A home printer can be a really worthwhile investment, and today we’re going to look at the differences between the two major categories: inkjet and laser.

Have you ever had to print an application form, a ticket for an event or a coupon for a screaming discount, and thought “I wish we owned a printer!”. Maybe you have a collection of photos on your computer, or even on your phone that you’ve been promising to print but haven’t quite gotten around to it. Perhaps it’s time to take the plunge and invest in a printer that will look after all your printing needs, and maybe a bit more besides.

Inkjet printer vs. laser printer

There are two main categories of printer on the market: inkjet and laser, each with it’s own strengths and weaknesses. Today we’re going to take a look at both and help you decide which is right for you. I know all the Austin Powers fans out there are going to want to go with the laser option, but cool your jets for a minute and we’ll help you make a more informed decision.

Under the hood

First of all let’s look at the differences under the hood. An inkjet printer comes with a number of different coloured ink cartridges, and through a mechanism called the ‘print head’ it sprays incredibly tiny drops of ink onto the page. All inkjet printers are capable of printing in colour or black and white. Laser printers however, come in two flavours; colour or black and white. (Just to be clear, a colour printer can also print in black and white). They use cartridges filled with a very fine powder called ‘toner’. The printing process itself is kind of interesting; the eponymous laser scribes an image of the print onto a rotating drum, leaving an electrical charge to which the toner sticks before being transferred to the paper where it is fixed by the application of heat. This is why prints from a laser printer come out hot and with a distinctive smell. Some people actually love the smell of fresh laser prints—cheap aromatherapy, I guess!

Laser for business

So how to decide whether to choose inkjet or laser? The simple answer is: it depends on how you plan to use it. If, for example, your are self-employed or run a home business and you need to print lots of documents, then you might want to look at a laser printer. They generally print documents faster, and the technology is capable of of creating better looking text and graphics, with higher clarity and definition than a inkjet printer. Laser printers are a better option if you plan to print in high volume—it’s essentially what they were designed for. The cost per print is lower too as you will replace the cartridges less often, although the initial upfront investment is likely to be higher. They also print a lot faster than an inkjet printer, giving you much more ‘pages per minute’. They are also a lot quieter than inkjet printers, which can be kind of loud and clunky.

Inkjet for everybody

If your needs are less business-oriented, and you’re more of an ‘average’ home user who wants the convenience of having a printer in the home, but doesn’t necessarily rely on it, then perhaps an inkjet printer is a better option. They are super affordable and capable of producing top quality photo prints. I recently had the opportunity to review the Canon PIXMA Pro-100, and I was very, very impressed with the results. The photos I printed looked amazing—and not just because I took them! It worked well for printing documents too, although I should reiterate that if you are printing a lot of documents on an inkjet, you will probably run out of ink pretty quickly, because the ink cartridges are generally pretty small and the technology is not very efficient for text-based documents.

Printing photos

Inkjet printers are great for photos because the ink droplets actually bleed slightly on contact with the page, which allows the colours to blend beautifully. You can also print photos on a laser printer too, but it needs to have a high print resolution, so make sure to do your research first. Also, you need to use laser-compatible photo paper, which is less commonly available than the standard photo paper used for inkjet printers. In fact, regardless of what you’re printing on your laser printer, use laser-compatible paper for best results.

‘All-in-one’ printers

There are a number of other features you might want to consider when you’re choosing your next printer. An ‘all-in-one’ printer will allow you to scan, copy and fax documents too, and although we’re using physical copies of our documents less and less these days, the option to scan and copy documents will help you out of a bind every now and then. Faxing on the other hand, seems to be pretty much a thing of the past, as many people don’t even have landlines anymore!

How to choose a photo printer

Wireless printing

Another great feature to look out for is wireless printing. It’s really handy not to have to physically connect your printer to your computer or laptop. Connecting your printer to the Wi-Fi network in your home means that anyone on that network can send a print to that printer effortlessly.

There are actually a number of different ways to print wirelessly today, like AirPrint which is used by Apple compatible devices, and allows you to print straight from your phone, or any Apple device. I was quite surprised when I used AirPrint for the first time and discovered how seamlessly it works. Google Cloud Print is another option which allows you to print anything in the cloud from anywhere in the world, provided your printer is connected to the web. Print by email is another great feature which allows you to email a document to an email address assigned to your printer, which will then automatically print your document.

Be sure to check out the entire range of printers available here at

Justin Morrison
I am a professional photographer, working in motion and stills. I create portrait, lifestyle and documentary work, and I strive to tell real and authentic stories. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia.