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What Printer Should I Buy For My Home Studio?

Maybe you're about to graduate from MCAD, or you'd like to do more printing on your own. Here are some things to think about as you look at your options.


First: it depends on what you want to do. Or what you think you want to do.


Second: printers aren’t magic. At MCAD we provide professional service, training, and documentation on working with our printers. Expect a little more frustration at home. Read the manual! Learn your printer, learn what settings work for certain media, experiment, talk to friends and peers about what they use, what they like or don’t like, etc. Expect a learning curve!


(Note - Our experience is based primarily on HP laser printers and Epson inkjet printers. HP and Canon also make good inkjet printers. And Canon and Brother make good laser printers.)


When considering a device purchase you have two main options - laser or inkjet

     • Laser is like the ImagePress or SB BW printers

     • Inkjet is like the Epsons


Think about how and when you use the printers at MCAD

     • What sorts of things do you typically print on the ImagePress or SB BW Printers?

     • What sorts of things do you usually print on the Epsons?


Why does it matter which type of printer I use? What’s the difference?
Laser printers use powdered toner that is baked to the surface of the paper using very high heat. Because of this they are good at printing dense and consistent colors (i.e., very dark blacks) on a variety of uncoated or special laser-safe media. You have to be careful when choosing media for a laser printer. If it isn’t uncoated, the packaging must specify the media is laser safe or it might melt in your printer! Another drawback to laser printers is they aren’t good for multi-media projects. For example, you couldn’t watercolor or draw over the top of the toner once it’s been printed.

Inkjet printers use liquid ink and can print on a wide variety of media. Because they don’t use heat like laser printers do, you can be a little more experimental with an inkjet printer and the media you use. But you still want to be careful about what you choose to print on. Paper made especially for inkjet printing is treated to accept the printer ink to produce the best results - dark blacks, vibrant colors, etc. You can print on plain old bond paper, or Arches drawing paper (for example), but you will notice the blacks won’t be as dark, and the ink will tend to ‘creep’ a little along the paper fibers. Epson, InkPress, and many other vendors make a wide variety of photo and fine art papers made specially for inkjet printing. It all depends on the look you’re hoping to achieve.


Do some research. Pay attention to:

     • Output size capability - any printer that will print over 8.5x14 gets expensive

     • Inkjet or Laser - which type of device will fit your needs best

     • Consumables capacity

          -Laser toner is measured in # of pages printable (most toner carts do 1300 - 5000 pages)

          -Inkjet ink is measured in ml (that's milliliters) - a letter size image uses about 0.9ml ink on our Epson p5000s

          -The Epsons we have at MCAD use either 220ml or 700ml cartridges. Most home printers hold much less - more like 50-80ml, so the cost-per-print will be more no matter what


Single function or multi-function

        Devices that do more than one thing (print, copy, and/or scan, etc.) have become increasingly popular and affordable.

        • Pros - Does everything you need in one device

        • Cons - One thing breaks or stops working you have to get the whole thing fixed or replace it



As previously noted, there are two basic types of devices. Here are some considerations for each type:



• BW or Color options

• Higher speed than inkjet

• BW - small, usb, good for just printing papers/documents or BW art

     -Typical cost - $80 - $300

• Color - small, usb

     -Typical cost - $150 and up ($200 - $500 for something decent)

• Consumables cost $20 - $110 for either BW or Color

               NOTE: In these small printers, most of the actual printing technology is enclosed in what people call the toner cartridge, but is actually both toner and an imaging drum. Have a problem with image quality? Replacing the ‘toner cartridge’ will usually solve the problem.

• Media - Can only print on uncoated stock or laser-safe media (glossy, sticker, etc.)

• Good for - Papers, documents, art with limited color, zines, mini comics, etc., high volume

• Bad for - photo quality



• Color - especially full color or photo quality needs

• Slower than laser

• Cost - $80 and up ($200 - $600 for something decent)

     -For pro quality expect $600 - $5000

NOTE: In smaller, cheaper inkjet printers, the print head is actually part of the ink cartridge so if you have lots of clogging or banding problems you can just replace the ink. In larger and more professional grade printers, the print head is an integrated part of the printer. In some brands, like Epson, the print head is not user-replaceable and the cost to have a technician do this is just about as expensive as buying a new printer. Other brands, like Canon, do have user-replaceable heads.

• In general, inkjet printers want to be used a lot, and when not in use, make sure they’re turned off. Leaving an inkjet printer off for too long can cause problems with the ink and nozzles getting clogged. And then you end up wasting lots of ink clearing them out.



Recommendation for scenarios:


Photographer/Art Prints - You'll be printing full- or high-coverage images at the highest quality. Look at a “prosumer” level inkjet printer, like an Epson p600, p800 (or similar Canon or HP) as an entry-level model. Some of Epson's All-in-ones might work for you as well.


Zines/Mini Comics - You'll be printing less than full-coverage images at high volumes.  Start by looking at a small color laser printer. Printing BW art will only use the Black toner, and you can also print covers (or interior pages) in full color. Alternatively, if you think you’ll be printing in a high enough volume, you might buy a standalone BW laser printer just for interior pages, and then a smaller color device for covers, etc.



These are of course just recommendations. Each person's needs are unique and specific so feel free to reach out with any questions.




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