Color Printer Guide > Color Samples
The most common types of color printer are the ink-jet printer and the laser printer. Ink-jet printers tend to cost less initially than laser printers, but their ongoing costs for printing each page are higher than laser printers. Therefore, ink-jet printers are well suited as personal printers for light duty or medium duty use whereas laser printers are better as workgroup printers for medium duty or heavy duty use.
Ink-jet printers spray ionized liquid ink on paper. While the price of ink-jets can be enticingly low — as low as $70 — they have higher ongoing costs than color laser printers. Ink-jet printers require more ink; it generally costs between 12 and 20 cents to print each color page and between 25 and 40 cents to print a color photo. This is appreciably more than per-page costs for laser printers. However, because of their low initial costs, ink-jet printers are a good choice for people who print in low volumes, such as those who are looking for home computer printers.
With laser printers, a laser beam is used to produce electric charges on a rotating drum, which transfers color to the paper using a combination of heat and pressure. Laser printers have a higher cost up front but cost less to use than ink-jet printers in the long run — perhaps 8 to 15 cents to print a typical page. Color laser printers generally offer high print resolutions, and they are a good choice for printing professional presentations and high volume color documents.
Two types of printers that are the fastest and result in the most precise visuals are dye-diffusion thermal transfer (also called dye sublimation) printers and solid ink printers. These printers produce continuous tone printing by controlling how many dots they put on the paper, in addition to the intensity of the dots. Because the results are so clear that they are hard to distinguish from a color photograph, these types of printers are often used by graphic designers and professional digital photographers.
A fifth type of printer, the color thermal printer, operates by using heat to transfer colored waxes from a wide ribbon to paper. Unlike dye diffusion printers, these thermal transfer printers cannot vary their printed dot intensity, so they actually produce dithered images of lower quality than those produced by other types of color printers. However, these reliable printers are still used for color labels, receipts, and other point-of-sale applications.
Printable Color ImagesYou can test the print quality of a color printer by printing several photos and illustrations that contain disparate colors, textures, and patterns. The menu below provides quick access to a variety of printable images that emphasize twelve different colors.
Color Printer Manufacturers
Color printer manufacturers offer a broad range of models, which vary according to feature set and performance characteristics. Multifunction printers, or all-in-ones, include additional scan, copay, and even fax features. Photo printers often include interfaces to digital cameras and flash memory media. And the large format printers and color plotters used by design professionals handle large paper sizes or even rolls of paper.
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