Have a hard drive that’s overflowing with family photos? Or a smartphone that’s constantly giving you “Low Storage” warnings because you have so many pictures? You definitely aren’t alone. Digital photography allows us to capture more memories than ever before possible, and, with our smartphones constantly at our sides, we are always snapping pictures.
If you want to take all of those images from the digital realm and turn them into tangible, professional-quality prints, you have a few options.
You could order prints online and have them shipped to your house, or you could go to your local Target or Walmart and use one of their handy kiosks to print your pictures. The downside? Using these services can get pretty expensive when you need multiple prints. It’s also inconvenient.
When you want to print your photos in the most convenient and cost-effective way, investing in your own photo printer may be the way to go. Photo printers have come a long way over the last decade or so, and technology that was once only available on the commercial level can now be found in machines designed for consumers.
Amazing photo printers come in every shape and size, and for users at all levels of skill and experience. From portable devices you can take with you to print pictures on the go, to near-professional-grade equipment that’s suitable for professional-level photographers, there are options for every need (and every budget).
We compared several models in search of the best all-around photo printer for personal use. We factored in things like speed, print quality, and features like wireless printing capabilities to determine a winner.
Which printer do we think is best?
Well, that depends.
There are a lot of photo printers on the market, and finding just one that reigns supreme over all the others is impossible. We have, however, found the best options in certain categories. Whether you are looking for the best deal or the most powerful device for your printing needs, we’ve got you covered.
Best Budget-Friendly Photo Printer: HP Envy 5055
If you want to print breathtaking photos without breaking the bank, check out the HP Envy 5055. Priced at under $50, this all-in-one photo printer produces surprising beautiful images for its low cost. It features the HP Smart app, which allows you to easily set up your printer, scan documents, and print from social media or mobile devices in just seconds.
It handles a wide range of paper sizes, including letter, legal, 4 x 6 inch, 5 x 7 inch, and 8 x 10 inch, so printing standard size photos and documents is easy. If you do a lot of printing, high-yield cartridges are available.
A small touchscreen allows you to print, copy, scan, and even preview photos prior to printing. While it certainly isn’t the fastest printer on the market, it breezes through up to seven pages per minute in color and ten pages per minute in black and white, making it sufficiently speedy for many home users. Dual-band Wi-Fi helps ensure a steady wireless connection, and its Energy Star qualification means it won’t drive up your electric bill.
Since it is an all-in-one device, the HP Envy 5055 allows you to tackle a wide variety of tasks without spending a lot of money. If you want a lot of functionality for a little price, this printer is the way to go.
Best Instant Photo Printer: Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2
If you are feeling nostalgic for your old Polaroid camera, you’ll love the Instax Share SP-2 from Fujifilm. This portable device prints on the same Instax film that is used by the company’s popular Instax camera, and it effectively bridges the gap between digital and analog photography. With the Instax Share app, you can create prints from your Android or iOS device in about 10 seconds, but, of course, it takes a few seconds for the image to show up.
The app allows you to add text or graphics to a photo before printing, and the printed images come out vibrant and colorful. The app also supports printing directly from Facebook or Instagram and select Fujifilm cameras. If you want to print photos that are slightly larger than the ones produced by the SP-2, try the SP-3, which uses the same technology but prints on Fujifilm’s square format film.
Best Multifunction Photo Printer: Canon Pixma TS9020
When you want versatility, you need a multifunction printer. From tax returns to homework assignments, your home printer probably spits out a lot more than just photographs. If you are in the market for a device that does it all (and does it all really well), try the Canon Pixma TS9020.
The TS9020 allows you to print over Wi-Fi, USB, NFC, and cloud-based services and is compatible with Canon’s Print app for Android and iOS. It also has a memory card slot that allows you to print directly from a memory card. Thanks to the device’s large, 5-inch touchscreen, navigation is a breeze. The touchscreen is intuitive and just as easy to use as your smartphone.
With six separate color ink tanks, the Pixma TS9020 delivers exceptional results. It prints on just about any type of paper imaginable, and you can even use it to print directly on optical discs. Photos printed using this device are sharp, vibrant, and clear. Documents print nicely as well, so this is a great all-around printer for home use.
