Whether you are just starting out in your sublimation printing adventure or a seasoned sublimator looking into changing your sublimation paper, we will help you narrow down what the best sublimation paper is. We compare five (5) sublimation papers and show you the actual transfers and final pressed images so you can see for yourself what the differences are.
There are many sublimation papers to choose from and doing the research can take hours and days. You can read the reviews on buyer’s feedback, read the reviews on sublimation groups, and listen to the pitches from the manufacturers themselves. All this information can make your head spin and you may be more confused than getting closer to finding which paper to get.
After you spend so much time doing the homework and researching which sublimation printer is the best one, which ink to use, then you know choosing the right sublimation paper can play a big role in what your final, pressed sublimated projects will look like.
So this comparison and review of the sublimation papers should help you decide what the best sublimation paper is based on actual printed transfers and final pressed sublimation blanks.
- Purpose Of This Comparison And Review To Find The Best Sublimation Paper
- What We Used To Compare Sublimation Papers
- Price Comparison Of The Sublimation Papers We Used
- Printed Sublimation Transfers
- Pressing Method
- The Results: Pressed Sublimation Blank Comparison
- What Is The Best Sublimation Paper? The Comparison Results
Purpose Of This Comparison And Review To Find The Best Sublimation Paper
We have several reasons for doing this comparison and review of the most widely used sublimation papers.
- For our business, we have been using Texprint-R for but we’re always open to trying, learning, and finding something that may be better.
- We want to save you some time by showing you how each sublimation paper performs for what they are designed for. Instead of listening to or reading about what each sublimator likes, we are going to show you what the actual printed sublimation blanks look like so you can decide for yourself.
- We want to save you money too! We purchased all these sublimation papers so you don’t have to. We are doing the printing so you don’t have to waste your sublimation ink to find the best paper.
What We Used To Compare Sublimation Papers
1. Sublimation Papers
To help you choose which is the best sublimation paper, we are comparing the five most popular sublimation papers that a lot of sublimators use. The five papers we purchased to use for our comparison testing are: Printers Jack for Light Colors, A-Sub 105G, Epson DS Transfer Multi-Use Paper, Koala Sublimation Paper, and Texprint-R Desktop Sublimation Paper for Ricoh. We used the 8x5x11″ size for this testing.
Printers Jack for Light Colors
The backside of this sublimation transfer is blue so there is no confusion as to which side is the one that you print on. This is a plus because if you’ve ever made a mistake on printing on the wrong side of the paper, it is a complete waste of time, paper, ink, and sublimation blank.
In the US, it is available in three sizes: 11×17”, 13×19”, and 8.3×11.7”. You can choose which size to get according to your sublimation blanks, printer, and heat press.
A-Sub Sublimation Paper
A Sub is available in 105g and 125g weights. The 105g is thinner than the 125g paper.. The thicker paper is made for designs with deep, heavy colors while the lighter paper is for designs with lighter colors.
We chose the 105g because it was in stock and the 125g was out of stock at the time of our purchase.
The backside of this paper has a faint A-Sub watermark. This is helpful because you can see which side to print on.
Epson DS Transfer Multi-Use Paper
This Epson DS Transfer Multi-Use Paper came with our newest sublimation printer, the F170 so we decided to test it. It has a matte surface and feels as thick as the Texprint-R paper. According to the epson website, it is made from Alpha Cellulose Paper with a thickness of 4.5 mil and weighs 85gsm. It is made for a wide variety of sublimation substrates including textiles and hard substrates. It also has a high ink transferability.
The backside of this sublimation paper is not marked and it is white, just like the front, printable side. The only difference is that the front is brighter white. So you will have to look hard to figure out which is the front and which is the back.
Koala Sublimation Paper
The backside of this sublimation paper is blue so you can quickly tell which side is the printable side. There seems to be a newer version of this paper now as the packaging that’s available is different and the back has a watermark instead of the color blue. The manufacturer said it is the same except for packaging.
One thing we noticed with this paper is that it is the thinnest of the five we tested. Our printer picked up two sheets at a time and one jammed.
TexPrint DT Heavy
This paper is what we have been using for our business for years because it has given us consistent results. We have been happy with the colors and have not had any problems with getting it from our suppliers. But since there are other sublimation papers available, we are always open to trying new papers…which is one of the reasons why we are doing this comparison testing.
It has the Texprint watermark on the back so we always know which side is the printable side. It comes in multiple sizes including the small mug sizes (3.5×9” and 4×9.5”), letter, legal, tabloid (11×17”) and 13×19”.
2021 update: Texprint R has been rebranded to Texprint DT Heavy. They are the exact same paper.
2. Software and Design
The design we used is our original creation using Adobe Photoshop, 300ppi, and in RGB color mode. This format is what you will be using for your own sublimation designs in order to have the best pressed outcome.
Although there are other design softwares you can use for sublimation, Adobe is our favorite as it is capable of handling professional photography images that we use for our sublimation designs.
This is our own design that we used to compare the sublimation papers. We made it so it is bright, colorful, vivid, and has a wide range of the colors.
