Despite rounding up options for teachers’ best color printer, we know that finding the best printer isn’t always as simple as reading a review. We’ve rounded up a few tips for buying a color printer and getting it right the first time.

8 Tips for Buying A Color Printer for the Classroom

1. Choose Between Inkjet and Laser Color Printer

Another thing to consider when searching for the best color printer for teachers is what type of printer you’d like to have on hand. Typically, you will come across two key types of printers: inkjet and laser. There is also a digital printer option, but those are not quite as common or affordable.

What’s the difference between an inkjet and a laser printer?

Inkjet

As a teacher, you probably need to print a combination of text, graphics, and photos for worksheets or handouts. If this is true for you, an inkjet may be the way to go. An inkjet printer can tackle just about any printing project and excel at photos compared to similar laser printers. However, reliability and owner satisfaction ratings can be lower for inkjet printers because they are not made with the same quality of parts as a laser printer.

Another thing to consider is the speed of output. Many inkjet printers can sewing about 18 black-and-white pages a minute but can be much slower for color photos. The exception being the Brother models listed in our reviews. Cost is another thing to keep in mind. If you have not signed up to the HP instant ink teacher program, the cost of printing a single 8×10 photo on a standard inkjet printer can range from 50 cents to $2, where a black-text page can fall between 2 and 10 cents. However, models such as the Canon EcoTank are quickly solving this problem with efficient ink usage, even for colorful photos.

Laser

If you’re the type of teacher who only prints text documents, a laser printer probably makes more sense for you. Inkjets are better at handling photos and graphics, but laser printers can produce sharp text. A few models can do well with color type and graphics. Still, a majority of laser printers are not ideal for printing photos. Even models designed to print in color may struggle to use glossy photo stock or specialty papers such as cardstock.

Another thing to keep in mind is that laser printers cannot typically accommodate different-sized papers such as 4×6 or smaller cards. A laser printer may be ideal because it can outperform most inkjet models in terms of speed. They can easily crank out text pages at a rate of 25 pages per minute. Additionally, data shows that laser printers tend to be a bit more reliable than their inkjet counterparts.

2. Do You Want to Scan and Make Copies with Your Color Printer?

When looking for the best color printer for teachers, it is important to keep in mind whether you want to scan and make copies. Much of the teaching profession requires making copies almost daily. Scanning in book pages or other documents can also be pretty standard. Ask yourself if this is something you want to do from your printer or if you’re fine with utilizing the faculty copier/scanner. If you do want to scan and make copies, there’re a few things to consider.

Regular

If you don’t want to scan or fax, you can stick with a standard regular printer. The only function of this printer is to print. If you need to copy, scan, or fax, you’ll have to seek a separate machine to perform each task. While limited on functionality, regular printers are much cheaper than all-in-one printers. If budget is a concern and you don’t scan or copy often, you can likely get away with a standard regular printer.

All-in-One

If you do find yourself dreading long lines at the copier or scanner, you may want to pick up an all-in-one for your classroom. An all-in-one printer provides scanning, copying, and faxing functionality. Many all-in-ones cost a bit more than standard printers, but not so much that you’d notice a big jump. Additionally, they are still quite compact and can easily fit on a desk or filing cabinet system.  It is important to keep in mind that many all-in-one printers do boast fewer features than standalone machines. If you need to do sophisticated scanning or copying, you may want to invest in a standalone machine instead.

3. What is Your Budget for Buying a Color Printer?

Given the out-of-pocket costs many teachers endure, it can be tempting to go with the classroom’s cheapest possible printer. However, with printers, you often get what you pay for, especially in terms of ink. Believe it or not, many of the cheapest printers have the most expensive ink. This is how these manufacturers make the bulk of their money. Before you buy any printer for the classroom, make sure that the replacement ink cartridges’ price is affordable and in line with other models at that price.

It is also worth investigating whether or not you can pick up off-brand ink cartridges on Amazon for your printer or whether you can refill your ink cartridges. Not every printer model will take off-brand ink, but many will. Know that using off-brand inks may void your warranty.

4. The Type of Ink

One thing to keep in mind when searching for the best color printer for teachers is the type of ink your printer will take. Generally, there are three standard cartridge configurations: two ink cartridges (black and all-in-one color), four ink cartridges (a black cartridge, and three separate cartridges for color, and inkwells (the printer draws ink from large wells). It is important to note that some companies are also premiering five ink cartridges.

5. The Print Quality of a Color Printer

No one wants to pick up a printer for the classroom to find that the print quality is abysmal. An inkjet printer will work best if you’re planning on printing color photos or graphics in addition to plain text. A laser would do well with text-only prints. Of course, several things can affect a printer’s overall print quality. These include the printhead design, the driver, and the quality of the ink. However, the main thing to look out for is the printer’s DPI or dots per inch ratio. It will tell you exactly how accurately a printer will replicate the pixels of a given image.

6. The Print Speed of a Color Printer

If you do a lot of printing (what teacher doesn’t), you’ll want a printer that can quickly expel dozens of pages in a few minutes. Printer speed is generally measured in pages per minute. A printer will have different PPM speeds depending on the number of text pages and image pages in a stack. When you see a PPM rating on a printer at the store or online, it refers to how many pages of plain black text a printer can produce in one minute.

7. The Wireless Connectivity

Another big one of our tips for buying a color printer is to consider is wireless connectivity. Ask yourself where you would like to print from and what devices you will print from most often. Every printer offers wired connectivity, but not every model will offer wifi or Bluetooth connectivity. If you plan on printing from your smartphone or tablet, you’ll want a printer with wireless connectivity options.

8. The Paper Format

Our final advice on our list with tips for buying a color printer is to keep paper format in mind. Not every printer can easily accept legal-sized paper. In the same vein, scanner beds on some all-in-one printers are too small for legal documents. You’ll also want to consider whether or not you’ll be printing on unusually sized paper quite often. It is something elementary school teachers or those who print projects will need to consider when vying for teachers’ best color printer.