No matter if this is your first time shopping for a large format printer or you are a repeat buyer, it's usually a big decision. With so many choices, how do you know which is the best one? We tend to lean toward Canon's professional models (and this article will show you why), but there are plenty of great options available.
Learning about large format printers
Each model is designed with specific technology that makes business run smoothly when used properly. We recommend dedicating a few minutes to reading this page to better understand that technology. A few minutes now can lead to cost savings on ink and paper, and reduce manhours. The wrong printer can cost a company so much more than just what was written on the price tag. That being said, it's worth investing a few minutes learning about the features that earn titles like "best wide format printers" for your industry.
What is considered wide format printing?
Wide-format is commonly used in place of large format. The terms are interchangeable and describe a printing process used for printing larger documents than a standard small office copier or printer can accommodate. Print size is what earns the title large or wide format. There is a difference in opinion on the exact size of a Large format document, but most consider 17 inches (on the smaller side) to be the marker.
Are large format printers inkjet or laser?
Both! And just like the smaller desktop varieties, inkjet technology tends to cost less than toner (laser) models. Another similarity toner-based large-format models share with the small laser desktop all in one printer models is color options tend to have an even larger price tag.
Choosing the right model should be based on more than ink vs toner, or current printer deals. The Canon imagePROGRAF line offers color inkjet models at competitive prices, fast print speed, and loaded with industry-specific features. This article will discuss industry applications in a different section.
How does large format inkjet printing work?
Simply put, ink is sprayed onto media (paper) to replicate an image from a digital screen. Ink is available in a few varieties, and for Canon purposes, it's either dye-based or pigment-based. Note: Canon has shifted to pigment inks with their recent professional model releases. The ink begins in the ink tank, travels through ink lines into the head which moves back and forth to deliver ink onto the media to create a variety of prints.
What can I print with a wide format printer?
Each industry uses different types of prints. Some of the most common we see are technical drawings (blueprints) created by MCAD professionals, GIS maps, photographs, banners, posters, point of sale graphics, trade show pop-ups/roll-up displays, or a sign to advertise hours or a sale.
The options don't stop there. Other examples include oversized office documents, required OSHA signage in the workplace, stickers, art displays, gallery wraps, job site signs, or training images. It really is up to your imagination... we've even created large account statements and invoices to hand to customers to get a laugh (it worked by the way).
An Oversized Printer for Every Application
This is the section to pay extra attention to. As previously mentioned, different industries have different needs, and manufacturers like Canon, Epson, and HP create professional models with features that solve industry-specific problems.
Architects, Engineers and Contractors may focus on print speed, roll feed with the option for cut sheets, automatic cutting with a multipurpose tray that can stack different size technical drawings either vertically or horizontally, and needs to work with a windows pc.
Professional photographers may not be interested in speed, but rather look for features like: number of ink colors with a chroma optimizer, specific print resolution like 2400 x 1200 dpi, and "full bleed" capability (to fill all available space on an image leaving no white border. They may also need mac capability and a USB port.
Graphic artists or designers might also be interested in the 2400 x 1200 dpi print resolution and full bleed to fill banners and posters completely, or create a water resistant sign. Another consideration may be unidirectional (or single pass) printing for a more precise image. They may be looking for the flexibility to use cut sheets for certain projects while still having the option of continuous printing via roll feed.
It should be noted, despite this section calling out "every application" there will be exceptions. For those looking to create exclusively outdoor prints or vehicle wraps, you would be better served by a Latex, UV, or Solvent printer. Those typically carry a much higher price tag.
What are large format inkjet printers called?
Professional models are commonly called by different names. Sign, banner, or poster printers, plotter or blueprint printer, big/large/wide printer, photo printer, and there are other slang terms. If you choose to call yours "hoss" or "prints charming" (that one's clever, right...) that's up to you, no judgment.
What is a good large format printer?
If you're here looking for the best wide format printers, there are plenty of good options between the top 3 manufacturers of professional inkjet printers.
For technical drawings, we recommend Canon imagePROGRAF first, then HP DesignJet. Epson SureColor T-Series is also an option, though HP and Canon tend to be more popular in that arena.
Photographers should look at the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-Series or the Epson SureColor P-Series. HP has photo options, but the trend in this space leans toward Canon and Epson.
Graphic artists and sign shops can benefit from any of the 3 top manufacturers.
Do I need a large format printer?
Consider how often you are creating oversized documents, then look at your expense account to see how much you spend on print shop services. The hidden costs to search for are additional fees for simply opening the file you need, stapling, delivery, color, rush jobs, scanning/copying, and upgrades like paper options. Then consider the time/travel requirements, including wait times and travel times (if you send someone to retrieve your finished documents/images) and the price of fuel.
