Finding the Best Laser Printer for Photos in 2021

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If you don’t have time to read this article, then the best laser printer for photos is the HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw.

Really high-end photo printing is still performed on inkjet printers due to the higher color tonality that is possible with inkjets, but laser printers deliver in the areas where inkjets fall down – particularly in high print volumes and reliability.

If you are wanting to make a lot of photo prints on regular photo paper or on >heavier cardstock, then laser printers are still your best choice, and you can be assured that you won’t suffer from annoying issues like clogging print heads, as you will see on inkjet photo printers.

This article looks at the best color laser printers for photos, giving you an idea of the key features you should look out for and includes some options for value for money laser printers that can give you a photo print quality that is as close as you will get to inkjet printers.


best laser printer for photos

What is the Best Laser Printer for Photos?

My Top Pick

The Best LaserJet Printer for Photos

  • Prints up to 22 pages per minute, in B&W and color
  • Very good photo print quality, suitable for most home users
  • Well-designed ergonomics, with a 2.7″ touchscreen
  • Ideal for high capacity printing, and light cardstock
  • Very good cost per page
If you want a laser printer suitable for high volume photo printing, even of light cardstock like greetings cards or postcards, then the HP M255dw is the ideal model.
Photo print quality is surprisingly high for a laser printer thanks to the CYMK toner, and it is very easy to use, especially with the 2.7-inch touchscreen.
At a low cost per page, the HP M255dw is the perfect model to print lots of photos at a low price.

Compare the Best Color Laser Printers for Photos

Printer

Pros / Cons

Ink Life

(Black/ Color)

Max. Print Width 

Check Price


[Best Pick]

  • Pros: Handles high capacity printing; Capable of versatile printing

  • Cons: No integrated scanner

1350 sheets /

1250 sheets

8.5 inches

  • Pros: Large number of prints per toner; excellent value for money

  • Cons: Less good photo print quality

3000 sheets /

1800 sheets

8.5 inches

  • Pros: Very good image quality; Prints labels, postcards, etc

  • Cons: No touchscreen; older design

1500 sheets /

1200 sheets

8.5 inches

 

[Best for Heavy Cardstock]

  • Pros: Prints on thicker cardstock; Includes scanner & copier

  • Cons: Expensive; Big & heavy

3000 sheets /

1800 sheets

8.5 inches

  • Pros: Very fast print speed;  Double-sided printing;  Low cost per page

  • Cons: Expensive toner;  Not as cheap as the M255dw

1350 sheets /

1250 sheets

8.5 inches

  • Pros: Very economical; Includes scanner

  • Cons: Unreliable WiFi

1050 sheets /

850 sheets

8.5 inches


Laser vs Inkjet for Photo Printing

laser vs inkjet photo printing

When choosing between laser and inkjet printers for photo printing, there is often more of a personal choice than an objective consideration of both sides.

Being strict with quality, then inkjet printers will always offer higher color fidelity and accuracy, particularly in the more high-end models, which have 10+ inks. No laser printer can realistically compete with this.

But where laser printers really shine, is in the speed of printing and in the ability of the printer to make a very large number of prints, with minimal chance of print failures.

Inkjet printers are prone for their print heads to clog if they are not used regularly, but can even clog after a week or so of being switched off. This is obviously a major problem, but one that is not replicated with laser printers due to their reliance on toner and not print heads.

Are Laser Printers Good for Photos?

Laser printers are good for photos as they are overall much more reliable, and can print at much higher volumes than inkjet printers, with a better print economy at these higher volumes of printing.


Key Features of Laser Printers for Pictures

Key features of laser printers for pictures

When you are looking for the best laser printer for printing photos, you obviously want to know whether the printer is any good, and how much it costs. But those questions on their own are not too helpful.

I have broken down these questions into a few more specific questions that make it much easier to compare and contrast the various laser printers, as below:

  • What is the Image Quality and Color Fidelity?
  • What’s the Cost per Page in ink?
  • What Paper Weights & Thicknesses can the printer handle?
  • What is the Max. Print Size?
  • Is it Value for Money overall?

I have marked each popular laser printer for photo printing against these questions, and have only included the top models in this article.

There’s a bit more detail on what each of these questions means below. And feel free to use this list for your own research if none of the printers I have considered are suitable for you.

