Getting the best large format printer is the way to go if you want to create larger than life prints of your work yourself. In this guide, we've selected our pick of wide format printers for creatives that are on sale right now.
The sheer resolution that's packed into today's best professional digital cameras allows photography enthusiasts to print their images up to billboard size – something that was once only possible for professionals who were able to spend eye-watering amounts on a large-format camera.
Whether you're after something that delivers double-size prints from a 13-inch printer (A3+ in Europe), or looking for larger 17-inch roll printing for increased flexibility in terms of print size as well as potentially a greater volume of prints, we've got you covered.
It's wonderfully rewarding to make your own prints rather than send them off a lab and hope for the best. Not to mention, producing artworks with your own printer gives you more control and creativity over the final results. With options right up to a 64-inch printer, there are plenty of choice for photographers and artists who want to sell fine art prints.
When sizing up the best wide format printer for you there are several things to consider. The first is what you actually need it for, but you’ll also want to look carefully into the range of sizes it can output and the resolution it can output them at (given in ‘dpi’ or dots per inch).
Of course buying a printer isn’t a one-off investment, as you'll need to regularly buy good quality inks and paper too. Consider the type of ink a printer uses when making your purchase decision, as this will directly influence the running costs going forward. It'd be disappointing to find a bargain on the printer only to find out that it costs you a fortune to actually make any prints!
The general advice is that you should buy from the same manufacturer as your printer, as every part of the ‘system’ has been developed, designed and honed to work in tandem.
The best large format printer in 2022
Like with Canon’s L-series camera lenses, the PRO-1000 printer has a ‘red line’ denoting top-grade quality, this time based on no less than 12 pigment-based Lucia Pro ink cartridges. By comparison, the smaller PRO-300 runs on 10 inks, both models including a chroma optimizer in the line-up, which helps to apply a smooth top coating when printing on glossy photo paper, to minimize bronzing and gloss differential. Even so, the printer achieves its highest quality with matte and fine art media, on which color and mono output are magnificent.
That said, really rich, deep blacks are marginally better from the PRO-300, which uses a newer, reformulated matte black ink. Large-format A2/17x22-inch prints are certainly imposing, and you can create panoramic prints of up to 1.2m in length, although there’s no optional roll-feeder so you have to cut the paper to length manually, in advance.
The Canon PRO-300 is the successor to the highly-regarded PRO-10 and again its distinguishing feature is that it uses ten pigment inks rather than dye-based ink. One of the cartridges is a ‘Chroma Optimizer’, which provides a smooth finish on glossy paper. Of the other nine newly-formulated Lucia Pro inks, you get the standard six colors for photo printing, plus red and grey inks, and both ‘photo’ black and matte black, for printing on glossy and matte media respectively. There are individual channels in the print head for both photo and matte black inks saving time and ink when swapping between media types. Excellent output quality combines superb accuracy for color prints and fabulous definition for black & white photo prints, without any unwanted color casts.
A previous TIPA Award winner, the Epson SureColor SC-P5000 is a beast of a desktop printer, perfect for placing in a corner of your studio. It’s a 17-inch model with an enviably broad ink set that can handle anything a photo business can throw at it. That includes panoramic prints, A2+ posters, and fine art sheet media, including poster board. Inevitably then, it’s bigger and heavier than most consumer desktop printers, but this inkjet model is designed for exhibition quality output, not just hard copies of holiday snaps.
It’s taken as read then that the P5000 is able to deliver exceptional print quality and color accuracy (capable of reproducing 99% of Pantone solid coated colors) thanks to an internal color calibration sensor. You’ll pay more for this device, but if you’re a working pro you could make back the investment over the course of a handful of commissions, if that.
If you need to go large, but do so on a budget, the Expression Photo HD XP-15000 is an entry-level 13-inch or A3+ printer from the reliable Epson brand. This large format printer is worth a look if you are a photo enthusiast looking for something that’s more back bedroom than pro studio. It’s compact for its class, with the manufacturer claiming the XP-15000 is 30 per cent smaller than its predecessor. OK, so for the price we have to make do with six inks rather than 10 or 11, but there’s a large LCD screen to adjust settings on and a suite of mobile printing apps that enable you to take advantage of the printer's wireless capabilities. While the front-loading tray actually handles A4 or US Letter paper, it’s the rear paper feed that has us excited, being suitable for A3+ prints, including those on thicker media.
Can’t decide whether you need a sheet or roll printer? The new Epson SureColor SC-P900 provides choice of both – although you do have to pay extra to get the roller unit. Epson’s flexible flagship A2 printer is capable of printing up to 17 inches in width. This is an update of the older Epson SureColor P800, offering a significant improvement in image quality, with deeper blacks, thanks to the addition of an additional, tenth, ink.
Three paper paths, including a front-loading one for fine art paper, make it easy to switch between different formats – there's even a roll paper option for panoramic prints. The core of this inkjet model includes a nine-ink set, there’s onboard Wi-Fi for printing from smartphones or cameras directly, a 4.3-inch touch panel screen for making selections, and an 80ml cartridge size described as generous by its maker. A relatively compact footprint, coupled with the flexibility this machine provides, ensures it should be near the top of your wish list, especially for anyone wanting delivery of deep, contrast-y blacks and rich tones.
A smaller A3+, 13-inch, version of this printer - the Epson SureColor SC-P700 - is also available.
