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I get asked a lot about printers. And, the number one thing I’ve noticed is that crafters don’t know what type of printer they need to tackle which projects. Let’s get this all sorted out today.
Crafting: What Printers Do What?
Inkjet – An inkjet printer is what most people will likely have at home. Inkjet printers use ink and print in black and white or color. Inkjet printers are perfect for Print and Cut (Silhouette) and Print then Cut (Cricut). I have an older model Epson Workforce. It’s been with me to several years and still works as good as the first day I hooked it up. If you’d like to try vinyl printing for your own use, you can buy inkjet printable vinyl like this. Costs: Up to a few hundred dollars.
Laser – Laser printers are like miniature photo copy machines. Like inkjet, they print in black and white or color. Instead of ink, they use toner cartridges. You’ll want a laser printer if you want to do foiling. Costs: Up to a few hundred dollars.
Sublimation – Sublimation printers use a special type of ink meant for transferring designs onto blank products. You first print onto a heat transfer paper, then use a heat press to put the design onto your final polyester based or specially treated blank product. Costs: You can buy kits to ‘hack’ some types of printers. For this type of setup, expect to spend a few hundred dollars. Otherwise, a sublimation printer often runs in the high hundreds. (Learn more about sublimation in this series on the blog.)
Direct to Garment – This type of printer does exactly what it says it does – prints directly onto your finished product. Costs: Expect to spend $15,000 and up on these printers.
Solvent and Eco Solvent – These printers are commercial grade. Using a solvent or eco solvent printer, you can create your own vehicle wraps, large banners, and custom printed vinyls. Costs: Expect to spend $7,000 and up on these printers.
Oki – Oki printers are also known as ‘white printers’. They use a white toner to print to transfer paper. You can then use a heat press to transfer your white ink design to your final product. Costs: Expect to spend $2,000 and up on these printers.
If you are interested in making a large investment in a printer, I’d recommend you attend an apparel making tradeshow like ISS (Imprinted Sportswear Show) to see the different types of printers in action, talk with the sales representatives, and then make an informed decision.
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Since 2015, Christine Schinagl has been helping crafters start and run craft businesses through her blog, Cutting for Business. As a Silhouette and Cricut crafter herself, she has a unique take on what works and what doesn’t work in the craft business world. She also teaches a course on creating digital SVG designs, available at How to Design SVGs.