cricut production.
  • For some sublimation fans, fiddling with Cricut Design Space and printer cooperation can seem time-consuming. Since you need to cut and adjust your design additionally before transferring onto the sublimation paper blank, it takes more time than common sublimation. It is much easier to skip this option and perform sublimation without it.
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Image source: pinterest.com

How to sublimate with a sublimation printer

Creating your custom sublimation prints is always fun. However, to avoid some common mistakes, you need to know the right sublimating technology.

I can say for sure there is nothing difficult with the sublimation process, except being attentive and accurate. So, let’s get started!

Step #1: Transfer your design onto the sublimation paper

Preparing sublimation papers is essential unless you can’t transfer the image on the chosen blank. So, print your design first on the sublimation paper to make a template for your future design. Then, wait until the printed sheet is completely dried.

Step #2: Adjust the sublimation sheet and the crafting blank

The next step is to prepare your chosen blank and the pre-printed image inside the printer.

Make sure to place the printed sublimation sheet face-down towards the sublimation blank. When heated, the sublimation inks must get on the blank directly!

Step #3: Perform the sublimation process

Now, turn on the heat press to perform the sublimation! The sublimation inks evaporate from the printed paper and integrate into the surface of your blank.

After the inks absorb into the surface, remove the used paper. Congratulations, your sublimation project is complete!

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Image source: silhouetteschoolblog.com

How to sublimate with Cricut ink sheets?

Along with traditional sublimating, a great idea is to try Cricut Infusible Ink in your sublimation printer. Just skip the step of transferring the print onto the sublimation paper, and try to create your design with the Cricut ink sheets!

Step #1: Prepare your design

You don’t need to prepare any sublimation paper, but you have to adjust your future design with the help of Cricut Design Space. As a variant, you can use any of the free sublimation designs available in the Cricut line.

Step #2: Place the ink sheet and the blank in the printer

Place a Cricut Infusible Ink sheet face-down towards the blank. Make sure that the design space is at the right place to transfer!

Step #3: Perform the sublimation

Turn on the heat press and let the inks integrate into the blank. After you finish, take the used sheet away and your project is done!

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Image source: tradeinn.com

FAQ

Do you need a sublimation printer if you have a Cricut?

Generally, it depends on the type of Cricut machine you have and the goals you want to achieve in your sublimation projects.

For a common Cricut item, you need the printer to perform sublimation. Cricut Design Space provides the necessary menu to adjust your design and send it to the printer.

Thus, you need to have a sublimation machine unless you have one of the Cricut heat presses in use.

Is sublimation printing better than vinyl?

Unlike the heat transfer vinyl applications that make a temporary covering on the surface and are prone to peel off, sublimation printing infuses directly into the cloth fibers and creates a more permanent and durable design.

However, HTV provides much handier use that is especially easy for beginners. Besides, it is known for its versatile crafts, so it works much better when you need to perform a quick project or prefer bold graphics.

What are the disadvantages of sublimation printers?

Despite all the advantages and the wide choice of designs, sublimation printers have a list of cons to keep in mind:

Sublimation printing works only on 100% polyester shirts. You can’t use other fabrics for sublimation to get the desirable result. For example, cotton fabric is not compatible with it.
The chosen item for sublimation must be only white or other light color. Unlike heat transfer vinyl, the sublimation printer can’t transfer the design properly onto black and other dark-colored items.
Keep your sublimated items away from direct UV rays exposure! Remember that UV rays exposure is the shortest way to discolor your sublimation printing.

Is it better to buy a sublimation printer or convert one?

The choice depends on your sublimation skills, goals, and startup costs.

A sublimation printer is generally quite costly, so if you are going to learn how to sublimate, make sublimation projects for fun, or you are short of money, it will be enough to get a converted printer.

However, sublimation ink cartridges are much more expensive than bottles with sublimation inks that you can use in the ink tank printer. I suggest using an ink tank printer for sublimation conversion. Even if such a printer itself is more expensive, you will save a lot of money when using it further.

What is more, remember that you can’t reverse your converted printer back to the previous state so easily! Since your inkjet printer has already been converted to the sublimation one, you have a great deal of effort to make and keep ink to waste.

I suggest trying this one at first with an inexpensive printer that you are not planning to use for regular printing anymore. Opt for an Epson Ecotank printer or something similar to make a good start.

Finally, when you have enough money to get a specific printer for sublimation, and you are skillful enough to work with it, you are good to go.

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Image source: chi-athenaeum.org

Final thoughts

As you can see, both sublimation printer and Cricut production have their pros and cons and work specifically for different purposes.

So, your choice mainly depends on the goals you have. I hope this guide can help you to make the right decision!

Marc Marsh

Your go-to guide to unveil the incredible potential of printers beyond the ordinary. As you delve into my blog, prepare to be amazed by the boundless horizons that these ingenious devices can unlock. Yes, you heard it right – printers aren’t just about mundane documents anymore.

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