Printers

Best Printers For Heat Transfers: Vinyl Printing & More

Heat transfer printing, AKA thermal printing, is the process of using heat to transfer an image from one surface to another. It’s most commonly used for adding images and graphics to clothing (like T-shirts and athletic uniforms with a heat press), but a heat transfer printer has tons of potential applications.

If you’re looking for a high-quality thermal printer that meets your needs and budget, you’ve come to the right place. Here we’ve covered everything there is to know about heat transfer printing, plus the best printers for heat transfer applications available on the market today.

Image

Model

Printer Type

Print Speed

Print Resolution

Max Size

Check Price

WorkForce WF-7710 Wireless Wide-format Color...

Inkjet

Black: 9 ppm,

Color: 6 ppm

4800 x 2400

13” x 19”

Epson WorkForce 30 Color Inkjet Printer...

Inkjet

Black: 16 ppm,

Color: 5.5 ppm

5760 x 1440

8.5” x 44”

Silhouette America One Year Warranty, Cameo 3...

Vinyl Trimmer

N/A

N/A

12” x 10’

Brother HL-L2320D Mono Laser Printer

Laser

Black: Up to 30 ppm

2400 x 600

8.5” x 24”

Epson Artisan 1430 Wireless Inkjet Printer

Inkjet

Black & Color: 2.8 ppm

5760 x 1440

13” x 19”

Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 Wireless...

Inkjet

Black: 9.2 ppm,

Color: 9.0 ppm

5760 x 1440

13” x 19”


How Heat Transfer Printing Works

According to Techwalla, heat transfer printing “uses heat to transfer an image from wax to an object. Thermal-based printing methods work with pre-printed images on a single wax sheet or produce printed-on-the-fly images made by layering wax dye onto an object.”

The first step in heat transfer printing is to create your design, which can be done with several graphic design software options. You'll need a printer with special heat press applications and a special type of ink (Inkjet is the most common). You'll also need a particular kind of paper that is designed for thermal transferring (typically one that's coated in wax).


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 Vs. 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.

Ink Quality

In quality 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 vs. 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.

Cartridge Options

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.


6 Best Printers For Heat Transfers Reviewed

1. Epson Workforce WF-7710

WorkForce WF-7710 Wireless Wide-format Color...
  • Storage Dimensions: 22.3" W x 19.1" D x 13.4"...
  • Epson all-in-one printer can print, scan,...
  • PrecisionCore technology lets you create...
  • 250-sheet paper tray can also hold up to 20...

Our Top Pick!

Printer Type

Inkjet

Print Speed

Black: 9 ppm, Color: 6 ppm

Print Resolution

4800 x 2400

Max Size

13” x 19”

Warranty

1 year

Our top pick for the best printer for heat transfer is the Epson Workforce WF-7710. Not only is it the best printer in general, but it’s the best inkjet printer for heat transfers. An inkjet printer should be any beginner’s first choice since this type is the easiest to use and the most versatile. It offers much more precise printing than a laser printer ever could.

Whether you’re using this best inkjet printer for printing on vinyl or paper, following the WF-7710 User Guide is easy for anyone. It’s way more economical than a laser printer and uses about 80% less power.

The paper handling of this device is as versatile as it gets; the tray holds up to 250 sheets of paper and comes equipped with a rear-face feed for specialty paper types.

This inkjet printer is "powered by PrecisionCore, the WorkForce WF-7710 wide-format all-in-one printer quickly produces print-shop-quality borderless prints up to 13" x 19" and scans up to 11" x 17"...It also includes auto 2-sided print, copy, scan, and fax, plus a 35-page Auto Document Feeder." 

On top of that, it comes with a 4.3" touchscreen display for easier handling and navigation.

Epson Workforce users love that this printer is capable of wireless networking, which means that you can print your well-thought-out designs from a tablet or smartphone.

It’s not ideal that it’s designed to only be compatible with Epson ink cartridges, but that’s fairly typical for any manufacturer. Some people find the setup for dye-sublimation printing a bit tedious, but just follow the Installation Guide, and you should be fine.

