Dye sublimation is a growing, fun and profitable process! Whether you are a hobbyist, crafter, or business owner, getting started with dye sublimation printing can be very rewarding.
You might have heard about the Sawgrass Virtuoso SG400 and/or SG800 Dye Sublimation Printers before. If you haven’t, they are arguably the best desktop sublimation printers on the market!
In this blog, we are going to discuss the advantages of using a Sawgrass Virtuoso printer, explain the differences between the Sawgrass Virtuoso SG400 and SG800 printers, and help you determine what printer is best for you! Please note that while these two printers have now been replaced with the most recent models, the SG500 and SG1000, all of the following information is still accurate.
First, let’s start with some Sawgrass printer details. Unlike any other desktop sublimation printer, Sawgrass printers are designed specifically for dye sublimation as they feature a fully-integrated system!
- All components are designed specifically to work together to produce the best possible prints.
- Both the printer and ink are designed from the ground up specifically for dye sublimation.
- Optimized to print faster and save ink, while producing the best colors possible.
- Color management/print software in a fully integrated system is designed to manage color based on the specific characteristics of both the print and the ink, as well as compensate for color shifts that normally occur during the printing process.
- More precise prints at the substrate level ensure the highest image and minimal waste.
- No guesswork for you! This means less ink, substrate and paper waste trying to get the right colors.
- Graphic design software is specific to sublimation product decoration, featuring most-popular blanks, a continually updated library of thousands of images/templates/designs, regular software updates to meet customer needs and colors guaranteed to match those in the print software.
- FREE Color Management and Creative Studio design software made specifically for the SG400 and SG800 printers! These are continually updated for the most popular artwork, templates, papers, and substrates.
- Download the FREE software here - You don’t need a printer to use it! https://www.sawgrassink.com/Products/Software/CreativeStudio
- Saves you tons of $$$ in art, software and waste expenses, and even hours of work designing!
- Sawgrass has great customer support and service from their experts, which saves you time and keeps production going without having to chase down multiple people for help! But, please feel free to reach out to us at Heat Transfer Warehouse if you ever need some brief assistance! We are more than happy to assist you!
Overall, all the hard work is already done so you and your customers can rely on Sawgrass Virtuoso for great prints every time! Most importantly, Sawgrass printers offer reliability. Investing in cheaper products, or products that are not designed specifically for dye sublimation can end up costing you more in the long-run. Lost time refilling cartridges, ruined prints because of smudging or banding, broken print heads that make your printer unusable, ink carts that are drained dry instead because you’re not warned you need to refill your ink and cause print head damage...these are the hidden costs of “cheap” printers and inks!
Here’s what other sublimation printers offer:
- Cheaper price
- Printers engineered for regular office printing
- Aftermarket inks that have been formulated for use with existing print heads that were designed for ink without much viscosity, resulting in ink waste, printer damage, loss of detail, and lack of efficiency
- Bulk inks that can contain contaminants and no guarantee of consistency from batch to batch
- Refillable cartridges that take up a lot of your time to refill
- Prefilled cartridges with inks formulated for the printer... Not the printer designed to work with the inks
- Oversaturation of images - up to 50% more ink use per print which results in loss of details.
- Leaks, smudging and print head damage because the printer was never meant to work with the inks
- No warranty coverage for the printer because you’re using inks not intended for the printer
Consider this before choosing a Sawgrass Printer
If you ever intend to sell dye sublimated goods, the biggest and most important question you need to ask yourself is:
What are your [potential] customers demanding? Do they want t-shirts and soft goods? Or, do they want hard-surface goods like photo panels, bottle openers, plaques, ornaments, etc.?
As soon as you can answer these questions, you are going to be able to make the best decision as to what printer is going to work best for you and your customers' demands.
Since there are so many creative possibilities with dye sublimation printing, selling dye sublimation products is really about fulfilling a demand for what your customers want. You have a much better chance of making a sale if you can meet these demands. A good thing to keep in mind is that a bigger printer will assist you in creating more possibilities to fulfill customer demands.
We commonly get asked what the difference is between the Sawgrass SG400 and SG800 printers. To be completely honest, the only difference is size. The SG800 is a bigger printer and more versatile. They are both compatible with the Sawgrass CreativeStudio online graphic design software as well as Photoshop, CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator. Additionally, they both use the Sublijet HD CMYK sublimation inks and can print up to a 1200x1200 dpi for superior HD photo-quality. Plus they both offer a 1-year warranty, an extended warranty option, and support for the full printer, ink, and software. *Please note this will now link to the new model, the SG500. **Please note this will now link to the new model, the SG1000.
Now let’s get into the specific details of the Sawgrass SG400 printer.
