Last Updated on September 3rd, 2022 by Chris Von Wilpert

7 Best Sublimation Software of 2022 (50 Tools Reviewed)

Last Updated on September 3rd, 2022 by Chris Von Wilpert

Today there are 219 different sublimation software to create sublimation graphics with. We spent 57 hours comparing the top 50 to find the seven best you can use to create high-end sublimation graphic designs.

What is the Best Sublimation Software?

  1. Adobe Photoshop — best of the best
  2. Adobe Illustrator — best for vector graphics
  3. GIMP — best Photoshop alternative
  4. Corel Draw — best for beginners
  5. Affinity Photo — best bang for the buck
  6. Procreate — best for iPad users
  7. Inkscape — best Illustrator alternative

Our Verdict — Best Of The Best

Price: Starts at $9.99/month

Photoshop has been the industry standard since 1990, when it was first launched. It delivers incredible capabilities at a price point that any company can afford.

Get if you want the 800-pound gorilla of digital designing, and are already profitable in your sublimation business.

(free 14-day trial)

Best For

Adobe Photoshop is the most popular software for sublimation printing for anyone looking to create awesome designs... from beginners to pro sublimation pros who will be printing PNG files or other raster-based image files (jpg, gif, etc).

What We Like

  • Everyone and their mother uses it, so it’s a breeze to find thousands upon thousands of tutorials to learn how to use it. Not just that, but you can find all the resources you can imagine. Look for “designs for sublimation templates for photoshop”, and you’ll find over 2.3 million results on Google.
  • It’s the tool of choice for most sublimation printing companies across the world. If you're looking for an image manipulation software to create sublimated products on mugs, t-shirts, caps, and so on... This is it.
  • Collaborate with your peers. You can use the “Share for Commenting” feature to send a link to your peers, for a collaborative design process. They can leave reviews and comments… even if they don’t have Photoshop installed, using Adobe's "Creative Cloud" service.

What We Don’t Like

  • Website and pricing is a mess. There are a number of different links to buy, and each one seems to display a different price and free-trial periods. Make sure you get the “Photography Plan” which starts at $9.99/mo for individual graphic designers. The pricing for businesses is significantly higher.
  • You’ll rent, never own it. Adobe ditched the flat price model years ago, and now they only offer their software through a monthly subscription model. 
  • Photoshop is a raster-based program, as it's originally a photo editing software. If you are looking to create fonts, logos or cut files for a Cricut or Silhouette, you will need to convert your designs into vector format, so the file can be infinitely scalable (which you can do in Photoshop, but you're better off with Illustrator for that.)

Try Photoshop today with a free 14-day trial.

Our Verdict — Best For Vector Graphics

Price: Starts at $20.99/month

Adobe Illustrator is Photoshop’s sibling, and is just as strong a contender for sublimation printing. The difference is Illustrator is vector-based, unlike Photoshop which is raster-based.

It offers an incredible design space for creating typography, logos, drawings, and all kinds of vector images for your sublimation printing designs. 

Get it if you want professional-grade vector design, and are already profitable in your sublimation business.

(free 14-day trial)

Best For

People looking to do vector-based sublimation design software. Printing vector files? Using Cricut or Silhouette sublimation printers? Adobe Illustrator is for you!

What We Like

  • It’s the industry standard for vector-based design. If you’re working with Cricut or Silhouette sublimation printers, then you’ll need vector files — and there’s no better option out there for creating vectors for your sublimation prints. Period.
  • Create your images on the go. You can trace images with your mobile's camera acting as a scanner. Then, you can use the Vectorize tool to draw your sketch for you. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
  • Carry-over your learning. There’s a ton of carryover between Photoshop and Illustrator. Once you learn one, you’re pretty much set up for the other. Most of your hotkeys are the same, icons are very similar, and the general feel and flow is pretty consistent between the apps.

What We Don’t Like

  • Steep learning curve. If you’re a beginner at designing your sublimation graphics, you’ll probably find this software to be a little overwhelming. Good news is you can find thousands of free tutorials all over YouTube and Google. 
  • You’ll rent, never own it. Again, since Adobe doesn’t offer a perpetual license to their products anymore, you can only get it through a monthly subscription plan. 
  • Can’t work raster files. Vector based means Illustrator is a no-go for editing images which are raster-based, such as photos. So, if you want to print Nicholas Cage’s face on a mug… you're better off with Photoshop.

Try Illustrator today with a free 14-day trial.

Our Verdict — Best Photoshop Alternative

Price: Free

Gimp is basically a free, open-source version of Photoshop. It has tons of capabilities, many of which are pretty similar to those in Photoshop. 

Get it if you’re on a budget or just getting started with your sublimation designs.

If you want to go pro-grade with more advanced features, choose Photoshop, instead.

(free forever)

Best For

People looking for a powerful raster-based design software that is more than just the basic features and won’t cost an arm and a leg.