Good
  • Large touchscreen
  • Power-efficient
  • Quiet operation
  • Copy, scan, fax, and more
  • High printing resolution
Bad
  • Compatible with Epson cartridges only
  • Long setup for sublimation printing

2. Epson WorkForce 30

Epson WorkForce 30 Color Inkjet Printer...
  • ISO print speeds of 16 ISO ppm (black) and...
  • 5760 x 1440 optimized dpi
  • 4-color (CMYK) drop-on-demand MicroPiezo...
  • Draft Speeds up to 38 PPM

Runner Up

Printer Type

Inkjet

Print Speed

Black: 16 ppm, Color: 5.5 ppm

Print Resolution

5760 x 1440

Max Size

8.5” x 44”

Warranty

1 year

The next best pick for the best heat transferring printer is another Epson Workforce device. The Workforce 30 is an inkjet printer that operates similarly to the WF-7710, but this one is more focused on printing speed and efficiency. The price is much higher than the last Epson, but there are a few reasons for this.

The main reason is that this is considered a “high-performance” printer, and the “Epson WorkForce 30 blazes through critical documents at speeds about two times faster than those of competitive printers. And, the results are always impressive.” 

It has been clocked at up to 38 pages per minute for black-and-white printing, thanks to the dual-black ink cartridges.

While you quickly print documents, photos, and heat transfer designs, you can always count on sharp text and vivid, true-to-life colors. Some users find that getting started with the Workforce 30 is tricky since there is no touchscreen like the WF-7710, but if you have any trouble, just give Epson a call, and a rep will walk you through the setup process step-by-step.

This heat transfer inkjet printer is an excellent addition to a home office. It's lightweight and compact, and it uses 3x less power than the traditional laser printer. It's smudge, fade, and water-resistant documents and images with double-sided compatibility. It's great for high-volume printing projects and works well with basic sublimation prints.

Sadly, this model has been discontinued by Epson, but it's still available to buy from third-party sellers on Amazon. There have been a few complaints about the high cost of toner for this device, so your best option is to buy ink cartridges in bulk from Amazon or Walmart.

Good
  • Fast printing speeds
  • Double-sided printing
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Smudge, fade, water-resistant
  • Power-efficient
Bad
  • Discontinued by Epson
  • High cost of toner

3. Silhouette Cameo

Silhouette America One Year Warranty, Cameo 3...
  • Brand New Aqua Blue Silhouette Cameo 3 with...
  • Use the powerful Silhouette Studio design...
  • Features a dual-carriage for multi-tool use...
  • Is the only Silhouette compatible with the...

Best for Vinyl Printing

Printer Type

Vinyl Trimmer

Print Speed

N/A

Print Resolution

N/A

Max Size

12” x 10’

Warranty

1 year

Heat transfers using vinyl are common with fabrics and materials, especially for companies who are trying to promote their brand.

Finding a printer for vinyl printing can be difficult; the vinyl polymer is tougher than paper and cardstock, so not many printers are capable of handling it. What's even more difficult is finding a cutting tool to cleanly trim down vinyl designs once they've been printed.

Although the Silhouette Cameo isn’t actually a printer for printing on vinyl, it’s a necessary tool for cutting vinyl polymer once it’s been printed. The Cameo cutter works with a variety of materials, including vinyl, paper, cardstock, and certain fabrics.

It's equipped with Bluetooth technology for wireless vinyl cutting, but of course, you can plug it into your computer or laptop if you're not a fan of Bluetooth.

It comes in a variety of colors, including aqua, classic white, slate grey, and mint green. One of the things that Cameo users love most is that it’s compatible with the Silhouette design software.

You can go from creating your designs with the software to cutting them out with exact precision in a matter of minutes. The main reason that this is the best trimming device is that it comes with a 2mm clearance to trim down thicker materials (like vinyl).