This printer can produce multiple small prints on one page and average-sized images for apparel production. It has a maximum paper media size of 8.5”x14”, but keep in mind that you cannot print to the edges of the paper - you need about a half inch margin around all sides. So, the biggest design you can print is roughly about 7.5”x13”.
Not to take away from this printer, as it is a superior-quality Sawgrass machine; however, it can limit what you can do and may not be compatible to produce what people are demanding in terms of size. There is a bypass tray for the SG400 that increases the length of printing, but not the width. Essentially this just allows for roll-fed material instead of sheets.
Ultimately, the SG400 is recommended to those who:
- Are looking to get into sublimation, but do not have a lot of money to invest
- Are interested in printing small items like drinkware and promotional products
- Want to run a system with minimal investment and a small footprint
- Are hobbyists, or maybe looking to step up into more of a business
Think to yourself - is the SG400 the right size for what you need to do today and tomorrow?
Basically, if the scope of your printing is to ever change, will the SG400 be big enough for what you need to print? Many people who start out with the SG400 are only doing smaller prints for blanks such as name badges, ornaments, and mugs. If you consider doing apparel decoration, this may not be the best printer for you. *Please note this will now link to the new model, the SG500.
Moving on to the Sawgrass SG800 printer, this is the bigger of the two Sawgrass printers, making it the most versatile for sublimation printing. It can produce more multiples of prints per page and large-sized images for apparel production. It has a maximum paper media size of 11x17”, but again you need to take into consideration the print margins, so the biggest design you can print is about 10”x16”. However, the bypass tray (sold separately) can enable printing up to 13x19”.
Overall, the SG800 printer is much more suitable for shirts, bags, and even socks - socks are longer than you think when you stretch them out, especially athletic socks! The SG800 is even great for small signage and banners.
Ultimately, the SG800 is recommended to those who:
- Already have an SG400 and are ready to jump from the start up to the professional level
- Are looking to get into apparel decoration
- Are looking for high-volume production in a small shop
- Are looking to add on to a complementary business (HTV, screen print, embroidery, etc), but not ready for large-format Solvent, Eco-Solvent or Latex printer
- Are looking to make larger products, such as t-shirts, bags, socks, pillows, signs, blankets, doormats, etc.
The SG800 is also perfect if you currently use a heat press larger than 15”x15”, as it will allow you to take full advantage of the size capability of the heat press. **Please note this will now link to the new model, the SG1000.
Costs of Owning a Sawgrass Printer
Dye sublimation can initially seem like a big investment to get started, but it’s rather inexpensive in comparison to other digital decorating methods - around $1600 for the SG800 depending on the bundle.
The printer is the main investment you need to start. Plus, the printer will come with starter inks and software! Heat Transfer Warehouse also offers Sawgrass Virtuoso Printer Bundles that include paper and blanks to get started with everything that you need.
The only recurring costs after investing in the printer is paper and inks, and of course the shirts and/or substrates you want to use. These recurring costs are very reasonable in comparison to vinyl costs. A standard set of SG400 ink cartridges yield on average 500 8”x10” designs OR 1,200 mug designs. That’s a lot of money you can make on a single cartridge of inks! 1,200 mugs x $12 margin = $14,000 profit! Extended ink cartridges that fit the SG800 printer double the yield of the standard inks - that’s a lot of potential profit!
Ink costs come down to about one cent per square inch of printing. So the best way to calculate ink cost is to calculate the number of square inches in the artwork.
Summary - Choosing A Sawgrass Printer
Overall, when deciding between the SG400 and SG800 printers, you really should have a vision in mind for what you want to accomplish. Think about not only what you want to do now, but also what you could be doing a year from now.
Have you ever invested in a smaller heat press or vinyl cutter and wished you bought an “upgrade” to start? For example, you have a 9”x12” heat press and want to press a design that is 10”x10”? It makes it tough to complete projects that are larger than the capabilities of your equipment.
This scenario is very common with people buying the Sawgrass printers. Some buy the SG400 to start because of the lower entry price point, but end up underestimating their future projects and potential profits, and end up upgrading to the SG800.
If you ever foresee yourself wanting to sublimate apparel, in the long-run, you will likely find it much more cost effective to start with the SG800.
For more information on the upgrades to the SG500 and SG1000, check out our blog
Sawgrass Dye Sublimation Printers: SG500 vs SG1000
For more information on the updates from the SG400 to the SG500, check out our blog Sawgrass Dye Sublimation Printers: SG400 vs SG500
For more information on the updates from the SG400 to the SG500, check out our blog Sawgrass Dye Sublimation Printers: SG800 vs SG1000
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