If your budget is tight but still nothing smaller than an A3+ printer will do, check out the PIXMA iP8750 (aka iP8720), a very fairly priced and featured inkjet printer option from Canon. Yes, there are ‘only’ six inks to play with – essentially dye based inks plus one pigment ink – but, with the ability to print from 10 x 15cm at ‘photo lab quality’ up to A3+ in size, this looks like a decent option for the photo enthusiasts’ home office/studio. Attendant features include the convenience of wireless connectivity, while optional XL-sized ink tanks purport to cost users 30 per cent less per page than the standard size.
Epson EcoTank ET-8550 is different to most dedicated A3+/13x19-inch inkjet photo printers as it is much more more of a multi-purpose, multi-function device. This all-in-one printer has a pigment-based black ink for delivering crisp black text, along with five dye-based inks for photo output, comprising cyan, magenta, yellow, photo black and grey. However, specialist photo printers often have a significantly wider color gamut, compared with the ET-8550, with eight or even 10 different inks. But where the ET-8550 comes into its own is it uses tanks of ink, rather than cartridges. These are replenished via 70ml bottles, at a cost of around $17.50/£16 each. Epson says that the ink cost is therefore reduced by around 80 per cent overall. The flip side is that the ET-8550 costs nearly three times as much to buy in the first place as a more conventional A3+ printer.
This series replaced Epson’s popular Stylus Pro family – the flagship SureColor P20000 specifically replacing the Stylus Pro 11880. This wide format printer is designed for mini labs and photo studios needing something that can handle plenty of output. At 64 inches wide there’s versatility built in too: as well as printing photographs up to exhibition quality utilising its 10 pigment inks (nine of them color), its size means this printer can also produce signage and banners. A PrecisionCore MicroTFP print head offers prints to a maximum 2400 x 1200dpi resolution, whilst its print head structure claims to result in fewer vibrations along with more accurate ink drops and ink placement.
Canon’s A3+/13-inch imagePROGRAF PRO-300 and A2/17-inch PRO-1000 deliver gallery quality photo and fine art prints from conveniently compact desktop machines. Taking everything up to a grander scale, the imagePROGRAF PRO-2100 is a much larger, freestanding printer that accepts rolls of paper up to 24 inches in width. There’s direct support for a huge range of fine art media from the world’s best paper companies like Canson and Hahnemühle. The PRO-2100 delivers spectacular print quality for both color and mono photographic images, based on a range of 12 Lucia Pro pigment-based inks that includes a chroma optimizer, to minimize bronzing and gloss differential on glossy photo paper. The auto paper cutter and Canon’s supporting Professional Print & Layout software keep the whole process quick and easy when creating bordered or borderless prints in custom sizes.
If you find even a 24-inch print width restrictive, there are imagePROGRAF PRO-4100 and imagePROGRAF PRO-6100 options in the range, which use the same ink cartridges and print heads but are upscaled to 44-inch and 60-inch print widths respectively.
Think printing on paper and eco-friendliness isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. However, this is HP’s first carbon neutral DesignJet plotter, making the most of recycled materials and low/renewable energy construction processes. Available in ‘Steel’ or ‘Wood’ editions with alternative top panel finishes that complement the white build, it’s a sleek and stylish plotter that’s easy to live with. You can set it up and run it from a smartphone, using HP’s companion app, and print on various sizes of paper using the automatic cut sheet and roll feeders, without having to continually change the media in the machine. The ink set is relatively basic, combining a pigment-based black ink cartridge with dye-based cyan, magenta and yellow cartridges, but performance is good for mono and colour documents and general office plotting. Naturally, the plotter can’t compete with specialist large-format photo printers for photographic quality.
The DesignJet T730 is a large format roll paper thermal inkjet option from HP, capable of delivering prints up to a satisfying 36 inches and at a resolution of 2400 x 1200 dpi. It's probably not the best option for those who want the closest color accuracy to their original images though, as a mere four different inks are in play here: cyan, yellow, magenta and black. That said, the 48kg weight of this unit isn’t as heavy as some, even if it is 1.4 metres in width. Ease of use is promised here too – just swipe the front panel like the screen of a smartphone to find the settings you want. Wi-Fi connectivity and USB interface are provided as standard.
How we test printers
As you can, printers come in so many shapes and sizes, from pocket photo printers to large-format professional models. This is to reflect the wide range of photographers and customers – while some might want to print greetings cards, others will be printing premium prints for high-end clients.
We check the suitability of models for wide-ranging tasks, from printing office documents to high-end photographic output and, consequently, the type and quantity of dye/pigment inks. Additional features can include a built-in scanner, a standalone control panel, touchscreen interface, Wi-Fi connectivity, direct fax functions and connectivity specs such as a card reader slot.
Our test procedure begins with installing the latest software drivers and running nozzle check and print head alignment routines. We then create test prints from mono documents, mixed text and graphics color documents, and a wide range of digital photos that include landscapes, portraits, and black & white images.
During testing we also make sure to try out the various available quality modes, including optional image enhancement features. We create prints from our own specially created test chart to test the printer's accuracy in terms of color reproduction, tonal range, retention of detail in bright highlights and dark shadows, and the ability to deliver smooth gradations in subtle color variations. The printer manufacturer’s own-brand inks and papers are used throughout the entire testing procedure.
For output speed, we record the time taken to produce various sizes of prints at different quality settings. Ink costs are calculated on typical page yield against average prices for the manufacturer’s own-brand cartridges or bottles.
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