Having a printables shop, the question I’m asked the most often is: what printer do you use? I’m also asked where to have files printed if you don’t own a printer. Read on as I answer these questions in this post 🙂
How to choose a printer
There are a few things you should ask yourself before you buy a printer:
- What do you need to print?
- Inkjet versus laser?
- Where is your printer going to ‘live’ in your workspace?
- What brand (and model)?
- What do you want to use it for?
- What price range?
- Where can you buy the inks from?
What do you need to print?
- Are you only occasionally printing at home?
- Printing a lot of stuff for your business?
- Which do you print more often: black and white or color?
- What type of paper are you printing on? Normal copy paper, cardstock, photo paper, label paper
- What size do you typically print on? Full page/normal copy paper size, half page size, 6 x 4 inch photo size?
- Do you need to print larger than standard page size? I.e. A3 page size
Laser versus Inkjet Printers
Laser printers are the better option if you’re going to be printing a LOT or large quantities of the same sheet for example, if you’re a teacher. Or if you’ve purchased some of the editable binder covers from my shop and are going to be printing a lot of the lined paper template I’ve included to make a lot of notebooks (for your friends and family for Christmas gifts, for example – no commercial use is allowed for any of my designs!)
Laser printers print much faster than ink-jet. They’re the large photocopies you see in the office at day job or a school are laser printers. If you chose to go with a laser printer, these typically have huge ink cartridges (but they last a long time). This is why they’re ideal for frequent printing, but if you’re just doing some ‘hobby’ printing at home every now and then, it may not be the best solution as the ink can dry out if left un-used. The large ink cartridges also require a lot of room to store them.
Inkjet printers are better for photo printing. I personally prefer inkjet printer as I do a fair bit of color printing for my planner stickers (which I print onto glossy sticker paper that is basically photo paper but with a sticky backing), planner printables, recipe binder printables etc.
If you’re interested in more tutorials about making your own printables, I have an entire ecourse filled with tutorials on How to Make Printables in Photoshop.
Where is your printer going to ‘live’ in your workspace?
Before you buy a printer, the ‘spot’ in your workspace where your printer is going to live is super important. Will you place it on your desk beside your computer, on a shelf nearby (I keep mine on the bottom shelf of a bookcase I have next to my desk), underneath the desk, on a wheelable cart? Remember that the further away the printer is, the more extension cords you’re going to need, unless you purchase a wireless printer.
Laser printers are typically larger than inkjet printers, so if you’re short on space, keep that in mind. Lower-end printer models are sometimes larger and clunckier than the more expensive models, and wide format printers (that can print larger than normal page size) will obviously need more room.
Ok, so now that you’ve decided where you’re printer is going to live and how much room you have for it, it’s time to choose a printer model:
Which Printer Model?
Some popular printer models:
- Canon (this is the brand of printer I use)
I have only ever used and highly recommend Canon printers (I am not being compensated to say this). I have known people who’ve had HP printers in the past and have heard nothing but had things about them (also also about HP laptops!) The ink cartridges seem to be more expensive yet the print quality no better than Canon. This is based on my own opinion, if anyone reading this has a HP printer and disagrees, feel free to chime in, in the comments.
When you’ve narrowed it down to what brand of printer you want, some things to look for when choosing a printer model:
- How fast do you need to print? Does it matter if it takes a minute for a page to print, or do you need stuff to print very quickly? Check the ppm (pages print per minute number)
- Does it matter if the print quality is ok but not brilliant, or do you want the colors to POP on the page?
- Read reviews – some good sites are cnet and Amazon (or just a Google search)
- Price versus features
- Printer functions
- Ink cartridges
I have a printables business and no I do not own a $1,000 super duper printer (like people seem to think I do!) I print my printables at home using a normal inkjet home printer (the same one some of my customers most likely have!)
My current printer cost about $180 brand new when I bought it 2 years ago (it’s now down to $150). It is still working perfectly and I’ve had no problems with it. I live in Australia where everything seems to be more expensive than the USA so a good quality home printer probably only costs about $100 over there.
Amazon is a good place to find a printer, as they also have lots of reviews to help you choose which printer suits your needs.
One thing I want to say is this: don’t skimp. Printers last a couple of years and there’s usually only a $10 – $20 price difference between a low-end model and a middle-quality model. It baffles me when customer say they don’t own a printer It’s 2016! It’s not like printers are expensive (unless you want to purchase a laser printer) – they are an absolute bargain and last for years. They’re also a tax deductible expenses if you’re an Etsy seller, online business owner, work from home, are a blogger etc. The cost of paying for a print company is expensive. I did a comparison of DIY versus printed planners in this blog post.
What functions are important to you?
While features are important, just because a printer has a lot of them doesn’t mean you actually need or will use all of them. If you never print on A3, or just think it might just be ‘a nice feature to have’ then it’s not worth the money. I do occasionally do large size printing for wall calendars such as 16 x 20″ and 11 x 17″ size to go on a wall, but I don’t switch this up very often, so I don’t mind paying a few dollars to have this printing done at my local office supply store (Officeworks), especially if it means I can have a normal home printer that’s cheaper, smaller, and I don’t need to store poster size paper to print on. My laminating machine is also A4 size so I’d need to take any large-format printing to an office supply store if I wanted to have it laminated anyway.
These are the printer features that matter to me the most and what I looked for when buying a printer (you’re requirements may be different):
All of my printable planner pages have a chevron pattern that extends right to the edge of the page, the borderless or ‘no bleed’ function allows you to choose whether you want your printer to automatically add an approx quarter inch white border around all sides of the page. For whatever reason, this is the default setting for printers. if you purchase a lower-end printer model (i.e. cheap), it probably won’t have this printer feature.