Lastly, consider the opportunity costs. What isn't getting done while someone is waiting or traveling to get the document?
Who uses large inkjet printers?
Anyone that needs to print a large document or image, no matter the size of the business. Small office or home offices, workgroups, or large corporations all use these types of professional printers.
To name specifics:
Mostly for printing pdf plan sets (often called blueprints or plans).
For technical drawings, exploded views, schematics, and similar documents.
Lage photographs, gallery wraps, flat mounts, custom photo packages (think school pictures), and even studio graphics like backdrops and advertisements.
Proofing photos, mockups, or even custom displays that are needed faster than a print shop can deliver.
Sign and banner shops
Many print shops prefer large format inkjet printers for their versatility and low price (when compared to solvent, latex, or UV).
Store or mall
For sales signs or point of sales posters.
Church, Casino, School, Event Venue
Display graphics to spread a message or promote an event.
Maps and surveys.
What can wide printers do?
This seems like a fairly simple question, but the answer may surprise you. Many models have integrated technology that can track print costs to help account for savings while simultaneously allowing you to charge what the print is worth. Some models cut and stack to prevent documents from hitting the floor.
Some models integrate services like alerting you when they need supplies or maintenance. Some can even order supplies on their own to prevent you from running out mid-print. Models that feature a sub-inktank system allow the user to swap out an empty ink tank without pausing the current print job.
Services and features like that allow your printer to act more like an employee rather than an expense.
What is Canon imagePROGRAF?
Canon imagePROGRAF is the family of large format printers that are broken up into the categories below.
This is a legacy series - discontinued, but still found in the field. They are reliable, but beware of buying older, used printers. You never know what you're going to get. Even if the deal seems great.
Designed for entry-level usage for graphics and blueprints. Ink costs can quickly add up due to the smaller ink tanks.
Designed specifically for the builder community, they have slightly faster print speed than the TM-Series, can hold larger ink tanks, and larger rolls of paper. These models are available as stand-alone or multifunction and have features that make them ideal for busy work environments.
Designed for technical drawings, gis maps, and some graphics applications. They are also available as multifunction models. This is Canon's flagship model for Architects, Engineers, and Contractors.
Designed to compete with the large format laser printer market, though it's still an inkjet. Printing fast at high volume is what the TZ-Series does best, and is an excellent printer for blueprints.
The PRO-Series has 2 variations. 8-color printers were designed for the print shop environments, while the 12-color model was designed for photography, giclee, and fine art. The 12-color printer has 11 colors plus a chroma optimizer for a clean finish.
Designed for graphics, and includes a fluorescent pink ink tank for maximum resolution of eye-catching prints.
What are the possible sizes of wide-format printers?
Printer widths are typically 17, 24, 36, 44, and 60". There are other sizes, but those are the most common. Keep in mind a large printer can accommodate roll sizes that are smaller than its max-width. An example is a 36" printer can hold a 30" or 24" roll of paper.
Which printer is used to print large plans?
As previously mentioned, the Canon imagePROGRAF TA, TM, TX, and TZ printers were all designed to print pdf plan sets. Additionally, HP DesignJet and Epson SureColor printers are professional lines made for plan printing.
Which printer is used to print large photos?
Which printer is used to print signs and banners?
The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-Series 8-color line, the TA, TM, and GP series printers can be used. The Epson SureColor T-Series also does a good job with this type of printing. Printers should be selected by use case rather than price.
Can Canon printers print 11x17?
As long as the print surface can handle a 17" width, yes. In previous sections, we revealed that larger printers can accommodate smaller rolls, meaning a 17" roll of paper can fit in a 60" printer if need be. It is important to be aware of price when considering an 11" x 17" printer. Desktop printers may seem like the right choice, but after looking at the price of ink, the larger model may be more ideal.
How much is a wide format printer?
Price varies per model. Keep in mind the price tag is not a strong indicator of the best printer. You can plan to spend as little as $500 and as much as $15,000. The list price may not be the sale price, but the most important thing to keep in mind is the ongoing cost.
Cost per page
Calculating cost per page is simple. In fact, it's so easy that many inkjet printers have technology that will calculate the print cost for you. Other items to account for are listed below.
Print cost depends on coverage
A line drawing won't use as much ink as a full bleed poster or photograph.
Ink costs vary
The price of ink is different across manufacturers. Pay specific attention to how many milliliters of ink is in the tank, then calculate the price per ml. The larger the ink tank, typically the lower the price
The smaller the roll of paper, the more expensive per square foot. Cut sheet media costs more. Search the spec sheet to see how much paper the printer can hold.
Be sure to buy a professional printer that has the technology and features that will fill your needs.
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