This is the only device in the Silhouette line that is compatible with a self-adjusting AutoBlade, which means that you can just let the Cameo do its thing.

When you purchase this for trimming down your vinyl designs, you’ll also get access to the Silhouette Studio software and receive a power cable, USB cable, 12-inch cutting mat, and AutoBlade. Just remember, this is not a printer, but it’s still a necessary tool for heat transfer projects using vinyl. 

Good
  • Cuts thick materials
  • Bluetooth-capable
  • Self-adjusting AutoBlade
  • Access to design software
  • Stylish design
Bad
  • Trims only (does not print)
  • Customer service is lacking

4. Brother HL-L2320D Mono Laser

Brother HL-L2320D Mono Laser Printer
  • Print Speed: up to 30ppm; Mono
  • Hi-Speed USB 2.0 interface for local...
  • Automatic Duplexing (two sided printing)
  • Print Technology: Electrophotographic Laser

Best Cheap Laser Printer for Heat Transfers

Printer Type

Laser

Print Speed

Black: Up to 30 ppm

Print Resolution

2400 x 600

Max Size

8.5” x 24”

Warranty

1 year

The Brother HL-L232 is an excellent choice for anyone who is looking for heat transfer on a budget. It’s the most affordable device on this list of best printers for heat transfers, but it’s still perfectly capable of printing out high-quality text and graphics for heat pressing.

It’s got a speedy print speed of 30 pages per minute (black and white) and automatic duplexing for double-sided printing.

Aside from its fast laser printing, the HL-L2320D offers convenient paper handling. It can hold up to 250 pages in the paper tray and words with the letter and legal size paper as well as envelopes and letterhead. 

The Brother company says that you’ll be able to “use less toner and save money by using Toner Save mode for your less critical business documents.”

It’s easy to connect this laser printer to a laptop or computer, just use the included USB cable to connect your device to the printer’s built-in USB port. One of the main goals at Brother is to provide customers with printers that they can depend on in terms of performance, reliability, and cost. This device hits all the marks, and Brother has certainly accomplished its goal.

There is one downside to the Brother printer. The resolution of printed pages doesn’t compare to the Epson Workforce printers. Pages come out with a resolution of 2400 x 600 pixels, which isn’t stellar (especially when compared to the 4800 x 2400 pixel count of the Workforce WF-7710.

If you’re looking for a heat transfer printer for a fun hobby, it’s a great choice, but for professional-level heat transfers, you’ll want to consider a more high-end device with better image quality.

Good
  • Great value for the cost
  • Automatic duplexing
  • Toner Saver mode
  • Fast laser printing
  • Straight-through paper path
Bad
  • Low-resolution printing
  • No wireless connectivity

5. Epson Artisan 1430

Top of the Range

Printer Type

Inkjet

Print Speed

Black & Color: 2.8 ppm

Print Resolution

5760 x 1440

Max Size

13” x 19”

Warranty

1 year

So far, we've covered two solid Epson printers that are capable of heat transfers, but we've got another one for you. The company's Artisan 1430 printer is a high-end device (with a high-end price) that can be used for both home office and professional settings. Sure, it’s expensive, but if you’ve got the money to spend, the Artisan 1430 is worth every penny.

 This is an inkjet printer that operates completely wirelessly. It takes just seconds to connect to your home or office WiFi and start printing with no cables whatsoever. Most heat transfer printers come with space for 4 ink cartridges, but this one has room for 6. That means you’ll get even better color clarity and clearer definition with each and every page you print.

Here’s what Epson has to say about its top-selling heat transfer printer: “The Artisan 1430 includes advanced color and lighting correction for amazing photos. Photos are smudge, scratch, water and fade resistant thanks to Claria® Hi-Definition Ink1. And, prints last up to four times longer than photo lab prints1. Take your creativity further with the Artisan 1430.”

One of the coolest things of all is that the 1430 comes with tons of eco-features for better printing efficiency. You can print multiple pages on a single sheet, and the device completely supports printing on recycled paper. On top of that, the ink cartridge system is designed to let you replace only the colors you need - there’s no need to replace them all at once.

