Laser Photo Printers vs. Inkjet: Which Is Better for You?

Laser Photo Printers vs. Inkjet: Which Is Better For You?

Laser photo printers and inkjet printers print in entirely different ways, making each of them better at certain tasks. Deciding between the two can be an important decision, especially for professional photographers. Although both can print at efficient rates, the pricing, color accuracy, and speed all change between types and models. Deciding which is the best will come down to personal needs and wants.

Is laser photo printers or inkjet photo printers better? Laser photo printers are faster but do not show color as well as inkjet printers. For printing photographs, inkjet printers are the best option. Those who are looking to print documents or proofs for clients should consider a laser photo printer, as this is cheaper in the longterm and is often faster. Set a budget and consider personal photography needs before making a decision.

For most photographers interested in printing out high-quality photos, inkjet printers are going to be the best option. However, will the staggering amount of options available and the benefits of either printer, it is important to consider the details.

The Benefits of Using Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers are a great option for photographers who are looking to print high-quality photo prints or those who do not print often. Most home printers are inkjet printers, which use small cartridges of ink in a variety of colors to mix colors and create smooth transitions in pigment.

Inkjet printers are more expensive per page than laser printers, but the dramatic increase in color accuracy is often worth the extra price, especially for photographers. They also take up less space and are widely supported, making replenishing materials and finding room for the printer much easier.

Despite the higher price per page, there are many benefits to choosing an inkjet printer as a photographer. These include:

  • Printing photos at the highest color accuracy.
  • Saving space on the printer.
  • Having easy access to replacement cartridges and repairs.

It is also worth noting that, generally speaking, inkjet printers are cheaper initially than laser printers. If you do not plan on printing often and as such will not need to replace ink cartridges as often, this is another benefit of inkjet printers.

The Technology Behind Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers use liquid ink stored in various cartridges to transfer color onto the page. Depending on the color needed, this ink either stains the page or drys on top. The mixing of these inks is what allows for inkjet printers to have high-quality prints with incredible color accuracy.

Most inkjet printers come with five color cartridges, including:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Cyan
  • Magenta
  • Yellow

Knowing these colors and editing photographs around them is essential for achieving great color accuracy, as it will allow the printer to print the actual colors across the entire photo.

Occasionally, high quality and price inkjet printers will include further ink cartridges, increasing the range of colors available to print in and making color accuracy even better.

The ink cartridges in inkjet printers are expensive, which can quickly rack up costs for those who print often. At their core, these cartridges use dozens of small nozzles to carefully and deliberately place ink onto paper during the printing process. This causes inkjet printers to be slightly slower than laser printers but adds to the color accuracy they have.

As the ink either dries on top or directly stains the paper, the paper itself can become saturated and fall apart. To combat this, it is important to use high-quality photo paper when printing out gallery prints from an inkjet printer.

Photographs Can Be Printed at the Highest Color Accuracy

Printing photographs with a high degree of color accuracy at high resolutions is the single most important benefit of choosing an inkjet printer. For photographers looking to sell prints or hang gallery-quality photos, an inkjet is simply the only consumer-level option.

A large reason for this is the color accuracy that inkjet printers possess. The combination of different color cartridges allows for inkjet printers to combine pigments and create a huge range of colors, printing beautiful photos.

Essentially, getting a high-quality inkjet printer will allow you to print out your photographs as they were intended. Rather than getting muddled with other colors or lost through a conversion process, an inkjet printer directly transfers colors from the digital image to the paper.

Inkjet printers can also print at high resolutions, allowing for large prints that maintain their quality. The top resolution available will change depending on the specific printer, but getting a professional level inkjet should cover all your needs. If you print at small sizes or not very often, even an introductory level inkjet printer will produce high-quality prints.

This color accuracy is essential for anyone looking to make money off of photography prints. Customers will expect the level of quality than inkjet printers provide, even if they are unaware of the differences. Additionally, matching the digital look of your photographs to what they will receive in their hands will ensure customer satisfaction and hopefully create repeat buyers.

Luckily, inkjet printers are still just as capable as laser printers at printing documents and other, non-photo prints. Regardless of how often you need to print out invoices and official documents, it is almost a guarantee that you will at some point. The downside of this is that each page will be more expensive than laser printers, as ink is more expensive than toner.

