Photo Printer Basics
Ink Types: Most inkjet printers use dye based inks. These give bright colours and are cheaper to buy, but can fade quite quickly. Professional photo printers use pigment inks, which resist fading but are more expensive and some don’t work as well on glossy paper, although lustre is usually fine. Pigment ink printers - the art establishment call them giclee printers - are becoming more common.
Number of Inks: For photo printing, more is better. Extra inks give smoother tones and more accurate colours. Many 4 ink printers are fine for holiday snaps, but serious photo printers can use up to 10 inks, which will give superb colour or black and white results, but are very expensive to run. If you buy one of these you’ll need another cheaper printer for day to day documents etc. Canon produce some excellent 5 ink printers which are cheaper to run and a good compromise if you only want one printer, and Epson and HP produce mid range 6 ink photo printers.
Photo Paper Basics
Getting the very best quality prints of your photographs depends not only on your printer and ink, it depends a great deal on the quality of the paper you use. Many cheap photo papers are terrible, but there are many great independent photo papers out there. Most work fine with Epson printers, some work well with Canon photo printers, but hardly any independent photo papers seem to work with hp printers. So which paper should you use with your photo printer?
After choosing the photo paper that works best for you, should you stick with the manufacturer’s own inks? Many independent inks are much much cheaper. Does it make a difference?