The process to convert an Epson WF-7720 printer to sublimation ink is more straightforward than you might imagine. I would call it a swap more than a conversion. There are printers that are ready to go right out of the box for sublimation printing that will have a higher cost. If you are just starting out and looking for a lower cost way to learn, converting a standard printer to sublimation is the more affordable way to go. Today, I will be walking through a step by step process on how to convert an Epson WF-7720 printer to sublimation. I will also go over all the background information for what you will need.
What is sublimation printing?
Sublimation printing uses special ink and transfer paper to transfer dye onto materials with polyester or polymer-coated mediums. The ink is activated with heat and pressure. It then transforms from a dry solid on the transfer paper to a gas that is infused with the poly in the material. The end result is a vibrant, permanent transfer that will not crack or wear like vinyl. Another advantage is that it will allow you to transfer detailed designs that would otherwise be impossible with standard vinyl or infusible ink.
Can you use any inkjet printer to convert to sublimation?
The quick answer is no. Epson printers use piezoelectric print heads. This is unique. The ink is not heated in application to the paper. You do not want to activate the ink until you are applying it to your blank. Epson has several printers that will work for conversion. They also recently started selling sublimation printers that are good to go right out of the box. * Important Note: If you convert an Epson WF-7720 printer to sublimation, it will void the manufacturer’s warranty! * The WorkForce and EcoTank printers were not designed for sublimation and converting any of them to sublimation will void the warranty.
The Epson WorkForce printers and EcoTank printers are both popular choices for sublimation. They come in several sizes from standard letter (8.5×11″) to wide format (13×19″). Due to the popularity of the shirt business, finding a wide format printer is very tricky. An adult shirt design often requires printing larger than letter size transfers. A wide format printer will save you from needing to piece pages together to press. I was unable to find the wide format EcoTank 15000 printer. I found a wide format WF 7720 for literally half the price.
The WF7710 and WF7720 are nearly identical wide format printers. The 7720 has two paper trays, whereas the 7710 has one. This tutorial will work for both! Just be prepared, the workforce printers are beasts that need quite a large footprint. I love that I can print up to 13×19″ which will allow a wide variety of projects from small items like mugs, all the way up to adult t-shirts.
Let’s talk sublimation ink!
There are many sublimation ink venders out there. I chose Cosmos Ink’s WF7720 Conversion Kit. Cosmos Ink is formulated to work with Epson driver stock color profiles. This is super important if you use software that doesn’t have an easy way to adjust your print color profiles. Programs like Silhouette Studio do not have easy ways to swap between custom color profiles.
The Cosmos Ink Conversion Kit comes with everything you need: refillable cartridge’s, syringes to transfer the ink, and bottles of ink. There will still be plenty of ink in the bottles after the conversion to do refills. When you do run out of ink, Cosmos Ink sells the colors individually so you don’t have to buy a four pack just to get the color you need. The WorkForce and EcoTank printers do not use interchangeable ink.
Regular copy paper is all you will need for the printer conversion. However, once you are ready to do test presses, you will need sublimation transfer paper. My favorite is A-Sub paper. I mainly buy the 11×17″ sheets because I can cut them down to 8.5×11″. Keep your scraps! You can use them for test prints. A good starter weight is 120g.
Steps to Convert an Epson WF-7720 Printer to Sublimation
Step 1: Printer Set-up
The first step is to set up your printer and download Epson’s drivers following all of the manufacturer’s instructions. Yes, including their standard ink! Before voiding the warranty (see above), you should verify that the printer works. If you jump straight into sublimation ink only to find out something was damaged in shipping, then Epson would not repair the printer. Have some regular printing you need to do? This is the perfect time! Use as much of the ink as you would like. When you’re ready, move on to step 2.
Step 2: Fill Sublimation Cartridges
The new refillable cartridges should have two plugs on the top. Fill from the hole that is closest to the clip. The other hole is the vent hole. You can leave that plug in while you fill the ink, just remove it for when the printer is in use. Keep your plugs for the future if you are on vacation so the ink doesn’t dry out. Use syringes to transfer the ink from the ink bottles, into the cartridge. Fill them as full as you can without getting too messy. I had one cracked syringe so mine turned out to be quite messy! Disposable gloves and paper towels are your friend for this part of the process! Put the plugs back in so the ink won’t leak out.
Rinse the syringes out using plain water, until the water runs clear. Allow your syringes to dry. Pack them away with the excess ink for future refills.
