Best Printers for Printables

The Best Printers for Amazing Printables

Printables are amazing because they can help you:

  • Reach your goals (link)
  • Make unique, personalized gifts for weddings, birthdays, graduations, and more (link)
  • Decorate your walls
  • Organize your life
  • And so much more!

All for a fraction of the cost of buying those over-used, mass-printed ones.

But how can you make a printable that will look great and last for years to come?

The printer you use plays a big part in how well your printable looks when you print it.

The printer you use can also affect how long your printable will endure and continue adding value to your life.

What should you look for in a printer?

Are all those features on the expensive printers necessary?

Which printers give the best quality for the best price?

What are the real the differences between a laser and an inkjet?

Let’s find out what printers make the best printables and why…

FIRST THINGS FIRST - LASER OR INKJET?

When you buy a new printer, should you opt for a laser printer or an inkjet?

Let’s discover the main differences between the two, and why they matter.

best printers for printables

How Inkjet Printers Work

The main difference between laser and inkjet is the method of applying ink.

Inkjet printers use water-based inks consisting of water, glycol, and pigments or dyes.

They shoot droplets of this ink onto the paper through a tiny nozzle like this:

how inkjet printers work

The ink is wet, obviously, so there is a chance of smearing.

Because of how inkjets are designed, ink can dry up fairly quickly. If it happens inside the container, you will have to discard the cartridge, even if it’s still “full” which can be costly.

Ink outside the cartridge can dry up, as well, and that’s a common problem.

I bought a not-so-cheap brand-name inkjet printer, and after 6 months, none of the colors would print because ink had dried somewhere outside the cartridge, preventing the ink droplets from reaching the paper.

I swabbed all the parts with alcohol to try to clear the blockage, but nothing worked.

I disassembled the printer with the same goal, but again, I couldn’t get the inkjet cartridge to spray the ink on the paper even though the cartridges were new and full.

Even though the printer was fairly new, I had to get rid of it and buy a new one.

That’s happened to me more than once.

So, what is the average lifespan of an inkjet printer?

Of course, it depends on the manufacturer, how often you use it, the environment inside your house, etc., but on average, inkjet printers last about 3 years.

How Laser Printers Work

Laser printers, of course, use toner instead of water-based pigments.

But what is toner and exactly how does it create printed pages?

Toner is made of up super-fine powder. The powder is always some kind of polymer, but the type of polymers varies greatly. Usually, though, it’s either a polyester or styrene-based polymer.

The powder particles are ground down to a size of around 8 micrometers (depending on manufacturer).

The period at the end of this sentence is about 350 micrometers in diameter, so it has an area of 96,200 sq. micrometers. So, it takes over 12,000 toner particles just to fill in the period under this exclamation point!

So how do laser printers use that toner to print your page?

Laser printers have a drum which is (usually) coated with selenium. There are other coatings, as well, such as cadmium sulfides and amorphous silicon.

Selenium is interesting because, it’s an insulator in the dark but becomes a conductor when exposed to light (i.e., the light on the printer).

In the printer, the drum is negatively charged, and it’s coated with selenium.

You put your paper in and press “start”.

The printer shines light through your paper, and the darker areas “shield” those areas on the drum, but the lighter areas on your paper allow the light to pass through easily to the selenium-coated drum.

When the light hits the drum, the light areas turn the selenium into a conductor, so the underlying negative charge on the drum flows through. But the dark areas stay as an insulator, so the charge remains positive in those areas.

The positively-charged selenium-covered areas attract the negatively-charged toner powder particles, and as a result, the printer etches your paper’s image onto the drum.

The blank paper is given a positive charge that’s even stronger than the selenium’s positive charge. Now the negatively-charged toner powder (that stuck to the drum) is pulled toward the blank paper.

After that, the paper passes through heated pressure rollers, and that “melts” it to the paper’s fibers. That makes it stick permanently.

Like this:

how laser printers work

Image: College Physics Textbook Equity Edition Volume 2 p. 648, 2016.

The ink is wet, obviously, so there is a chance of smearing.

Because of how inkjets are designed, ink can dry up fairly quickly. If it happens inside the container, you will have to discard the cartridge, even if it’s still “full” which can be costly.