Aside from the high price tag of the Artisan 1430, the only other drawback is that this is not a compact printer. Although it’s marketed as a compact device, it’s quite bulky and heavy, especially when compared to the other heat transfer printers on this list.

Also, it doesn’t offer the fastest printing speed, but this is fairly normal for a device with such amazing resolution (5760 x 1440).

Good
  • Amazing color quality
  • Highest printing resolution
  • 6 color cartridges
  • Easy setup
  • Wireless network ready
Bad
  • Slow printing speed
  • Expensive

6. Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000

Epson Expression Photo HD XP-15000 Wireless...
  • This printer is designed for use with Epson...
  • Professional ultra HD photo quality get...
  • Individual 6 color Claria photo HD ink...
  • Professional projects: Made easy features a...

Best Sublimation Printer for Heat Transfer

Printer Type

Inkjet

Print Speed

Black: 9.2 ppm, Color: 9.0 ppm

Print Resolution

5760 x 1440

Max Size

13” x 19”

Warranty

1 year

We might as well end the list with another Epson device since this is the most well-respected brand for heat transfer printing.​

The best sublimation printer for heat transfer by Epson is the Expression Photo HD XP-15000, which is designed for professional projects that require specialty media like thick cardstock. Similar to the Artisan 1430, it comes with 6 ink cartridge slots for bright colors and more defined clarity.

The reason that this one is ranked as the best sublimation printer for heat transfers is that it works well with sublimation ink.

Sublimation ink is different from dye or pigment ink, and not all printers are compatible with it. But this one is. You’ll have to purchase Epson cartridges only, which are a bit on the pricey side, but the good news is that Epson ink delivers brilliant colors.

This wide-format printer is mainly used for printing out photos, so it’s easy to directly connect your camera or computer - or go completely wireless. If you choose to connect, you’ll have to use your own USB cable since Epson doesn’t include one with the purchase.

No matter how you choose to connect, you'll love that it accommodates a variety of paper finishes and sizes (including 4 inches by 6 inches and 13 inches by 19 inches).

Epson says that the Expression Photo HD XP-15000 “with auto 2-sided printing, a 200-sheet front tray and convenient wireless connectivity, printing stacks of documents is a breeze. Get all this, in a compact printer that’s 30 percent smaller than its predecessor.” 

Whether you’re using this for sublimation printing or just printing out photos from your family reunion, this printer certainly gets the job done. And like all Epson printers, this one comes with a 1-year warranty.

Good
  • Fast color printing
  • New compact design
  • Ink-saving mode
  • Ideal for cardstock printing
  • Ultra HD photo quality
Bad
  • USB cable not included
  • Compatible with Epson cartridges only

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.

Inkjet Printers

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.

Dye-Sublimation Printers

Dye-sublimation printers are the least common. They 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.

Laser Printers

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.


Screen Printing vs. Heat Transfer


According to T-Shirt Professional, understanding the difference between screen printing vs. heat transfer “will help you determine which printing solution is excellent for your project. Both printing methods are perfect, but it will depend on the purpose that you want to achieve with the project.”

The main difference between the two is that screen printing uses an ink-blocking stencil to transfer images to a screen (typically made from nylon mesh). This method doesn’t work for all types of designs since it requires more chemicals and equipment than heat transferring.

Heat transfer uses a combination of heat and pressure to create custom designs. Unlike screen printing, it works with a variety of mediums like vinyl and fabric. It's much cleaner and environmentally-friendly than screen printing.

Whether you're looking for the best printer for vinyl sticker printing or the best printer for T-shirt heat transfers, you're guaranteed a high-quality design with heat transfers.


How to Use Heat Transfer Printers

There are a few pieces of equipment you’ll need to get started with heat transfer printing, including a computer/laptop and a printer that is compatible with heat transfer. You'll also need the proper type of ink-based on the printer you've chosen, heat transfer paper, a vinyl cutter to cut out the design once it's been printed, and a heat press. 

