Post by Month

This is the first in a series of posts looking at the entire process of sublimation printing, and how to choose products which work well together and help you to achieve the best results possible.

 

When people ask us which sublimation paper is best to use with our inks, we always feel a little disingenuous recommending our own paper. Obviously we would say that, wouldn't we?

 

When we settled on our sublimation ink, we tested a lot of different papers in order to see which would work best, and to save our customers some legwork in testing out the different options themselves. We know that our sublimation customers are concerned with the quality of their products above all else, and were determined to find the absolute best paper to recommend - after all, it doesn't matter how cheap your mugs are if they look cheap.

 

In order to demonstrate how our paper fares against the opposition, we decided on a simple test. We bought a pack of sublimation paper from ten of the main suppliers in the UK, printed the same image onto each, and sublimated them.

 

With sublimation paper, there are two main aspects which you should pay attention to. These are how the paper absorbs the ink, and how it releases the ink onto your substrate. Sublimation papers can all look very similar, and work based on the principle of a polymer management layer and release agent, but the recipe can vary substantially from one brand to another - it's important to find the paper which works best for your setup.

 

If your sublimation paper isn't capable of absorbing the ink quickly enough, your images can bleed and appear fuzzy around the edges. This bleeding will transfer across to the finished product, and can leave you with mugs and t-shirts looking sub-par. I'm pleased to say that only one of the papers in our test had this problem, and it wasn't ours. Most sublimation papers on the market today are what's known as fast-drying papers, so will readily absorb the ink during printing.

 

You'll find far more variety when it comes to releasing the inks. Ideally, you would have close to 100% of the ink transfer from your sublimation paper onto the finished product. Having more ink transfer means that your blacks will be richer, your colours more vibrant, and you will achieve much better results overall, allowing your images to really stand out. It also makes colour-matching easier, as you don't have to worry about your images looking washed-out or faded.

 

So, with that out of the way, lets look at the results of our tests. We included papers from all of the major suppliers, to try and find a definitive answer to which papers work best with our inks. The printer used for this is the Epson 1500w six-colour A3 printer, and you might also spot a couple of Ricoh sublimation printers in the background - we'll be discussing printers in greater detail in another post.

 

 

The first step was to print out our image onto each of the papers. It's best to leave sublimation paper to dry for a few minutes so the ink can finish being absorbed before it's handled too much, so we ended up decorating most of the office with these sheets - the image we chose was a sheet of around 1,000 colour patches, for the greatest variation in colours tested.

 

The images have now been printed, and are ready for sublimation - as you can see, there's very little variation at this stage of the process - all of the images were printed from the same printer, using the same settings.

 

We sublimated onto white aluminium sheets, one of the easiest substrates to work with. Ours are from Subli Metals Ltd, who provide a huge variety of sizes and finishes. At this point, all of the images have been sublimated for 50 seconds at 180°C and we haven't seen the results - our paper is in the top left of this image.

 

The big reveal - from looking at the sheets of paper, you can see there is quite a lot of ink left on each of the papers, except for one. I wonder which paper it is...

 

Enhance! Here's a closer picture of our paper compared to one of the others - you can see that a lot more ink has transferred across to the metal sheet with ours, giving much more vibrant colours - this will enable you to achieve the greatest possible variation in colours on your products.

 


Enhance! Another, closer look at the sublimated products - the image on the right appears faded, and almost cloudy in places, because of the incomplete transfer of ink. We probably don't need to point this out again, but the one on the left was using our paper. An issue like this may not seem like much on an aluminium sheet, but is far too noticeable on photographic products such as mugs, or on t-shirts (which have a lot more material to dye).

 

Having access to the largest possible colour gamut means you can consistently produce superb products for your clients, and we feel that our paper offers end results which outclass the opposition in terms of both ink fastness and ink transfer.

