Colour printers have specific advantages in particular cases. They can produce documents with greater visual impact which have become standard in the corporate environment nowadays.
In order to determine if your company needs a colour printer, it is worth considering how many pages are printed every day, how often there are photos and other graphics on those pages and what is the company’s monthly printing budget. That budget should include the total cost of ownership, accounting for the purchase price of the printer and the monthly toner replenishment costs. When you have reviewed these points you are on the right way to making a well informed decision on a colour printer.
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Colour Printer Uses
Like with photocopiers, businesses choose a colour printer over a black & white one mainly when they have a sufficiently frequent need to output colour content.
For the best results with business materials such as brochures, business cards, graphics, reports etc. one must consider a colour printer. The opportunity to print colour sales proposals and other important client-related materials on the spot is a valuable thing to have.
Most colour printers can handle printing the photos in a document with good enough quality. For perfect results, however, one must consider the printing technology when purchasing the machine.
Laser vs. Inkjet Printing Technology
The printing technology of the printer should be considered according to the majority of documents your business prints. If you print predominantly text but would like to have the option to print colour once in a while, a laser print head is what you should be looking for. On the other hand, if printing photos is going to be the primary use, an inkjet print head is the most appropriate choice because of the greater quality of colour, fidelity and luminosity of the image.
Both printing technologies have their pros and cons in terms of speed and price per page. These are the two basic metrics to consider when comparing printers. Even with advancements in technology blurring the lines between the two, one can still expect higher speed, text quality and cost out of laser printers and lower speed, cost and higher quality photos out of inkjets.
It is very hard to generalize though and specific models must be looked at individually. Laser printers usually provide a crisp print, but the models at the lower-end of the spectrum may produce slightly blurry text. Inkjets are the go-to printers for high quality photo printing, but are considerably slower and even more so when printing more complex documents, that will also cost more than the standard price per page (which is based on standardised industry measures).
Colour Printer Prices
The most expensive printers are the large format ones, capable of producing big scale architectural blueprints and designs, graphic displays, and other illustrations at up to 3.2 m width. A3 printers that are able to output colour are also significantly more expensive than regular A4 colour printers.
The laser colour printers for general office use can also be relatively expensive, depending on their functionalities like scanning, fax and copying capabilities all in a wireless machine with multiple trays and cassettes for different paper sizes.
The inkjet printers that connect to a single personal computer are the budget option that people choose for home use. They are not suitable for office use due to their limited capabilities and work load restrictions.
To have a realistic idea of the total price of ownership of a colour printer, one must add the running costs to the initial price of purchase.
Running costs are mainly the price of ink cartridges. As a rule of thumb, printers that are sold cheap will cost quite a bit in the long run due to their expensive ink refills. Naturally, the more expensive printers will cost less overall because they are more durable and use less expensive ink. That is why it is very important to think of buying a printer as an investment and not a short-term solution.
Colour Printer Variations
Technology, speed and costs are not the only important points to consider. Colour printers can be divided further by the number of colours they provide as well as the paper sizes and weights they can handle.
Four-, Six- or Eight-Colour Printers
The most standard variant of colour printers are the four-colour ones. They use the subtractive colour system CMYK, which stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black). They blend these four colours to produce the entire spectrum of colours and apply them in tiny dots, thus creating the visual impression of a colour mix.
Printers with the sole purpose of producing professional graphic art prints may offer several additional inks. For example, the six and eight ink machines often replace the standard black with a “photo black” or “matte black” and add alternative tints such as grey, red, orange and green. The orange tint allows for skin tones to be more accurately represented on paper while the grey is used for the half-tones in b&w prints.
There is another thing to consider regarding ink and cartridges. It is advisable to avoid printers that use a single tri-colour cartridge because of known issues that force the user to replace the cartridge when just one of the colours runs out. Printers that use separate cartridges allow for the replacement of only the one that has been depleted.
Spot- vs. Four Colour Printing
The two main printing processes are 4 colour (CMYK) and spot colour printing.
In digital printing (as opposed to methods used in print production facilities) the machines use the 4 colour method.
As you can see in the picture, through the combination of cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks, the colour printers recreate the digital image on paper. This method allows for a near perfect replication because the subtractive colour system covers all tints of the spectrum. When you create digital content, however, you must remember to use the CMYK system in your design, as opposed to the RGB (red, green, blue), which is only used for documents meant for digital purposes. Creating content in RGB and then printing it, will cause the hard copy to be significantly different from the original.
Choice of Paper
There are two main types of paper for colour printing, namely coated and uncoated.
Coated paper is smoother, whiter and glossier. There are different types of finishes for coated paper and those are matte, silk and gloss. Because of these finishes, the ink sits on top of the coating and looks brighter and more vivid than on uncoated. This type of paper is the go-to choice for projects that include lots of imagery.
Uncoated paper has a rougher texture, is less white and absorbs ink much more readily. This type of paper may be more suitable for green companies trying to promote their sustainable image, however it is worth researching the cost of both kinds, as sometimes uncoated paper may cost more than its counterpart.