So, you’re sick of taking your photos to Costco and getting hassled about a license (yes, I took those pictures myself, thank you!). You’re tired of inaccurate colors and white borders from your home printer. And you’re really not into waiting three months for that online service to finally send you back your prints. Sounds like it’s time to invest in a high-quality professional printer. Every artist reaches the point when it’s just time to take that plunge. Or maybe you’ve already experienced the joys of using a printer designed for art prints and photos… but your printer is getting old. Or you’re simply ready for an upgrade. We’ve done the DD and found eight of the best printers that money can buy for creative applications. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned vet, whether you’re a photographer, a painter, a graphic designer, an architect, or an all-of-the-above hobbyist, your next printer is here. Take a look.
1. Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II
Best for Up-and-coming Photographers
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The Pro9000 is great for creating professional photo prints of all sizes. With a max dpi of 4800 x 2400, ink droplets of only 2 picoliters, and a high-performance, eight-color ink system, it generates vivid, sharp prints. The speed of this printers is impressive, too—a lab quality, full-color 11 x 14” photo can be completed in under a minute and a half! The Pro9000 also supports any dimensions and heft of paper you can imagine (up to 13” x 19”), and it even has a separate front feeder designed to accept heavier paper weights. If you’re willing to learn something new, Canon has included photo fix and light correction settings; although personally we think Photoshop does a better job, it’s a great complement to your own editing, and it’s nice to have a backup to ensure the colors come out the way you meant them to. We especially like the skin tone correction, because who wants a purple-tinted face? Our only small beef is no wireless capability, but it does come with a USB connection and a PictBridge connection for direct printing from your camera or device.
2. Epson Artisan 1430
Best Features in a Budget Printer
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This photo printer uses Claria hi-def ink, which is supposed to last up to 4 times longer than prints from a professional photo lab and be scratch-, fade-, and water-resistant. The prints do indeed look stunning, and the printer can support sizes up to 13” x 19”. It comes with a CD tray for direct printing to CDs and DVDs. With dpi res of up to 5760 x 1440 and 1.5pl ink droplets, the photos and art prints we’ve seen from this printer are strikingly sharp, colorful, and accurate. If you’re tired of your gradients looking like stair steps, this if the printer for you. Oh, and it’s wireless, baby! That makes this printer perfect for multiple users or laptops. You can even print from your phone or tablet with the Epson app. Ah. We love technology. We aren’t a fan of the high price of Epson’s ink, but they make up for it with the low cost of the printer and the incredible quality of the prints.
3. Canon Pixma Pro-100
Best for Black and Whites on a Budget
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For its price, this printer makes seriously beautiful black and white prints. Canon actually designed it with three separate monochrome inks—black, light grey, and dark grey (not just black, like most printers)—so greyscale prints look ah-mazing. Like the Pro9000, the Pro-100 uses an 8-color ink gamut and boasts 4800 x 2400 max dpi, giving stunning resolution and vivid colors. But Canon added wireless capability here, including AirPrint and a mobile app. We really like that the inks can be changed out by color, so you don’t have to replace everything when you only run out of cyan. It also comes with CD printing, two-way paper feeding for different paper weights, and a PictBridge connection for direct printing from your camera.
4. Epson Stylus Pro R2880
Best Black and Whites
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Take one look at that price and you’ll know that this printer isn’t messing around. You get what you pay for, and this printer creates some of the most amazing prints we’ve seen in this price range. An advanced black and white mode makes for remarkable grayscale images, and an 8-color ink set includes three monochromes for detailed shadows, highlights, and tonal transitions. Epson’s UltraChrome K3 and Vivid Magenta throw their hats in the ring, creating an unreal color gamut and delivering deep, saturated, seriously accurate color. As long as your computer screen is calibrated correctly, this printer will print EXACTLY what you see. The long-lasting ink is rated to last over 200 years and is smudge-, scratch-, and fade-resistant. It prints matte, glossy, luster, and even canvas. CDs and DVDs, too. Oh, it also can print roll paper and create pieces up to 44 inches long! This is the last printer you and your studio will ever need, and for half the price of other high-end printers.
5. Canon Pixma iP8720
Best for DIYers
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Before you start hyperventilating, newbies, here’s a printer that’s a little easier on the wallet. It creates gorgeous, border-free photos and prints with a max dpi of 9600 x 2400 and sizes of up to 13” x 19” (includes a CD/DVD tray as well). It comes with wireless capability and a USB connector, and it’s compatible with AirPrint, Google Cloud print, and the Canon print app. This is an excellent home printer for professional looking art and photos. And it’s quick and clean: a full-color, vivid and detailed 4” x 6” photo can be printed in just over half a minute. As a bonus for all you nap-time workers—this printer has a quiet mode, so you can print that super cute photo sesh without waking up the whole dang house. Freedom!
6. Brother HLL8360CDW
Best for Day-to-day Printing
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If you can sacrifice border-to-border printing, this is your best bet. Brother holds up its awesome reputation with this printer that is fast, economical, dependable, and high-yield. It’s a laser printer, so we wouldn’t necessarily frame these images, but it’s absolutely perfect for drafts, blueprints, outlines, and storyboards. Keep this printer handy in your office or studio and save the expensive ink for publishing and exhibitions. The toner cartridges yield a whopping 6,500 pages, and documents can be churned out at up to 33 pages a minute (procrastinators, take note). We like the 2.7” color LED touchscreen and intuitive navigation—gone are the days when it took two weeks to learn to use the office printer. Now you can print your own documents. Becky at the front desk says thank you.
7. HP DesignJet T520
Best for Architects and Engineers
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If Staples has your number memorized, it might be time to take the leap and invest in your own large-format printer, and the HP DesignJet T520 is our top pick. This monster large-format printer handles a 24-inch-wide roll feed and offers a sharp printing resolution of up to 2,400 dpi. The dye-based ink system covers a large color gamut with 4 inks (CMYK), and the printer accepts glossy photo paper and even fabric. We love the rolling stand for ultimate mobility and conserving precious desk space. And with that comes wi-fi connectivity and even phone or tablet printing. Of course, traditional ethernet and USB connections are included as well. Perfect for office use, this printer includes a secondary top tray for smaller print jobs and an automatic paper cutter for convenience. Fire up AutoCAD, because your prints are about to blow up!
8. Canon Pixma Pro-10
Best for Photographers
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For seriously great photo prints, look no further than the Pixma Pro-10. This printer is the only on our list that uses a 10-piece set of pigment-based inks. That, combined with Canon’s Chroma Optimizer, makes for some stunning images with highly uniform textures and glossiness, vivid colors, and rich blacks. The printer is even outfitted with an Optimum Image Generating System, which analyzes the image and selects the perfect hue and placement of ink, so what you see is truly what you get. The Pro-10 even won the TIPA Best Expert Photo Printer Award in 2013—no small feat, especially for a printer that barely tips $600. Of course, the Pro-10 also includes the features that we love about the entire Pixma Pro line, including dual paper feeders, support for any heft or type of paper, prints of up to 13” x 19”, a built-in CD/DVD tray, and connection via USB or PictBridge. But then they added wireless printing, hooray! Use AirPrint, Google Docs, or the Canon printing app from your phone, tablet, or PC. Happy printing!