In this guide, I’m going to help you find the best color laser printer for your daily needs.
As photographers, we know that most of our work time is not spent actually taking photos, but doing the logistical and administrative work that makes the creative stuff a viable business.
A color laser printer is an essential tool for doing this work.
Need to print out invoices? A contract? Receipts? No problem!
A laser printer will help you do this quickly and cheaply. It might, if it has a scanner, help you scan all your receipts so you don’t get in a muddle come tax season.
You can print branded documents and, even high-quality color portfolios and contact sheets for clients, to drum up more business.
So now that you know you need one, let’s have a look at some of the options.
Table of Contents
What is the Best Color Laser Printer in 2023?
HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw (Best Overall)
- Ready to use out of the box
- Color touchscreen
- WiFi printing
- Scanning and faxing capabilities
- A bit noisy when in use
- Relatively expensive
This laser printer is a tough, all-round unit, meant to be durable enough for high volumes of printing.
It prints up to 22 pages per minute (ppm) in both black and colour, and it can handle 40,000 pages per month. Those printed pages are sharp too, at 600 x 600 dpi.
There’s an easily-adjustable paper tray, which takes sizes up to 8.5 x 14”, and the output tray holds 150 finished sheets. This is not one of those flimsy printers you have to hover over as the paper comes out.
Printing can be done via an Ethernet cable directly from your computer, via a USB port, or via WiFi through the HP Smart app.
It’s a fax machine and a 1200 dpi x 1200 dpi scanner, too.
You may not believe it, but quite a few magazines, for example, still ask for various documents to be faxed to them if you’re working for them on assignment.
This machine is also rated EPEAT Silver and ENERGY STAR qualified. That means that it’s both easy on the planet and your budget too.
Brother HL-L3210CW (Best Budget Color Laser Printer)
- Good price point
- WiFi connectivity
- Double-sided prints must be done manually
This compact laser printer unit is fairly similar to the HP printer above.
It doesn’t print quite as fast (19ppm), but it can handle 250 sheets in the in-tray at one time, and it has the same connectivity options.
Like the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw, it also has a slot where you can manually feed in more specialized paper items such as cards, labels, and envelopes.
It has a more basic design (no colour touchscreen here), but for a robust machine that’s more than enough to help you complete basic office printing tasks, especially if you have a small office space, it’s great value.
Canon imageCLASS MF644Cdw (Best for Photos)
- Great quality prints
- Quick printing speed
- High-resolution scanner
- Double-sided printing
- WiFi connectivity can be flaky
The Canon imageCLASS MF644Cdw is a powerful machine that will cover all your faxing, scanning, printing and copying needs.
You can do all of that printing directly from the Canon Print Business app, or any of the other printing apps available for Apple, Android, and Google.
The laser printer’s color touchscreen measures 5 inches – that’s the size of a smartphone! So it’s really easy to navigate and customize the menus and make all those special printing selections, like enlargements or double-sided printing.
It’s sharp (600 x 600 dpi) and fast too, with double-sided scans at up to 22 ppm, and single-sided at up to 28 ppm.
As it’s a Canon, you can expect popping colours and contrast, too. This makes it the perfect machine for printing out simple portfolios or contact sheets to show or send to clients.
Like the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw, it’s also been manufactured with both your printing budget and the cost to the planet in mind. It’s EPEAT Silver rated and ENERGY STAR qualified.
HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M479fdw (Best for High Volume)
- Fast, easy printing
- Intuitive color touchscreen
- A workhorse
- Relatively expensive
- A little noisy in operation
The HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M479fdw is a best-selling laser printer.
It’s not cheap, but for the price you get a solid package of features.
Printing speeds are fast, at 28 ppm. Scanning and copying, too, can be done quickly, at 26 ppm and 19 ppm respectively.
There are two in-trays and two output trays – for taking on both big and small jobs – for 250 and 50 sheets. This workhorse can fire through 50,000 sheets of printing per month.
