A wide-format colour laser printer is a great way to make beautiful colour prints in large sizes and at quick speeds. You can find a variety of wide-format colour laser printers for sale online as well as in your local computer hardware store in your town.
In practice, the largest wide-format colour laser printer that you will be able to find can typically print a tabloid-size page which is 11 inches by 17 inches. This is the size of two standard pieces of paper 8.5 inches by 11 inches placed side by side. You can find wide-format colour printers that print much larger than this, but typically they use an inkjet process instead of a laser printing approach.
A laser printer needs a toner cartridge that is as wide as the paper is. In a tabloid-size colour laser, this is 11 inches. For a true wide format printer that prints on roll paper 36 inches wide, a colour laser version would need 4 separate toner containers which are all 36 inches wide which would not work very well and would be extremely expensive. For these wider sizes, inkjet technology is better because the print head can simply be connected to the ink reservoirs by flexible tubes.
If you need to produce relatively fast colour proofs, a wide format colour laser printer may be the right product to buy. Colour laser printing does have some trade-offs. It works by doing four separate processes that bind coloured toner to the paper with electrostatic charges wherever the image should be printed, and then binding the toner to the paper using a heat process. This can be great because it is relatively quick and makes an image that won’t smudge and is relatively waterproof when dry, but is not incredibly high resolution and cannot accurately render colours as well as an inkjet.
An inkjet printer can print smaller dots of ink in order to have both a higher resolution and better colour reproduction than a colour laser printer, but the trade-off is that they can be relatively slow. They typically print all colours in one pass but, especially when printing detailed documents at high resolutions, can take a lot longer than a colour laser printer.
When buying a wide-format colour laser printer, the main brands to look at are HP and Minolta. Both offer affordable printers that will bring fast full-colour prints to your home or office. You may be able to find a great deal online, but be sure to factor in the cost of toner over time: replacing all four toner cartridges (one for each colour: red, blue, yellow, black) can be expensive.