Image Quality and Color Fidelity

Although image quality and the tonality that a laser printer produces is in general below that of a comparable inkjet printer, the difference is not usually noticeable unless you are printing on very high quality paper at larger sizes.

For day-to-day use, laser printer photo quality is perfectly acceptable for home users.

You should bear in mind that there is variation in print quality between laser printers, with the cheaper models often not delivering a high quality finish. Most of the color laser printers offer much higher color laser printer photo quality, however.

Bear in mind that DPI measurements are largely irrelevant for laser printers. Inkjets apply dots of ink to a page, but a laser printer uses a continuous toner rather than individual dots, so theoretically, laser printers should offer excellent tonal transition, although in practice this is limited by the small numbers of individual inks that they use.

You should also be aware that the main determiner of color accuracy between your screen and the final print is the color accuracy of your screen. Many do not properly color calibrate their screens, and so are disappointed by the printed results which don’t match what they see.

You will need a hardware calibration tool to set the colors of your monitor to their correct tones. There is more on this in my article on photo editing monitors.

You can then apply an ICC profile to convert the RGB colors of your monitor to more closely match the CYMK of the laser printer. ICC profiles are available from a wide range of paper manufacturers and from hobbyists, shared in photography forums.

Finally, you should then print a test page and confirm that your on-screen image matches the print out.

Cost Per Page

One of the major advantages of laser printers over inkjet printers is in the high volume of prints that they can produce, with the cost per page coming in at a few cents or fractions of a cent for some models.

Printing black and white photos on a laser printer is even cheaper, as it only uses the one toner cartridge, although print quality will never come close to dedicated inkjet photo printers in this case.

Measuring an accurate cost per page can be pretty difficult, but I have included information on the average number of prints per toner cartridge, and the cost per toner in my reviews below.

Paper Weights & Thicknesses

In contrast to standard office printing, printing photos often requires thicker, heavier paper with a variety of finishes. Having a laser printer that can deal with this is a massive bonus, and is a hallmark of the best photo quality laser printer.

Laser printers can be used for cardstock, printing greetings cards and postcards, and in many ways are actually better for this kind of printing that inkjet printers. There is much more on this in my article about card printers.

All of the printers here are capable of dealing with reasonably thick standard paper (eg. 40 lbs / 105 gsm), but pay attention to the individual specifications if you will be printing on paper heavier than this.

Max. Print Size

You can always print smaller, but you cannot print larger than the max print size of a specific printer. Therefore, you need to consider not only your current uses, but your future uses for your printer.

You don’t want to be left in a year or two with a printer that can’t meet your needs.

The max print size for each printer is listed in the reviews below, so you can find the right printer for you, once you understand the maximum size of print that you want.

Value for Money

Everyone wants value for money, but that often translates as the cheapest product currently available.

I would suggest that a better way of thinking about value for money is not only your current uses for the printer, or immediate benefit, but how you will use it in the future.

A laser printer should last for many years, assuming that you buy a quality model, and so mentally spreading this cost over the years of use gives you a better idea of the value for money of a printer.

A printer that costs twice as much, but lasts four times as long, is obviously better value for money over its life. Nonetheless, all of the printers in this article are quality models that should last you for years to come.


Reviews of the Best Laser Printer for Photos

Reviews of the best laser printer for photos

The top laser printers for photos are fully reviewed below. In order, they are:

  1. HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw
  2. Brother HL-L8360CDW Color Laser Printer
  3. Canon Color Image CLASS LBP622Cdw
  4. Brother MFC-L8900CDW All-in-One Printer
  5. HP Color LaserJet Pro M182nw

1. HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw

My Top Pick
best laser printer for photos

Specifications:

  • Brand: HP
  • Name: HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw
  • Printing Tech: Laserjet
  • Cost: $
  • No. of Inks: 4
  • Ink Life: Approx. 1350 sheets (black) / 1250 sheets (color)
  • Ink Cost (Official / Generic): $290 / $90
  • Max. Print Width: 8.5 inches
  • Max. Paper Weight: 47 lb / 145 gsm
  • Connectivity: WiFi, USB, Ethernet
  • Size: 16.2″ x 18.5″ x 11.6″

With a compact form and space saving design, the HP M255dw manages to still fit in the ability to print high quality photos, and is easily the best home laser printer for photos.