3. Sublimation Blank
For this comparison, we chose to use a hard substrate: a Unisub Hardboard 4×4” Coasters with a cork backing. This is a drink coaster made specifically for sublimation. It has a glossy white surface where the sublimation design goes.
We chose this blank for our sublimation printer comparison because it has a bright white surface which, in our own personal business experience, sublimates well and is very affordable.
4. Sublimation Printer, Ink, Print Settings
We used our Sawgrass SG800 Sublimation Printer with the Virtuoso SG800 Sublijet HD Ink. This printer is an actual sublimation printer rather than an inkjet printer converted for sublimation.
The sublijet HD ink installed in our SG800 is the only ink that is recommended by Sawgrass to be used in their printers in order for the Sawgrass Print Manager (SPM) to work correctly. SPM is the color management software used to produce the most accurate cfolors as it has its own ICC profile for the sublijet inks.
The Sawgrass SG800 has been retired and replaced with the Sawgrass SG1000 with a few updated features.
For the SPM settings, we used:
- Substrate: Unisub Coasters
- Print Quality: High
- Color: Graphic
Price Comparison Of The Sublimation Papers We Used
Now let’s compare the prices of each sheet of paper. Just remember that prices can fluctuate based on many factors such as availability, additional shipping costs, and where you purchase your papers from. For this comparison chart, we used the actual cost of what we paid for the pack of 8.5×11” paper divided by how many sheets each pack contained.
|Sublimation Paper||Our Cost Per Pack||Sheets Per Pack||Cost Per Sheet|
|A-Sub 105G||$18||150||12 cents|
|Printers Jack||$19||100||19 cents|
Printed Sublimation Transfers
After printing the design on our test papers, there were not any big differences that caught our attention at first glance. Judge for yourself, can you spot any major differences on these printed sublimation transfers?
Upon closer inspection, some differences were found. The image on the Koala paper is overall lighter or less vibrant than the other four papers. The vibrancy difference between all five sublimation papers is subtle so it may be negligible in the end.
The major difference we saw when we looked closer is that two of the five papers had some ink splatters and smearing. Printers Jack and A-Sub have some red ink splatter on the color wheel. As you can see, there is a lot more smearing on the Printers Jack printed transfer as compared to A-Sub.
We have a GeoKnight DK20S Swing Away Press that we use for our business and is also what we used for this testing. We prepressed our Unisub Coasters for about 10 seconds before taping the designs on them.
If you’ve noticed, there can be a wide range of recommended heat press temperatures and pressing times for the same sublimation blanks. For example, the manufacturer’s website recommends 385°F for 1:00-1:10 while my supplier recommends 400°F for 1:00.
It all comes down to finding what time and temperature works for you because it all depends on type of heat press, humidity of your environment, and amount of substrate you’re pressing at one time.
So for us and based on our experience with pressing these coasters, we found that 400°F for 1:10 with a medium pressure is what works when we press more than 4 coasters at the same time.
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The Results: Pressed Sublimation Blank Comparison
After pressing the images on the blank sublimation coasters, let’s study and compare them to each other.
First, let’s take a look at the color bars. As you can see in the image below, all the colors look pretty much the same and nothing makes one stand out more than the other. The reds are reds instead of having an orange tint, and the blacks are black instead of dark brown.
Now let’s look at the vibrancy of the butterflies. Image 4 above showed that the printed transfers had a subtle difference where Texprint was the more vibrant transfer while Koala was lighter than the rest.
Here are the images of the actual pressed sublimation blanks: the paper transfers on top and the pressed sublimation blank on the bottom. There is not a big difference between them all. Even when the Koala transfer was lighter, the pressed image is still acceptable.
Remember the red ink color splatter or smudge on the printed transfers from the Printers Jack and A-Sub papers (image 5 above)? Here is a close up picture of the pressed transfer. As you can see, the color smudges are very apparent and cannot be ignored.
What Is The Best Sublimation Paper? The Comparison Results
Based on testing the five sublimation papers: A-Sub, Epson, Koala, Printers Jack, and Texprint-R, we found that Texprint-R seems to be the best sublimation paper and Epson comes in second for various reasons.
Texprint-R (Texprint DT Heavy) Is What Came Out To Be The Best From This Testing
Texprint-R has been rebranded to Texprint DT Heavy. The manufacturer changed the name but the paper is still the same. It is made by Beaver Paper (a Koehler Paper Group) and made with a Clay coating to accept the sublimation colors of the Sawgrass Virtuoso (formerly Ricoh) and Epson F500 series printers.
Epson Is The 2nd Best Sublimation Paper
Epson comes in 2nd place for us because of the cost. It is the most expensive based on the per sheet price but will not hesitate using it as an alternative to the Texprint-R (now called Texprint DT Heavy).
Koala, A-Sub, and Printers Jack
Koala, A-sub, and Printers Jack did fairly well but we had a few hiccups with them. They are not bad by any means and some sublimators are happy with them. We just need to do more testing to see if these issues iron themselves out.
- What is your favorite sublimation paper?
- Do you have any experience with the issues we encountered?
- Are your pressed sublimation blanks close or the same as what you see in your design software?
- What other sublimation papers should we test next time?
Stay tuned as we will perform more tests to find the actual differences between sublimation papers.