Not everyone is aware of the duality of owning a wide-format printer. Most people upgrade to these machines over the years in order to solve a specific need within their company. A common scenario is a printing business purchasing a wide-format printer to offer custom printed wraps, decals, or some sort of adhesive vinyl. But what if I told you that you can do much more with that wide-format printer?

Wide-format printers run on some tried-and-tested ink technologies. Eco-solvent, sublimation, latex, and UV inks are the main players in the market. The beauty of owning one of these cutting-edge pieces of equipment is that the ink technologies that they run on have been widely adopted by the consumables industry. This enables you to print on a wide variety of substrates and roll media.

If you don’t currently own a wide-format printer, but offer heat transfer vinyl (HTV) and other apparel decorating services, you’re in for a treat. These printers can elevate your business. As I previously mentioned, there are tons of options in the market for your printer when it comes to roll media.

Why Invest in a Wide-Format Printer?

With a wide-format printer, you’re no longer bound by the limitations of regular HTV. Instead, HTV turns into a blank canvas that will allow you to unleash your creativity to its fullest extent. In this way, you are also not limited to the standard colors of HTV available from each manufacturer.

Another factor that cannot be overlooked is speed. Multi-color designs will take a lot less work and time to produce. Your wide-format printer can deliver full-color prints in any quantity desired and at a much faster speed than it would take you to recreate it with regular HTV since you no longer have to divide layers, cut, and press one at a time.

Printable HTV does require a bit more care than its regular counterpart, but just telling your customers to wash everything inside out typically does the job for most people. In this case, I recommend always sticking with original inks from the printer manufacturer for the most optimal results. Most manufacturers of HTV only do their testing with original inks, so trying to save some cash in this scenario may end up costing you more in the long run.

Lastly, even though I’m focusing on HTV in this article, investing in one of these pieces of equipment allows you to print on more than HTV. For example, you can do full prints on sign vinyl and all kinds of pressure-sensitive vinyl. Now that I’ve mentioned the word “investing,” let’s get into some details.

How Much Should I Invest?

Most entry-level wide-format printers retail around $6,000, which most times does not include a stand, delivery, and your first set of ink. Let’s say the point of entry is under $10,000. This is what you will be looking at investing for the equipment, and the media will be purchased as needed. Even at the entry level, you will work with an advanced piece of equipment that will help improve turnaround times, reduce weeding time, and allow your business to grow.

From this point, wide-format printers can go up to six figures depending on size, print quality, and ink technology. Luckily, most businesses can do very well with a printer ranging between $20,000 and $30,000 once they have established their printing business. These more expensive machines can produce quality work at a faster rate and print almost non-stop but will require some maintenance from time to time.

Note: Additional equipment often requires additional personnel and/or training. You will most likely have to hire someone to run/print the designs, an additional graphic artist at some point, etc.

What Ink Technology is Best?

The more popular ink technologies in the market are eco-solvent, latex, and UV. Eco-solvent is the most widely adopted ink technology for HTV, followed by latex and then UV.

UV inks are a new technology and for this reason, there are not many printable HTVs that are compatible with this technology. I do not recommend UV as a starting point, especially because these printers tend to have a much higher entry point.

For the most part, eco-solvent and latex are the preferred ink technologies to work with HTV since there are many types of printable HTV they are compatible with, and most manufacturers offer printing profiles for HTV.

Bottom Line

Overall, if you are looking to take your garment decoration business to the next level, a wide-format printer may be in your future. These advanced pieces of technology are a complete upgrade from the regular cut and press HTV world. There are no color limitations, no layering is needed, but most importantly, the weeding you will do with printable HTV will pale in comparison to what you may be currently doing — saving you tons of time.

There’s much more to cover on this subject, and one could write an entire book about it. I encourage you to take a deep dive into this subject and do your research so you can make the best-informed decision possible.