There’s a 2.7-inch touchscreen along with WiFi connectivity, and the HP can print at an impressive 22 pages per minute – perfect for high volume jobs.

Better still, it can deal with a max print width of 8.5-inches, and can even print on heavier cardstock, topping out at around 47 lb paper through the manual feed slot.

Overall, there’s no doubt that this HP laser printer is the best laser printer for photo printing, with this entire series of HP Color LaserJet Pros equally as capable for high volume photo printing jobs.

  • Pros:
  • Prints up to 22 pages per minute, both black and color, with very good photo print quality
  • 2.7″ color touchscreen for easy control
  • Automatic double-sided printing
  • Very good cost per page
  • Designed for large capacity, high volume printing
  • Ideal for postcards and greeting cards
  • Cons:
  • No integrated scanner
HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw

Note: If the HP M255dw is out of stock due to supply issues, the equally capable HP M454dw is also worth a look – printing quality and pretty much everything that matters is the same, and it prints at 28 pages per minute, and on 75 lb (200 gsm) paper.


2. Brother HL-L8360CDW Color Laser Printer

Brother color laser printer for photos

Specfications:

  • Brand: Brother
  • Name: Brother HL-L8360CDW
  • Printing Tech: Laserjet
  • Cost: $$
  • No. of Inks: 4
  • Ink Life: Approx. 3000 sheets (black) / 1800 sheets (color)
  • Ink Cost (Official / Generic): $315 / $51
  • Max. Print Width: 8.5 inches
  • Max. Paper Weight: 43 lb / 140 gsm
  • Connectivity: WiFi, USB, Ethernet, NFC
  • Size: 19.1″ x 17.4″ x 12.3″

As one of the cheaper laser printers, the Brother HL-L8360CDW offers a solid, compact office printer that can also be used for photos.

Photo print quality is not as strong as competitors like the Canon imageCLASS, but is more than sufficient for everyday use.

The high print speed of 33 pages per minute, along with the ability to print on custom sized paper from 3.0-8.5” in width and 5.0-14” in length makes this the best laser printer for printing on stickers and labels, and the integrated NFC reader is handy if you use this in a more office based environment.

  • Pros:
  • Excellent value for money
  • Prints on custom sized paper
  • Very fast print speed of 33 pages per minute
  • Integrated NFC card reader and 2.7-inch touchscreen
  • Cons:
  • Expensive toner – although it has a very high page yield
  • Photo print quality is less strong than competitors
Brother HL-L8360CDW Color Laser Printer

3. Canon Color Image CLASS LBP622Cdw

Canon LBP622Cdw, a photo quality laser printer

Specfications:

  • Brand: Canon
  • Name: Canon imageCLASS LBP622Cdw
  • Printing Tech: Laserjet
  • Cost: $$
  • No. of Inks: 4
  • Ink Life: Approx. 1500 sheets (black) / 1200 sheets (color)
  • Ink Cost (Official / Generic): $277 / $57
  • Max. Print Width: 8.5 inches
  • Max. Paper Weight: 73 lb / 200 gsm
  • Connectivity: WiFi, USB, Ethernet
  • Size: 17.2″ x 16.8″ x 11.5″

If you want a photo quality laser printer, then the Canon Image CLASS series are definitely worth a look. They are designed with image printing abilities in mind, rather than the majority text printing of standard laser printers.

They come in as one of the cheaper models of laser printer, which you would expect given the older design without touchscreen or integrated scanner.

The Canon is surprisingly versatile though, capable of printing Avery labels, postcards, envelopes and more, and better yet is able to print on 73 lb (200 gsm) Cover paper, making it one of the best laser printers for postcards.

With a small form factor and the ability to fit into any home office, the Canon ImageCLASS is an excellent choice for those printing on medium cardstock.

