What is the Best Budget Printer for Designers?
You have given yourself plenty of time to meet your deadline.
You have used your go-to graphic design software to complete a project, and now you need an impressive print out to submit.
That is where things can get complicated.
In the design field, the presentation is everything.
Whether you are a freelancer working from home or a veteran at a reputable firm, your visual work speaks just as loudly as your ideas.
However, it can be difficult for graphic designers to find the right printer once a project is finished – especially if you are working on a budget.
There are many considerations that you must take into account before purchasing a new printer for graphic design.
You may think that being constricted by a budget would narrow your options, but there are plenty of ways you can get affordable print work that will look flawless and professional for your next presentation.
Take a look at our recommendations for the best budget printer for designers, and you will be well on your way to assembling a five-star portfolio without breaking the bank!
1 – Assess Your Needs
The first step in choosing a printer is determining what you will need that printer to do.
If you primarily work in web design, you may only need to print out small-scale prototypes of how a client's website will look.
However, if your job focuses on broader graphic design print work, it is possible that your print out could be a working template for a large-scale advertising campaign.
No matter what type of media design you focus on, a reliable budget printer can do a lot to help make your work easier – but if you do not need all the fancy bells and whistles of a top-of-the-line printer, you can cut costs by avoiding printer models with unnecessary features.
Will you be printing standard-size pages, or do you need a large-format printer that can accommodate bigger print projects?
Think about the page yield you will need to complete your largest assignments.
Remember that a printer model can only use ink/toner cartridges that fit that model, so you will be bound by the number of pages that particular cartridge can produce (also called the page yield) before the ink/toner needs to be replaced.
Do you need all the features of a multifunction printer (MFP), like scanning, copying, and fax capabilities?
If not, you might be able to get by with a budget printer model that doesn't include extra options.
Consider your spatial limitations.
If you have a small workspace, you will not have room for a large, free-standing printer.
However, a desktop printer may not be sufficient for the type of work you intend to do.
Think about what you will need and where you can realistically set up that kind of equipment.
Look for a printer that offers a high print resolution.
Most budget printers on the market today boast a minimum resolution of 600 dots per inch (dpi), but high-end models can get a much higher resolution.
If you need better resolution, you should look for an example that prints with a higher dpi.
You will most likely need a colour printer, but if you work exclusively in a monochrome design, you may be able to purchase a printer that only takes black ink or toner.
This can help you save much money, but it does limit your printing capabilities.
2 – Establish a Budget
Before you can begin shopping around for a printer, you need to decide what you are willing to spend on this purchase.
High-end printers can be costly, yet it is no secret that they produce the type of professional-calibre images that can help you make a splash in the design world.
You will need to weigh your needs against the price of a given printer to determine whether that model is a good fit for your design work.
Determine the highest price you are willing to pay.
You do not necessarily need to spend that much when the time comes to make a purchase, but having a ceiling to your estimate will make it easier to shop around while staying within your budget.
Expect to spend anywhere from £50 to £1,000, depending on the size, resolution, and capabilities of the best printer model you choose.
You can get an excellent workhorse printer for designers for under £100, but if you need high-resolution work from a large-format printer, you will need to spend considerably more.
Find out whether you or your company can write off some or all of the printer's cost (or its ink/toner) as a business expense.
The rules for tax write-offs will vary depending on where you live and conduct business, so talk to a tax service specialist about what you can and can't deduct.
3 – Choose Between an Inkjet Printer And A Laser Printer
The two most common printer types are inkjet and laser.
Inkjet printers primarily spray a fine mist of liquid ink onto the page, while laser printers build up a static electric charge that forces toner (which is a powdered form of ink) to stick to the page in a pattern that replicates your design.
There are many advantages to each type of printer, and knowing which one is right for you will require you to think even more critically about your needs and what you are willing to spend.
Toner is often seen as more cost-effective than ink.
Most ink cartridges offer a page yield of several hundred printed pages, while toner cartridges can print anywhere from 1,000 pages to 25,000 pages, depending on your cartridge model.
Inkjet printers typically offer higher-quality images than laser printers, though some recent laser device models are challenging that dictum.
Many people shy away from laser printers because they used to be quite expensive, but over the past few years they have also come down in price while improving in print quality.
Even though laser printers have advanced dramatically, many critics argue that they still cannot match the print quality of a high-end inkjet printer.
Images and graphic design work are where inkjet printers excel.
However, if a laser printer makes more sense for your creative and professional needs, you will need to make that decision for yourself.
What materials will you be printing on?
If you need to print on textiles other than paper, you will probably be better off getting an inkjet printer.
