On the scrapbooking message boards I read, a common question is "What photo printer should I buy?" The Holy Grail is a printer that isn't crazy expensive, doesn't run through gallons of ink, and produces great quality photos that will stand the test of time.
Hands down the number one reason contributing to me finishing Project Life in 2012 (yes, I'm really proud of that!) was buying a photo printer so I could print all my pictures at home.
Prior to buying my printer in May, I was sending photos to Target.com weekly using their in-store pickup option. I spent a fair amount of time on their website, uploading photos, making sure they were cropped correctly, and going to pick them up. Not to mention Target's online system would send a message saying they were ready, yet they were not once I got to the store. With a 2-year-old in tow, it's not like we could wait around for the hour or more it would take to process them, so I had more than a few wasted trips and a LOT of frustration. I also didn't love the photo quality - it was fine, but not fantastic. (And I'm no expert, for sure.)
I've had a really hard time with all the printers in my past. I never found the right one for me. My last two printers have been Epson inkjets that blew through ink like nobody's business, would clog constantly and had only so-so photo quality. Not to mention I had to fight with Epson to replace one that died literally a DAY after the warranty expired.
So I knew when shopping for a new printer that it was NOT going to be an Epson. I knew I wanted a color inkjet for good photo printing and consulted reviews on CNET. I searched on Amazon, filtering on those color inkjets that had great reviews (4+ stars) and were less than $500. Even that seemed like a ridiculous amount of money for a printer since all my previous ones were less than $100. But I was willing to pay for quality this time, in the hopes I'd get better results.
Fate (and customer reviews) led me to the Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mark II. (What a mouthful, huh?) The reviews were great, though the price was a bit higher than I'd hoped for. Not only was it a great photo printer, but it also prints large format, up to 13x17". So if I ever wanted to print 12x12", a common scrapbooking size, I'd be all set.
We have an email list at work for people to sell household items and I had noticed a few ads for this particular printer. Turns out that Canon was offering a BIG rebate when buying a DSLR camera, which basically included this printer for free. Many photographers were buying both the camera and printer, then selling the printer new in box after getting the rebate. When I was ready to buy it, I did a search on Craigslist.
I found several ads for it, and made a deal with a guy to buy it for $160. It felt a bit sketchy to meet him in a grocery store parking lot with a wad of cash in exchange for electronics, but for that screamin' deal, it was totally worth it.
I came home, set it up quickly and easily, and the rest is history. I printed my photos for Project Life starting that week and never went to Target Photo again. I've gotten great results from all kinds of photo paper: Epson, Ilford Galerie, and Canon, though not HP paper, oddly.
Another crafter told me about Epson Matte Premium Presentation Paper for printables, and O.M.G. The print quality is amazing. Colors are bright, saturated and graphics are knife-sharp. It's not quite as heavy as cardstock but is heavier than regular printer paper. I've found Amazon has the best price, unless the office supply chain stores are running a buy one get one free deal.
The Canon USA site also sometimes has great deals on photo paper, and I bought 6 packs of 4x8 paper which is great for printing 2 square Instagram photos.
I stick with the Canon ink, and the best deal has been for the multipack on Amazon. In 8 months of regular use, I've only had to replace 4 of the 8 ink tanks. I don't want to ruin my expensive printer, nor do I want my photos to fade or run, so I don't take any chances with off-brand inks. This printer consumes nowhere near the amount of ink as my previous Epson inkjets, and I print far more with it than I ever did with those.
The bundled Canon software - EZ Photo Print - has a cheesy name, but works really well for printing photos in many configurations. I use it to print two 3x4 photos on 1 4x6 page, as well as 2 4" Instagrams on a 4x8" page, and it's effortless. You can also print tiny photos on one sheet, add text, and print large borderless photos as well. I haven't had to tweak any settings to get the colors to come out "true". (But again, I'm not an expert.)
The drawbacks of this printer are few: it's HUGE so it takes up a ton of room, it's pretty loud when it's printing, it doesn't print over wireless, and the ink-empty warnings start REALLY early. On the bright side, it doesn't force you to change the ink until it's really, truly, out and does give you a message when you get to that point.
Canon has released a newer version of the same printer, which looks identical, the Pixma Pro-100. If you want to buy one new from an authorized retailer, this is the one to get. Otherwise, check out EBay, Amazon or Craigslist for deals on the PIXMA Pro 9000 Mark II - you will not be disappointed.
Do you have a photo printer you love? Share it in the Comments please! I'm also happy to answer more detailed questions about the Pixma Pro. I love, love, love it, and I never imagined I'd achieve such a healthy relationship with a printer :).