How To Choose An Inkjet Photo Printer

Inkjet printers create an image, whether a photograph or a page of text and diagrams, by propelling droplets of ink under extremely tight control from ink cartridges on to paper.  All inkjet printers have at least four ink jets or nozzles, usually nowadays supplied by four different cartridges, one each for black, cyan, magenta and yellow.  Some more versatile colour photographic inkjet printers use two or more cartridges for different shades and density of black, and this is beneficial if you plan to print high quality monochrome (black and white) photographs. Some also have separate cartridges for light cyan, or light magenta.  A few printers use a single cartridge for all four colours. If you are planning on ordering an Inkjet photo paper printer look at the below features before making your decision.

Dye or Pigment Inks?  

The two predominant types of ink used  by printer manufacturers are either dye or pigment.

Kodak and Epson use both pigment and dye-based inks, Epson pigment inks can be identified by a label on the printer stating DuraBrite for the regular desktop printers or UltraChrome for the more professional printers Canon and HP prefer dye-based though HP are usually using pigment with the black ink and have a certain contents of pigment in their Vivera branded inks.

Brother printers usually use dye-based inks for colours and pigment-based inks for black like HP.  Dye-based inks have been recommended for bright bold colours, whereas pigment-based inks are said to be better at resisting fading or water damage.  In recent years, ink quality has been rapidly improved for both.  All inkjet-coated papers will work well with the dye based inks where pigment inks are a bit more picky and will work well with matt coated and micropous coated photo papers, but will have problem with some cast coated gloss photo papers which are of a low quality and the ink may smear.

Print Speed? 

Printer speed is expressed in pages per minute (ppm), but manufacturers’ claims can be misleading because they do not include processing time – the time between hitting the print button and printing actually starting. Print speed varies according to the quality settings and whether you are printing in black and white or colour – printing colour photographs is always slower than printing black and white pages, higher the resolution is, slower the print is.

Resolution?

Resolution is usually measured in dots per inch (dpi), so the higher the dpi figure, the finer the detail that the printer can reproduce. Usually, printers will have different resolutions when printing in black and white and printing in colour. This is because black and white text and graphics don’t need as much detail as photos do to look sharp. So, while a printer might have a black and white resolution of 600x600dpi, its colour resolution might be much higher, at 9,600×2,400 dpi, for example. If you’re planning on printing plenty of photographs, look for a printer with a high resolution.

The resolution is a result of the size of the ink droplet coming from the printer nozzle and it is measured in picoliter (10-12 liter). Printer manufacturers are always working to achive a smaller droplet so it can achieve higher resolution. The inkjet printer are differentiated by the 2 types of inkjet system, the thermal inkjet invented by Canon and called as well Bubble jet and the cold Piezo electric system invented by Epson:

Thermal inkjet system-used by HP, Lexmark, Canon, Kodak, Brother. This system use small heat pulse to generate an ink bubble that comes out after the micro bubble burst out of the nozzle. This system tend to wear faster as the heat damage the printing head by the time and has a maximum life span.

Cold Piezo inkjet system– this system is used mainly by Epson and generate the ink droplet. The Piezo heads last longer, but tend to clog faster.

Wi-Fi Enabled? 

Most printers connect to your computer via USB.  However, some of the latest printers now have integrated Wi-Fi. A Wi-Fi printer can be located anywhere where there is wireless coverage in your home – with no need to run a cable back to your computer.  Wi-Fi printers can be shared by multiple users, as they are accessible to any computer on your network. Some printers also support Bluetooth, which enables you to print wirelessly photographs from Bluetooth devices like smart phones and tablets.

Supported Paper Size?

Supported size, in particular when it comes to photo paper sizes can make or break your decision over a certain printer. The majority of inkjet printers sold can print A4 paper or smaller, i.e. 13x18cm, 7×5”, A5, 10x15cm, 6×4” and most of these are excellent for colour photographic printing if you will never require to print a photograph larger than A4.  However, most photographic enthusiasts eventually want to print special photographs on A3.  If you can afford it, there are even inkjet printers for A2 prints.

If you decide to buy an A3 printer, take a look at the Canon Pixma IX6550.  This sturdy and well-built printer is available for around £160 including VAT, or even less, and provides resolution of up to 9600 dpi. This compact and well-designed printer can use substantial fine art photographic paper of weights up to 260gsm, and produces superb photographic quality.

Operating System?

Most printers, even the most sophisticated wi-fi will require an initial software setup via a setup wizard often using the USB port of your computer so this software must work with your computer’s OS. Most common OS are coded by either Microsoft based on the windows series or Apple based. Therefore you will need to ensure that your printer of choice is designed for your particular OS platform, most notably the problem may arise if you have an Apple based OS (granted, quite rare nowadays to come across a printer without universal compatibility).

We hope this guide to choosing an Inkjet photo printer has helped.

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7 Responses to How To Choose An Inkjet Photo Printer

  1. Phill says:

    Hi,

    I have a Canon IX6550 on its way to me. I notice you mention this printer in this topic (How to Choose and Inkject Photo Printer), and would like to know if you have suggested settings for your papers for this printer, or even better, Colour Management Profiles (.icc) for your papers and this printer.

    Thanks.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi Phil,

      We have profile files for our 280g range professional photo paper, just ask us after your purchase. Every paper including the 280g comes with full printer settings instructions so naturally the recommended settings for your printer will depend on the precise paper. Thank you for your comment.

  2. John Savory says:

    I have just purchased an Epson XP-412 printer do you have any suggested settings for 280g satin pearl papers when setting up this printer.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi,

      We recommend the following:
      Media Type – Epson Ultra Glossy or Premium Semigloss Photo Paper
      Print Quality – Photo or Best Photo
      Colour Control – Epson Vivid
      Thank you.

  3. Prink says:

    Hi Joseph, Thanks for this wonderful post, very useful reviews and tipped me to ordering the right Ink jet printer for me at home.

  4. Janice Matson says:

    I am desperate for the answer to my question, no one seems to know the answer. When I print photos on my photo printer they are beautiful in color. When I print graphics, the color is weird, the reds look burgundy and the blues look purple. When I print this same graphic on my cheap HP regular printer, the colors are perfect, however this printer won’t print to the edge of the paper. Any suggestions on why the colors are off?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi,

      To try and help, we need more info. What printer? What Paper? What printer settings? If the photo printer is loaded with photo inks, then they are specific for photo paper and should be changed when printing graphics. or alternatively, a different printer setting needs to be used in order to eliminate some of the photo inks from the process ( I am assuming this is a 6 or 8 colour printer rather than the ordinary 4).

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