Finding the right printer for you: Dye sublimation

by Reads (13,476)

Need help deciding on what type of printer fits your needs? has a new series, “Finding the right printer for you.”  Building on our handy guide of the same title, will feature dye sub printers in this article.

All about dye sublimation printers

Dye sublimation is often used in photo printers because of its superior amount of color choices and unusual method.  Dye sublimation is the process of heating dye until it turns into a gas/vapor and then is spread over a print medium in layers. 

The dye for these printers is usually sold in ribbon form and unlike other printers that opt for CMYB inks (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black); dye sub ribbons are usually sold in CMYO (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Overcoating).  The omission of black dye in the process often leaves users of dye sub printers without a black and white print option.  If there is one, the blacks in the prints usually leave something to be desired.  Of course, without the laminate, the colors that are fused onto the print medium could become distorted when exposed to heat again.

What a dye sub printer lacks in deep blacks, it makes up for in color choices because the technology puts on the color in layers as opposed to spraying ink or laser adhesive which is why most compact photo printers use dye sub technology.

Another reason dye sub technology is attractive to print manufacturers is photo quality.  The prints are ready to be handled immediately and the clear laminate acts as a buffer to yellowing resulting in longer lasting photos. 

There are some negatives besides the lack of deep black dye in prints.  The dye ribbons must match the size of the print medium the printer is working with so the layers are put on properly; so most of these printers can only print one size prints (usually 4 x 6”).

Also, dye sub printers use all four dyes in every photo whether they are needed or not, which leads to some wasted dye.  On the plus side, you will always know ahead of time exactly how many prints you will get with each dye ribbon unlike ink cartridges.

Dye sub printers lack the print speed that inkjet or laser printers can give users but the photo quality is usually better and the printers are more compact and often portable.

Major Brands

Several major manufacturers sell dye sublimation printers on their websites and through authorized retailers and vendors.   Prices vary on specs and brands.

Canon – has the SELPHY line of compact photo printers that starts at $99.99
Epson – has the PictureMate line of compact photo printers that starts at $149.99
Kodak – has the EasyShare printer docks that will also charge Kodak digital cameras; the docks start at $79.95
Sony – specializes in dye sub photo printers; they start at $149.99


We are constantly receiving new review units so keep checking back.

Dye Sublimation printers in today’s market are strictly compact photo printers because of the restrictive print medium, the vast amount of color choices and the excellent photo quality. 

A dye sublimation printer might be for you if you love having photo prints to frame/display but also want to be able to print at home and on the go.



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