Sublimation Printing

Here’s where I admit I have very little idea how to build a build log. Yet…

Anyway, last week 03/09/19, I dusted off the mug press, found an ac lead for it from the bone yard and plugged it in. It got Hot!! The thermostat was clicking in and out and the timer worked. WooHoo!

I also checked out the supply of mug blanks, plate blanks and assorted other bits and pieces to potentially print onto.

Lastly got out the Epson printer and told it its turn was coming.

10/09/19 - Dusted off the Epson printer. Downloaded the Owners Manual and Service Manual and printer driver to my laptop. Couldn’t get past it telling me it had an error… Humm The ink cartridges are mostly empty, so I suppose next week I’ll have a go at filling them up and see if that helps the printer feel the love.

It’s an Epson Stylus TX400. If anyone has ideas about getting it printing I’m happy to hear them.

The big issue with ink jet printers is the ink dries in the printer head if its not used for a long time.
A new ink cartridge might fix it, but I suspect you might also have to replace the head as well if that’s possible with this model.

If you go down the road of replacement I would recommend getting a toner printer as they are more reliable for infrequent use.

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All epson printers use drop on demand piezo inkjet heads. The heads are very robust but a permanent part that is probably more expensive to replace than buying a new printer.

However they do respond very well to cleaning if ink has dried in them. You can buy cleaning solution at any ink jet cartridge refill / aftermarket shop or make your own with some windex and other stuff.

Someone at craftpunk used to have family involvement in one such inkjet cartridge shop so should have a good handle on cleaning them up. I can’t remember who it was though.

Toner type printers might be more reliable - but they are not suitable for several things craft punk want. Namely “sublimation” inks for doing mugs/caps and for doing photomasks for screen printing. Laser printers can not do as dark a photo tool as an inkjet can.


I don’t know when the last time people here have actually used an inkjet printer but there is a ridiculous amount of unfounded hate for them every time there’s a discussion. I have a $90 epson from officeworks. I’ve had the same ink cartridges and printheads in it for well over a year and it works fine. It gets used maybe twice per year?

My last printer was the same, as was the one I used growing up in school. There might be some inkjet printers that aren’t great, but claiming that all inkjet printers are terrible and/or suffer from these problems is simply false. Sure, if you’ve left the printer in a state that has exposed the printheads for a long time (like 6+mths) you might have issues but most modern printers are fine in my experience.

It is my understanding for sublimation printing to work you need special inks that are generally not available as a toner - which means the entire point is invalid - craftpunk needs an inkjet.

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It is my understanding that the printer is nolonger recognizing the cartridges, from having spoken to @Paula_ODonnell and observing the error messages last night.

It may be that we need replacement chips for these cartridges to convince the printer to return to service, which is one of the more common downsides of the razor and blade approach printer companies take to inkjet supplies. That being said, an inkjet is required for these sublimation setups and we purchased second hand printers to try and make use of this.


Awesome, I was unaware that they could be cleaned using a solution.

My experience was from a cannon ink jet printer, it would only be used maybe once a year and took many pages to clear the head before producing a good print.

With frequent use this should not be a problem though.

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HSBNE mugs in the new look kitchen?

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@ian.kerr.redmond - That idea had occurred to me. :slight_smile:

Currently looking into the wonders of chip swapping and cartridge/print head cleaning. Maybe new cartridges?

24/09/19 - After reading up about re-chipping cartridges and the like, I ordered some new non-genuine cartridges to continue with. Let’s see if the printer is happier with new chips to talk to.
The choice to use non-genuine may come back to bite me in the bum, but since we’re repurposing the printer for sublimation printing I figured, give it a try.
I also read up on cleaning printer heads, and decided to show the Epson some tlc by cleaning its heads.
It anyone has other wisdom to share I’d love to hear it.
If all this fails I guess I’m in the market for a new printer that can be adapted to sublimation printing.

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01:10:19 Thanks to the keen eye and magic hands of Terry, the Epson printer is that much cleaner and that much closer to being ready to print with sublimation ink. Next job is to thoroughly clean and refill the cartridges with the sublimation ink.

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Thanks Paula. The printer will need some more TLC before it is back in its glorious state though.

04/10/19 Last night I tried to clean the ink cartridges that had been filled with sublimation ink. There was both dried and fluid ink in them. Magenta decided to have a blow out along a seam. I suspect that dried ink was blocking the vent, and while I was being gentle, perhaps not gentle enough for the power of hydraulics.
This morning I’ve ordered up new empty cartridges and now await the Rev of the Postie to signal their arrival.
Since I’m travelling later this month and home again early November, I’m going to put this project to bed for a bit. If anyone else wants to tinker with it, go for it!
Godspeed. :slight_smile:

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27/11/19 The new refillable cartridges arrived a few weeks back. But life and SupaNova took precedence for a bit.

Last night I filled them up with sublimation ink, and loaded them into the printer. Some nozzle cleaning ensued and the print is cleaning up. Any tips on reducing those pesky lines to nothing will be gratefully received. I think I’ll be trying another nozzle clean with some isopropyl next.

At least the printer is still acknowledging its existence, and talking to the computer.

Probably time to think about some artwork for printing.

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26/01/2020 Actually printed some mugs and plates today! So, yes, sublimation printing is a goer!

The Epson printer is very frustrating. Lots of nozzle cleaning, and still the pesky lines are present. Also randomly telling you that cartridges are missing, or needing to be replaced when that is not the case. If we want to spruce up our capacity for sublimation printing in the future, I think a new printer would be the starting point.

Another thing to get better at is understanding the exact area of contact that the heat press is making so that the edges of prints are nice and crisp. That is more about designing the artwork, than the gear.

I’m very happy with the saturation of colour in the colour wheel. If it weren’t for the lines from the Epson printer, and misjudging where the edges should be, that print would be spot on! Also noted the sublimation ink says ‘use by 12:2017’ so fresher ink may have even more vibrant colours.

The blue mug shows faults from the Epson printer, poor edges from how it lined up in the heat press, and some squidgy bits where I think I touched it while it was still hot and not ‘set’ properly. But it’s the first thing I printed and I love it!

I’ve left these 2 x mugs and 2 x plates in Craftpunk for now (with a parking ticket) just so people can check them out. Big thanks to Zak for company and encouragement!

I’ll leave this build here for now. Sometime after the Craftpunk renovations are finished I may raise the idea of replacing the Epson printer and then the fun will begin again!

Happy Hacking!


Wow that is great progress! The colour wheel is a great idea for a test and also looks great as design; like an artist’s palette. :+1:

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I have a Sawgrass SG400 DieSub printer, a mug press, and plate and T-Shirt press. I’ve only used it a few times last year, I haven’t got it all down pat yet.
To do the plates using the plate press module is no problem for ceramic plates but for polymer plates one needs to have a backing blank (usually printed on the 3D printer) to privde support from deforming.

I also have my own TexPrint R Desktop Sublimation paper (A4) plus somewhere I have the paper for doing the print for mugs.

Yeah it isn’t cheap to setup, but can do some incredible results.

I was just wondering if there was ever any progress after this discussion. I am not a member yet, but I am considering becoming one and sublimation printing one of the things that I’m interested in. Did anyone ever get those “pesky lines” remedied? Thanks

If/when somebody has some success with any sublimation printing, i’d love some photos and some explanation emailed to me to put it in the book that i’m building.