This is an article about choosing the best inkjet printer for printing art prints from home. I wrote it because I’m researching the options myself and the Epson ET 8550 and SC-P700 stand out.
The Epson Eco-Tank 8550 is a hybrid Pigment/Dye inkjet printer aimed at amateur enthusiasts. It makes quality, long-lasting, budget prints. The Epson Surecolor P700 is a pigment-based inkjet printer aimed at pros and semi-pros. It makes top-quality, archival, premium prints.
They are similar in as much as they’re both 13-inch printers and they print a maximum sheet size of A3+, that’s 13 by 19 inches.
Use this table for a quick comparison and overview. (affiliate links)
|Quick Comparison||Epson ET 8550||Surecolor SC-P700|
|Number of Inks||6||10|
|Type of ink||Dye + Pigment Black||Pigment|
|Max Paper Thickness||1.3mm||1.6mm|
|Printing Speed A3 Color||2 mins (std) 10+ mins (max)||20+ mins (max)|
|Approx Cost of Printer (2022)||$699 (£679)||$799 (£679)|
|Approx Cost of Inks (2022)||$18 (£15) each||$38 (£26) each|
|Print Size||13 x 19″ / 33 x 48.3 cm||13 x 19″ / 33 x 48.3 cm|
(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)
N.B. The Epson ET 8500 is a smaller version printing 8.5″ x 14″ / 21.6 x 35.6 cm prints
These are not cheap printers to buy. The ET 8550 costs a great deal of money considering it is essentially a dye printer with one pigment ink. Epson has calculated that it’s better to charge more for the printer upfront because the ink costs are so low.
N.B. The Epson SC-P900 is the larger version making prints up to 17″ x 22″ / 43 x 56cm
The P700 costs about the same and there’s no saving on inks at all. If anything consumers are penalized for purchasing a small printer with grossly overpriced ink cartridges.
N.B. Before I continue, the information in this article is based primarily on the excellent research done by Keith Cooper at Northlight Images. His comprehensive reviews are second to none and contain so much information that they can overwhelm the reader.
This post is only a summary of the key points and is intended to clarify things at a glance for confused artists like myself. With that in mind, let’s get to it.
Printing Inks – Dye vs Pigment
- Pigment black
- Photo black
The ET 8550 has one black pigment ink and the rest are dye-based inks. Pigment inks are lightfast, whereas dye-based inks are not considered archival and have a shorter lifespan. Epson includes black pigment ink because it produces sharper text.
Dyes used to have a very short lifespan but technology has moved on. Modern dyes have greater longevity these days. They’re not archival but neither will they fade away anytime soon.
Dye-based inks can last for decades if hung well away from direct sunlight. If you intend to produce cheaper open edition prints, the ET 8550 should be fine.
The P700 uses pigment inks only, and on that level, it’s a much higher-end printer. This printer produces archival quality prints.
- Photo Black
- Matte Black
- Light Cyan
- Vivid Magents
- Vivid Light Magenta
- Light Gray
Its sister model, the Epson P900, a 17-inch printer, has much larger ink cartridges and they’re much better value for money. If the cost per print is crucial to your business, it might make sense to spend a little more and upgrade to the larger P900 model.
If your aim is to make limited edition fine art prints with high retail value, then the P700 is the better choice.
If you want to print your art commercially you need to read: How to Make Prints of Your Art – Printing Art Explained in Detail
Now take a look at this class on Skillshare (affiliate) it has excellent reviews and will help you to take photos of your artwork to use on social media and your website etc.
Printer Running Costs (Approx)
This is the elephant in the room. Epson and all the other brands don’t like to publish running costs and information is very hard to track down. Anyone would think they have something to hide, surely not?
I have found only one website that publishes test results and that’s only for the premium printers. This chart is based on Red River Paper research regarding the SC-P700 and I’ve calculated the equivalent costs in Pounds Stirling for British readers.
|Epson SC-P700||4″ x 6″||5″ x 7″||8″ x 10″||11″ x 14″||13″ x 19″|
These ink costs are not set in stone, use them as a guide only. I could not find any equivalent data for the Epson ET 8550. That’s not such a problem. The ink usage is low, they are much more affordable, and there are only 6 tanks. Each print will cost pennies.
When I referenced the charts at Red River Paper the running costs for a P900 A2 printer are roughly half that of the P700. Very frustrating.
Don’t forget to account for art paper when you calculate your costs. At least you can use reputable 3rd party papers to keep costs down but do your research beforehand.
You can learn more here: How to Price Art Prints: Practical Advice For Beginners
Media Support – ET 8550 and SC-P700
The P700 has a roll fitting at the back that takes 13-inch roll paper, and that’s great if you want to produce giant panoramas. The rolls are 10m long.