Inkjet printers are more than capable of printing out documents as well, making them a great all-around choice for those who occasionally print and want a cheaper entry level printer. Because they are cheaper to buy but more expensive to maintain, they are likely the best option for those who need a printer only occasionally. If you plan on expanding into prints in the future or simply would like the option to print out and hang your own photos, an inkjet is the way to go.

Inkjet Printers Are More Compact Than Laser Printers

Although it often falls to the wayside, it is important to consider how much space is available to house your printer. For those tight on space or who prefer smaller appliances, it is good to know that, due to the technology used, inkjet printers are almost universally smaller than laser printers.

This is largely due to the compact ink cartridges that inkjet printers use; although the technology is advanced, it does not take a lot of space to operate, unlike laser printers which need to convert toner into color.

Most of the time, this difference in size shows up through a few inches. Although it is not much, it could be the decision point about whether or not a printer fits in your space. Measure your work area to ensure that you have enough space for the printer and its supplies. Especially with inkjet printers, it is useful to have a few extra cartridges nearby, as well as different types of paper for different prints. You want the space to comfortably fit the printer and supplies while keeping enough room to push out the prints when they are done.

Despite being a minor consideration for many, it is also important to consider the aesthetics of your printer. Good looking printers are available in both inkjet and laser printers, but if you tend to prefer small appliances or prefer for the printer to be unnoticeable when not in use, it is likely best to choose an inkjet printer.

Finding Cartridges and Getting Repairs Is Easy

Due to the ubiquitous nature of inkjet printers, replacement parts can be found almost anywhere online or in retail stores. This is great and necessary, as you will need to replace the ink cartridges fairly often if you print regularly.

Inkjet printers are fairly sturdy, depending on the brand chosen, so it is unlikely that repairs will be needed. However, in the rare case that they are required, it is useful to have so many parts and models on the market, as this dramatically improves the chances of finding a local repair shop to help solve your issues.

In general, the amount of inkjet printers out there is a large boon to buying one. While not a reason to go for the purchase itself, most homes still use inkjet printers and it is the most common printer technology outside of big businesses. This has resulted in a market with plenty of information and help available for those that need it.

It is important to note the cost of replacement ink cartridges. In some cases, especially for introductory level printers, it may actually be more cost-effective to buy a new printer than replace the ink. For professional photographers looking to sell high-quality prints, this is unlikely to be the case, but the ink itself will still be an expensive money sink. Consider purchasing ink in bulk when available and cheap to cut the inherent costs of using an inkjet printer.

The Benefits of Using Laser Printers

Laser printers are an incredible value for most consumers, as they are cheaper to operate than inkjet printers, print monocolored documents faster, and are acceptable for most use in color printing.

Along with these positive attributes, it is important to note some of the negative aspects of laser printers, especially for photographers. These include:

  • Reduced color accuracy
  • Larger printers
  • Reduced color printing quality
  • Higher initial cost

Some of these negatives are directly combated against by other benefits. For instance, the higher initial cost of laser printers is offset by the much cheaper operation cost, with pages occasionally costing half as much to print.

Other negatives, however, such as color accuracy and picture quality, are difficult to overlook as a photographer. If you plan on using your printer to handle professional photography documents and minor picture updates, a laser printer will work wonderfully. However, anyone interested in printing out pictures in high-quality or for selling will be better off with an inkjet printer.

With the negatives stated, there are some definite benefits to choosing a laser printer instead. These include:

  • Printing text clearly and quickly
  • Significantly reduced printing costs
  • Longlasting materials
  • Prints in high volumes

Each of these is an incredible benefit for those who are looking to use printers for documents and text-based prints. Additionally, photographers who are not selling prints but want reference photos or proof of concepts printed out will likely be able to use a laser printer perfectly OK.

The Technology of Laser Printers

Laser printers work fundamentally differently than inkjet printers, creating the incredible fast print times and long material life they are known for.

Laser printers use toner instead of ink cartridges. Toner is a colored powder, which is then applied to the page for color or marking. The toner is applied by a laser which generates electrostatic charge, hence the name of the technology. Once the toner is applied to the paper, it is heated to bond the pigment on.