Laser printers heat up the page during the printing process, so printing on other surfaces like fabric could be risky.
4 – Do Your Research and Shop Around
The hardest aspect of buying a new printer is looking at specific printer models and comparing prices.
Once you have considered your needs, chosen a budget, and settled on whether to get an inkjet or laser printer, you will have a much better idea of what your options are.
Depending on your needs, you should expect to pay anywhere from under a hundred pounds to over a thousand pounds.
Large-format printers are expensive, though even a high-end standard size inkjet or laser printer can get very costly.
However, if you shop around, you should be able to find an inkjet or laser device that meets your needs while working within your budget.
HP, Epson, and Canon lead the way when it comes to wide-format colour printers.
You can find affordable, large-format desktop printers like the Epson SureColour P400 for as little as £415.47 ($539.99 USD) or free-standing printers like the HP DesignJet T520 ePrinter starting at £952.22 ($1,237.60 USD).
Standard inkjet printers are much more affordable, lighter, and more compact than wide-format units.
These printers typically fit on your desktop, which is more convenient if you are short on space.
If you are looking for a high-quality desktop inkjet device, you can pick up a Brother MFC-J470DW inkjet printer for the affordable price of £108 ($83.10 USD) or a Canon PIXMA MG5620 for as low as £68.47 ($88.99 USD).
A quality colour laser printer will run a little higher, but not by much. For example, a new Brother HL-3140CW laser printer starts at just £153.87 ($199.99 USD).
However, some laser printers do run a bit higher, depending on their features.
A higher-end laser printer that's still relatively affordable would be the Brother HL-L8360CDW printer, which starts at £307.76 ($399.99 USD).
Your best bet when comparing printers by cost and quality would be to check out a reliable printer buying guide.
Stick with reputable publications like PCMag, which puts out an annual list of the best budget printers of the year.
Look for refurbished printers.
These are used printers that have been repaired or even rebuilt by professionals.
A refurbished printer that's been worked on by a skilled repair person can produce the same calibre work as a brand-new printer while potentially saving you much money.
However, you should only buy from reputable sellers.
5 – Lower Your Printing Expenses With Affordable Ink/Toner
Once you have paid for your printer, you may think your financial concerns are settled.
However, you will still need to purchase ink or toner cartridges for your printer.
Ink/toner can get very expensive, as many printer brands sell their inkjet or laser devices for a low cost knowing that consumers will spend hundreds of pounds every year on ink and toner cartridges.
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You do not want to get cheap ink since there's always a risk that you will end up with a defective product or poor print results.
There are still ways you can lower your costs on printer ink without losing any print quality in your work.
Consider compatible and remanufactured ink/toner cartridges.
Compatible cartridges are brand-new, “generic” products that are not made by the original brand, but they fit into printers and perform just like an original cartridge would.
Remanufactured cartridges (also called “re-engineered”) are used cartridges that have been rebuilt with new components while recycling the plastic shell of an original brand cartridge.
Compatible/remanufactured printer cartridges can help you save much money – as much as 85% of the original brand's retail price!
Over the course of a year, the savings you will get from using compatible or remanufactured cartridges could easily pay for your printer!
High-quality compatible and remanufactured cartridges deliver the same page yield, shelf life, and overall print quality that you would get with original brand cartridges.
You will get the same performance and print results that you would get from original brand products while lowering your print expenses!
When shopping for affordably-priced ink and toner, make sure the business you choose offers a generous warranty policy.
Many retailers offer a one-year warranty on printer cartridges.
It is important to get an extended warranty because you may not use a given ink cartridge for several months until that colour runs low.
Check how long a retailer has been in business before purchasing compatible or remanufactured printer cartridges from them.
Look for companies that have been around for several years, and check the online reviews that other customers have left, so you will know what kind of customer experience to expect.
There isn't one single, magical printer model that will be perfect for everyone, so go with the printer that meets your needs.
If you are a freelance graphic designer in need of a quality printer that will fit on your desk at home, you will have the best luck with a compact desktop inkjet printer.
If you need a large-format printer and you have the room (and the money) in your office to accommodate one, check out affordable models from HP, Canon, and Epson.
Moreover, no matter what type of printer brand or model you favour, always shop around for the best deals on printers and the lowest prices on ink and toner.
Author Bio: Brian Matthew Pietrus is a writer and editor who lives in Los Angeles. He’s worked in e-commerce as the Director of Content Marketing for 1ink.com since September 2016, during which time he’s helped boost web traffic and improve site performance. You can read more of his work at https://www.brianpietrus.com.