Category: Wide Format

There’s a whole spectrum of printers, from humble home printers right up to high-end commercial models. Plotter printers, however, are a specialized variety, with very particular use cases. You may have heard of them, but you might not be fully familiar with how they work, or how they differ from the rest. Let’s dig into plotter printer technology and see what these printers are all about.

What Is a Plotter Printer?

First, the basics. A plotter printer, or simply “plotter” to those who use them often, is a special type of printer aimed at producing large-format, high-detail prints.

Plotters come in various forms, like flatbeds and inkjets, which we’ll dig into in further detail later on. Each one works in its own distinct way, but they generally involve the use of a special pen or other writing implement built into the plotter printer itself.

That pen is used to form the image on the paper, and it’s what gives plotter printers such remarkable levels of precision in their output, capable of delivering incredibly detailed images like blueprints, architectural images, vectors, etc.

Who Uses Plotter Printers?

Naturally, plotter printers aren’t for everyone. A lot of users, even business users, won’t necessarily have a need for such detailed, precise prints in such large formats. That’s why you won’t find a plotter printer in the average office. However, in certain specific industries, plotters are invaluable.

Those industries include:

  • Architecture
  • Engineering
  • Marketing
  • Graphic Design
  • Topography
  • Construction
  • Manufacture

In these industries and other related ones, plotter printers help to provide workers with the kind of intensely detailed documents, files, and images they need to do their work effectively.

Architects, for instance, rely on plotters to generate technical drawings and CAD renders. Manufacturers may also use a plotter printer to generate images of prototype products, which can then be analyzed, improved, or shown to shareholders.

In brief, if you need something printed big and wide, with great detail and almost no margin of error, a plotter printer is the way to go.

Different Varieties of Plotters and How They Work

As touched on above, there are several plotter printer types.


Typically used for printing posters, banners, and promo materials, inkjet plotters use three colors of water-based ink – cyan, magenta, and yellow – inside the plotter pen to create colored vector outputs. They can print on many materials, like metals and fabrics, in addition to paper.


Arguably the most precise form of plotter printer, a flatbed – as its name suggests – keeps the paper as flat and still as possible during printing. Meanwhile, the pen moves across the paper with power and precision to form the final image.


Two key components form the drum plotter: a drum and a motorized pen. Your paper attaches to the drum, which then spins around. The pen, meanwhile, moves back and forth over the paper, drawing the desired image.


Cutting plotters are multifunctional devices, capable not only of printing an image but cutting it out, as well. They’re popular in graphic design work, using automated knives to cut wide-format designs, letters, and shapes for applications like signage or even billboards.


A thermal plotter printer is true to its name, using heat to generate images on the printer paper, as opposed to the classic pen and ink combo. With no need for ink, thermal plotters can be quite cheap to run, but the thermal prints they produce are sometimes a little sensitive and demand careful handling.

The Benefits of a Plotter Printer

We’ve seen some of the main plotter printer types. Next, let’s dig into the benefits they bring to the table.

Remarkable Precision

As mentioned earlier, precision is the name of the game with plotter printers. They’re designed from top to bottom to deliver the most detailed, accurate, intricate prints. That’s why they’re so popular among detail-oriented professionals like the aforementioned architects and engineers. No other printer can deliver this level of detail, with such a slim margin of error.

Multiple Forms of Print Media

Most printers can only print on paper or similar materials, like light forms of card stock. Plotter printers are different. Some of them are capable of printing on a multitude of materials. That includes metal, fabric, vinyl, and more. This opens up entirely new avenues of printing potential, letting you print your own signs, banners, posters, and more.

Large and Wide Prints

Plotter printers are big. Much bigger than a classic home or office printer, on average. Their size is also mirrored in their output, as they’re capable of printing very large and wide-format designs. It’s not at all uncommon, for example, for a plotter printer to print drawings and blueprints measuring around 36 inches by 48 inches.

Rapid Speeds

Similar to high-end commercial printers, plotter printers are fast. In fact, speed is one of the areas in which plotter printer technology has improved a great deal over the years. The earliest plotters were quite slow, but modern-day models can churn out huge, detailed designs in a matter of seconds, printing at a pace of up to 32 millimeters per second.

Advanced Features

A lot of top-tier plotter printers also come with an array of advanced features. Some are capable of automated maintenance, for example, so they can basically fix little issues that might pop up during everyday usage, all on their own. Others have smart self-calibration to minimize waste and ensure that your prints are remarkably detailed and error-free.

Invest in the Best Plotter Printing Technology

There you have it – a thorough, deep-dive guide into plotter printers, and all they have to offer. If you’re in one of the many fields that can benefit from plotter printing tech, you’ll want to invest in the best models. That’s where Docutrend comes in. We can help match your business in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania with the right plotter printer – just give us a call to get the ball rolling.