This process is much faster than the ink droplets used by inkjet printers and is much cheaper. As toner is just a powder, it is easy to store and create, rendering the expensive custom ink cartridges used in inkjet printers useless. The ease of storage and use is directly transferred to customers, making toner significantly cheaper.

This technology also makes laser printers wonderful for printing high volume items, such as manuals or brochures. Even posters, which use color, are great for laser printers, as printing high volume items through an inkjet printer will be costly and can cause issues in the machine.

This technology struggles with color accuracy, especially for those who are looking for extremely high-quality prints. Because toner is a powder, it is more difficult to mix colors together to specific amounts, resulting in the slightly-off colors seen in most laser prints.

Print Fast and Clearly with Laser Technology

Through the use of toner and laser technology, laser printers are able to print text and other single color documents incredibly quickly. In addition, these prints are highly accurate thanks to the toner application, resulting in documents that can print in half the time of inkjet printers and have increased legibility.

Due to the toner application process, documents from laser printers do not smudge or feather edges. This is greatly beneficial for those who print a significant amount of documents, as the time to print and the quality of the prints will be much better than through an inkjet printer.

Printing documents, invoices, photo proofs, or any other business applications quickly becomes a nonissue due to the speed and clarity provided by laser printers. Depending on which laser printer you choose, laser printers can print up to 100 pages per minute compared to an average of 15 pages per minute for inkjet printers.

This printing technology tends to falter with colors, although it is getting better. When different toners are used on the same page, prints can slow down and produce a lower-quality product. This is still going to be faster than an inkjet printer, but the quality is likely to be significantly worse.

In addition, many laser printers still do not offer options for color, only printing in monochrome. Once again, this is simply not viable for a photographer looking to print photos, but if you need a document printer, it is a great pickup.

Each Page Is Cheaper Using Laser Printers

Laser printers are much cheaper to operate than inkjet printers. Although the exact ratio will vary depending on the printers and ink used, it is likely to cost almost half as much to print from a laser printer instead. This is largely due to the use of toner, which does not go bad and is much cheaper to store and buy.

For those printing large volumes of pages or who can afford the initially higher budget, a laser printer is a perfect choice. They also tend to be more reliable than inkjet printers, using parts that are more durable and reliable. This directly adds to the economic benefits of using a laser printer, as they are less likely to need repair or replacement than inkjets. Even for printing in color, for photographers who do not need gallery level prints, is cheaper than printing through an inkjet.

The cost of pages being reduced is not the only economic benefit that laser printers provide. In addition to the reduced operating cost, laser printers also have a longer lifespan, with the minimum lifespan of a laser printer equaling roughly five years compared to an inkjet’s three.

The dramatic increase in durability and printing prowess of laser printers is due to their use in an office setting, where many people would theoretically be printing documents throughout the day. The technology was specifically developed to allow this and not break down, increasing the initial price while reducing the operating costs.

A laser printer is more expensive initially than inkjet printers, but if your budget allows for it and you only need medium-quality photo prints, it is likely a great option.

Laser Printers Have a Massive Paper Capacity

To support their often incredible printing speed, laser printers come with large paper capacities that result in less interaction needed with the machine. Using a laser printer, it is possible to set up fifty or more documents to print and walk away with no need to worry about the quality or running out of supplies like paper or toner.

This is most useful for photography offices, where large amounts of papers may be printed at once, but anyone can find a use for it in their workflow. Consider how printing out different photo proofs, invoices, taxes, and other business documents could be optimized by trusting that the printer always has enough paper and toner in it to do the job. This simple reduction in stress could be greatly beneficial.

However, laser printers do have one significant downside when it comes to paper; they are limited in the types of paper it can print on. Where an inkjet printer can print on normal paper, photo paper, and a host of others, laser printers need traditional paper for the technology to work. Outside of a few rare cases, it is impossible for a laser printer to work using photo paper or any other glossy surface.

Deciding Between Inkjet Printers and Laser Printers

With the information laid bare, it is still possible to wonder which printer is best for you and your needs. A direct comparison can be helpful to push toward one or the other, and truthfully both can work for most people.