 

You can find the high-resolution version of the last three pictures here:

Epson recently introduced their new EcoTank range of printers to the UK market. These printers have a built-in CISS, which you can top up with bottles of ink. The two printers currently available in the UK are the L355 and L555 all-in-one wireless A4 printers. Could these printers, and the ink savings associated with them, herald the start of a new age for printers in the UK? Today we'll take a look, albeit rather subjectively, at the range.

 

Epson EcoTank L355

The cheaper of the two printers in the EcoTank range, the L355 has a RRP of £249.99 and comes with 70ml of each colour ink. Epson say that this ink should last for two years for the average user, based on TNS research in June 2013. This is enough ink to print 4,000 black pages, and 6,500 colour pages, at 5% coverage.

Comparing this to one of Epson's cheaper all-in-one wireless printers, the XP-322 (RRP £79.99) comes with just 15.1ml ink in total, a far cry from the 280ml offered with the L355. Buying eight sets of Epson XL cartridges for this printer will set you back a cool £411.92, and will print a total of 3,935 black pages, and 3,780 in colour. At this point, you would have spent around £490 for a page yield close to that of the ink included with the L355, costing you an additional £240!

Of course, there is an option which we have so far neglected - fitting a CISS to the cheaper printer. The XP-322 can be bought from the CityInkExpress website with a CISS included for £114.98, and comes with 400ml ink - equivalent to 13 sets of Epson original cartridges, and lasting for 4,080 black pages and 6,750 colour pages based on Epson's individual cartridge yields for this printer. This saves £135 compared to the L355, and a massive £375 compared to using original cartridges in the XP-312.

 

 

 

Epson EcoTank L555

The L555 has a 30-page automatic document feeder, and has fax capability. Its RRP is £329.99, and again it comes with 280ml ink, lasting for 4,000 black pages and 6,500 colour pages at 5% coverage. Apart from the ADF and fax capability, its performance and specifications are much the same as the L355, at 4.5 colour pages per minute and 5760 x 1440 dpi maximum print resolution. See the table at the bottom for a comparison of all of the printers mentioned in this article.

We will be comparing this printer to the Epson WorkForce WF-2630WF, which has similar specifications but a very slightly improved print speed (4.7 colour pages per minute, as opposed to 4.5). For the RRP of £99.99, 14.7ml of ink is included. This will last for 175 black pages, and 165 in colour. 8 sets of XL cartridges in this printer will give a total of 4,175 black pages, including the ink which came with the printer, and 3,780 colour prints. Unfortunately, all that ink will cost £415.92, bringing the total cost for printer and inks to £515

The WF-2630WF can be bought with a CISS and inks for £139.98 on our website. Using Epson's estimated cartridge yields, this should last for 3,875 monochrome pages, and 6,920 in colour. The saving when compared to original cartridges is again £375, and £190 under the EcoTank L555.

 

 

 

 

So what could you buy on our website for £250, or £330? In short, you could buy a printer with capabilities far greater than those of the EcoTank printers. Some of our favourite Epson All-in-Ones are included in the below comparison. Again, these printer bundles come with a CISS and ink included in the price.

 

 

 

And finally, just because we like graphs, here is a comparison of the ongoing cost of running a CISS on those more capable printers. We had to extend this one somewhat, to 60,000 pages, because the 800ml ink included with the WorkForce Pro WF-5620DWF bundle is too much for a 10,000-page comparison to be useful. Whether or not that poor XP-625 printer would last 60,000 pages is another matter entirely - this is 30 years of printing for the average user, and is a stack of paper taller than a T-Rex!

 

 

As you can see, although Epson's EcoTank range is a huge cost saving over using a printer with genuine cartridges, it's still more expensive than using a siumilar printer with a CISS from CityInkExpress, and you can buy a printer with far greater specifications than an EcoTank, without having to spend any extra money.

 

 

* All prices include VAT, but exclude any associated delivery costs.

