How a Sublimation Photo Printer Works

A sublimation photo printer allows photographers to print high-quality photos from their home or home office. These types of printers are superior to inkjet printers, which create colors by using individual dots. Instead, these printers use solid dyes to create images.

How the Sublimation Photo Printer Works

Inkjet printers used to be the standard for printing out photos. While this may work for beginner photographers, professionals are going to want something a bit more superior in quality. Unlike the inkjet printer, sublimation photo printers use solid sheets of transparent film.

These sheets are generally rolled up within the printer. Within these films are solid colors, and these colors are generally the main four colors used in color printing: magenta, black yellow and cyan.

Unlike the dots of the inkjet, there is a print head that will go over the film, and this head is very hot. As it rolls over the film of colors, the colors will start to vaporize and then infuse the photo paper with the color. Basically, the dyes become a liquid form that flows onto the glossy paper. Once the print head starts to cool, the dyes will return to a solid shape again.

In the brief seconds that the film was heated, it became a part of the glossy paper.

How This Is Different

While inkjet dots can be seen, the sublimation printed actually dyed the paper. There is no noticeable pixilation. The heat from the print head scored the dyes into the glossy paper. The gradation in sublimation photo printers is less harsh than traditional printers. The borders are not as harsh as in traditional printers. The photos better blend with the page.

If a user is going to purchase a sublimation photo printer, he should probably invest in good photo paper. Since the film has scored the dye into the paper, it will last a very long time. It's not as likely to fade or warp as the years go by. So, it would be worth it to invest in paper that matches the printer's quality.

Cost of Photo Printers

While there are some sublimation printers available from Sony and Kodak for a few hundred dollars, most sublimation printers are very expensive. Generally, prices range from around $1,000 to over $2,000. And, the cost of replacement parts can also be hundreds of dollars.

If a user does plan on purchasing one of these printers, he needs to look at the cost per print and also look at how many prints can be produced out of one roll of dye. Further, users should only print their final photographs using this printer. To do test prints, inkjets or less expensive photo printers would make more sense.

Most of these printers are recommended for professionals only because of the cost associated with them. Amateurs may want to invest in one of the less expensive sublimation printers if they would like to create some higher quality photographs. The less expensive ones, however, do not create as good of prints as the more expensive sublimation printers.