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The 5 best photo printers: Print quality pics at home

What is the best photo printer? The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer takes the crown! We analyzed everything from the size of the print and quality, to usability and price, check out the best photo printers below.
charlie-osborne
allison-murray
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

When you have spent your time and energy editing and perfecting your great photos, using the wrong printer to wrap up the process can severely impact their quality. 

Typical home printers will contain three to four ink reservoirs, whereas top-end photographic printers may contain 10 or more reservoirs to bring out as much color and depth in prints as possible. Inkjet models, combined with photo paper specifically designed for photography, are often considered the best option -- but if you want to mass-produce images for purposes such as marketing or flyers quickly (and with lower quality), a laser model is still a possible option. 

You also need to consider the paper size of prints that you want, whether or not you need double-sided print capabilities, and if Wi-Fi connectivity or direct-from-card printing is important to you during workflows. 

There are some printers, too, that are inexpensive to buy but require a second mortgage for the ink or toner. When you're considering which printer suits you best, you should also consider whether you need one purely for photography purposes -- or if you plan to combine black and white document printing and color photos, for example, it might even be worth preserving one solely for image work to cut down on ink costs. 

Below, ZDNet has compiled our top picks for high-quality photo printers on the market that will suit a variety of purposes and budgets. 

Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer
Canon

Features: 17-inch printer | 11-color setup | Chroma Optimizer ink system

The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer is for those looking to maximize the quality of their images in hard copy. The 17-inch wide-format printer comes with an 11-color setup and the Chroma Optimizer ink system, air feed, and nozzle monitor to improve the print speed and performance of the hardware.

Pros:

  • Wide color gamut, separate matte black and photo black inkwells
  • 1.28-inch print nozzle head for an increased printing surface
  • A plugin, print studio, for last-minute enhancements

Cons:

  • Expensive initial investment
  • Care plans are an additional cost (two years, $99.99, four years, $179.99)
HP Envy Photo 7155 wireless all-in-one Instant Ink ready inkjet printer
HP

Features: Up to 14 ISO ppm in black and up to 9 ISO ppm in color | 14 pages per minute | 14 pounds

HP's Envy Photo 7155 is a wireless inkjet printer and scanner combination capable of printing at a resolution of up to 14 ISO ppm in black and up to 9 ISO ppm in color. You won't get in-depth, extremely detailed print photos with the limit of a black and tri-color cartridge, but this is still a solid, affordable option for those on a budget. 

Pros:

  • Ease of use
  • Ink savings on offer with subscription, Five months of Instant Ink included at purchase
  • 1200 x 1200 dpi flatbed scanner included

Cons:

  • Slow ppm
  • Limited ink wells
HP Color LaserJet Pro M454dn
B&H

Features: 28 pages per minute | Prints up to 600dpi | Energy efficient 

HP's Color LaserJet Pro is a wireless laser printer capable of printing at a resolution of up to 600dpi. This option should be considered if you also want a fast means to print documents, and also comes with options for letter and legal-size prints -- making this printer an all-rounder for business and marketing printing purposes.

Pros:

  • Two-sided printing available
  • A solid option for small businesses on a budget

Cons:

  • 4000 pages maximum a month recommended
  • It only comes with starter toner cartridges
Epson Expression Photo Small-in-One color all-in-one borderless printer
Epson

Features: 4.3-inch touchscreen | up to 5760 x 1400 dpi sharp print resolution | Voice-activated printing

The Epson Expression Photo XP-970, the best all-in-one printer, is compact for small prints, copying, and scanning. While expensive, this model is focused on quality over size and provides wide-format borderless prints from an app, the cloud, USB flash drives, and memory cards, and does not require a PC to operate. This printer uses Claria Photo HD 227 ink cartridges.

Prints can be generated with up to 5760 x 1400 dpi at 8.5 ppm in black and 8 ppm in color.

Pros:

  • Built-in USB and memory card slots
  • Borderless printing capabilities
  • Duplex printing

Cons:

  • Small printing size (up to 11"x17")
Kodak Dock Plus 4x6 Instant Photo Printer
Amazon

Features: Supports 90 Sheets | Sheet size 4-x-6-inch | Works with phones and tablets

If you're looking for a mobile printing solution to produce hard image copies on the go, the Kodak Dock Plus instant photo printer is the best portable option. This mobile printer connects to your Android or iOS mobile device via Bluetooth and is able to print color images at a 4x6 ratio. 

Pros:

  • Portable and travel-friendly
  • Protective case available (sold separately)

Cons:

  • Paper and ink replacements can add up
  • Size constraints

What is the best photo printer?

The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer is the best photo printer, delivering the highest quality prints of all the printers on our list.

Photo printer

Price

Image resolution

Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000

$1,299

Up to 2400 x 1200

HP Envy Photo 7155

$132.59

4800 x 1200 optimized dpi color 

HP Color LaserJet Pro

$549.99

N/A

Epson Expression Photo XP-970

$329.99

Up to 5760 x 1400 dpi sharp resolution

Kodak Dock Plus

$154.99

4 x 6 ratio

Which is the right photo printer for you?

The first point to consider is whether or not you want prints to enjoy in your own home or whether you need a printer with the functionality to act as a business or marketing tool. When your images appear in a portfolio, you want them to look their best as an asset -- but you might not need extremely high quality if printing is going to be on an occasional basis for friends or family. If you're handing out marketing materials or flyers, too, printing must be financially viable.

A printer, in the same way as a camera kit, can be an investment into a business or hobby alike -- and so you should consider what you are willing to spend. 

Choose this photo printer...

If you want...

Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000

The best overall option

HP Envy Photo 7155

A budget-friendly photo printer

HP Color LaserJet Pro

A photo printer for your business

Epson Expression Photo XP-970

A photo printer that can also copy and scan

Kodak Dock Plus

A portable photo printer that connects to your phone

How did we choose these photo printers?

We wanted to make sure we covered products suitable for various budgets, as creative and photographic activities can quickly become expensive while also considering the printers that offered the best image quality. 

Which image format is best for photo printing?

Most images are in JPEG format, and this is the best-compressed image format for photo printing, especially when printing photographs and artworks. TIFF and PDF formats are also excellent for photo printing. 

What is the big deal about the number of ink tanks?

While many entry and mid-range printers will come with three, four, or five tanks, for professional purposes, printers can go beyond 10 tanks -- vastly increasing the color depth possible. However, the more the number of tanks, the more it can cost to keep a printer running. 

What is the difference between matte black and photo black ink?

Photo, or 'standard' black, will be set on normal and glossy paper types. However, matte black is suitable for matte and art paper.

What is the best photo printer for iPhone?

The best photo printer for an Apple iPhone is the Kodak Dock Plus printer since it produces hard image copies on the go and easily connects to an iOS device via Bluetooth.

What is the difference between an inkjet and a laser printer?

Inkjet models are generally considered superior when it comes to printing images as laser printers can often only produce mid-range quality prints due to toner limitations. 

However, if you want quick prints for business and marketing materials in quantity, laser models might be the better bet.  

Are there alternative photo printers worth considering?

If you're looking for instant prints, a more compact size, or an all-in-one workhorse, the options below are also worthy of consideration:

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