Thermal Photo Printers

Digital Photography Review

Whether you came of age in the days of darkroom chemicals or began photography in the digital era, there are few things more satisfying than seeing your image on paper as a finished print. Current technology has made producing exhibition-quality prints from the comfort of your own home easier than ever before.

The first step towards achieving high quality prints involves choosing the materials and equipment best suited to your needs and, of course, budget. In the first of this two-part primer we'll explore some basic printer technology so you can make informed decisions as you wade through the numerous options on the market.

Printer type

In the pursuit of photo-realistic prints that rival or exceed what you'll get from online services or the local drugstore, there are two broad printer technologies from which to choose; dye-sublimation (dye-sub) and inkjet. Dye-sub printers rely on a heating process to mix dyes onto a specially coated paper, producing a continuous tone print. An additional clear protective layer is added over the dyes, making them less prone to scuffs and smears when the print is handled.

Dye-sublimation technology is used only in a relatively small number of consumer-level compact photo printers such as the Canon Selphy lineup (pictured above) and Polaroid's POGO series printers. The specialized media required for these printers is brand-specific, and normally packaged as an integrated paper/ink set which is loaded into the printer.

The overwhelming majority of dedicated photo printers on the market today are inkjets. These printers spray discrete, but tiny droplets of ink onto specially coated papers via a printhead that makes multiple passes across the print surface.

Although these ink dots do not mix together before being ejected onto the print surface, they are extremely small; so small that they're measured in picoliters (trillionths of a liter). Complex dot placement algorithms known as dithering, along with paper coatings designed to maintain image sharpness and vibrancy, are capable of producing literally millions of colors with tonal gradations that appear smooth to the naked eye. Inkjet printers come in a variety of forms.

Compact inkjet photo printers can be operated without a computer connection. Images (typically 4 x6in) can be printed directly from a USB-connected camera, a memory card or even a Bluetooth enabled mobile device.
Desktop models often include input trays for printing directly onto CDs/DVDs
Many 13- inch and wider printers include an attachment that allows you to print on rolls, for image lengths extending beyond the standard sheet sizes.

Ink on paper

At the heart of inkjet printer technology are the printheads, which actually eject the ink as they move left to right across the width of the print surface. Printheads contain rows of tiny openings, called nozzles. As the printhead makes a full pass across the print surface, a motor in the printer advances the paper line by line, exposing un-inked areas to a set of ink-firing nozzles.

Piezoelectric printheads can eject variably-sized droplets from a single nozzle position, allowing for crisp, finely resolved image detail. Thermal printheads typically offer a high density of nozzles per printhead, which increases print speeds. Though there are differences as regards production cost and usable lifespan, both piezoelectric and thermal printheads are capable of producing very high-quality photographic prints.

VuPoint VuPoint IP-P10-VP Color Photo Printer
CE (VuPoint)
  • Dye sublimation thermal transfer, YMCO
  • 300dpi x 300dpi 256 Gradations/ 16.7 million colors
  • Photo Format Supported JPEG photo
  • Print Size 4-Inch x 6-Inch
  • Printing Time Approx. 55 seconds (YMC + Overcoating, excludes data processing and pre-heating)
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MITSUBISHI Mitsubishi CP-9550DW Digital Color Thermal Photo Printer with 2.0 USB Interface, 346 DPI Resolution
Office Product (MITSUBISHI)
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  • A revolutionary new system, the ink sheet rolls feature built-in Color Imaging Chips that contain specific data about the media. The printer uses this information...
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Mitsubishi CP-9550DW Digital Color Thermal Photo Printer
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HiTi HiTi P910L Lightweight 8" Dye-Sub Color Roll Type Photo Printer, 35 Sec. per 8x10", 300dpi, 8x4" to 8x12" Print Sizes
CE (HiTi)
  • HiTi P910L Lightweight 8 Dye-Sub Color Roll Type Photo Printer - Paper Tray - 2 x Paper Flange - USB Cable - Power Cord - Software CD-ROM - HiTi 1 Year Limited...
  • Printing Technology: Dye diffusion thermal transfer (D2T2 Technology)
  • Maximum Resolution: 300 dpi
  • Ink Palette: CMY
  • Surface Options: Glossy or matte finish
[2015 New Version] AGPtek® Portable Mini 58mm Bluetooth Wireless Pocket Mobile POS Thermal Receipt Printer, Support IOS 7.0 and IOS 7.0 Above System, Android 4.0 Above System & WINDOWS System
  • (1) Mini Bluetooth Printer is a portable thermal printer that combines USB, RS-232 Serial and Bluetooth communication interface together.
  • (2) Small size, light weight, reliable performance, simple to connect, easy to use. It can print 58mm width thermal paper. Low operating costs (no ribbons, ink cartridges).
  • (3) Such as the TAXI bill printing, administrative fees receipt printing, post receipt printing, restaurant ordering information printing, online payment information...
  • (4) Super power lithium electricity, charging time is 5-6 hours. High-speed, clear printing. Auto sleep, auto wake, save electricity.
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Dell New Dell Wasabi PZ310 Mobile Thermal Color Printer Black No ink Needed Inkjet
Office Product (Dell)
  • Small
  • Ligtweight
  • No Ink Needed
  • Portable


Where can one find a thermal photo printer?

There are many brands of thermal photo printers. You may find the Fuji Film brand of thermal photo printers online at their website. In store, you may find these printers at Costco or Wal-Mart.

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