Printer, ink and paper FAQs

Your most-asked printing questions answered by Canon Europe print specialist Suhaib Hussain.
The ink levels showing on a setting bar of a Canon printer.

There are so many ways of putting ink on paper, and so many kinds of ink and paper, that printing raises many questions for everyone from casual home users to professional photographers. Here, Canon Europe print specialist Suhaib Hussain answers some of your most common queries about printing, ink and paper.

Choosing a printer, ink and paper:

Understanding printer features:

Understanding and managing ink:

What are the differences between inkjet, laser and other printer types?

Laser printing is based on physical contact between the paper and a photoelectric drum. This drum picks up dry toner powder, which is then fused onto the paper by heat. The process produces prints with good resistance to smudging and is well suited to office use where the main requirement is document printing onto plain paper.

In inkjet printing, liquid ink droplets are ejected onto the paper, with no physical contact. This enables the use of a much wider range of media types and paper thicknesses, as well as delivering far better fidelity and colour vibrancy for photo printing.

Canon's portable SELPHY photo printers use a dye-sublimation process, which produces long-lasting, lab-quality prints with smooth, continuous colours. It requires specially coated paper and is ideal for instant high quality prints.

The small-format Canon Zoemini range of photo printers use ZINK1 technology (the name derives from "Zero Ink"), which uses special paper embedded with micro crystals that react when heated. This produces a smudge-proof, water-resistant image without needing any ink, which makes it perfect for small, highly portable printers.

A woman using her smartphone to print via a Canon SELPHY CP1300 and a stack of envelopes nearby.

Canon's compact SELPHY photo printers such as this Canon SELPHY CP1300 are based on dye-sublimation technology, in which three different colours of ink from a film ribbon are fused to the paper in successive passes, followed by a protective coating during the fourth and final pass through the printer.

What is the best printer for home use?

If you're looking for a single printer that can produce both documents and photo prints, inkjet technology is the best fit. Canon's PIXMA range of printers includes models with single-ink cartridges or even refillable ink tanks, which can be more cost-effective for higher print volumes – see What is the difference between single inks and FINE Cartridges below.

Print speed can be another important factor to consider, particularly if you're going to do a lot of printing – see What does IPM mean below. Among other features to look for, Auto Duplex is handy for efficient double-sided printing, which can also reduce paper costs. Multi-function printers with a built-in scanner are great if you need to scan or copy documents or photos. Wireless connectivity options can make printing easier as well.

Simplifying the decision-making process, Canon's main printer categories include PIXMA for home printing and MAXIFY for a home or small-scale office.

Sanjay Jogia holding a print from a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300.

As a professional-grade A3+ large-format photo printer, the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 features 10 pigment-based inks, including grey, matte black, photo black and a Chroma Optimiser, to maximise the quality of both colour and black and white prints. It's suitable for a wide variety of photographic and fine art media. © Sanjay Jogia

A range of Canon photo papers

For the ultimate in photographic quality, Canon's range of fine art media includes a wide variety of paper-white levels (equating to maximum brightness) and an impressive range of finishes, from smooth to richly textured. The Canon PIXMA PRO and Canon imagePROGRAF photo printers also directly support fine art paper and other media from specialist paper companies including Canson and Hahnemühle.

What is the best ink for printing photos and documents?

Inkjet printers generally use dye-based inks, but Canon has long specialised in hybrid ink systems which combine a pigment-based black ink with dye-based coloured inks. The pigment black delivers crisp, rich black text for documents, which is smudge resistant and ensures excellent longevity, even on plain paper and envelopes, while the dye-based inks produce vibrant colour rendition for photo printing, especially on glossy and lustre paper.

Canon's entry-level hybrid inkjet printers use a pigment-based black cartridge and a tri-colour dye-based cartridge. More advanced models feature four or even five separate dye-based inks in addition to pigment black, including a Photo Black and sometimes Photo Blue or Grey. These enable printers like the Canon PIXMA TS705a and Canon PIXMA G650 to deliver a broader colour range or gamut for photo printing, along with greater tonal range and contrast.

For freedom of expression in photo printing, for both colour and black and white images, the pigment-based LUCIA PRO ink technology used in Canon's imagePROGRAF PRO printers comes to the fore. For example, the A3+ format Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 uses ten pigment-based inks, delivering unbeatable quality on matte photo paper and specialist fine art media. This printer also uses a Chroma Optimiser cartridge to enhance smoothness and overall quality on glossy media.

What types of paper are best suited to photo and document printing?

Good quality plain paper or card is ideal for document printing, but for photo printing there's a lot more variety. Canon offers glossy, lustre and matte photo papers. There's double-sided matte photo paper, which is ideal for scrapbooking, and even a version that comes with a centre crease and envelopes, making it ideal for creating greetings cards. Glossy and lustre photo papers have a protective top layer which works especially well with dye-based inks. The relatively small molecules of dye are fully absorbed beneath the outer layer, and sealed within.

