Is a laser printer or an inkjet printer better for making buttons? This is often one of the first questions most new members of The Pinback Button Making Community ask in our group and it is brought up for debate each time someone begins the daunting task of buying a new printer. The truth is, both have pros and cons so you just have to determine which one will work best for you based on your needs and what is most important to you.
Laser printers are arguably superior when it comes to printing a crisp, clean image with great color intensity. The print from a laser isn't affected by moisture like an inkjet and they print with greater speed at a typically more economical cost per page. Another biggie is that since toner is a dry powder, there is no waiting for your prints to completely dry. You don't have to wait to cut those beautiful images and can make your buttons while they are still hot off the press! Toner cartridges also will never dry out like inkjet cartridges can so they are always fresh.
So what's not to love with a laser? Those beautiful, intense prints can lead to mylar slippage, especially if your design has a full bleed, causing your button not to crimp properly. This is one of the most common reasons of this frustration. Toner from laser printers contain wax and even if you have made 100 perfect buttons, the printer can decide to dump a little extra wax on that page and suddenly your buttons won't work. The fix is relatively simple and you can read all about it in our blog, Common Crimping Issues Solved. The initial investment required with a color laser printer can also be a definite deterrent for many and when you do have to replace those toner cartridges, the cost is typically significantly more than inkjet cartridges.
When it comes to inkjet printers, you don't have to spend a lot to get a good, quality print. With inkjet in particular, your paper choice will make all of the difference in the brilliance of your colors. You want to use a quality, bright white paper for best results. We cover all of the best paper choices in our article Three Steps for Picking the Right Paper for Button Making. Your initial investment will definitely be less than with a color laser printer and with ink supply programs from some major manufacturers making refills easy and economical, it is easy to see why so many button makers choose inkjets as the way to go! Another big bonus is the much smaller footprint of most inkjets over laser printers. They are typically much less cumbersome and some are even designed specifically to be portable which helps at those on location events.
One of the biggest pitfalls to the inkjet printers are the ink itself. It is liquid ink so it soaks into the paper and that means it needs time to dry. To ensure complete drying so as to avoid rust in your buttons later, it can take as much as 24 hours. Speaking of time, quality printing from an inkjet can also take a little more patience than with a laser in terms of speed per page. Finally, although they are less expensive than their toner counterpart, you will find yourself replacing your cartridges more often than with a laser.
What it comes down to is this. Choosing a printer should be based on what features are the most important to you and which ones could cause trouble in paradise. On a budget? An inkjet with the right paper and your creativity will be great. Looking to invest for more than a hobby or side venture? Lasers should be considered. Whichever route you go, in the end it is your ideas and originality that will make the perfect button and the right printer is just icing on the cake. Until next time, happy button making!
-by Brighid Brown, Director of Blogging and All Things Cool
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