Sublimation Ink Guide 2024 – Best Sublimation Ink

a-sub autofill sublimation ink in the background with the title "guide to sublimation inks"

Use this guide to choose the best ink for your printer. Learn about the different types and which will work for your printer and your needs.

Table of Contents

Note: Some links in this post may contain affiliate links, which means at no cost to you, I may earn a commission.

What is Sublimation Ink?

Sublimation ink is a type of dye-based ink that is specifically designed for sublimation printing. It’s used in a sublimation printer to print any sort of design that you’d like transferred to a fabric such as shirts or other material. The ink is heat activated and transforms from a solid to a gas when exposed to high temperatures and pressure. Then when it cools, it sinks into the material, actually dyeing it, so that you don’t feel anything on the material. Sublimation inks can be used on fabrics, wood, metals, glass, and more!

The advantage to using sublimation ink is not only that you can’t feel the print when transferred, but also you can print any design you want.

A sub sublimation ink in yellow, pink, blue, and black

How Do You Use Sublimation Ink?

Sublimation ink is what you need for a sublimation printer. You can either buy a stand-alone printer or convert an inkjet printer into a sublimation printer by using sublimation ink. I actually have a full tutorial on how to do this with an Epson Ecotank 2800, check it out here.

Once the ink is loaded, simply mirror your design and print as you normally would. It’s best to use sublimation paper (this is the kind I have) to ensure you have the best quality print.

After that, just send the print job from your computer and let the sublimation paper and ink do their thing! Finally, when it’s done printing, use a heat press machine to transfer it onto your desired material.

epson ecotank printer filled with sublimation ink and sublimation paper

How to Choose the Right Sublimation Ink

When it comes to choosing the right sublimation ink for your printer, there are thankfully only a few questions to ask:

1. Do you plan to print a lot of black?

If you plan to print a lot of black, some sublimation ink sets (such as this one) come with extra bottles of sublimation black ink. This is great if you need more coverage or darker shades when printing or you have a lot of all-black projects in mind. Having that extra bottle on hand ensures you won’t run out of ink in the middle of a project.

2. Does you printer have cartridges or can you fill the ink directly into the printer?

It’s important to consider the type of sublimation inks you need for your printer. If you have a cartridge-based sublimation printer, you’ll want to find inks that are specifically made for your printer model, such as Sawgrass printers or other stand-alone sublimation printers.

There are also printers that can be converted to sublimation printers while still using cartridges. In this case, you can still use refillable cartridges and purchase the ink separately. Just make sure to get inks that can be filled using a syringe.

If your printer allows direct ink filling, you have the option of using either syringe-type inks or autofill inks. 

pointing to the open ink cartridge to put the sublimation ink

3. Do you want to have more control or do prefer an easy solution?

If you prefer more control over the ink-filling process, you can opt for sublimation inks that come with syringes. These sets require you to manually fill each cartridge or printer and keep an eye on the ink levels as you go. This gives you greater control over the process, allowing you to add precisely the amount you need at a time.

On the other hand, if you want a simpler approach, sublimation inks that connect directly to the printer are the way to go. With these inks, you just need to flip the ink bottles upside down, attach them to the printer, and let the ink reservoir fill automatically. No worries about ink dripping, as it should stop on its own when the reservoir is full. However, keep in mind that accidents can still happen (*cue my own mishap with black ink all over my printer).

4. Are you looking for the cheapest sublimation ink?

If your goal is to keep it as cheap as possible, some brands (such as Hiipoo) are ones you’ll want to avoid as they’re more expensive. Brands such as A-Sub and Printers Jack are more affordable.

In addition, it’s better to opt for syringes instead of autofill bottles. Although autofill bottles are more convenient, they come with a slightly higher price tag.