** We have used the RRP for all of the Epson original printers and ink refills because we couldn't find the EcoTank printers for cheaper anywhere else. We thought it would be unfair to compare a full-price EcoTank printer with a reduced-price printer using cartridges. Shopping around for the XP-322, WF-2630WF, and replacement cartridges will reduce the total price by around £100 (£20 on the printers, and £10 on each set of ink).

*** All prices correct at time of writing, 17/03/2015.

**** Page yields for our CISS inks are based on the equivalent page yield for original Epson cartridges. For example, a 16XL black cartridge for the WF-2630WF holds 12.9ml ink, and lasts for 500 pages. The 100ml bottle of Fotorite ink is therefore equivalent to 7.75 XL cartridges, and 3,875 pages.

***** Print speeds are ISO colour print speed, as quoted by Epson.

****** We've assumed that you replace all of the inks together, so your running costs may vary.

******* If any of the information on this page is incorrect, please let us know and we will do our best to rectify it.

******** We at CityInkExpress firmly believe that comparison to dinosaurs is the most sensible way of describing stacks of paper.

Tags:

Here at CityInkExpress, we are often asked for advice on which printer model would be best for our customers. In this blog post, we hope to shed some light on the sometimes bewildering array of options available in the market.

 

 

Toner or Inkjet?

 

Traditionally, businesses have always chosen a laser printer over an inkjet because of the reduced running costs involved with a laser printer. That is no longer necessarily the case, and many small or medium businesses (SMBs) are taking advantage of the latest business inkjet offerings from the various printer manufacturers, with real-world print speeds of up to 22 pages per minute. Fitting a continuous ink system can often be cheaper than using toner cartridges, and the reduced startup costs are very attractive.

 

 

Which Printer Manufacturer?

 

Generally speaking, Canon produce the printers most suited to photo printing, and many of their models are able to handle cardstock up to 300GSM (grams per square metre).

 

Epson produce fantastic all-round printers, and their small-in-one printers from the Expression range are well suited to families on a budget.

 

Brother printers are relatively fuss-free, cheap printers suited to a variety of uses. Whether you are a small business looking to print invoices, or need a printer to handle your children's homework, a Brother printer may well be the way to go.

 

 

How Much to Spend?

 

Budget is a concern for most people, and we will always do our best to meet all of your requirements, but as with everything you get what you pay for. We can help you find a professional quality photo printer, or a high-speed printer for invoices, for under £100, but there will be a trade-off in terms of other functions. Ideally, you should look to buy a printer which does everything you need it to, and nothing more. That way, you won't be spending money on a function you won't use.

 

There is also another key point to consider when buying a new printer: running costs. One of the cheapest printers currently on the market is the Canon iP2850, starting at around £30 plus VAT. If you need a basic printer for occasional use, it may well be the way to go, but the cartridges can cost £25 a set, and will only last for around 180 pages. Clearly, printer price isn't everything.

 

 

You're Not Helping. Which Printer Should I Buy?

 

Alright, back on topic. You need a printer, and you don't know which one. There are too many to choose from, and you don't know how to narrow it down. The easiest way to choose a printer is to ask yourself the following questions:

 

  • How much do I want to spend?
  • Do I need a scanner/copier, or just a printer?
  • Should the printer be wireless? Will I want to print from my phone?
  • What kind of things will I be printing? Is it for card-making, invoice printing, photo printing, or a mixture of everything?
  • How much printing will I do?
  • Will I need to print double-sided?
  • Do I want to print in A3, or just A4?
  • Is there anything else I want the printer to do, or any other features I would like (e.g. printing onto CDs, fax capability, or a rear tray for cardstock).

 

If you can answer most of these, we will find the printer for you. Here are some examples of printers which we might recommend for different uses*:

 

 

"I just want a printer. For printing."

The Epson WF-3010DW is a fantastic little printer. It is completely lacking in bells and whistles, which means that the money goes to producing one of the best small printers on the market. At 9.2 colour pages per minute (or 15ppm in black and white), with automatic duplexing and wireless functionality, and a 250-sheet paper tray as standard, the WF-3010DW punches well above its weight in terms of print quality and speed. If you want all of this and a scanner as well, you would have to spend twice as much on the printer!

