Choosing a wide format printer for graphic/canvas

Businesses considering a wide format printer for graphics or canvas can often find their efforts scuppered by jargon and a confusing array of options. Of course, this richness of choice is a good thing once you've got your head around the subject at hand, but in the initial research stage it can be something of a minefield.

With this in mind, here is an introduction to those considering a wide format printer but don't quite know their spool from their latex.

Do I need a designated canvas printer?

The first question for many businesses is whether or not they need to stick rigidly to printers that are specifically designed for the substrate they have in mind. The short answer to this is yes.

Anyone wanting to print on canvas should buy themselves a printer that has been specifically designed for this purpose, otherwise the process could be longer and more costly than needed.

Whilst inks may well transfer from any printer onto canvas, much of the issue here lies with the motors and cutters. On printers designed for paper, these will have been designed to much lower specification. Put another way, the motor won't have as much power behind it, as paper is very lightweight, whereas the cutter may struggle to get all the way through a piece of canvas.

This issue is much more serious than it may appear, as feeding these materials through a printer not designed for them could cause it to break. In that circumstance, the owner will probably be looking to sell their used printer on as it's not suitable - but will also need to pay for the repairs before doing so.

What inks do I need?

Whilst inks come after the printer has been purchased, it's worth noting the best types to use in order to make sure you purchase a printer that is capable of using them. Dyes, for example, may look good when they're still warm out of the printer, but give it a couple of months on display and the sun's UV rays will have washed them out to almost nothing.

UV-treatable pigment inks, on the other hand, can stand up to the rigours of outdoor use much more effectively so shouldn't need almost continual reprinting in order to look professional.

How important is print quality?

You want it to look striking, professional and attractive, yes? So print quality is top of the list? Not necessarily.

Large format prints are designed to be viewed from afar, as people are unlikely to get up close and personal with a banner to examine its minutiae. For this reason, pinpoint accuracy and world-beating print quality may not be as important as first thought. Instead, go back and consider longevity of ink as - in the long run - this will have much more of an impact on perceived print quality.

These quick pointers may not narrow down the vast array of choice where wide format printers are concerned, but it should hopefully help clear up some of the more introductory issues and questions.


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