What We Like

  • GIMP is an open source software, which means anyone can change its code and distribute those changes to other users. That doesn’t mean you have to be a programmer. The thing is, there’s a big community of people out there developing additional features you can use, for free. Score!
  • It’s very similar to Photoshop. GIMP has a lot of the tools that Photoshop has, even though it isn’t quite as powerful. If you get the hang of one, you’ll quickly be able to work with the other.
  • Super easy to set up for dye-sublimation printing. GIMP's user-friendly interface is very easy to learn and understand, and it has a ton of tutorials all over the internet. You'll have your setup ready in no time.

What We Don’t Like

  • Not quite there. GIMP really resembles Photoshop in many, many ways, but it kind of falls short in every little thing, as well. And it’s not like GIMP is a bad graphic editing tool --- it's an advanced software --- it’s just a little worse in every single feature, when you're already used to using Photoshop… which can get Photoshop users frustrated.
  • Zero support. Since this is a free, open-source software, the only support you can get is from the user community (and they won’t always answer every question you have.)
  • You’ll need to search. In order to be able to perform some features you’ll need to go online to search and download some third-party plugins. It can be a pain in the ass, especially when you’re not tech-savvy.

Try GIMP free for life.

Our Verdict — Best For Beginners

Price: Starts at $39.99/month

CorelDRAW is probably the second most recognizable name when it comes to vector-based designers, just behind Illustrator.

This beginner-friendly design software is a solid graphic design program for small businesses with a limited budget, especially for those with no designing experience.

Get if you want one of the best graphics editors out there, but aren’t patient enough to go through Illustrator’s steep learning curve.

Best For

People looking for a vector graphics sublimation software to create print designs, but don't get along with Illustrator.

What We Like

  • This software is quick to master, unlike Adobe Illustrator, which can get very complicated. CorelDRAW is very user friendly and much easier to learn. There are many tutorials online to get you started and walk you through the basics.
  • Use your app from anywhere. CorelDRAW offers an incredible online web app. All you need is a device and an internet connection. Wherever you are, you'll have access to an app for sublimation printing.
  • Vector or raster, you’ve got it. If you buy CorelDRAW Graphics Suite, you’ll also get free access to their own version of Photoshop, called Photo-Paint. You can click a few buttons and jump back and forth from CorelDRAW to Photo-Paint.

What We Don’t Like

  • You need to click around a bit. While I can appreciate how clean the UI looks, one problem with CorelDRAW is that it has way too many hidden panels. Sometimes you need to hunt for a tool.
  • Not enough keyboard shortcuts, unlike Photoshop and Illustrator which allow you to do pretty much anything via keyboard shortcuts. If you’re used to working with keyboard shortcuts, CorelDRAW might get under your skin, at times.
  • Value for money. If you go with the lifetime purchase, I feel like it’s a good deal. However, the monthly subscription may feel pricey, especially because it costs more than Photoshop and Illustrator.

Try CorelDRAW today with a free 15-day trial.

5. Affinity Photo

Our Verdict — Best Bang For The Buck

Price: $21.99 - $84.99

Affinity Photo is a very capable Photoshop alternative, with great tools for  creating your sublimation designs. It’s clean and quick, and its smooth experience is worth mentioning. 

Get it if you want to get a capable design software for an affordable one-off price.

If you’re looking for something more advanced, go with Photoshop, instead.

Best For

People looking for an inexpensive, feature rich sublimation program.

What We Like

  • Low, one-time price. You can buy Affinity Photo for life with a one-time cost of just $84.99 on Windows and Mac… or $21.99 on iPad. After that, you own it for life. No monthly charges, pay once… own it for life.
  • Vector or raster… your call. Affinity also has a separate app, called Affinity Designer, for vector-based designs. Need to create a typographic design with the company’s logo? Done. Printing Brendan Fraser’s face on the entire t-shirt? You got it.
  • Smooth design experience. Photoshop has been around since 1990. Some of its code is old school, and it does get laggy at times. Affinity Photo is so much snappier in some situations, it can make using Photoshop feel like driving a car from the 70’s, in some cases.

What We Don’t Like

  • It may feel like a downgrade in your toolbox. If you're already used to Photoshop, you'll realize Affinity Photo falls short on features and functionality for performing a wide range of advanced editing tasks. These include AI-powered tools, more Layer controls, masking options, 3D image creation, drawing tools, and video support to name a few. 
  • You kind of have to learn it on your own. Affinity actually has a great set of video tutorials… but when it comes to the user base and the experiences they share, it is way smaller than competitors, like Photoshop or Corel Draw.
  • You’ve got to embrace a new, unknown filetype. Affinity Photo has their own file format, called the AFPHOTO. No one in the industry knows that. Even though you can open a PSD file in Affinity, your agency won’t ever be able to open an AFPHOTO file in their Photoshop program. 

Try Affinity Photo today with a 14-day money back guarantee.

6. Procreate

Our Verdict — Best For iPad Users

Price: $9.99

Procreate is packed, easy to use, cheap, has a customizable interface, and can be expanded to your taste… but it only works on iPads.