As you’d expect from this kind of laser printer, you can also fax. It’s Wifi connected too, so you can control everything from the HP app (or others, such as Mopria or Apple AirPrint) and the 4.3-inch color touchscreen.
It’s also environmentally- and financially conscious, with an EPEAT Silver rating, and ENERGY STAR qualified.
Inkjet Printers vs Color Laser Printers: Which Is Better?
One of the biggest differences between inkjet printers and color laser printers is that the ink comes out slightly wet from an inkjet, so you have to be careful not to touch it until it dries.
Color laser printer pages come out dry, so you can pick them up immediately.
Laser ink cartridges also last longer than inkjet cartridges, so if you’re printing high volumes of color material, you can save money by investing in a color laser printer.
As a photographer, I recommend getting a laser printer for office work and printing basic portfolios and contact sheets and only get an inkjet if you need to print, for example, professional-quality art prints.
Here’s a comparison table focusing on Inkjet Printers vs Color Laser Printers, specifically for printing photos:
|Inkjet Printers||Color Laser Printers|
|Image Quality||Excellent image quality with higher DPI (dots per inch), capable of producing more detailed and smooth color gradations. Ideal for photo prints.||Good quality, but may struggle with color gradations and fine details in comparison to inkjet printers.|
|Color Accuracy||High color accuracy, essential for photo printing.||Color accuracy is good but may not be as precise as that of inkjet printers.|
|Speed||Typically slower than laser printers, especially for high-quality photo prints.||Faster than inkjet printers, even when printing in color.|
|Cost per Page||High-quality photo printing can use a lot of ink, making the cost per page higher.||Toner is generally cheaper per page, but might not deliver the same photo quality.|
|Printer Cost||Wide range of prices, but high-quality photo printers can be expensive.||Typically more expensive upfront than inkjet printers, but could be more cost-effective in the long run.|
|Maintenance||Printheads may need cleaning or replacement over time.||Toner doesn’t dry out or cause clogging issues, reducing maintenance time.|
15 Things to Look For When Buying a Color Laser Printer
When looking for a color laser printer for printing high-quality photos, there are a number of key factors to consider to ensure it meets your specific needs.
The final five in this list are especially relevant to photographers:
- Print Quality: This is a paramount consideration. A good color laser printer should be able to produce sharp, crisp text and vibrant, accurate colors, essential for professional-looking documents or stunning photos.
- Print Speed: If you frequently have large print jobs, a high print speed will save you a lot of time. Print speed is typically measured in pages per minute (ppm).
- Automatic Document Feeder (ADF): An ADF is very useful if you often need to scan or copy multi-page documents, as it automatically feeds the pages into the printer.
- Toner Cartridges: Look at the cost, availability, and yield (how many pages they can print) of the toner cartridges. Some printers may have cheaper cartridges but they may also run out faster. It’s often more economical to go for printers with high-yield cartridges.
- Duplex Printing: Duplex (or double-sided) printing is a useful feature to have if you want to save on paper and make your documents look more professional.
- Wireless and Mobile Printing: In the age of smartphones and tablets, the ability to print wirelessly from various devices is almost essential. Many printers now support mobile printing, often through apps like Apple AirPrint or Google Cloud Print.
- Print Cost: Calculate the cost per page, taking into account both the price of the toner cartridges and their yield. This will give you a better idea of how much the printer will cost you in the long run.
- Large Print Jobs: If you regularly need to print large quantities, look for a printer with a high duty cycle (the number of pages a printer can handle in a month) and a large paper capacity.
- Paper Options: Check the printer’s ability to handle different sizes and types of paper. This is particularly important if you plan on printing on specialty papers, such as cardstock or glossy photo paper.
- Resolution and Color Recalibration: The ability to recalibrate color and resolution can ensure your prints maintain consistent quality over time. This is especially important if you’re using the printer for professional-quality color prints or photos.
- Color Accuracy: For photographers, accurate color reproduction is crucial. You’ll want a printer that can accurately translate the colors from your digital files into print. Look for printers with multiple color cartridges and advanced color management options.