Duplex/2 sided printing
Like with the borderless printing function, low-end (cheap) printer models probably won’t have the option to select duplex printing from the printer menu. Instead, you’ll have to manually do duplexs printing. I.e. print half of the document (such as all of the odd number of a document), then turn the pages over and be careful about feeding the paper back into the printer (printers usually require you to to turn the pages around 180 degrees), and then choose to print all the even page numbers of the document. You need to be very careful about the page order i.e. you might end up with page 2 printing on the last page you printed which could be page 99. For this reason I never do manual duplex printing. It’s totally worth spending an extra $20 or $50 on a better quality printer than can do this automatically because if you can’t get the pages lined up correctly, you’re going to waste a lot of ink and paper and more importantly, time, trying to figure out how to do duplex printing manually.
Custom Page Size
Just because a printable is sized at full page size, doesn’t mean you can’t use it in a half size planner, with your Erin Condren Life Planner, personal planner size or print at any size you like! I shared how in this blog post full of printing tips.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of printing at large than standard page size e.g. A3, yo’ll need to purchase a wide format printer. These are more expensive and take up more room, so I’d only recommend them if you’re going to be doing a LOT of large page size printing. To have my enlarged calendars such as my 16 x 20″ annual calendar (which is a available as a free download via this blog post), I took it to my local office supply store (Officeworks) and had it printed as a posted for about $3 (black and white), full color is usually about $5 at poster size.
If you want to print your own photos, you’ll need to make sure the printer has this size tray, or an adjustable tray to accommodate photo size (6 x 4″ or 5 x 7″).
Want to consult your printer manual but can’t remember where you put it or you threw it out? See this website to view free printer manuals for any type of printer.
What you see on screen can translate differently depending on your printer. Colors won’t print as nicely if you have a lower-end printer model versus a high end, and if one or more ink cartridges are running low. Colors can also turn out different depending on what type of material you’re printing onto – colors POP when printing onto label paper (especially glossy) and cardstock, as they’re thicker than normal copy paper.
For best print quality results, I recommend printers that use multiple ink cartridges (mine takes 5) rather then just 2 ink cartridges – one for color and one for black and white printer. My old printer only required 2 ink cartridges and the color print quality was crap! Because there was only one color ink cartridge, the yellow part of the color cartridge might run out but blue component is still printing fine. So I’d avoid printing in certain colors, or print black and white using color ink to use up the cartridge (even though the color ink cartridges are more expensive than black). it might not sound like it would matter that much, but if one color is running low, it can ruin all of the other colors on a design, or just print that color element of the design blank i.e. ruin the entire design. So I was replacing half empty ink tanks = a lot of wasted money!
How much are ink cartridges and where can you buy them from?
I purchase mine inexpensively from eBay for about $1.50 to $2 for each of the 5 ink cartridges my printer requires (including shipping) – much cheaper than the $25 PER ink cartridge if I were to buy the genuine ones from a retail store! When I switched to non-genuine ink cartridges I didn’t notice any difference in print quality, nor did I have any issues with my printer from using them.
Ink cartridges for inkjet printers are can easily found in retail stores, compared to laser ink cartridges which you’ll probably need to order online. If you can’t get to a retail shop or can’t find ink cartridges for your printer cheaply on eBay, online stores such as InkStation (Australia only) are usually much cheaper than retail stores (even when you add in shipping costs).
I don’t recommend having used ink cartridges refilled. They’re so cheap to just buy new, and it saves so much hassle taking them to an ink place that will refill them. A few years ago I used to get ink cartridges refilled and it was only a few dollars cheaper than just buying brand new,. The refilled ink printer quality was nowhere near as good as buying new and they never lasted long before running out of ink. And if I had a few refilled at once, the last ones I used were almost always dried out.
If you purchase an older model printer, or one that’s super cheap – be wary as the ink is usually super expensive to compensate for the low cost of the printer. So if you purchase a $40 printer, it’s probably only going to have 2 ink cartridges: color and black ink. I do not recommend purchasing these types of printers. Why? Because the color doesn’t print as well (as there’s only one color ink cartridge). It’s better to spend the extra $50 (sometimes only $20) and get a better quality printer model that has multiple ink cartridges for color (typically separate cartridges for cyan, magenta and yellow).
Never buy ink cartridges from a supermarket – they charge a hefty premium for the convenience and their longer opening hours.
Where are you going to buy your printer from?
I live in Australia and buy all my technology products (printers, laptops, external hard-drives, computer mouse etc.) from JB Hi-Fi (always ask them what their best price is and don’t be afraid to haggle). I try to purchase multiple things at once to negotiate a better discount (you can never have to many USB’s and backup hard-drives!) You can also find printers expensively online via Amazon.
What Printer do I use?
I use, have only ever used and highly recommend Canon printers.
If I was going to try a different brand, I’ve read good things about Brother printers.
What if I don’t want to buy a printer?
Seriously?! If you’re going to be printing a lot, you need to buy a printer. They’re so cheap and affordable these days! But if you are totally against buying a printer or don’t think you need one (although everyone needs a printer), you can have files printed through an online printer (most will print and ship straight to your door) or at an office supply store. Some options:
Help – I’ve purchased a printer and it’s not printing how I want it to print?!
See detailed step-by step printing tips in this post for planner printables and this post for printable planner stickers (includes a video tutorial). If you’re stuck, you can find your printer manual free online from this website.
- How to make a personalised Erin Condren Planner Cover
- Which is Cheaper: DIY Printable Planners or Pre-Printed & Assembled Planners?
- How to make use of blank pages in your planner
- Which planner stickers are right for you?
- Planner Organization: How to organize planner stickers
- How to make printable labels in Photoshop
I am not affiliated with Canon or any printer company mentioned in this post. I was not compensated for writing this post and all opinions are my own.