The best budget printer for designers?

The best budget printer for designers?

What is the best budget printer for graphic designers? That’s the question I’ve looked into with this post, since Google itself doesn’t seem to have a clear answer (to this albeit vague question). There are so many budget printer options out there, that you have to narrow the field by picking out the main features you require. In my case, the key feature I wanted was the ability to print high-quality photos in A3. My second ‘requirement’ was separate ink cartridges for CMYK, that included a lot of black (K). I had looked into other aspects such as a built-in scanner and wifi capabilities, but that introduced problems, mainly pushing the price up and many not having an A3 glass plate – several required scanning the image in two halves to be later stitched together to form one large image. Not the best option.

In terms of a ‘budget’, I didn’t want to spend more than £250. Figuring it would be used regularly and hopefully last a couple of years, that seems like a good investment. It would also allow me to make prints of illustrations that could be sold in my shop, essentially helping recoup the initial price. If I sell a lot, I may do another post entitled “What is the best printer in the world (under £100,000,000) for graphic designers?” We’ll see how that pans out.




Cutting to the chase, I ended up going for the Canon Pixma iX6550 from Amazon. At around £160 it was well within budget and had the main features I was looking for. It also looks good, it’s almost Apple-esque in design.

Installing and setting it up was fairly straightforward. My main complaint was that there was no USB cable included, effectively making it impossible to connect to a computer since it has no networking. This lack of a cable was not mentioned anywhere, ironically the manual states that you should “now connect the USB cable to the port on the right”. Nevertheless, stealing a cable from another printer, we were up and running.



It may be the best budget printer, but what about the ink?


It contains five separate ink cartridges (Black, Magenta, Cyan, Photoblack? and Yellow). They are incredibly easy to install and replace, with new ones being around £10-£15 for the chipped five-pack. Reasonable.

After installing drivers and updating for Mac 10.7 Lion (with which it works perfectly) I was good to go. Leaving out the default included software for printing seemed fine for me since everything would be done through Photoshop’s print dialog boxes, where there would be more control. My test prints consisted of an A4 test page on cheap stock, an A4 illustration on Ilford Galerie 240g/m² classic pearl paper, an A3 illustration on 220g/m² matte canvas and a 6’x4” photograph on Canon’s own “Photo Paper Plus Glossy II” paper. Everything came out looking great, the borderless 6’x”4 looks amazing with deep reds and rich blacks. Speed isn’t a concern for printing as I feel the quality is worth the wait in a slower print time. In saying that, the Canon Pixma prints at a very reasonable speed. The A3 with high settings took no more than 30 seconds, but felt like no time since I was saving the image and closing Photoshop.

Reviews on several sites state that this printer excels in colour graphics and photo printing, and I would agree – it’s pretty amazing for the price.

Amazon had the best prices by far and the free postage sweetened the deal. It may be worth mentioning that having ordered it around 3pm on a Friday, it was up and running by the same time the next day! I would happily recommend this printer for both designers and the home-office user. Large offices may find the lack of network capabilities may be problematic, but a USB connection works fine for me – just remember to buy one on eBay or something as it doesn’t come included.



The Canon Pixma ix6550 Closed lid and paper tray – “slick”


I apologise if this post title is a little disingenuous. I have had no experience using the other budget printers on the market with similar to features to the one I chose. I do still maintain that this is the best affordable printer to buy if you want to print high-quality A3 photographs and graphics, for less than £200 – here! If I am wrong I would love to get your feedback or comments below – what do you feel is the best budget printer for graphic designers?


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23 Comments on "The best budget printer for designers?"

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[…] I use the Canon Pixma iX6550 for all my printing needs recently, which I talked about in a previous post found here: […]

Did you print anything out with type form say illustrator or Indesign – does it handle postscript files? I have an epson printer great quality images but not so good from postscript programmes.

Hello Jill. I’ve printed an .EPS from illustrator with no issues but nothing yet from InDesign. Looking on Google I didn’t come across anyone with postscript issues so I can only assume it works fine.


Hi Stuart, just wondering how well it copes with printed text? I’ve read a couple of reviews not rating it too well for text. Just wondering what your thoughts are.


Thanks so much for that 🙂 really appreciated


I have a similar printer and would appreciate the settings for printing PRO Platinum PT 101 in my quest for optimum photographic print quality



I’m a design student and I’m looking for a printer to have a home and avoid spending so much at print shops and even at the printers at uni.

Although this is a nice review, because I rarely ever print on high gloss paper, I was wondering if this would be the right option for me? The print quality and the cheap cartridges seem to be a great advantage, but since I usually print on matte paper, do you think I should for something else?

Thanks a lot,


Hi Stuart, thanks for your wonderful post..I ‘ve just ordered a canon ix 6550 🙂 and your experience with it would be very valuable: 1.The inks you are using – are the original Canon inks, or do you use compatible inks? I want to use the printer to produce fine art prints, and I was wondering whether you found that there is really a difference in quality and ‘archivability’ as a result of using ‘genuine’ vs. compatible inks. 2. I have noticed there is a grey ink cartridge for ix 6550 – have you ever used it and do you… Read more »
Sorry to contradict but using unofficial inks can have adverse results! Both with the function of your printer and the longevity of your prints. Stuart is correct in saying that paper stock has a big impact on archive quality. However using unofficial inks on good stock can be likened to properly preparing a wall for painting then slapping on kids poster paint and expecting it not the fade/discolour/peel etc. (not quite the same but you get the idea). Obviously unofficial inks will vary in quality from supplier to supplier but if you’re planning on selling the work you produce and… Read more »

thank you for your review, this helps a lot.
i’m reading great reviews about this, and the price on amazon is pretty great!


Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to share this Stuart. Great to read such a detailed review but most helpfully from the perspective of a designer, which is, as you say, hard to find. Much appreciated, cheers!

Angus Whitton

Very good review!

The only thing I would change would be the title

“The best budget printer for designers?”

I’m sure that many non-designers would find both your article and the printer very useful.
More and more of us are using our own pictures (in printed format) as sales aids, window displays e.t.c., and a DIY solution soon works out cheaper than buying via internet or a high street outlet, especially at the price you’ve illustrated.

It’s also good to know that the ink cost is not extortionate!