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What Inkjet Printers are best for greeting card printing?

Introduction

With so many inkjet printers available, your choices for a good greeting card printer are better than ever. But, for the serious amateur or pro photographer with print production in mind, the field of good printers narrows considerably. From our experience, a number of key factors come together to make a reliable, high quality greeting card printer. Most manufacturers have at least one printer that fits the bill. The printers in this article have been selected based on hours of printing experience in the Red River print labs.

What are the important features of a greeting card inkjet printer?

  • Speed - you don't want to wait around all day for a run of 100 cards
  • Color and detail - most greeting cards feature photos or artwork that need true color reproduction
  • Product quality - how long will the printer run before you have to buy another?
  • Ink economy - you need to keep overall costs down to maximize profit and minimize overhead.
  • Robust paper transport mechanism - many greeting card stocks (especially from Red River) are thick and heavy and require a printer that will feed each sheet consistently

Below are the top inkjet printers Red River recommends for greeting card printing.

Canon ip6700d

Canon ip4500 - Great price, improved speed

Street Price: $99-129

 

Pros Cons

 

  • Speed - Like all of the "i series" printers, you can expect remarkable print speed
  • Good color quality - recommended that you use ICC profiles for the best possible output
  • Ink economy meets Red River's expectations
  • Great paper feed system
  • New ChromaLife 100 ink system

 

  • Thermal print head can burn out with heavy use.
  • 4 color system - Canon has discontinued low cost six color printers (a problem they perhaps can fix)

Epson R280

Street Price: $119

The R280 is a dye based printer from Epson and uses six individual tanks featuring new Claria ink. Speed is has been improved over previous models. The R280's feed system seems better able to handle card stocks - a big plus. We like dye inks because they outstanding color and compatibility with basically any inkjet card stock you can find. The Epson R280 is compatible with all Red River greeting card stocks

Pros Cons

 

  • Dye inks - great color
  • Six Color 8.5" Wide - Small desktops with six colors are becoming more rare. This printer meets our color saturation requirements easily.
  • Good Price - around $120
  • Ink economy - the R280 meets or exceeds Red River's expectations for ink cost per card

 

  • Speed - a little slower than the competition in price class
  • Feed mechanism - could be a little more robust for heavy cards

 

Epson C88

Epson C88 - A great entry level player

Street Price: $79.99

With the new DuraBrite Ultra inks, the C series finally comes into play as a worthy printer for greeting cards. The upgraded inks work on many more papers including glossy stock that we use for cards.

Pros Cons

 

  • Good color gamut and print quality
  • Compatibility - works with almost all inkjet papers including cast coated glossy used by Red River for pre-scored greeting cards.
  • Inexpensive
  • Ink economy - meets or exceeds Red River expectations

 

  • Speed - at around 2 minutes for Best Photo quality, the C88 is the slowest of the bunch. However, when set to Photo quality, cards print in about 1 min 10 sec.
  • Dark blacks may "bronze" a bit on glossy paper. This is typical of pigment inks, but this is much less of a problem with these new inks.

 

Canon Pro9000Canon Pro9000

Speed, great paper feed, and big 13x19 print capability

Street Price: $499

These big boys of the Canon line are very similar to their smaller cousins. Great color reproduction, robust paper transport mechanism, and compatibility with all Red River inkjet papers make these printers good for greeting card production.

 

Pros Cons

 

  • Speed - outstanding speed even at top quality level
  • 8 color cye inks - outstanding color
  • Compatibility - works with almost all Red River inkjet papers
  • Paper feed - consistent feeding of all Red River stocks

 

  • Thermal print head can burn out with heavy use
  • 8 colors means paying a more per print for ink

 

Why not include an HP in the list?

HP makes a fine inkjet printer. The problem that we consistently see regards the HP paper feed system. These printers do not feed thick Red River card stocks on a consistent basis. In addition, we have reports that making and using custom paper sizes in the HP print driver is difficult at best. Getting it right on the first or second try is a challenge. If you have an HP and have successfully printed on Red River pre-scored greeting cards, we would love to hear from you here.

Summary

If you want to make great looking greeting cards, and lots of them, you need a printer that will handle the work and make you look good. Fortunately, inkjet technology is amazing and offers many choices for the professional and serious amateur. Remember to think quality, speed and paper compatibility when choosing a printer. Most often, these printers will use dye ink based. If you want your greeting cards to last many years (15 and above) you most definitely should consider an Epson R800.

A big question we often answer is "How much will it cost to print my cards?". After extensive printing and calculations on ink usage, Red River Paper produced a cost per card chart that you can see here. We looked at the average size of a greeting card image and made assumptions for ink usage including ink for text printing. The chart has proved to be a good reference point for customers.

Printing inkjet greeting cards is a big part of what makes inkjet printers especially useful to professional photographers. Red River Paper feels that pros should at the minimum, print thank you cards for clients. Adding custom cards to your packages adds not only profit, but mini marketing pieces with your logo on the back!

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