What Is The Difference Between Sublimation Ink and Regular Ink?

Even in today’s time, people are confused between regular ink and sublimation ink. Most of them don’t know the difference between sublimation ink and regular ink. Some people also use the regular ink instead of sublimation because they are not sure about the use cases of each and which one is for them?

In this article, I will provide you with the best and most updated information about the regular inks and sublimation inks and you will learn the difference between each of them as well. So keep on reading for an amazing clarification on the difference between sublimation ink and regular ink.

What Is The Difference Between Sublimation Ink and Regular Ink

No doubt there are plenty of options available right now in the present. You can choose the best ink among so many great and cheaper price inks. But you don’t have to choose any on the basis of its features. You need to have a clear idea about your need and use. Do you want the ink for regular use or sublimation purposes?

Quick Overview Of Sublimation Ink VS Regular Ink

What Is Sublimation Ink?

The ink that is intentionally and specifically used for sublimation printing is called the sublimation ink. It is designed with a completely different mechanism and uses case. It has a special feature by which it changes its state when heated and once it cools down again, it becomes the permanent part of that substrate.

The ink is first printed onto the sublimation paper via a sublimation printer and then with the help of a heat press machine, it gets transferred to the substrate i.e shirt or pillow etc. While transferring the ink from printed paper on the substrate via heat press machine, it changes its state and becomes gas, once it gets cooled down it changes its state into the solid again and gets infused & becomes the permanent part of the substrate.

Apart from the use case of the sublimation ink, this ink is far more long-lasting than any other ink. Most of the time the sublimation ink becomes the permanent part of the fabric or substrate and the minimum time of its fading is 10 years based on our experiences.

What Is Regular Ink?

Regular ink is not manufactured with the purpose of sublimation so using it will cause many issues and your time and efforts will be wasted. A few of the biggest reasons for not using the regular ink for sublimation are that it will not work with the sublimation paper, using it in the sublimation printer can damage the printer itself as well as the warranty of that printer might end with it, and there are tons of other reasons as well.

In a nutshell, always make sure to use high-quality sublimation ink for sublimation printing to achieve astonishing great results. 

Click Here to Learn More About The Best Sublimation Inks In 2023

Now let’s have a look at the main differences between the sublimation ink and regular ink

Sublimation Ink

  • Specifically formulated for sublimation printing
  • The best and only fit for sublimation printing
  • Long-lasting and permanently transferred on the substrate
  • Does not damages the warranty and inner mechanism of the sublimation printer
  • Compatible with sublimation paper, sublimation printer, heat press machines, and all the other sublimation related stuff.

Regular Ink

  • Not suitable for sublimation printing
  • Not compatible with sublimation paper, sublimation printer, and all the other sublimation related stuff
  • Can damage the sublimation printer and its warranty
  • Even if it is used, the print might not be in the best colour and it will not last as long as sublimation ink does
  • Regular ink does not formulate for sublimation printing

Pros and Cons Of Sublimation Ink

Using sublimation ink for sublimation printing is the best option you can go with. Underneath I explained some of the most common pros and cons of using sublimation ink for your garments and substrates.


  • Super long-lasting and most of the time the print lasts as long as the original garment does
  • Waterproof and machine washable as well
  • Provides amazing vibrant and bright colours
  • Printed design won’t get crack, fade away, peel, or wash off
  • Always gives you the consistently high-quality result
  • Compatible with a variety of different materials and accessories such as cotton, polyester, metal, wood, ceramic, and many more
  • Sublimation ink can be used with any printer as long as the printer has replaceable ink cartridges
  • You won’t feel any layer on the garment because the ink gets infused within the garment and becomes the part of the garment itself


  • Most of the inks work only with its similar brand printer
  • Inks from the well-known brands are quite expensive
  • Ink doesn’t come in the colour “white” and you can print “white” colour with sublimation printing
  • Can not be mixed with other inks and even with sublimation ink itself, until and unless the colour and the brand of the ink are the same

Can I Use Sublimation Ink With Any Printer?

This is one of the most confusing questions for any new person in the sublimation printing industry. In simple words, you can use sublimation ink with any printer but it has some limitations. The biggest one is that the printer must have replaceable and changeable ink cartridges. 

Make sure to change the ink cartridges with sublimation ink cartridges. Also, the printer must have other required features such as it should print high-quality prints and needs to be a colour printer.

Once you are about to swap cartridges run a few test prints before printing the actual print so that any unwanted remaining ink in the printer also gets removed.

