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I am going to be printing my own greeting cards in high volumes. I am looking to buy a printer that can handle the high volume and colors.

What type of printer do I need for this, an ink-jet or laser style?

If both styles are acceptable what are the pros and cons to each? What should I be looking for in a printer to meet my needs.

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Your question is somewhat broad-ranging and is usually discouraged on Stack Exchange forums. Your last question certainly fits that bill. Those answers can be found by searching for reviews of possible candidate printers within your budget.

More specifically, you would be seeking a printer with a relatively flat paper path, to prevent jams caused by thicker paper as is typical of greeting card stock. Both ink-jet and laser printers will be found in this form.

Ink-jet printers will be more expensive for ink (consumables) and have lower throughput ratings than a laser printer. Look for duty cycle information and compare across your budget selection.

Ink-jet printers are usually recognized as having cost-per-page in the range of $0.05 to $0.15 while laser printers can run below $0.05 per page. I would add a reference to this, but the search for that reference generated thousands of links, all of them rather voluminous.

If you do not need photograph reproduction of images, a color laser will give you higher production rates due to the page per minute rating of this type o printer. A toner cartridge (four in a color laser) will last much longer than an ink cartridge.

On the other hand, there are bottle-fed inkjet printers that have a flat paper path and low consumable costs. This is accomplished by designing the printer to use stationary high-capacity ink bottles mounted on the housing, feeding the print head with hoses/tubing.

There is no easy answer to your question.

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Laser. Inkjet is just not permanent enough for greeting cards that people will be touching all the time, spilling wine / cake on etc.

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if your greeting cards are to look professional you should only proof them whatever printer you have and then have a printer run them on card stock .. you will get the surface finish you specify with no colour fade problems.

The cost of printing on an inkjet is prohibitive in volume, laser is more doable, but as already pointed out, the ink is not stable.

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  • If you're talking about producing greeting cards in high volumes, that sounds like you're either planning to sell them or send them for business purposes. Neither an inkjet or laser printer will produce cards that look professionally made. You can get results good enough to send to family and friends, or business associates, but they won't match a commercial card and will look a bit amateurish up close. For professional looking results, you would need something like a dye-sublimation printer, or letterpress or offset printing equipment.

    Dye-sub printers are what you typically find at a photo shop. The printers aren't cheap, and consumables can run on the order of several dollars per full-size page. But small, affordable ones are available, especially if your cards will be smaller than a full-size page (many can handle 6x8 paper, which would fold to a 4x6 card).

    Letterpress and offset printing isn't "home size" equipment, although there are "hobbyist" desktop letterpress printers for dabbling with limited volume runs (see for example https://www.boxcarpress.com/blog/l-letterpress-startup-costs/). Letterpress is suited to relatively simple designs and no more than a few colors. It's a very long manual process to set up. Offset printing requires commercial equipment. Both letterpress and offset printing require training and experience (as well as a big investment). Unless you want to start a commercial card business, there are lots of local and web-based services that will do the printing for you, and the cost is often in the neighborhood of what you would spend on consumables doing it with a home printer.

If home printing results will be adequate for your needs, here are some considerations.

  • Laser printing basically sucks for most kinds of greeting cards. They print everything using primary colors and relatively low resolution. Forget anything involving a photo, pastel colors, or gradients. The resolution and dot size just aren't sufficient for good-looking, accurate color, light colors that don't look grainy, smooth gradients, or a full dynamic range. If you've ever seen color brochures with photos printed on a laser print, you know. If the cards are just text and simple graphics it might be good enough.

    You can buy glossy card stock for laser printers, but what I've seen tends to be pretty thick. You would need a printer with a straight paper path that can take card stock.

    Laser toner adheres well to paper for the short term, but it is less reliable for long-term purposes. Card stock can be a problem unless the printer adjusts for paper thickness. When the paper starts to age, toner can flake or scratch off. If you print in quantity and stack the cards for storage, the toner can adhere to the card next to it, and transfer to the other card.

  • For inkjet printing, you would want a photo-quality printer, and likely a high-end one to handle the job. You would probably also want to convert it to a continuous ink supply system (external ink tanks). It would need to handle card stock, although many of the printer manufacturers sell card paper designed to run through their machines (it's more expensive than standard card stock, but has a nicer finish and is designed for high-resolution inkjet printing).

    You can get archival paper and ink for inkjet printers. They won't show signs of aging after long storage, and will hold up to a little handling (but they aren't as robust as a commercial card).

    A card with text and some simple graphics won't use much ink. But edge-to-edge photo printing, solid background colors, and the like, use way more ink than the "standard page" on which capacity and ink costs are based. A standard page is based on 5% coverage. Edge-to-edge photo printing is 100% coverage, so the per-page ink cost will be about 20 times as much (and you'll purchase ink 20 times as often), unless the manufacturer states capacity or cost for full-page photos.

    If the cards have more than text and simple graphics, a high-end inkjet photo printer will yield the best looking home-printed results (except for a dye-sub printer). However, the consumables cost may be higher than having the cards professionally printed. A spot check showed 200 large, folded, glossy, photo greeting cards, printed inside and out, and shipped to my home, for about $0.75 each. And that saves the cost of buying a printer and dealing with maintenance.

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I might be wrong but you sound like you're at the beginning of the research phase.

One thing not mentioned in the excellent answers already given, is that paper or card stock come in many different thicknesses, and is measured (at least here in OZ) in grams per square metre (gsm).

For example, photocopy paper is 80 gsm, and card stock might be 200 gsm or even more.

As every laser and inkjet printer has a maximum thickness it can print, you'll need to get a swatch of paper samples from a printer or paper manufacturer. These will show what each gsm feels like.

Note too that some papers will actually be thicker even when they are the same gsm, simply because the fibres are less dense.

I'd be starting at the end product in terms of paper thickness and reproduction quality and putting together a set of minimum specs for yourself. Every printer made will list the maximum paper thickness it can handle. What thickness they can feed and print reliably without jamming is something reviews might tell you.

Image quality is another story.

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