Ink outside the cartridge can dry up, as well, and that’s a common problem.

I bought a not-so-cheap brand-name inkjet printer, and after 6 months, none of the colors would print because ink had dried somewhere outside the cartridge, preventing the ink droplets from reaching the paper.

I swabbed all the parts with alcohol to try to clear the blockage, but nothing worked.

I disassembled the printer with the same goal, but again, I couldn’t get the inkjet cartridge to spray the ink on the paper even though the cartridges were new and full.

Even though the printer was fairly new, I had to get rid of it and buy a new one.

That’s happened to me more than once.

So, what is the average lifespan of an inkjet printer?

Of course, it depends on the manufacturer, how often you use it, the environment inside your house, etc., but on average, inkjet printers last about 3 years.

Pros and Cons of
Laser Printers vs Inkjets

Inkjets

  • Cheaper initially, but generally cost more over time compared to laser printers (ink refills, shorter lifespan)
  • Printer head is typically integrated with the ink, so both have to be replaced simultaneously if something breaks
  • Prone to frequent clogging and poor print quality (super frustrating!)
  • Deeper hues and more vivid picture quality for high-resolution photos than laser printers
  • Made for printing color, so much more cost effective initially than a color laser printer.
  • Slower printing than laser printers (often somewhere around 16 pages per minute)

Laser

  • Usually more cost upfront, but cost less over time
  • More durable – Last longer than inkjets (avg. 2 years longer)
  • Drums are separate from toner, so you only need to replace one (cheaper) if one breaks.
  • Color laser printers usually have separate drums and toner cartridges for each color which increases replacement costs.
  • Faster printing – usually somewhere around 15 – 100 pages per minute
  • Color laser printers can potentially get quite pricey!

What Paper Sizes Can You Print?

Most home-printers only print paper up to 8” x 10”, but what if you want a larger print?

You could print a genuine “You’re an Awesome Kid” certificate that your child could proudly hang on his or her bedroom wall if you had a printer that was capable of printing an 11” x 17” (aka “tabloid size”) certificate.

Wouldn’t that be cool?

What if you wanted to print a motivational poster that you could present as a gift to that friend who’s been struggling through some rough times?

An 8” x 10” poster is nice, but wouldn’t a 13” x 19” poster stand out and truly soothe her soul every day?

There are inkjet and laser printers designed to handle 11″ x 17″ or even 13″ x 19″ prints. These are called “Wide-format printers”.

If you’d like to print even larger prints, there are wide-format plotter printers that use plotter paper for many extra-large sizes.

New plotter-paper printers/cutters can cost $1000 or more, but you can score a used one for a few hundred dollars (think eBay).

The Best Printers for Amazing Printables 2

Plotter Printer

Image: Wikimedia Commons

How Much Will I Spend on Ink Refills?

Inkjet Ink Costs

Inkjet refill cartridges can wreak havoc on your budget.

Replacement cartridge prices run the gamut, too.

For example, Hewlett Packard’s Officejet Pro 8730 cartridges are one of the lowest-cost cartridges, and they average about $15.38 per ounce of ink.

On the other hand, their 64XL cartridge (used in several printer models) costs, on average, $93 per ounce.

You need to consider, too, the fact that much of the ink in your ink cartridge won’t even get used.

Consumer reports tested hundreds of inkjet printers to see how much of the ink in the cartridges was actually used, and they discovered this startling conclusion:

Many models delivered half or less of their ink to the page, and a few managed no more than 20 to 30 percent.

This inefficiency may be by design. Check out this video:

On average, an American household spends around $270/year on ink cartridges when purchasing both black and color cartridges.

And some spend a lot more than that…

Laser Toner Costs

Laser toner costs more than a typical inkjet cartridge, but it lasts a lot longer.

For example, a single cartridge for the Canon inkjet Bubble printer will set you back around $19, but it will only print about 170 pages.

So, each page costs about 11 cents to print.

If you print 1000 pages per year, you’ll pay $110 per year.

Now let’s look at laser toner.

If you purchase a $115 laser toner for a standard Hewlett Packard laser printer, you’ll be able to print around 8,000 pages.