 

 

"I need something cheap with a scanner to print the kids' homework, and occasional photos."

Epson's Expression small-in-one printers are ideal for light use in a home environment. The XP-225 is the cheapest currently on offer, and for just £45 you can have a USB printer/scanner/copier capable of handling all types of printing.

 

 

"I need a printer for the office, as cheap as possible. I mainly print invoices."

Brother's all-in-one printers offer a very competitively priced option for small businesses or home offices. With prices from £75, the DCP-J4110DW is a real workhorse. With print speeds of 16 pages per minute, and the option of occasional A3 printing as well as a scanner/copier, many businesses should look no further than Brother's J4000 range of printers. For larger offices, the J5000 series is well worth a look, as they are more suited to heavy use.

 

 

"I want a professional-quality photo printer, but I don't want to spend any money."

The Canon Pixma iP7250 was made for photo printing. For just £60, you can have a wireless printer with a maximum print resolution of 9600*4800 dpi, and capable of handling cardstock up to 300gsm.

 

 

"I would like a printer for heavy use in the office."

This is a request we get a lot, and there are plenty of options to choose from. Whether it's Epson WorkForce Pro range, Canon's new MAXIFY printers, HP's OfficeJet Pro or Brother's J5000/6000 range, there is a huge range of inkjet printers available for SMBs. Different prices and print speeds, along with other options such as fax and double-sided scanning, enable you to find the perfect printer for your requirements.

 

 

"I don't like any of those. My needs are different."

That's not a problem. Drop us an email to admin@cityinkexpress.co.uk and we'll find a printer/CISS combination to suit any environment.

 


*Prices and current models are correct as of 29/01/2015. Links provided are to printer bundles, with a CISS and 100ml bottles of ink included in the price.

City Ink Express wants to be your first port of call when you’re after cheap toner cartridges! Yes, our low prices are going to be the first thing that grabs your attention, but we also have a lot of other things to offer that’ll keep you coming back for more…

 

The first thing that’ll please you is our all-encompassing range of cartridges – if you own a laser printer, the chances are we stock the shiny new toner it’s compatible with! We stock cheap toner cartridges for all the big players, Brother, Canon, and Epson, but we also have compatible toner for a lot of the lesser known brands too.

 

The other thing we can offer you – as standard – is a level of customer service that is simply unparalleled. This level of care has seen a whole host of customers and companies return to City Ink to take advantage of our service. From schools and photographers, to business owners and homeowners, a wide range of individuals don’t look past City Ink when it comes to purchasing printer toner cartridges.

Fax machines, photocopiers, and of course laser printers all need toner to carry out their functions, so it makes sense to find an established online printing merchant who you know you can trust!

 

Pricing too is obviously important, and City Ink prides itself on offering the most competitive prices around. By sourcing directly from the manufactures themselves we can offer you a print output that exceeds the norm, and ensures optimal results everytime.

 

We hope to have made a fairly convincing case, not that you want an arduous decision when deciding where to purchase your cheap toner cartridges from. Your decision should be simple: City Ink Express is the only online merchant you want to be clicking for your toner needs, and when you see our prices and feel our service, we guarantee you’ll be a customer for life!

I am writing to tell you how pleased I am with my CISS, I bought it just over a year ago for my Epson printer and I’ve only just refilled it! And i do print a lot, I make greetings cards and am at the moment making them for a website so I’m printing more than ever before. The quality is excellent and, with the photo step by step and the video on YouTube it was so simple, it was so easy to install.

I have recommended it to several people since I got mine.

It’s so economical too, very economical, at the rate I’m going less than £50 a year, a big saving on the price of original inks and even the individual cartridges.

Thanx City Ink Express!

Chell

Tags: