Best Photo Printers For 2021 (2023)

Best Photo Printers For 2021 (1)

The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 can produce cut-sheet panorama prints up to 13×39-inches.

Not so long ago, the photographic print was how everyone experienced photography. Before websites, smartphones and apps, shoeboxes with stacks of 4×6-inch photos of the family vacation were a household staple—I still have a few in the garage myself.

For the casual photographer who uses the medium as personal documentary rather than fine art, digital photography changed the way most images are shared, and the end of printing has been repeatedly foretold. But that hasn’t happened. Like Mark Twain’s famous quip, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” printing technology has experienced a renaissance as a result of digital technology.

Though the folks who use photography for utility may not be printing like they used to, for photographers with a capital “P”—those who use the medium for the creation of art and personal expression—there’s never been a more exciting time to make a print. The best photo printers for home studios produce large-format prints in a matter of minutes with color and tonal reproduction that blows away what was achievable in the chemical darkroom. We have digital methods for translating our images to traditional processes like platinum or cyanotype, and we have options for printing on alternative substrates like wood or metal. The art of photographic printing has never been more accessible or invited so much experimentation.

Long Live The Print

When digital imaging was emerging, the early home inkjet printers could make beautiful prints, but they didn’t last very long. Color fading and shifting, sometimes dramatic and rapid, were common problems. Canon and Epson were early leaders in addressing this, and the latest generation of pro-grade desktop printers can produce prints that will outlive us all. That’s an especially important consideration for photographers who sell prints to collectors, but even for those who simply enjoy seeing their best photographs artfully framed around their home, it’s reassuring to know that today’s prints will look just as good decades from now as they do today.

There are two types of ink commonly used in desktop printing: dye and pigment. Dye has historically been able to produce a wider range of colors, while pigment-based inks are more stable and provide greater longevity. That led printer makers who cater to the fine art photographer to focus on developing pigment-based ink sets that could rival the gamut of dye-based ink. Today, the best photo printers from Canon and Epson use pigment-based ink sets with nine or more colors, including both matte and glossy black variants, that are able to reproduce images with literally stunning details—details you’d likely miss looking at an image on a digital screen.

Best Photo Printers From Canon

Best Photo Printers For 2021 (2)

The latest generation of professional desktop photo printers like the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 can create beautiful prints at standard sizes and in panorama format, too.

The latest desktop printer from Canon for pro and enthusiast photographers is the imagePROGRAF PRO-300, a 13×19-inch printer introduced in 2020 that’s the smaller sibling of the 17×22-inch imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 introduced in 2015. Like the PRO-1000, it uses a Canon LUCIA PRO pigment-based ink set. The PRO-300 has a nine-color plus “Chroma Optimizer” set, while the PRO-1000 has an 11-color (plus optimizer) set. The Chroma Optimizer is a clear coat that Canon says prevents bronzing and improves black density. The PRO-300 can produce borderless prints up to 13×19 inches, plus panoramas up to 13×39 inches. The PRO-1000 can go as large as 17×22 inches or 17×25.5 inches for panorama format. Both printers accept cut-sheet paper only.

Best Photo Printers From Epson

Best Photo Printers For 2021 (3)

Both the SureColor P700 and P900 (pictured) can accept roll paper in addition to cut-sheet for long panorama prints or for volume production.

Epson’s newest models for premium quality desktop photo printing are the SureColor P700 and SureColor P900. The SureColor P700 is a 13×19-inch printer, and the P900 is the larger 17×22-inch model. Both use the same new Epson 10-color UltraChrome PRO10 ink set and can accept roll paper in addition to cut-sheet for long panorama prints or for volume production. (The roll paper feed is built into the P700 and offered as an optional accessory for the P900.) New in this generation of SureColor printers are dedicated channels for Matte and Photo Black (glossy) inks, alleviating a pain point of earlier models that required manual switching between glossy and matte depending on your paper selection. Now, like the Canon imagePROGRAFs, this process is automatic, saving time and ink.

Print Head Technology: Heat Versus Voltage

One of the main differences between Canon and Epson printers is the technology used to place ink on the paper. Canon has a thermal print head, while Epson’s head is piezoelectric. The Canon approach employs heating elements to expel ink droplets from the printer’s nozzles. Epson’s system uses physical actuators that eject droplets when a voltage is applied to them. In practical terms, piezoelectric heads provide finer control over ink droplet size but are more susceptible to clogging than thermal heads—especially if the printer goes unused for an extended period.

Epson’s SureColor P700 and P900 piezoelectric heads can produce three different droplet sizes as small as 1.5 picoliters. Canon’s thermal heads have many more nozzles—the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 has 7,680 nozzles (768 per channel) compared to the Epson SureColor P700’s 1,800 nozzles (180 per channel)—but Canon’s droplet size is 4 picoliters.

So, there are pros and cons of each technology, and ultimately the decision between Canon and Epson may come down to either brand preference or the ability to print on roll paper, something the Canon desktop options here can’t do. Practically speaking, I’ve used both the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 and the Epson SureColor P700 and been very pleased with the color, tonality and detail these printers can produce.

The ability to create gallery-quality prints at home is incredibly convenient and can help guide you in post-processing as you make adjustments to a photo’s exposure and color. It’s so gratifying to see an image that took planning and patience to capture come to life as a photographic print. If you’re used to seeing your images only on-screen, I think you’ll be delighted to discover the details that a large print can reveal.

Beyond The Desktop: Unique Prints From Pro Photo Labs

I think all photographers should experience the art of producing their own prints, but there are possibilities available from a professional lab that you can’t reasonably achieve at home. With the option to print on unique substrates like wood or metal, or to create prints in die-cut shapes, a pro lab can help you make something special.

Depending on the process and materials you choose, there may be some tradeoffs—or differences, at the least—from a traditional paper print to keep in mind. For example, one of my favorite personal prints is of an image I took overlooking the Pacific Ocean on a foggy morning in Big Sur. The density of the fog and the calmness of the ocean on that morning resulted in an image that appears to be a simple gradient of blues and grays from a distance. Only on closer inspection do you see the ripples in the waves and the subtle variation of density in the fog. I chose to have it printed on wood by Bay Photo, and one of the inherent characteristics of that process is that the grain of the wood may show through. For an image that relies heavily on precise, fine details, wood may not produce the look you’re after, but in the case of my Big Sur photograph, the faint grain detail adds a layer of visual “texture” that I like very much. There’s also a dimensional, almost sculptural quality to print on wood that makes it something to try, and the earthy quality of it feels appropriate for nature photography in particular.

Best Photo Printers For 2021 (4)

A single image transformed into a multi-panel display with Bay Photo’s Splits process. Photo by Luke Tyree.

In addition to offering unique substrates, Bay Photo’s Splits option transforms a single image into a mosaic of multiple prints for a dramatic wall art statement. Multiple cluster configurations are available, from a simple “Four Square” 4×4 grid to more sophisticated arrangements like the “Timeless” 5-panel style shown above.

Another interesting option that a lab can deliver is the ability to create prints with unique shapes. WhiteWall offers four shape options—round, hexagon, octagon and dodecagon—for several of its custom print products, including its HD Metal Print. The shapes are available in sizes ranging from 8 inches to 36 inches.

Best Photo Printers For 2021 (5)

WhiteWall offers prints in alternative shapes for a design departure from the traditional rectangle.

If you’re looking for a departure from the traditional paper print, check out what’s available from online labs like WhiteWall and Bay Photo. There’s an impressive variety of unique substrates and mounting options to transform your photo into a statement piece.

Wes Pitts

Wes is the editorial director of Outdoor Photographer.


What type of printer produces the highest quality photo prints? ›

The best photo printer overall: Canon Pixma Pro 200

The print quality is comparable to Canon's more expensive Pro 300 model and, in our test, a bit better than the Epson P700. This model uses an eight-color, dye-based ink system. Dye-based printing offers vibrant colors and deep blacks.

Is inkjet or laser better for photos? ›

Laser printers produce higher overall print quality when taking into account both text and images. However, inkjet printers specialize in color image printing and produce high-quality color photos.

What type of printer does a photographer use? ›

Epson Expression Premium XP-7100 Wireless Color All-In-One Inkjet Printer. Epson SureColor P900 Wide Format Wireless Inkjet Photo Printer. HP DesignJet Z9+ Large Format PostScript Photo Printer. Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4100 Large Format Inkjet Printer.

Can you print good quality photos from home printer? ›

The most important thing you can do when printing photos at home is to use high-quality paper. Inkjet printers can produce great-looking pictures, so don't feel the need to invest in a laser printer. Always make sure to edit your photo before you print it. This saves time, ink, and paper.

What is the difference between photo printer and inkjet printer? ›

Though they're also ink based, but unlike normal inkjet printers that come with three colour and one black ink cartridge, professional photo printers could have 6 or even 12 colour ink cartridges. These printers use pigment-based ink and print on special quality paper.

What are two disadvantages of laser printers? ›

  • Although laser printers work faster, they take time to warm up.
  • Although toner is cheaper in the long run, upfront costs for laser printing are more.
  • Toner leaks are a nightmare.
  • Laser printers can't handle a variety of paper or printing materials like inkjets.
Oct 26, 2022

Is laser or inkjet better for glossy paper? ›

That means that laser printers can gain the benefits of printing on glossy paper including more vibrant colour reproduction and increased contrast between light and dark.

How long do inkjet printed photos last? ›

If you take care of your prints, they could potentially last hundreds of years with no visible fading. Color photographs slightly less. Pigment inkjet prints on archival quality paper could last with no visible fading for 75 - 400+ years, depending on quality of framing and display conditions.

How can I print professional photos at home? ›

To access it on your laptop, navigate to File > Print with your mouse or type CTRL + P on your keyboard, then select “Printer Properties”. Here you will find a “Photo Printing” option, plus a number of other customizable features like borderless printing, media type and paper size.

How much does a professional photo printer cost? ›

Epson SureColor P900 17-Inch Photo Printer

Only professional photographers are likely to spend roughly $1,200 for a 10-ink freestanding printer capable of producing gallery-class 17-by-22-inch prints and 17-inch-wide banners almost 11 feet long.

How long do printed photos last? ›

The good news is that these modern photographic prints will only fade a little over a lifetime, or even in 100 years, if kept in average home conditions. When displayed in moderate light conditions, slight fading might occur in 25 to 50 years.

Is A Laser Printer good for photos? ›

Are laser printers good for photos? Yes, absolutely. In fact, they have always been good at printing photos.

Can any printer print on photo paper? ›

Features of a photo printer

No set standard makes a printer-specific to photos. You can, in theory, use almost any home printer to create black-and-white or color prints. Most printer software products include custom settings that will change the resolution of your print job to make them near perfect for photos.

How do I print pictures without losing quality? ›

For the highest quality photo prints, we generally recommend 300 DPI. (This is what you'll hear referred to as a "giclée" print sometimes.) However, most images will still look good and avoid pixelation at 150 DPI or above. Simply put: Don't blow up photos to more than double what the max size was at full quality.

Why do my photos look different when printed? ›

The main reason this occurs is because the brightness level on the computer monitor is too high. It's common with newer monitors, many of which are designed for gaming and have their brightness levels set higher by default.

What specifications should you look for to get good quality prints? ›

For most artwork, 300 dpi is preferred. Most printers produce excellent output from images set at 300 ppi. You can use 150 dpi for large prints because the difference in print quality is not very noticeable on large pieces when you look at the prints from a distance.

Is a photo printer better than a color printer? ›

Photo printers are different from regular printers when it comes to printing technology. They are designed to create a lasting print on photographic paper which is different from a regular sheet. So, if you are looking for something for your photo printing needs, prefer going for a photo printer.

Do printers use more ink with photo paper? ›

Yes, printing on glossy paper typically uses more ink than printing on regular paper. This is because the glossy finish requires more ink to create a vibrant and glossy image.

Is toner cheaper than ink? ›

Inkjet printers typically run at a lower price point than laser printers, and printer ink is cheaper than toner. However, laser printers and toner have a longer lifespan despite their high cost. Meaning laser toner cartridges have a lower cost per printed page than printer ink.

Do laser printers last longer than inkjet? ›

Toner cartridges can print a significantly higher amount of page yield than ink cartridges so toners last longer than ink cartridges. Most ink cartridges contain an ink volume that can usually print between 135 – 1000 pages. Toner cartridge page yields can range from 2,000 to upwards of 10,000!

Why laser is better than inkjet? ›

Laser printers can print much faster than inkjet printers can. Most are equipped with high-capacity paper trays, so they can print more pages at a given time. They're also built to handle the printing of thousands of pages per month without succumbing to wear-and-tear.

What is the best way to print photos glossy or matte? ›

The bottom line for glossy vs matte photos is that glossy is better when you won't be framing behind glass and when your photos have lots of contrast or vibrant colors. Matte is better for classic black and white photos that need to last and might be displayed in a gallery.

Do I need special paper for a laser printer? ›

Laser Printing Paper

While you can use plain paper with your laser printer, using quality paper that has been engineered for use with a laser printer tends to provide better results. Laser printer paper has a high level of heat resistance, as laser printers generate heat when printing.

What ink is best for glossy photo paper? ›

Photo Black ink is normally used when printing on gloss and lustre media.

Which photo print lasts longer? ›

The good news is that most inkjet prints should keep their colours and vibrancy much longer than colour photo prints. Many have been 'lightfastness' rated for more than 100 years.

Is it OK to leave an inkjet printer on all the time? ›

All inkjet printers have semiconductor print heads. These print heads are typically the first thing in a printer that requires replacement, so you want to preserve their life as long as possible. Keeping your printer on all the time will keep your print heads cleaner, making them less likely to break.

Why do my printed photos fade? ›

Air exposure causes your prints to fade by a process called oxidation and, short of sorting your photos in a perfect vacuum, you can't stop it. Assuming you don't have access to a perfect vacuum, your photographs resistance to air will depend on the type of ink it uses.

