Tips for Buying a Color Printer for Classroom

9 Things To Consider When Buying A Color Printer for the Classroom

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

1. Identify Your Needs

It isn’t exactly a well-kept secret that teachers print often and frequently. While there is always the option of using a breakroom printer or copier, that can quickly become inefficient and annoying. There is also the option to use a pen tablet that allows you to upload handwritten notes to your computer. This is ideal for online teachers, who can not hand out printed copies to their students.

Buying your classroom printer is a simple way to print what you want, when you want without having to answer to higher-ups or nosy colleagues. With so many printers on the market, finding the right one for your classroom is often easier said than done. With that said, the first step to finding the best color printer is identifying your personal printing needs. To get started, ask yourself a few key questions:

  • How frequently do I need to print? Knowing just how much you plan on printing can help guide you towards a more efficient model that will suit your needs.
  • How much do I want to spend on ink? Some units use more ink than others. Additionally, some inks cost more than others. Keep that in mind.
  • Is color printing a priority? If you don’t plan on printing in color, a more affordable monochrome printer may do the job.
  • Do I need a scanner and copier? If you find yourself making plenty of copies or scanning documents, you may want an all-in-one device.
  • Do I need to print wirelessly? Wireless printing can make it easy for you to print from your phone, laptop, or tablet without messy wires.

Once you have your printer expectations in mind and have identified your needs, you can start to narrow down your options. After all, an elementary school teacher will likely have different needs than a high-school math teacher. Luckily, there are affordable and quality printing options for both.

2. Choose Between Inkjet and Laser

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 the option for a digital printer, but those are not quite as common or affordable.

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


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 can excel at photos when compared to similar laser printers. However, reliability and owner satisfaction ratings can be lower for inkjet printers, often 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 are capable of 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. 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.


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 are more capable of producing 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 that are 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. Where a laser printer may be ideal is that they 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 do tend to be a bit more reliable than their inkjet counterparts.

3. Do You Want to Scan and Make Copies?

When looking for the best color printer for teachers, it is important to keep in mind whether or not 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 be able 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.


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 out 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.


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.

4. What is Your Budget?

Given the out-of-pocket costs many teachers endure, it can be tempting to go with the cheapest possible printer for the classroom. However, with printers, you do 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 a bulk of their money. Before you buy any printer for the classroom, make sure that the price of the replacement ink cartridges 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.

5. 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.

6. The Print Quality

No one wants to pick up a printer for the classroom only 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.

7. The Print Speed

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.

8. The Wireless Connectivity

Another big thing to consider is wireless connectivity. Ask yourself where you would like to print from and what devices you are going to 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.

9. The Paper Format

Finally, you’ll want 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 the best color printer for teachers.

Best Color Printer FAQ

Q: Is a multi-function printer really necessary?

In some ways, a multi-function printer can be necessary in the classroom as it eliminates the need to spend time in the faculty lounge using the copier or scanner. It can also deliver the most bang for your buck in terms of a printer. Of course, if you’re not someone who makes many copies and never scans, you might find that you don’t want to invest in an all-in-one-printer and would instead utilize the school’s device when the need arises. A multi-function printer is not necessary for every teacher, but some may revel in the convenience and freedom it can bring. Not to mention the time they won’t have to wait in line at the faculty room.

If you prefer to do fewer copies but high quality, you may consider getting a laminator. Good quality copies can be laminated and be reused when needed without getting destroyed.

Q: Are all printers capable of photo-quality printing?

The capacity to print photo-quality pages is ideal for many teachers. However, not every printer is capable of photo-quality prints. While inkjets do produce better photo-quality prints than laserjet printers, not every inkjet printer is adept at doing so. Generally, you’ll want a mid-to-high-end inkjet printer of photo-printing is a priority for you. While lower-end inkjet printers can still print photos, you will find that the colors are not as vibrant and that the images are not very high-quality. Nevertheless, you can get away with decent photos on any inkjet printer.

Q: Is a full-color printer the only option?

For teachers, we often focus on full-color printers because they can cater to the wide range of needs that exist in the classroom. However, a full-color printer is not the only option. Depending on how you intend to use your printer at school or home, you could save a few bucks by going with a monochrome printer that only prints black and white images or text. Not only are monochrome printers more cost-effective, but the cost of replacing ink is much lower, as you only need black and not the full-color spectrum. This type of printer can be ideal for math teachers or even English teachers who are not generally printing photos or graphics in great detail.

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