A MAXIFY GX6050 MegaTank printer showing ink level viewing windows at the front with prints pinned to a noticeboard behind.

Canon's PIXMA G and MAXIFY GX series of MegaTank printers have refillable ink tanks rather than conventional cartridges, enabling up to 6,0002 prints between top-ups. It's easy to keep a visual check on ink levels, thanks to viewing windows built into the front of the printers.

A Canon PIXMA TS705 printer on a wooden table with images of fruit and flowers being printed.

Like other Canon hybrid inkjet printers, the Canon PIXMA TS705a uses pigment black ink and dye-based cyan, magenta, yellow and Photo Black inks. The black and colour ink cartridges are available in standard, XL and XXL3 capacities, catering for different print volumes.

What does IPM mean and why is it important?

Print speed is often quoted in PPM (pages per minute), but this can be misleading, as the value will vary depending on page content and resolution setting. Canon uses IPM (images per minute) measurements instead. These are more precise, as they're based on the output of standard ISO test pages that include a range of text, charts and images, printed at a fixed resolution. IPM gives a much clearer indication of how fast a printer is in real terms.

What is borderless printing?

Often used for various sizes of photo print, the borderless option enables printing right up to the edges of the paper, so there's no white border. Many home printers, such as the Canon PIXMA TS5350a Series, feature borderless printing at sizes from 3.5x3.5 inches up to A4. With the latest imagePROGRAF PRO printers, including the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 and Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, the borderless option is available for matte and fine art media as well as for glossy and lustre photo paper.

This increasingly popular feature makes it possible to print via a Wi-Fi connection from anywhere around your home or office – using a Wi-Fi-connected smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer – without needing to physically connect your device to the printer. Canon apps, such as the Canon PRINT app, Creative Park app and Easy-PhotoPrint Editor app, enable you to control your printer and perform a wide range of functions from a smart device. Wireless direct is another popular feature, enabling a direct wireless connection between printer and smart device without the need for a router, while cloud-based scanning and printing is increasingly available for truly remote operation. The functions vary between printer models.

A Canon PIXMA TS6350 printer on a table top, printing out images for birthday decorations.

The highly cost-effective, 5-ink Canon PIXMA TS6350a Series is equally adept at printing documents and photos, and outputs at excellent speeds. Typical of the current range, it features Wi-Fi connectivity, making it easy to produce prints from a laptop, smartphone, tablet and other devices, from anywhere around the home. Eliminating the need to physically connect a device to the printer with a cable makes scanning and printing so much more convenient.

What is the difference between single inks and FINE Cartridges?

Most Canon inkjet printers use an innovative print head technology called FINE (Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering), which is robust and durable and produces high-quality prints. By heating the ink rather than just squirting it out, FINE print heads ensure ink is pushed out in a single ejection, which improves efficiency, and have higher ink droplet placement speeds, resulting in greater accuracy.

Some Canon PIXMA printers use single ink cartridges and some have Canon's FINE Cartridge system, which uses just two cartridges, one black and one tri-colour. The big benefit of the FINE Cartridge system is convenience and less time spent on maintenance. In FINE Cartridges, the print heads are integrated into the cartridges and are therefore renewed every time a cartridge is replaced. In printers with individual cartridges for each ink, the cartridges sit in a tray that feeds the print heads. In theory, individual cartridges could save you money over the long term, because you only need to replace cartridges that have actually run out. If you’re printing a lot of images with a predominant colour in them over a period of time, you will run down one colour of ink before the others, making it easier and more cost efficient to replace one cartridge at a time.

How do I change ink cartridges?

Replacing ink cartridges is very straightforward. You'll get a prompt via the printer driver on your computer or the Canon PRINT app on your smart device if you have it installed, showing that an ink cartridge is running low or empty. Ink information is also shown directly on Canon printers that have a built-in display screen.

To change ink cartridges, you simply open the cover of the printer, remove the used cartridge and slot a new one into place. Many Canon single ink cartridges also have LEDs on them which flash red when they're running low or empty, so you can easily see which ones need changing.

How often will I need to change ink cartridges?

If you mainly print text documents, your cartridges will last much longer than if you're regularly creating relatively high-ink-consumption photo prints at large sizes.

For many current Canon printers, XL and even XXL3 cartridges are available alongside standard-capacity options, to suit different needs. For really high print volumes, you'd benefit from a Canon MegaTank printer, which uses refillable ink tanks rather than conventional cartridges. These generally hold sufficient ink for around 6,0002 pages or more, compared with 150 to 200 pages for cartridge-based printers.

Whatever your printing needs, whether you're printing at home, in the office or for craft, find the ideal printer for you.

Written by Matthew Richards

  1. ZINK, Zero Ink and the ZINK logo are trademarks of ZINK Holdings, LLC, registered in the US and other countries.
  2. Page Yield is the estimated value based on Canon individual test method using the ISO/IEC 24712 chart and continuous printing simulation with the replacement ink bottles after initial setup.
  3. XXL inks may not be available in your region.

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