Category: Wide Format

Deciding to buy a large format printer for your business is a huge step and one that can feel a little bit daunting. Whether you’re an architect who wants to start printing their own large-scale architectural drawings or a graphic designer who wants to expand into providing signage services, you want to make sure you’re getting the right large format printer for your needs. In this guide, you’ll find an overview of everything you need to consider before you start shopping around, including understanding your printing needs and different large-format printing technologies.

An Overview of Large Format Printers

The first thing to know about large format printers is that – as the name might indicate – they specialize in producing larger prints such as banners, full-sized architectural designs, signage, and more. What sets them apart from both desktop and wide format printers is the fact that they generally support print widths between 18 inches and 100 inches.

But they’re also not just scaled-up versions of smaller printers. Large format printers also come equipped with features that allow them to handle media types that include vinyl, textiles, and even rigid substrates like wood or metal. They’re ideal for creating precise technical drawings, large-scale advertisements, and high-quality poster-sized photographs.

Start by Assessing Your Printing Needs

The first thing you need to do, before you’ve even started looking at any large format printers, is assess your printing needs. With so many different combinations of printing technology and features or configurations — this step makes sure that you’ll be searching for a large format printer that suits your business objectives.

  • Print Size and Scale: You’ll need to determine the maximum size of the prints that you want to be able to produce. Large format printers support prints of up to 100 inches wide, but bigger printers will need more space and involve a higher initial investment.
  • Resolution: If your work demands accurate fine details, such as with technical drawings and high-quality graphics, then you’re going to need to make sure your large format printer prints in high resolutions without losing clarity.
  • Print Volume: Establish how much printing you’ll be doing daily or monthly. Higher volumes mean you’ll need a more robust machine with a higher throughput. You’ll also want to consider energy efficiency if you’re going to be printing a lot.
  • Media Compatibility: Different large format printers are suited for rigid substrates, others for paper, vinyl, or textiles. Some are more versatile and can print on a variety of media, others are more specialized and focus on just one media. Your choice depends on what you plan to produce and the materials you want to use.
  • Color Accuracy: While there are some instances where color accuracy isn’t necessary — things like high-quality photographic prints demand perfect color matching. Establish whether color precision is important so you know whether this is a feature you need.
  • Speed: When you’re printing things that are up to 100 inches wide, the speed of the printer matters. If you’re going to be facing tight deadlines for your printed materials, you’re going to need a machine that can produce quality prints at speed.
  • Connectivity and Software Compatibility: Large format printers may need specialized software and even additional hardware like dedicated network switches. You’ll want a printer that connects easily with your current IT infrastructure and software if possible. Otherwise, you’ll need to consider what else is necessary to get it up and running smoothly.

Understanding Different Printing Processes

Making sure that you choose the right large format printer depends on understanding the various printing processes used in large-scale printing. Each has its own advantages and drawbacks and is suited for different applications.


Inkjet printing is one of the most common processes used in large format printing, and some of the other processes you’ll come across are based on inkjet technology. Inkjet printers work by spraying paper and other media with tiny droplets of ink. They’re extremely versatile and able to produce high-quality prints with an excellent depth of color.

  • Advantages include superior image quality and a wide range of compatible media.
  • Limitations include potentially higher costs for ink, as well as slower print speeds compared to some other technologies.

Dye Sublimation

Dye sublimation is ideal for both textiles and hard substrates and involves turning dye into gas so it permeates the print material before solidifying into its fibers. Dye sublimation is most commonly used for high-quality apparel, large wall hangings, and other fabric-based items.

  • Advantages include a vibrant color output, as well as durable prints that are both colorfast and wash-resistant.
  • Limitations include a setup cost that’s generally higher than other technologies and needing to use materials that are compatible with sublimation inks.


Mostly used for producing precise line drawings and high-quality text outputs, electrostatic printers can include laser printers as well as electrostatic plotters. Both use toner, which is a finely powdered ink, in combination with static electricity and heat to produce the final image. Where they differ is in how the static charge is applied to the printing drum or belt.

  • Advantages include speed and a high level of precision, which is why they’re ideal for technical and architectural drawings.
  • Limitations include higher overall operating costs and not being as effective in producing full-color graphic prints.

Solvent and Eco-Solvent

Solvent and eco-solvent printers use special inks made from pigments dissolved in a solvent carrier. Known for their versatility and ability to print on a wide variety of substrates or materials, they’re commonly used for vehicle wraps, billboards, outdoor signage, and other applications where weather resistance is important.

  • Advantages include outdoor durability and resistance to weathering, which is perfect for signs and outdoor graphics.
  • Limitations include the need for proper ventilation because of the potentially harmful fumes that are emitted during printing.

UV (Ultraviolet)

UV printers use UV-curable inks that are dried or cured using ultraviolet light and are known for their versatility in producing durable high-quality prints. These inks solidify instantly when exposed to UV light, resulting in immediate drying and adhesion to a wide variety of both flexible and rigid materials, including acrylic, glass, metal, wood, and more.

  • Advantages include the ability to print on a wide variety of materials, including non-traditional and rigid substrates, and the high durability of prints.
  • Limitations can include a higher initial investment and the need to replace their UV lamps on occasion.


Latex printers use water-based latex inks, which are then cured using heat. The latex inks contain pigments suspended in a water-based solution and offer a wide color gamut, excellent print quality, and good durability. They’re used for both indoor and outdoor applications and can print on various materials, including vinyl, fabric, paper, and more.

  • Advantages include environmental friendliness, odorless prints, and versatility across various media types.
  • Limitations include lower energy efficiency because of the need to cure the ink, which means higher operational costs.

Docutrend Understands Large Format Printing

Now that you’ve assessed your printing needs and identified which printing technology is best suited to your needs, you can create a detailed budget plan for your initial investment, ongoing costs, and total cost of ownership over the lifetime of your large format printer. Once you’ve established what you can afford now and in the future, you can start shopping.

Or reach out to Docutrend. We can help you identify which large format printers are best suited to your needs and budget. Then it’s as simple as requesting a demo and examining each one’s sample outputs to make a final decision. Contact Docutrend today, and let us help you make sure your investment in large format printer technology is both sound and successful.