Once you’ve acquired all the necessary equipment and created your design, the next step is to print it out. You’ll need to follow the specific instructions of the printer since each model is different, but most of these devices walk users through step-by-step. Once printed, warm up your heat press between 350 to 375°F.

Here’s a quick guide to how long you’ll need to use the heat press based on the material you’re using:

  • Inkjet Transfer Paper: 14 – 18 seconds
  • Dye Sublimation Transfer: 25 – 30 seconds
  • Digital Appliqué Transfer: 20 – 30 seconds
  • Vinyl Transfer: 45 – 60 seconds

Once you’ve pressed the transfer paper for an appropriate amount of time, remove the film while the paper is still hot. And voila, you have a finished product with a beautiful design.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What ink is used for heat transfer?

It depends. For the best heat transfer paper for inkjet printers, you’ll want inkjet ink, which is the most affordable and accessible ink type. Some printers are compatible with pigment ink or sublimation ink, so you’ll need to check your printer’s requirements before you purchase ink.

Is sublimation printing durable?

Absolutely. In many cases, a sublimation print on a garment often outlasts the garment itself. Sublimation prints come out highly detailed with durability that is difficult to beat. In terms of ease of use, though, sublimation is not the best (inkjet printing is better for that).

What’s the best heat transfer paper?

The first step in choosing a heat transfer paper is to pick one that is compatible with your printer. Once you've done that, consider using the Neenah 3g Jet-Opaque heat transfer paper, the Jet-Pro SofStretch Inkjet heat transfer paper for inkjet printers, or the Photo ImageClip Laser heat transfer paper for laser printers.

What is the best printer for printing on vinyl?

The Epson device works well with vinyl, but for cutting out your design, it’s a good idea to invest in the Silhouette Cameo cutter. This cutting device can cut through a variety of materials, including vinyl. It has a massive field ranging from 1 foot wide to 10 feet long. It even uses Bluetooth technology if you prefer wireless printing and cutting.

What kind of printer do I need for heat transfers?

You'll need one that specializes in heat transfer capabilities. Your best bet is to go with an inkjet printer since these are the easiest to use and most versatile. The one you choose ultimately depends on the complexity of your heat transfer needs.

Can you use a regular printer for heat transfer paper?

There are many inkjet printers on the market that are used for both regular printing and heat transfer printing. But in most cases, you’ll need a printer that specializes in heat transfers, like the Epson WorkForce or the Silhouette Cameo.

What is sublimation printing?

dye-sublimation printer is “a computer printer which uses heat to transfer dye onto materials such as plastic, card, paper, or fabric. The sublimation name was first applied because the dye was considered to make the transition between the solid and gas states without going through a liquid stage."

What type of maintenance is needed for these devices?

It’s important to undergo the proper maintenance to extend the life of your printer. Just as you would with a normal printer, the first step in maintaining your new heat transfer device is regular cleaning. Cleaning isn’t an intricate process; simply wipe down the accessible parts and pieces of the printer with a soft cloth.

It’s also a good idea to maintain or replace the rollers. This will prevent paper jams and allow the paper to move more smoothly from the tray. The easiest, most effective way to clean/grease the printer rollers is by wiping them down with alcohol swabs.

What are some common troubleshooting issues users will face?

One of the most common issues of heat transfer printers is lines of missing ink in the printout, which is typically caused by a clogged print head nozzle. This inhibits the flow of ink, which ultimately causes the missing lines.


The easiest way to prevent this problem is to run the printer regularly. Even if you’re not working on any projects, try to run a small quantity of ink through the nozzle heads to prevent banding.


Conclusion

If you’re browsing around for the best inkjet printers for printing on heat transfer paper, you’ll want to go with the Epson WorkForce printer. For a cheaper option, go with the Brother HLL2320D laser printer, and for the best printer for printing on vinyl, go with the Silhouette Cameo.