  • Pros:
  • Very good image quality – designed for printing images
  • Capable of printing Avery labels, postcards, envelopes and the like
  • Prints up to 22 pages per minute
  • Reasonably priced toner reduces cost per page
  • Compact and fits well in a home office
  • Cons:
  • No touchscreen
  • Older design
Canon Color Image CLASS LBP622Cdw

4. Brother MFC-L8900CDW All-in-One Printer

Brother laser printer

Specfications:

  • Brand: Brother
  • Name: Brother MFC-L8900CDW
  • Printing Tech: Laserjet
  • Cost: $$$$
  • No. of Inks: 4
  • Ink Life: Approx. 3000 sheets (black) / 1800 sheets (color)
  • Ink Cost (Official / Generic): $310 / $63
  • Max. Print Width: 8.5 inches
  • Max. Paper Weight: 110 lb / 300 gsm
  • Connectivity: WiFi, USB, Ethernet, NFC
  • Size: 19.5″ x 20.7″ x 21.6″

Although the Brother MFC-L8900CDW is pretty big and heavy, pushing 60 lbs in weight, it offers something that the smaller laser printers don’t – the ability to print on heavier cardstock, with up to 110 lb printing possible using the manual feed.

Cost per page is also pretty low, thanks to the very high yield of the toner, with generic toner being particularly useful for those who are more price sensitive.

The Brother model is more suited for offices that comprise more than one person, as it has an NFC reader for identification of those using it, and a 5-inch customizable touchscreen, but if you really value a laser printer with very fast printing and scanning capabilities, then the Brother MFC-L8900CDW is it.

  • Pros:
  • Capable of printing on thicker cardstock than the more budget printers
  • Includes scanner and copier, and prints up to 33 pages per minute
  • 5-inch touchscreen and NFC reader – perfect for office use
  • Very high toner page yield for lower cost per page
  • Cons:
  • Pretty big and heavy
  • Expensive
Brother MFC-L8900CDW All-in-One Printer

5. HP Color LaserJet Pro M182nw

HP M182nw, budget laser printer for photos

Specfications:

  • Brand: HP
  • Name: HP Color LaserJet Pro M182nw
  • Printing Tech: Laserjet
  • Cost: $$
  • No. of Inks: 4
  • Ink Life: Approx. 1050 sheets (black) / 850 sheets (color)
  • Ink Cost (Official / Generic): $210 / $90
  • Max. Print Width: 8.5 inches
  • Max. Paper Weight: 59 lb / 175 gsm
  • Connectivity: WiFi, USB, Ethernet
  • Size: 16.5″ x 15″ x 11.5″

As one of the cheapest and best value for money laser printers, the HP M182nw offers strong printing performance, albeit in a slightly less functional form.

There is no touchscreen, although the keypad works well, or you can use HP’s app to control your printing.

Note that some people find the WiFi connection unreliable, hence this printer not appearing at the top of this list.

But considering that it has a scanner and can print at 17 pages per minute, combined with the small size and light weight, the HP M182nw still remains a very good budget laser printer for photos is this is all that your budget will allow.

  • Pros:
  • One of the cheapest color laser printers available
  • Very economical – cheaper toner and low cost per page
  • Includes scanner and prints at 17 pages per minute
  • Handles medium cardstock – postcards up to 47 lbs
  • Cons:
  • Unreliable WiFi connection
  • Older design – no touchscreen
HP Color LaserJet Pro M182nw

Conclusion: Which Laser Printer Should You Use for Photos?

Laser printers are categorically not as good at printing photos as inkjet printers, but they do offer advantages in print speed and volume, and are particularly well suited to those looking for something to print greetings cards, wedding invitations, labels and the like, more than photo prints for your wall.

Bearing this in mind, the ideal laser printer for photos is therefore one which can handle some light cardstock, has versatile print options to allow it to deal with multiple paper types and sizes, and gives a low cost per page, which for me is the HP M255dw.

My Top Pick

The Best LaserJet Printer for Photos

  • Prints up to 22 pages per minute, in B&W and color
  • Very good photo print quality, suitable for most home users
  • Well-designed ergonomics, with a 2.7″ touchscreen
  • Ideal for high capacity printing, and light cardstock
  • Very good cost per page

Read More:

What is the best inkjet photo printer?

What’s the best canvas printer?

The best photo printers for Macs

Follow Tim Daniels:

Hi, I'm Tim Daniels, photographer and photo trainer, founder of Lapse of the Shutter and creator of the totally free Lightroom Develop System. I've travelled to (probably) 30 countries over the last few years, taking photos and licensing them around the world, and creating lots of free photography learning resources. Read More ...

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