What paper is used to print quality pictures? ›

Glossy. Glossy is probably the most common types of paper finish for printing photos. You can choose different levels of gloss from standard to high gloss. The shiny finish which is caused by the coating helps show up details in the picture.

Can you print photos yourself at Walmart? ›

Photo Prints Plus makes it super simple to select the photos you wish to print and then send them to your local Walmart for printing. You don't even have to pay for the prints in the app! Simply pay at your local store when you pick them up your photo prints.

How do photographers make money on prints? ›

Sell Your Prints

Bring framed copies of your photos to sell at art and craft fairs, or sell them only through Etsy. Get your photos displayed at coffee shops, restaurants, and other outlets. Offer printed copies to your clients. Sell your photos at local art or photography galleries.

How much does it cost to print out a 4x6 picture? ›

$0.38 ea. $0.28 ea. Print and share your favorite memories.

Is it cheaper to print photos at home or online? ›

Some quick math reveals that, unless you buy printing supplies at a discount and use them frequently, printing photos at home will always cost more than printing photos through an online service.

Why are photographer prints so expensive? ›

The Quality of The Print

The first thing that will impact the price is the quality of a print. Not all prints are created equal, and if a photographer prints for you they will probably have access to professional printers and will be offering you a higher quality of print than you would find on the high street.

What is the best way to store thousands of printed photos? ›

To preserve your memories over time, professional organizers recommend backing up your photos in three places: external hard drive, a cloud, and a safety deposit box for example. 6. Implement storage. Once your photos are scanned, backed up and saved, store your printed collection in an acid-free storage box.

How do I store thousands of printed photos? ›

Use an archival-quality box or album

Whether you prefer to stack photos in a box or arrange them in an album, it's best to look for a storage option that's free of acid and lignin (an acidic compound that gives trees their rigidity). It's also good to avoid dyes and recycled materials.

What photo paper lasts 100 years? ›

With ChromaLife 100 technology, your prints remain vivid in both color and quality for up to 100 years*. ChromaLife 100 inks and paper produce beautiful photos to last a lifetime.

Can photo printers also print documents? ›

A dedicated photo printer is limited to only printing photos, while a near-dedicated photo printer can also print text and graphics, and may even offer some of the functions of an all-in-one printer such as scanning and faxing.

Do matte or glossy photos last longer? ›

Do matte or glossy photos last longer? Glossy photos last the same amount of time as matte photos. The lifespan of glossy or matte finish prints depends on the paper quality and how you look after them. However, glossy photos attract fingerprints and are more likely to get scratched – especially if they're unframed.

What kind of photo paper do professionals use? ›

Professional photographers typically use high-quality photo papers that are designed for archival purposes. For example, some professionals prefer matte papers for fine art prints and gallery displays and lustre for wedding albums, while most of all prefer glossy or satin papers for commercial and advertising prints.

What is the difference between photo paper and glossy photo paper? ›

One of the greatest differentiators between matte photos and glossy photos is this extra layer of shine - so a glossy photo is actually a matte photo with an added layer of gloss! The addition of gloss seems to have a positive effect on the colors of an image. The colors of glossy photos seem more deep and vibrant.

Which printer is best for glossy paper? ›

1-24 of 31 results
  • Amazon's Choice. ...
  • Epson EcoTank L3210 A4 All-in-One Ink Tank Printer. ...
  • HP Smart Tank 529 All-in-one Colour Printer (Upto 6000 Black and 6000 Colour Pages Included in The Box). - ...
  • Brother DCP-T525W - Wi-Fi Color Ink Tank Multifunction (Print, Scan & Copy) All in One Printer for Home & Office.

Do I need special ink to print photos? ›

Special inks are not normally required for printing on these media. Glossy papers can suffer from 'bronzing' when prints are made with pigment inks. This indicates the ink is unevenly deposited and/or absorbed by the paper. Viewed from a shallow angle, bronzing produces a greenish bronze tone.

What photo paper doesn t fade? ›

The Canon luster photo paper tops our list. The print quality is exceptional. And the luster finish gives your photos a professional look. The prints are suitable for sale and gallery display and don't fade over time.

What is the difference between a photo copier and a printer? ›

Difference Between Photocopy Machine vs. Printer. A photocopy machine makes duplicate copies of a physical document without being connected to a computer network. A printer, on the other hand, allows a user to send documents from a computer network to be printed on the device.

What is the difference between a photo printer and a normal printer? ›

Photo printers are different from regular printers when it comes to printing technology. They are designed to create a lasting print on photographic paper which is different from a regular sheet. So, if you are looking for something for your photo printing needs, prefer going for a photo printer.


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