Get it you’re an Applehead who wants to create your own digital art on your iPad. 

If you're on Mac, Windows or Android, go with Photoshop, instead.

Best For

People looking for a raster-based design software without going for those well-known, expensive programs.

What We Like

  • Pay once, own it for life. You can buy Procreate from the App Store for $9.99. One time. Once you’ve got the app, you get all updates, forever.
  • Brush it away… freestyle. One of the coolest features in Procreate is how customizable their brush library is. You can edit the existing brushes in the app, import third-party templates, or create your own. Procreate almost feels like you’re drawing on paper.
  • Very tight community. Procreate’s user community is supportive. Very helpful. Very informative. They’ll help you find new ways to streamline your design flow. The support you get for the one time fee is really impressive.

What We Don’t Like

  • Gotta have the Apple. Procreate is only available for iPads with iPadOS 14.4 or higher, and works best with an Apple Pencil. If you’re looking to work on any other operating systems, you’ll need another app.
  • It falls a little short when compared to full-featured apps. You’ll find it being quite limited in its image editing functions.
  • You get no free trial, no lite or test version… although, for 10 bucks, it may be worth the test.

Try Procreate today.

7. Inkscape

Our Verdict — Best Illustrator Alternative

Price: Free

Inkscape is essentially the free, open-source version of Adobe Illustrator. 

It’s a vector-based design tool, and you can power it up with thousands of add-ons, including raster images. 

Get it If you're looking to create your sublimation files without the hefty price tag.

If you're ready to get pro-grade vector capabilities, opt for Illustrator.

Best For

People looking for a powerful, free vector-based design software.

What We Like

  • Inkscape is an open source software. Inkscape is for Illustrator what GIMP is for Photoshop. It also has a big worldwide community of developers creating new functionality for it… for free.
  • It’s compatible with the most common file formats. You’ll be able to open AI, CDR, EPS, SVG, PDF… that means you’ll be able to work and save files that can also be opened in Illustrator or Corel Draw.
  • It’s light and quick. Unlike Illustrator, Inkscape doesn’t have high demands on your hardware. Even old computers can run Inkscape well.

What We Don’t Like

  • No official support. Again, Inkscape is pretty similar to GIMP in this aspect. The only support you can get is from the community, from forums or YouTube videos.
  • It can get glitchy on Macs. There are many bug and glitch complaints over the internet coming from Mac users. 
  • You’ll need several extensions in order to get some functionality you may need. For example, you’ll need a plugin called Ghostscript to read EPS files.

Try Inkscape free for life.

Our Three Top Picks

Here’s a quick summary of our top three picks:

  1. Adobe Photoshop — best of the best
  2. Adobe Illustrator — best for vector graphics
  3. GIMP — best Photoshop alternative

Here’s a quick comparison of our top seven picks:

Tool

Entry Offer

Pricing

Adobe Photoshop

14-day free trial

Starts at $9.99/mo

Adobe Illustrator

14-day free trial

Starts at $20.99/mo

GIMP

Free

Free

CorelDRAW

15-day free trial

Starts at $39.99/mo

Affinity Photo

14-day money back guarantee

Starts at $21.99/mo

Procreate

None

$9.99 (one-time)

Inkscape

Free

Free

Here are the top 50 sublimation software tools we considered in this review:

  1. Adobe Photoshop
  2. Adobe Illustrator
  3. GIMP
  4. Corel Draw
  5. Affinity Photo
  6. Procreate
  7. Inkscape
  8. Affinity Designer
  9. Adobe InDesign
  10. Sketch
  11. Pixlr
  12. Sawgrass
  13. ArtRage
  14. Vecteezy
  15. Vectornator
  16. Krita
  17. PaintTool SAI
  18. DrawPad
  19. ArtBoard
  20. Gravit Designer
  21. Painter
  22. YouiDraw Drawing
  23. Vector Magic
  24. Amadine
  25. MyPaint
  26. DrawPlus
  27. SVGStorm
  28. SaviDraw
  29. Cricut Design Space
  30. Silhouette Studio
  31. RageSpline
  32. Flame Painter
  33. Sketch.io
  34. Vector Creator
  35. Autotracer
  36. CADE
  37. Drawtify
  38. Sk1
  39. Xara Photo and Graphic Designer
  40. ZeldDesigner
  41. Canva
  42. TwistedBrush Pro Studio
  43. Cortona2D Editor Pro
  44. Lay Out
  45. Epson Edge
  46. CreativeStudio
  47. subliEVO
  48.  Desygner
  49. FireAlpaca
  50. Sumo Paint

The Bottom Line

Here are our top picks for the best sublimation software to try this year:

  1. Adobe Photoshop — best of the best
  2. Adobe Illustrator — best for vector graphics
  3. GIMP — best Photoshop alternative
  4. Corel Draw — best for beginners
  5. Affinity Photo — best bang for the buck
  6. Procreate — best for iPad users
  7. Inkscape — best Illustrator alternative
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