Step 3: Replace Cartridges
On the printer menu, scroll all the way to the Settings gear on the right. Then, scroll down to Maintenance and then to Ink Cartridge(s) Replacement. Follow the prompts to raise the lid, and then wait for the print head to move and settle before reaching in there. Unlatch the ink cartridge carrier lid. Remove all of the old cartridges. Note: you may recycle your old cartridges at many big box stores like Target, Best Buy, etc, or mail them to Epson’s recycle center.
One by one, install your new refillable sublimation cartridges. Make sure you really hear them click as they seat in! That is the plastic sheet on the bottom being punctured so the ink can flow out. Next, remove the vent plugs. Those are the plugs furthest from the clips. After all four cartridges are installed, close the carrier lid and the printer lid. The printer will spend a few minutes initializing the new ink.
If a pop-up comes up on the printer that you installed non-genuine Epson ink, hit continue. This pop-up shows it recognizes the new ink, but knows that it is not the Epson cartridges. How does it know? The chip on the clip side of the cartridge is what tells the printer that. If you get a pop-up saying that it doesn’t recognize your ink, then repeat the “Replace Cartridges” menu steps. This may happen when you refill your ink in the future, but it’s easy to troubleshoot and fix!
Step 4: Flush the Standard Ink Out
Now that the sublimation ink is installed, you need to flush the old ink out so that only sublimation ink is flowing. You will do this through a series of Print Head Cleanings with Print Head Nozzle Checks. On the printer’s main menu, scroll to the right to the Settings gear. Scroll down to Maintenance. Next, select the top option, Print Head Nozzle Check. Use plain copy paper for all of this. As you can see below, there are solid, bright lines for all four colors. This is the old, standard ink. The sublimation ink will look very muted and dull. Don’t let this worry you because it will become vibrant when it is activated with heat and pressure!
After the baseline print head nozzle check, go back into the Maintenance menu and select “Print Head Cleaning.” **These printers contain a maintenance box that will fill up over time from print head cleanings. Use print head cleanings sparingly to avoid having to replace the maintenance box. Many people will tell you to run a print head cleaning when often there are other ways to help that do not fill the maintenance box. In a typical conversion, 5-7 print head cleanings are normal. If you need to do a few more to get there, that’s okay, but try other strategies when you run into problems first.**
Additional Print Head Cleanings and Nozzle Checks
Now that the first print head cleaning is complete, the printer will ask if you would like to run the print head nozzle check again. We will do this after each print head cleaning. Number them along the way to help track progress. How does it look? It may still have some vibrant standard ink and possibly be breaking up a little bit. Even if the lines are solid, hit the red “X” button. You will repeat the print head cleaning and nozzle checks about 5-7 times until you see dull, muted colors and all solid lines. The black will look more brown. Here is my first nozzle check (right) vs the last nozzle check (left). See the difference? This is totally normal! Once you achieve this, your conversion is complete! Congratulations!
Something went wrong? Join the club! I forgot to remove my vent caps when I did my conversion. Everything worked out just fine, but I learned a ton along the way and while it took some extra time, everything works now! Some tips:
– If you are not making any progress on print head cleanings, try printing a purge page. This will force ink through which will help get your sublimation ink moving and the old ink out. Set your paper type on the printer and your computer print settings to Premium Presentation Matte. This setting lays down more ink, which makes the purge page more effective.
– If your nozzle check is almost perfect, and you’ve already run more than 7 print head cleanings, just let your printer rest for an hour or so and come back and run another nozzle check before you try another print head cleaning.
– Is one color not coming out but the others are okay? You can do the print head cleaning on specific colors to reduce the additions to the maintenance box. You can also try running a purge page for that color if you are running more print head cleanings than you would like.
Step 5: Test Print
After you have converted your printer, do a test print. Remember to mirror your image and load in your transfer paper with the backing facing up in the paper tray. Press it on the medium of your choice and check out those vibrant colors!
It is important to print every few days if you don’t use your printer often. If the ink dries and clogs, there will be quite a mess to clean up! I run a nozzle check (not a print head cleaning!) every few days to make sure the ink is flowing as it should. If you’re planning to be away from your printer on holiday or vacation, check out the post on how to prevent ink clogs remotely!
Also, check your cartridges manually periodically to see if it’s time to refill them. The aftermarket refillable cartridges do not provide accurate level status on the printer’s menu. Don’t trust the levels the printer says you have. For more info on refilling the cartridges and troubleshooting clogs, check out this post!
Hopefully this tutorial to convert an Epson WF-7720 printer to sublimation was helpful! I did a lot of research before converting my printer and tried to compile all of my lessons learned in one place. I made a video as well, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to post it on YouTube. If you would find that helpful, let me know in the comments and I’ll work on posting it.
Happy sublimating all the things!
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