Printers 101: The Two Types of Portable Photo Printers

Portable photo printers are not hard to find, and there are a lot of choices that you can select from. But, it’s good to know about the two types of portable photo printers in order to make a quicker and more educated purchasing decision.

Compact Photo Printers: Professional Photos on the Go

Compact photo printers are, as they are named, compact and exclusively engineered for photo printing. It would be unwise to use these printers for any other purpose of printing than printing photographs because that’s what they are designed for. These devices make use of the most ideal photo printing mechanism – dye sublimation. Using this process, a printer is able to replicate the most vivid and fully detailed digital image and imprint it onto photo paper.

Dye sublimation does not use ink. Instead, it uses dye panels of colors black, red, yellow, and blue, and these dye panels are like stencils that are used to imprint a particular pattern or image onto the paper. The process of dye sublimation allows the dye colors to be transferred onto the photo paper through heat, but it’s called sublimation because, from a solid dye panel, the colors immediately imprint on the paper by turning into gas.

Having said these, it’s also important to understand that dye panels can be quite costly, but they are very much worth the expense because there is no other printer that can produce photos as high quality as these printers. However, it’s also vital for you to know that these printers can only print photos, typically up to 4’’ x 6’’ in size.

The most popular dye-sublimation compact photo printers that you can find today are from Canon and Epson, with their SELPHY and PictureMate product lines respectively.

Portable Inkjet Printers: All-Purpose Printing Anytime, Anywhere

If what you want is a portable photo printer that doesn’t just print photos, what you need is a portable inkjet printer. Portable inkjet printers are like inkjet printers that have nozzles, ink cartridges, and high resolutions. The typical resolution of a dye sublimation print is only 300×300 dpi but that’s already very good, while inkjet printers have resolutions measured up to 9,600 dpi.

What’s great about portable inkjet printers is that they can be used for more than just photo printing. These devices are capable of printing up to standard document paper sizes including A4, letter, and legal, so you can use it as an all-purpose printer. They may be quite bigger than compact photo printers but their versatility makes them ideal for professionals on the go who also want photo printers during their trips and travels.

The cost of printing for these portable inkjet printers is also the same as standard inkjet printers. The only difference is their sizes. Inkjet printers also have the same connectivity features of compact photo printers such as PictBridge, USB port, memory card slots, optional Bluetooth, and integrated wireless connections. They are also able to print borderless 4’’ x 6’’ photos but perhaps not as high quality as compact photo printers. Nevertheless, being able to use them for general printing purposes makes them all the more preferable even if they aren’t solely dedicated to photo printing.


Since you now have ample knowledge about the two different types of available photo printers, you can make your shopping activities much easier and simpler, and you now have a definite path to take on in your search for the ideal printer that you desire. Best of luck!