That comes out to a little over a penny per page.

If you printed 1000 pages a year, you’d spend $14 a year on toner (and it’d last you 8 years!).

What Printer Should I Get?

Which printer works best for you depends on what you value most.

For my recommendations, click the button that corresponds with which feature is most important to you.

Some of the links in this section are affiliate links. Learn more…

Inkjet:

canon mx492

The Canon MX492 Wireless All-In-One Small Printer is a small printer, but it prints well and costs under $50. It uses 2 cartridges.

B & W Laser:

Brother HL -L2350DW laser

The Brother HL-L2350DW Compact Monochrome Laser Printer is a quality laser printer that costs under $100. It’s wireless but only holds up to 20 sheets of paper in the tray at a time.

Color Laser:

HP Laserjet Pro M281fdw

The HP Laserjet Pro M281fdw All-in-One Wireless Color Laser Printer prints up to 22 ppm and holds 250 sheets. Produces great quality prints and costs under $350.00.

Plotter:

HP Designjet T120

The HP Designjet T120 Inkjet Large Format Printer prints on plotter-paper rolls up to 24” wide. It’s one of the more affordable plotters at around $800.00.

Inkjet:

Brother MFC-J6535DW

The Brother MFC-J6535DW All-in-One Color Inkjet Printer costs around $220 initially, but when you factor in ink replacement costs, it’ll cost Less than a penny per black page and a nickel per color page. 3000-page black cartridges go for under 30 dollars and 1500-page color cartridges for under 20 dollars.

B & W Laser:

Brother HL-L2360DW Monochrome Laser

The Brother HL-L2360DW Monochrome Laser Printer produces great quality B & W prints. It uses either the TN-630 toner cartridge that prints 1200 pages or the TN-660 that will print 2600 pages. The 660 is around $50 on Amazon, so each page costs less than 2 cents to print.

Color Laser:

Brother HL3140CW Color Laser

The Brother HL3140CW Color Laser Printercosts around $170, but it’s energy-efficient. It uses the TN221 + TN225 Color Toner cartridges. OEM versions cost around $80 but print 2500 pages, so around $0.03 per page. However, there are off-brand compatible toners that cost as low as $13 on amazon.

Plotter:

HP Designjet T120

The most economical way to purchase a plotter printer may be to purchase a used or refurbished one.

But if you’re looking for a new one, the HP Designjet T120 Inkjet Large Format Printer is your best bet. It prints on plotter-paper rolls up to 24” wide. But if you need something wider, check out the HP T520 DesignJet Plotter which can print up to 36″ wide.

Inkjet:

canon iX6820 inkjet printer

The Canon Pixma iX6820 Wireless Inkjet Printer prints up to 13” x 19”. It has 5 cartridges. Prints great photos, but only holds 150 sheets at a time. Currently sells for around $140.00 on Amazon.

B & W Laser:

I could not find a great affordable (under $1000) B & W laser printer that prints larger than 8” x 11”.

Color Laser:

Lexmark CS921de

The Lexmark CS921de Color Laser Printer has a 4.3-in. color touch screen. Prints up to 11” x 17” at 35 ppm with great quality.

Plotter:

HP Designjet T120

The HP Designjet T120 Inkjet Large Format Printer prints on plotter-paper rolls up to 24” wide. It’s one of the more affordable plotters at around $800.00.

Inkjet:

Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank

The Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank Wireless Printer has a refillable tank instead of replaceable cartridges, but it really shines when it comes to durability. It’s packed with features, too.

B & W Laser:

HP Laserjet Pro M402n Monochrome Laser Printer

The HP Laserjet Pro M402n Monochrome Laser Printer is a long-lasting printer. Surveys of owners indicated that only about 5% of owners reported problems in the first 3 years of ownership.

Color Laser:

Dell C1760NW Color Laser Printer

The Dell C1760NW Color Laser Printer is a simple but long-lasting color laser printer. It sells for under $200 and has few reports of anything breaking in its first three years, according to surveys of owners.

Plotter:

I have no data on the longevity and durability of plotter printers.

What’s your favorite printer?
How long has your current one lasted?

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