Printers have been around for decades. Through a range of different methods, they allow the digital information in your computer (or phone) to be transformed into physical marks on a piece of paper.
There’s always been a big difference between the sorts of print you can produce in your own home and the sort of glossy, impressive results you might get from a specialist printing service. But that gap is now closing, with home-printers now available which can rival the real thing.
What’s a photo printer?
Start shopping for a printer today and you’ll find lots of brands claiming to have produced ‘photo’ printers. But what exactly does that mean?
Photo printers tend to fall into two categories. There are large devices aimed at those serious about photography, and there are smaller ones which will spit out a small photo after receiving one from your smartphone. The latter are designed to give you that nostalgic polaroid feel – but in order to do so they make a few compromises on quality.
In every case, under the hood, the printing process appears quite similar to the standard ink-based process that’s been around forever: the paper is blasted with dots of cyan, yellow and magenta ink – one per pixel.
Some photo printers will come with extra cartridges. There will be one for yellow, cyan, magenta and black. But take inside, say, an Epson SureColor P400, and you’ll also find cartidges for red, orange, a gloss black to match the matte one, and a special clear coat called the ‘gloss optimiser’, which is basically there to ensure an even sheen across the whole image.
Quite a few printers are capable of printing right up to the edge of the paper. This feature doesn’t tend to be activated as standard, however, for the simple reason that the results can vary so wildly. Investing a little extra will get you borderless printing at up to 13 by 19 inches – which tends to be an upper limit for consumer photo-printing.
Can I use a photo printer for documents?
Just as it might be convenient to do the shopping in the Lamborghini, just because it’s available, you might also find yourself occasionally printing boarding passes and application forms on your photo printer. Doing so can be a bit of a pain, especially if you’re having to swap glossy paper for the matte stuff, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
Are they Worth It?
One thing to consider before making a purchase like this is the amount of mileage you’re going to be getting from it. High-quality photo-printers don’t tend to be cheap, and thus you’ll need to be doing a lot of printing to justify the cost. It’s also worth taking into account the cost of the cartridges – bearing in mind that more specialised cartridges will almost always cost more money.
Professional photographers, enthusiasts, and those who simply fancy a new toy, might look at the feature list and consider a printer of this sort a worthwhile investment. If you’ve just got a few photos from a special occasion that you’d like given the glossy treatment, then we’d suggest going for a one-off run at a specialist printer outlet.