The Professional Quilter’s High Tech columnist Gloria Hansen is often asked for recommendations when someone’s printer dies. Questions range from what printer to buy to print on fabric sheets to how much to spend to whether or not third party inks are OK. For most people her recommendation is to purchase an inkjet printer. Here’s an excerpt from her recent article in The Professional Quilter:
Today’s inkjet printers are used for everything from everyday text to gallery quality photographs and artwork. Companies such as Hewlett Packard, Epson, Canon, Kodak and others have a variety of printer models available for you to select from. To narrow down your search, the three key questions to answer are how much money you want to spend, how wide you want to print and what type of ink you want to use.
The price of the printer will depend on the size it is capable of printing, the functions it has and the type of ink it uses. Important to know is that if a printer is using one type of ink set and another model from the same manufacturer is using the same ink set but is more expensive, the print should be identical. The difference in price is generally due to printer capabilities, such as the print speed and inclusion of other “multi-functions” (also called all-in-ones), like scanning or faxing, and wi-fi or bluetooth options, which give you the ability to print wirelessly. Some printers allow you to print on CDs or DVDs, include built-in media card readers and provide options for borderless printing. Thus, if your budget is limited, you can get the print quality you want by focusing on the ink set the printer uses rather than the extras it has. Be sure to check out the manufacturer’s website. Often you can find excellent prices on refurbished printers or models that are about to be discontinued. Other options are checking out Craig’s List and eBay for used models.
If you need a printer capable of printing a wider format, models range from 13 to 44 inches (some higher still); some can print at a length as long as your computer can handle by way of the operating system and memory. The wider the printer width, the more expensive the printer. Again, there are good deals to be found in the refurbished or used category. When buying a used wide-format printer, ask to see a printout of the “printer status and parts life.” Instructions for this can be found in the user’s manual. If your seller no longer has the manual, you can find one online. Then make your decision based on how used the printer is. The more worn down the parts, the more likely you’ll need to pay for replacement parts and the less you should pay for the printer.
Another important factor is the type of ink the printer is designed to use. There are two types of inkjet ink: dye-based and pigment-based. Some printers use a combination of both – generally a pigment black and color dye-based color. At one time, dye-based inks were preferred for printing photographs because of the broader range of colors available. This is no longer the case.
Understanding what you’re looking for by way of price, print size and ink will give you the information you need to narrow your search and find a printer that’s right for you.
The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. This article was excerpted from The Professional Quilter, the IAPQ membership journal. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.