To make the final decision on whether an inkjet or a laser printer is best for you, ask the following questions:

  • How often do I print?
  • What do I need to print?
  • What is my budget?

The answers to these questions will provide important information about which printer is best for you. Other considerations should be had at the beginning of the process, like considering your need for accessories such as scanners or how you will use the printer.

Consider Your Needs

The first thing to do when deciding between an inkjet or a laser printer is to consider your basic needs. As a photographer, it is important to figure out why you want to buy a printer in the first place – is it to expand into selling prints? Do you need to send invoices by mail or hand out documents to others? Another reason? Whatever the case may be, this will be your guiding light to buying the correct printer.

Both printers have pros and cons, and the perfect printer for everyone sadly does not exist. If you have a large budget, plan on printing infrequently, or care about photo quality, an inkjet printer is likely your best option. If you plan on printing mostly documents, want to save money in the long run, and will not be selling photography prints, a laser printer will work wonders for you.

The other questions listed above will help finalize and reinforce your decision but should only be considered once you know why you are buying a printer.

How Often You Print Will Help You Make a Decision

Laser printers and inkjet printers have wildly different printing capacities and lifespans, so it is important to be realistic about how often you will print when considering your purchase.

Inkjet printers are initially very cheap, meaning that people who plan on printing only on the most occasional of times can save money by going this route. However, ink cartridges can dry up and stop working, meaning that long term purchasers are likely to be disappointed. Consistent use of the printer should prevent this problem from happening and still allow you to save money if done well.

If you plan on printing often and do not need high-quality image prints, laser printers can save you significant money in the longterm. The cost of new ink cartridges for inkjet printers can quickly become prohibitively expensive, while the toner in laser printers is longlasting and cheap. If you go a long stretch without printing anything, the toner will still work fine when you come back, unlike ink cartridges which could dry up.

Most people do not print very often, although this could change if you are running a full photography business. As such, also consider what you are printing to help make a decision. If you are printing lots of photographs or high color documents, an inkjet printer will be difficult to beat. If you are mostly printing documents and records, a laser printer will provide incredible value.

Your Initial and Longterm Budget Has a Large Impact on What Printer You Grab

Buying a printer can be a large purchase that will hopefully last a long while, so it is important to create and stick to a budget. This will define a heavy amount of the work for you, as laser printers tend to be more expensive initially while getting cheaper to maintain over time, while inkjet printers work the opposite way.

It is worth considering how long you want the printer to last and how you wish to split your budget up. For instance, if you have $150 dollars to spend on a printer, that can likely get you a nice inkjet printer and possibly one ink cartridge. This money would be well spent in the beginning, but as time went on and new cartridges were required, you would not have the funds set aside for it.

However, $150 on a laser printer is a better long term investment. While the upfront cost is higher, you will not need to buy replacement cartridges or toner for a long while – and when you do, it will be much cheaper than ink.

Just because a laser printer is a better long term investment for most people does not mean it holds true for all, however. Photographers interested in selling their prints or printing their own photographs can likely recoup the cost of ink cartridges over time, and the bump in quality that an inkjet printer provides will be necessary for that line of professional photography.

Define your budget around your goals for the printer so that you not only get the best deal on paper but the best deal for your situation.

Conclusion

After you made the decision to whether a photo printer is worth it or not, you're probably wondering about which type of printer is the best option.

Inkjet printers have better color accuracy and can print on glossy photo paper due to application of wet ink. However, they are much slower than laser printers.

Laser printers have weaker color accuracy and usually can not print on photo paper due to mixing powder based toner with a laser application. However, the clarity of text and speed are unmatched.

Which one you should pick will be determined by your use case as mentioned in the article above. As an up and coming successful photographer, why not both? Each printer has strengths in different areas that you most certainly can use. If you budget can swing it, consider having one of each in your studio.

Roy Davis

Roy Davis is the founder of YourPhotoAdvisor. He is a hobbyist photographer that loves the business side of things. He blogs about IT, cybersecurity, business, and more at BestofRoy.com. Follow him on social media at Twitter | Instagram.

Recent Posts