DigitalHeat FX | Roland VersaStudio BN-20 | Sawgrass Sublimation Printer

Printing T-Shirts | Limitations and Capabilities

One of the most popular things done with all of these printers is decorating t-shirts. So before picking which system is right for you, it’s important to understand the limitations and capabilities of these processes.  

The two things to take into account with these printers are what color shirts and what material shirts can be customized.

Colors of Shirt

The DigitalHeat FX line and the Roland BN-20 have similar capabilities. Basically, the t-shirt transfers produced by this printer can be applied to light or dark-colored shirts and every color in between.

DigitalHeat FX White Toner Printer

The DigitalHeat FX Systems harness the power of white toner printing. This means your printed graphic will have a layer of white ink behind it so it can be applied to dark garments.

Roland BN-20 Printer

Similarly, the BN-20 prints your t-shirt graphic on a white vinyl. This vinyl, like the white toner allows your design to be visible on dark colored tees.

Sawgrass Sublimation Printer

Sublimation is a chemical process that dies the fabric with the ink on the printed transfer. Therefor the shirt has to be white or another light color.

Materials & Fabric

DigitalHeat FX and Roland BN-20

The DigitalHeat FX and the Roland BN-20 are also extremely versatile when it comes to the type of materials the transfers can adhere to. They can be applied to cotton, polyester, blends, and really anything that can withstand the heat from the press.

Sawgrass Sublimation Printer

Sublimation does not have these advantages and the chemical process only works on 100% polyester fabrics. This process uses a special ink and when that ink is heat applied to a polyester garment, the molecules of the garment open up and the ink is going inside the garment. So, it essentially becomes a part of the shirt.

For optimal sublimation results, we always recommend using sublimation certified garments, like Vapor Apparel.

Look, Feel and Longevity

Now the next thing important factor when determining what printer is best for you is look, feel, and longevity. These are questions that almost everybody asks. How does it feel? Does it feel like something on the shirt? How well does it wash?


The first thing to address is that if you take care of your t-shirts, no matter what system you’re printing with, if it’s washed according to wash instructions, your longevity is going to be great.

The DigitalHeat FX System, Roland BN-20 and Sawgrass Printer are all commercial grade machines, so nothing’s going to be peeling or falling off your shirt if it’s taken care of and adhered properly in the first place.

Feel & Look

But when we’re talking about the DigitalHeat FX and the Roland BN-20, these are both adhesive-based transfers. We are essentially sticking the transfer onto the t-shirt with heat. It’s almost like a sticker, but it’s chemically bonded.

With that, there is going to be a feel. We are adding something on top of the t-shirt. Even though it’s a very thin and very light layer, there is going to be a texture to that. And the more of that you put onto the shirt, the more of that texture you’ll feel.

With a small left chest logo, it’s not going to feel like much, but a large back design will have a heavier hand.

Now the difference with sublimation is that it’s not being adhered to the garment, it’s becoming a part of your garment. Therefore, there is no feel and there is nothing on top of the shirt.

All you’re doing is adding color to the shirt on a molecular level, so you don’t feel this at all. As long as you are using a sublimation certified shirt with the proper colors, the design won’t have any cracks and will long outlive the life of the shirt.

Hard Goods or Promotional Goods

The other thing that potential users want to know, is can you decorate hard surfaces? Hard surfaces or promotional goods can be some sort of small signage, mugs, mouse pads, keychains, and other things like that. Essentially non-textiles, and what are the capabilities of these different systems?

Sawgrass Sublimation Printer

Sublimation is an extremely easy and quick way to decorate hard goods, but as mentioned earlier, sublimation only works on polyester. So, you can only decorate specific sublimation coated blanks.

However, you can find a large variety of sublimation-ready goods on Colman and Company.

Sublimation also requires heat so these products must fit in a heat press.

DigitalHeat FX White Toner Printer

DigitalHeat FX Transfers, like sublimation also must be adhered with heat. Any materials that can accept heat and fit in a standard heat press, cap press or mugs press, are going to be a good candidate. Some of our favorite hard surfaces to decorate with DigitalHeat FX transfers are wood, ceramic, metal and glass.