Autofill vs Syringe Fill Sublimation Ink

There are two main types of sublimation ink: one that requires a syringe and another that doesn’t, also known as autofill. Syringe inks can be used with any printer, while autofill inks are only compatible with printers that don’t use cartridges, like Epson Ecotanks. Here’s a quick breakdown of when to use each type and their pros and cons:

Syringe Sublimation Ink

  • Can be used with any printer
  • Using the syringe allows for more control of how much ink you’re adding
  • These inks tend to be cheaper
  • The syringes need to be cleaned
  • There are more steps required

Autofill Sublimation Ink

placing the black ink into the fillable cartridge on the epson ecotank 2800 printer
  • Can only be used with autofill printers (cannot be used with printers that require cartridges)
  • The bottles easily connect to the printer and fill the ink levels automatically
  • These inks tend to be more expensive
  • If something goes wrong, more ink will spill than using a syringe

In summary, if you have a printer that requires a cartridge, you must use a sublimation ink that comes with a syringe. If you have an autofill printer, then you can use either type of ink so it’s more down to preference and budget.

a-sub autofill sublimation ink in the background with the title "guide to sublimation inks - learn how to choose the right ink"

The Best Sublimation Inks

So now that you know what sublimation ink is, how to use it, and what to look for when purchasing, let’s dive into the list! You can read more about each below, but to keep it easy, I’ve highlighted my top pick for each type of printer:

Based on my own experience and Amazon reviews, it seems like the quality of the inks below is pretty similar. So, it really comes down to your personal preference, budget, and any specific features you may need.

A-Sub 600 ml Autofill Premium

This is the ink I currently have in my sublimation printer and is overall the best value. The bottles in this kit are huge at 600ml, which will fill my Epson Ecotank 2800 twice (normally kits only have ~100ml in each bottle).

Personally, I really love the automatic fill bottles because they save me the hassle of dealing with syringes. However, in the first set I received, one of the bottles arrived bent and I ended up spilling black ink everywhere. It was quite a mess, and I had to clean up the ink from the lines. On the bright side, the customer support was amazing! They promptly sent me replacement ink and even included a cleaning kit. So, despite the initial hiccup, I had a positive experience overall.

Hiipoo Sublimation Ink with Syringes 100ml

Hiipoo is a really popular brand in the sublimation world. They’re definitely on the pricier side, but they offer a wide range of set combinations that cater to your specific needs. So you can find the perfect fit for you! This set in particular I think is the best one since comes with syringes and uses smaller 100ml bottles, making it easy to fill printers with cartridges.

This kit also comes with heat tape, which is a great added bonus! So, if your printer needs a cartridge, you really can’t go wrong with this set.

Hiipoo Sublimation Ink with Extra Black for Ecotank Printers

Then to highlight another Hiipoo sublimation ink set – this one is designed specifically for Epson Ecotank printers (which is great if you plan to convert your own like I did). This ink set comes with a larger bottle of black ink at 140ml and smaller bottles in other colors at 100ml.

If you’re planning on printing a lot of dark colors or all-black, this is definitely the option for you! These bottles connect directly to the printer, so you don’t have to deal with syringes. Just flip the bottle upside down, insert it into the reservoir, and watch the ink fill up. Easy peasy!

Printers Jack 400ml with Syringes

If you’re looking for sublimation ink for a printer with cartridges and are on a budget, then this 400ml set from Printers Jack with syringes is a great option. It’s a super popular brand that’s more budget-friendly than Hiipoo, so if you’re looking for sublimation ink without breaking the bank, this one is just perfect! You get 100ml of each color and a set of syringes included.

Printers Jack Anti-UV Sublimation Ink

Printers Jack also has a line of anti-UV sublimation inks, which they say are more resistant to fading. They sell them in both auto-refill and syringe-fill bottles so if having an extremely durable print is important (for example for shirts that are worn often), then I recommend going with this one.

Koala Black Sublimation Ink

If you find yourself printing a lot of black, you probably wouldn’t want to invest in a whole new set of ink cartridges that include all the colors, right? This set from Koala comes with two bottles of 100ml each and it’s much cheaper than a normal set so you can save some money getting only the color you need.

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Daniela Kretchmer

Daniela is a lifelong crafter who loves to share her passion for crafting. Through classes or learning on her own, she likes to say she'll do pretty much any craft aside from scrapbooking. Her current personal obsessions include garden crafts, felting, and spinning yarn.

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