- Image Enhancement Features: Some printers offer specific features for enhancing image print quality, such as smoothing out gradients or removing image noise.
- PictBridge Support: This feature allows you to print directly from your digital camera, bypassing the need for a computer. It can be a great time-saver for photographers.
- Support for Professional Color Spaces: Some advanced printers can handle professional color spaces like AdobeRGB, which can offer a wider gamut than the standard sRGB.
- Print Longevity: Photographers often want their prints to last. Therefore, a printer that uses high-quality inks resistant to fading and discoloration over time could be a good investment.
How Can I Save Money on Printer Toner?
Use good-quality, brand-name toner cartridges in your laser printers, and you’re less likely to have to reprint jobs.
Print color only when you absolutely have to, as color cartridges are more expensive.
And, as with most things, try to buy in bulk to get discounts. Many retail outlets offer these kinds of discounts, especially if you’re also buying a printer from them.
Here are some more tips on saving money on toner when printing photos at home:
- Choose the Best Color Laser Printer You Can Afford: Ensure you have a printer that is economical with ink/toner usage. Some printers are designed to be more efficient and provide settings that can reduce toner use.
- Print in Draft Mode: If the highest quality is not necessary, print in draft or economy mode. This uses less toner while still providing a good quality image.
- Use Efficient Fonts: Some fonts consume less ink and toner. Research and use toner-efficient fonts whenever possible.
- Keep Your Printer Clean: Regular maintenance of your printer can help it run more efficiently, using less toner over time.
- Buy High-Capacity Cartridges: If your printer supports it, high-capacity cartridges might have a higher upfront cost but often have a lower cost per page.
- Toner-Saving Software: Some software solutions can help reduce the amount of toner used in prints.
- Calibrate Your Printer: Proper calibration ensures colors are accurately represented with the minimum amount of toner.
- Avoid Printing Unnecessary Elements: Edit photos before printing to remove any unnecessary elements and background colors that would consume toner.
- Buy Third-Party Toner: Branded toner can be expensive. High-quality third-party toner can offer significant savings. However, be careful, as the quality varies and some may even damage your printer.
- Recycle and Refill Your Cartridges: Some stores offer services to refill your old cartridges, which can be cheaper than buying new ones. Be sure to check the compatibility with your printer.
Can I Print From My iPad, iPhone, or Android Device?
You definitely can.
This kind of connectivity now comes as standard with all the best color laser printers.
Most (if not all) come with their own apps, such as the HP Print Smart, and Brother iPrint, and these work from both iOS and Android devices.
You can also use device-specific apps such as Apple AirPrint (for iPads, iPhones, and Macs), Mopria (for Androids), and Google Cloud Print (for Chrome users).
Also, laser printers generally allow you to connect to Ethernet cables, and print directly from USBs.
Is it worth buying a color laser printer?
If you have a home office, and many photographers do, you need a printer.
Laser printers make you more productive, as you’ll have the means to produce all your printed documents right at hand.
And if you need a printer, a color laser printer is the way to go, as long-term, they are more cost-efficient.
Which is best color laser printer for home use?
For compactness, go with the Brother HL-L3210CW, or if you have a bit more space to play with, the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M283fdw is a good choice.
What is the best color laser printer all-in-one?
In my opinion, the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M479fdw is a great all-in-one option, as it offers not just printing, but copying, scanning, and faxing too.
What is the cheapest color laser printer?
In this guide, the cheapest color laser printer is the Brother HL-L3210CW.
What is the best color laser printer with the cheapest ink cartridges?
To be honest, I’d advise against looking for the cheapest ink cartridges as poor quality ink will cost you more in the long run, either through reprints or (worst case scenario) a damaged printer.
Look for deals on good quality, reputable brand name ink, and put them in the color laser printer that’s most suited to your needs and budget.
How often will I have to buy toner?
This really depends on how much you print, whether you print more in color than black, and whether you need to reprint.
Before making a purchase, look carefully at the laser printer’s page-life specification. This will give you a rough guide of how many pages you can expect to print per cartridge using that unit.