But just like t-shirts, these white toner transfers can be adhered to a variety of colored good.

While you can only sublimate white mugs, with DigitalHeat FX you can decorate black or other colorful mugs.

Roland BN-20 Printer

Now the Roland BN-20 is a completely different way of decorating hard goods because this is all going to be essentially pressured sensitive, or a sticker in so many words.

And there's various materials you can buy, and you can print on with the BN-20, but that's how you're going to decorate stuff like metal and wood.

The most popular applications for BN-20 transfers on hard goods are boxes, laptops, phone cases and windows. This is because you’re probably not going to put these items under a heat press because they can be damaged.

On Colman and Company, you can find tons of materials to print on using the BN-20 but the ones for hard goods have an adhesive backing. This means that these transfers are more like stickers.


When it comes to stickers, if that's going to be a big part of your business, whether you're going to be applying them, or you're going to be giving them to a customer who's going to apply them to something, that's really where the Roland VersaStudio BN-20 comes out on top.

It is fantastic at creating stickers of basically any size, any shape, and in any color that you want.

Some of our favorite sticker material for the BN-20 is perfect for decorating:

The DigitalHeat FX System has the same capabilities as a desktop printer, in the sense that you can print on pre-cut sticker paper using this machine. However, you are limited to the shapes of sticker paper you find at the store.

Both the Sawgrass SG1000 and the SG500 sublimation systems are not really recommended to create stickers.

Now it is an inkjet printer and theoretically you could buy sticker paper and run it through it, but the ink is sublimation ink, so it’s not designed to do that.

When it comes to doing stickers, we can say clearly that the Roland BN-20 Print & Cut System is definitely a machine that is designed to do that. If selling stickers is going to be a core part of your business, this is a great investment.

If you own a DigitalHeat FX system, and you were going to print some stickers and labels, it’s a toner printer, so you could. And if you have a Sawgrass, I probably will say don’t print stickers on that. A different printer would be more suitable.

How Big Can I Print?

Each of the systems we are discussing here today come in different models that are going to have some different capabilities when it comes to print size.

DigitalHeat FX 9541

13″ x 19″

DigitalHeat FX 8432

11.8″ x 19″

DigitalHeat FX i560

8.27″ x 14″

Sawgrass SG500

8.5″ x 14″

Sawgrass SG1000

13″ x 19″

Roland BN-20

20″ wide

This is a roll-style printer, so while your print can only be 20 inches wide, the length can be many, many feet. Basically, until your material runs out.


Any of these prices can change over time. These are just current estimates. The best thing to do is to visit to see if there are any current specials or deals on the following machines.

DigitalHeat FX Systems

First, I’m going to start with the DigitalHeat FX line of printers, and I’ll just give this a starting price of about $4,000 and then ending price of $15,000.

This range can change based on what type of papers you want to buy and other supplies. It also depends on a heat press machine. With this system you will have to invest in a heat press machine.

Roland VersaSudio BN-20

The Roland VersaStudio BN-20 is just one machine. There aren’t different models, so the current price is about $6,000.

If you are going to make t-shirts, then you are going to invest in a heat press. So $6,000 plus accessories, like a heat press and paper.

But, if you’re just going to do stickers or signs, a heat press is not necessary.  

Sawgrass Sublimation Printers

Lastly, we’ll talk about the Sawgrass line. These printers are going to start right around $600 and go up to, a couple thousand.

And again, that’s going to depend on the heat press, paper and ink you’re going to buy with it.

Wrap Up | What Should I Do Next?

When it comes down to it, all three of these systems are a great investment for your shop. And you might want to have two of these systems or all three of these systems. It really depends on what you're going to do and how you're going to do it.

They best way to make this decision is to live chat below with one of our pros. Here at ColDesi we have tons of equipment available for you. So our pros are here to help you figure out what fits your needs.