Best Wide-Format Photo Printer: Epson Expression HD XP-15000
If you are a photo enthusiast and need to make gallery-quality prints, you need a wide-format printer like the Epson Expression HD XP-15000. While most wide-format photo printers on the market will set you back four digits, the XP-15000 comes in at just over $300, making it a much more affordable option.
This wireless printer can handle borderless prints measuring up to 13 x 19 inches and has a six-color ink system to ensure maximum print quality. In addition to the standard cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks, it also uses red and gray inks for professional-grade printing. Epson’s Claria Photo HD Inks produce amazing skin tones and a smooth gradation to create beautiful high-quality photographs for display or sale.
The XP-15000 can be connected either wirelessly or via USB, and it also supports AirPrint and Google Cloud Print.
Choosing the Photo Printer that Best Suits Your Needs
When shopping for a photo printer, you clearly have a lot of options. From palm-sized devices that you can take with you on the go to massive photo printers capable of producing gallery-sized prints, they come in a huge range of sizes and prices. Finding the one that’s best suited to your own personal needs can be difficult, but there are a few considerations that can help you make the right decision.
What Do You Need to Print?
You are in the market for a photo printer, so you obviously want to print pictures, but what kinds of pictures? Do you want to print commercial-quality images that you can sell or display in a gallery? Or are you looking for something that will allow your daughter to print the selfies she takes with her friends? Maybe you want to print family photos to put in albums or display around your home? What about other projects? Do you need a printer that you can also use for printing out homework, recipes, and other documents?
Understanding what you need to print will help you narrow the list of possible options. For most families, multifunction photo printers are the way to go, but it all depends on your unique needs.
Consider Ink Options
When you want the highest-quality prints possible, you need to choose a printer that uses the right ink. Budget printers that use a single color inkjet cartridge simply are not capable of delivering the quality you likely want. Instead, it’s best to look for a machine that uses separate tanks for each color. At the minimum, you should buy a printer that has individual cyan, yellow, magenta, and black tanks if you plan on printing photos. For the absolute best quality, though, a six-tank ink system is the optimal choice.
Some printers use pigment-based ink while others use dye-based ink. Dye-based inks use colorants that are completely dissolved in carrier fluids. Pigment-based inks, on the other hand, create images using very fine solid particles that are suspended in the fluid rather than dissolved.
Both types of ink produce nice pictures, but, if you want your prints to withstand the test of time like lab prints, you’ll want to use pigment inks. If you want maximum vibrancy and incredible colors but aren’t concerned about longevity, dye-based inks are the way to go. Manufacturers are working to improve dye-based inks for photo printing purposes, though, and they are lasting longer and longer. Fade resistance may last for 20 years or longer using modern dye inks.
Think About Your Budget
You probably have a budget in mind when you set out to buy a printer, but don’t forget to think about things like how much it will cost to operate annually. Obviously, you need to buy a printer that you can afford, but you also need to be able to afford to replace the ink when necessary.
The cost of inkjet cartridges varies greatly from one brand to another, and photo ink is often more expensive than regular ink. Think about how frequently you plan to use the device, and check estimated ink yields and cost per page to determine how much you can expect to spend per year on ink.
If you plan to do a lot of printing, high-yield cartridges may be a good investment. These cartridges are larger and contain more ink, allowing you to go longer between replacements. They cost a bit more upfront, but they are usually a better buy than always buying regular cartridges.
Choosing one printer that outranks all the others isn’t easy. One printer may outperform another in a certain area but be far inferior in another. Also, the “best” printer might not be best for your individual needs.
The overall cost may be a prime concern for you, and it’s important to keep in mind that the supplies you use can have a huge impact on your final output. A cheap printer with quality paper and quality ink may be able to achieve the same results as a higher-end printer using low-quality ink and paper. While there are several affordable options on the market that are providing exceptional quality, you may need to spend a bit more if you are in search of professional quality.
Maybe you want maximum quality but don’t need features like wireless printing. Or maybe you just want a fun way to preserve some of your favorite memories. No matter what you want to do, there is a photo printer that’s perfectly suited to your own preferences.
Think about your unique needs and how you plan on using your printer. With a clear picture of your needs in mind, it will be much easier to choose one that is well-suited to you.