Also Read:
1. How To Remove Sublimation Ink
2. How To Preserve Sublimation Ink Correctly
3. How To Make Sublimation Brighter

The Best Places To Buy Sublimation Ink | Where To Buy Sublimation Ink Inexpensively?

There are multiple places available where you can buy sublimation inks as well as other accessories for sublimation printing. Some of the best places to buy sublimation ink and accessories are,

  1. Amazon
  2. Etsy
  3. eBay
  4. Cosmos-Ink


Amazon is the biggest online shopping platform having millions of products with a huge variety of options. Similarly, there is a wide range of sublimation inks available there in various price ranges. You can find the best deal for yourself there for sure. Also, you can find each and every accessory related to a sublimation printing on amazon very easily and most of the stuff there is brand new.


Etsy is a well known and popular shopping platform among artists and creative people looking to buy something different. There is a presence of many sellers on Etsy who are selling sublimation ink and accessories. Some are brand new and some are open-boxed with low prices. So you also get more options in terms of pricing as well.


The most loved platform for used items. On eBay, you can find tons and tons of different options for sublimation ink and sublimation accessories at very reasonable prices because most of the stuff available there is used or open-boxed. That also helps you to get that at a cheaper price as compared to the brand new one. It is the best go-to option if you are looking for used stuff to buy at a lesser price.


Cosmos-ink is one of the biggest sublimation ink focused shopping platforms. It wouldn’t be wrong to say the largest platform is entirely focused on sublimation inks only. You can find a variety of different options there. Almost for every printer, there are inks available on this platform and the inks are also quite inexpensive there. So do check them out as well if you are looking for high quality and low priced sublimation ink.


Q NO.1: Can you switch back and forth between sublimation ink and regular ink?
It’s not recommended to switch back and forth between sublimation ink and regular ink in the same printer. It will damage the warranty of the printer as well as the actual machinery of the printer. 

Q NO.2: Can I use sublimation ink with a normal printer?
Yes, you can use the sublimation ink with a normal printer but the criteria is that the printer needs to have the swappable ink cartridges so that you can change the regular ones with the sublimation ink cartridges.

Q NO.3: Can you use regular ink for sublimation?
No, you can’t use the regular ink for sublimation. The sublimation ink is a must for sublimation printing because sublimation is based on a very specific process that can be performed by the sublimation ink only.

Q NO.4: How long does sublimation ink last?
If the quality of the ink is good and the process of sublimation is done with all the steps perfectly then the ink will last as long as the original fabric will. Even in most cases, the sublimation ink lasts at least 10+ years.

Q NO.5: Why is my sublimation ink not vibrant?
If your sublimation ink is not vibrant make sure to check if it’s original and buy from the trusted resources only. Also, if your ink is not vibrant after sublimation printing then make sure that your printer has the correct settings done and most importantly try to use the same brand ink with the same brand sublimation printer. This improves the end result and your print gets super vibrant.

Q NO.6: Why is my sublimation ink faded after washing?
Sublimation ink doesn’t fade easily so if it gets faded that means whether you didn’t sublimated it correctly or the ink you used was not original. Make sure to have the best and correct settings and follow the right steps while sublimating and always use the original sublimation ink of your sublimation printing. Once you follow these, you will no longer face the ink fading after washing issues anymore.

Q NO.7: Is sublimation ink waterproof?
Yes, sublimation ink is waterproof and the life expectancy also increases if you sublimate it with the correct steps and settings.

Q NO.8: Does sublimation ink fade?
No, if you followed the right procedure then sublimation ink won’t fade from your garment or any substrate. The ink gets infused within the garment or substrate and becomes a permanent part of it. That’s the reason it won’t fade if it’s being sublimated correctly.

Q NO.9: How long does sublimation ink last on shirts?
In the majority of the cases, the sublimation ink lasts as long as the shirt does.

Q NO.10: Does sublimation ink expire?
Yes, sublimation ink also has an expiry date. You must use the ink before expiry and never use the expired sublimation ink, it will not give the best results and can also harm the machinery of the printer.

Q NO.11: Does sublimation ink work on regular paper?
Yes, sublimation ink works on the regular paper but if you use that you will need to perform an extra step in order to transfer the print on the garment or any other substrate. Rather than that, you should use the sublimation paper. There are no additional steps if you use the sublimation paper instead of the regular paper with sublimation ink for sublimation printing.