Best printer Recommendations for printing color D&D maps and handouts.
May 14, 2021 2:01 PM   Subscribe

I am finding myself with choice paralysis and could really use some recommendations for a color printer for maps, handouts and all the paperwork that goes with running a face to face D&D campaign. Basically I need a reasonably priced color printer, but do I go inkjet or laser? And then which make and model should I choose? I last bought printer 10 years ago so I am completely out of the loop on printers. More details of requirements below. Thanks.

Other features that would be great.

- Ability to print down to index card size and up to letter size and double sided required. Also being able to print on cardstock.

- Printing to the edge of the page, if that is even a thing modern printers can do would be amazingly helpful.

- Reasonable cost per page to print, obviously cheaper is better if the quality is still OK, as there is a lot of printing involved.

- Wireless printing would be handy but we can get by if not.

- The the ability to just fill each color as needed would be handy.

- Being able to print photos would be a nice extra to have, but not compulsory.

- Speed of printing isn't an issue.
posted by wwax to Technology (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How frequently do you think you will be printing? If you print only occasionally, the heads on an inkjet printer tend to get dried up and jammed, so for occasional printing a laser printer (though more expensive initially) tends to work out cheaper because you don't have to replace the toner as often as you have to replace the inkjet cartridges.
posted by mskyle at 2:15 PM on May 14, 2021

You’re likely going to want to put a lot of weird materials through it, so inkjet would be most likely.
posted by Iteki at 2:25 PM on May 14, 2021

Response by poster: I'll be printing on average about 10 - 20 pages a week but it might be a few weeks between printing sessions. I didn't know inkjet inks could dry out so that's good to know.
posted by wwax at 2:25 PM on May 14, 2021

Best answer: I print very occasionally, so I went the color laser route. I've found at the affordable end of the spectrum it doesn't have the vibrancy of inkjet. I was willing to sacrifice that for a printer that I can pretty much expect to just start up and work when I send a print - even if the last one was a month ago. Inkjets will often need to go through a "pen cleaning" cycle in that circumstance and the ink costs really add up. I also hate the frustration of frequent ink cartridge replacement (I arbitrarily define frequent as doing it when the last replacement is still fresh in my mind). With that said, Iteki is also correct that inkjets can be more accommodating of unusual materials and formats.
posted by meinvt at 2:32 PM on May 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you don't print very often, and if there's an office store or print shop near you, the best printer might be no printer at all. At the Staples near me, the cheapest possible inkjet printer costs as much as printing around 170 full colour pages (or 500+ black and white), and the cheapest laser printer costs as much as printing 730 full colour pages (2500 black and white). And that's without considering the cost of paper or additional toner/ink. Cardstock and 11x17 printing is about double that; 11x17 is particularly nice for maps and the like.
posted by Superilla at 3:10 PM on May 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Pros of laser printers:
  • much lower cost per printed page
  • printing supplies will not go bad from lack of use in any reasonable time frame
  • faster printing
Pros of ink-jet:
  • probably a lower initial cost (though maybe not for any unit you'd want if expecting to print 10-20 pages at a time
  • may have a simpler print-path (and thus greater flexibility with unusual printing materials)
  • greater color vibrancy
  • may take up less space
I almost never advise anybody to buy an ink-jet printer these days, and I still probably would lean towards laser unless you are very particular about the color saturation and reproduction you can expect. Ink-jets are a money hole for most purposes. If you are going to go that way, at least spend a bit extra on the printer and optimize for one with a decent duty cycle and lower cost per page. The very-low-cost starter ink-jets are almost universally terrible.
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:16 PM on May 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also, consider Superilla's suggestion if you don't need the option to instantly produce color printouts on the spot.

Using someone else's much better printer is definitely what I recommend for photo printing but it can be a a practical solution for other types of predictable and occasional print needs, too.
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:18 PM on May 14, 2021

Best answer: We've got a wireless Brother color laser printer and it's what I've used for my DnD stuff. I like being able to print on the spot, and it's done okay for paper and cardstock, though things don't seem to last as long (but that's fine for consumables). Does double-sided and at least some non-standard page sizes (we've printed envelopes on it, I'm pretty sure.

We got a multi-function, and being able to scan and copy is really nice, but they also have just-a-printer models. We've been consistently happy with Brother products.

You might consider a Black and white model in-house and outsource your color, but I know that would never work for me. I would not endorse outsourcing everything because there's always some "oh, shit" or thing you want to print on the spot

I also recommend a decent paper cutter. Look in the scrapbooking aisle. So much better than trying to use scissors.
posted by DebetEsse at 3:41 PM on May 14, 2021

There are also ink tank printers (wsj link) that may be of interest.
posted by oceano at 4:15 PM on May 14, 2021

As a design student and a tabletop game designer, I recommend being good friends with your local copy shop -- it's a lot easier. I own a Cameo Silhouette 4 for cutting out materials.
posted by yueliang at 4:38 PM on May 14, 2021

Response by poster: I used to use the local print shop before Covid and agree that it's a good way to go, but they've become weird about copyright and seemed confused about the legality of printing maps I buy off Patreon or online cartographers and outright refuse to print anything from one of the D&D manuals and it so that's why I wanted to get the printer.
posted by wwax at 4:44 PM on May 14, 2021

Best answer: Thanks for the update -- that's a shame!! I would go with a color laser printer suggestion that the others have mentioned then.
posted by yueliang at 4:59 PM on May 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'd get a color laser, and I'd get a Brother. This one seems to tick your boxes and users love it.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:01 PM on May 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hah! I do have that Brother HL-L3270CDW and I do love it, I just finished printing out and Cricut-ing some birthday shit. I haven't tried it for photo-quality printing but for everyday stuff it's really good. That being said, I had to wait a couple weeks for that printer to come in stock, they're popular and run out pretty fast.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:54 PM on May 14, 2021

Best answer: I used to use the local print shop before Covid and agree that it's a good way to go

Advice you've gotten is great but would also suggest you spec out the public library and see if they do simple curbside printing (I live in a small town and mine does). Pretty sure they won't give you static about copyright.
posted by jessamyn at 7:06 PM on May 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

Coming back - I just bought for myself this color laser printer, Canon - imageCLASS MF642Cdw Wireless Color All-In-One Laser Printer. My mom doesn't recommend Brother printers so we decided to go with a Canon one instead.
posted by yueliang at 9:46 AM on May 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

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