The ET8550 has no such fitting, but I suspect most artists will produce smaller works anyway so that’s not much of an issue.
There is a case for buying your paper on a roll anyway. It works out cheaper to buy a roll, and cut your paper to size than to buy your paper in precut packs. You lose on convenience but you gain on price. Note the P700 doesn’t have a built-in cutter.
You can attach a roll of paper to the P700 and hand-feed long lengths on the ET 8550, either way, you set a custom size and you’re good to go.
The P700 has a paper feed at the rear which supports several sheets of lighter paper, but if you’re using thicker art papers, it must be one at a time.
There is a front-loading tray that is more suitable for thicker paper and poster board up to 1.6mm. A word of caution. If you use the front loader, the board comes out of the rear before going back in. You will need plenty of room and away from the wall.
The bottom tray supports outgoing prints.
The ET 8550 has a paper tray at the front for A4 paper and a smaller tray above designed for 6 x 4 photo paper. Both trays are supposed to take photo paper but they are unreliable. Use the rear feed for printing A3 art.
There’s a slot at the back for thicker paper and poster board the maximum thickness according to Epson is 1.3mm.
Both models support canvas printing.
You can see a range of papers here at B&H
Print Quality – ET 8550 vs SC-P700
The P700 uses only pigment inks are considered archival. They are the professional choice for printing long-lasting art prints.
It produces a wide color gamut (color range) when printed on suitable paper. You must bear in mind that printing results vary according to the paper type used. That being said, there are two blacks, a matte black and photo black, and two greys.
The blacks are selected automatically by the printer depending on the type of paper you chose and there’s no need to adjust any settings. The two greys expand the tonal range and smooth the gradient transitions. This is very useful for subtle monochrome work.
The ET 8550 has fewer inks, five dyes, and one pigment ink, but the quality is surprisingly good. The results are good enough for most people. Unless you are very serious about color management, most people wouldn’t notice a significant difference in quality.
In some ways, dye-based printing is superior. On glossy paper, the richness and range of colors can look better than the equivalent print using pigment inks. It’s a matter of paper choice.
I suspect that most artists will want to print on matte paper, and possibly pearl or luster paper, in which case the differences are more subtle. You should obtain marginally better results with the P700 for color prints
The P700 has a dedicated ABW print mode only for black and white prints. With the black ink, two greys, plus some color, the results are superb on most papers.
The ET 8550 has no bronzing problems. It has one grey tank but it’s not intended to increase the grayscale, it’s used as a mixer for color tones. There is an ABW setting for monochrome prints and it can produce very good images if you choose the right paper and color profiles.
N.B. You can find out about fading prints, and more, here.
There’s no setting for watercolor fine art paper, you must choose the Velvet Fine Art (VFA) setting, and experiment with different paper types and brands. It prints well on some and not on others. Some papers don’t handle a mix of pigment and dye inks on one surface.
You must make test prints first before you buy any paper in bulk. Order some sample packs with color profiles and don’t take anything for granted.
The P700 is far better if you want to use it straight out of the box, especially if you use Epson branded papers. Sorry, there are no 3rd party inks for this printer to cut costs (at the time of writing).
One option is to start making greeting cards. This is viable using the ET8550. If you want to know how to go about designing cards this Skillshare class (affiliate) could be for you.
Print Speeds – ET 8550 vs SC-P700 Printers
The ET 8550 takes over 10 mins to print an A3 print at optimal settings. The P700 takes 22 mins on the highest quality settings. Both printers take considerably less time to print, on lower quality settings, but would you want to print lower quality artwork?
These speeds are very slow indeed and something you must consider if you wish to print your art for sale. It’s not quite as critical if you sell fewer prints for higher prices but could be a deal-breaker if you have a higher turnover.
Both printers have maintenance tanks that you can replace as and when you need to. The P700 comes with a spare maintenance tank and that’s because during the initial setup, a lot of expensive ink is wasted and that goes into the maintenance tank. Once you replace it, it will last for ages.
You can get a spare tank here at B&H (affiliate)
Be warned that you will have to replace your pigment inks for the P700 much sooner than you think and that will cost a lot of money. Epson should provide enough inks from the outset to get up and running, but as of writing, they do not. They force you to buy more ink.
The ET 8550 70ml inks, on the other hand, are cheaper to buy and last much longer. The inks are supplied in 70ml bottles and you simply lift up the tank panel and top them up.
The initial setup cycle will use a percentage of ink and you can physically see how much is used in the front section. The tanks are translucent. There will be some ink remaining in your bottles and you can replace the ink used.
Please note, that you shouldn’t top up the printer without going through the procedure on the screen, otherwise the printer cannot recognize when the ink is low and you might get problems.
Both printers have screens. The P700 screen is however much higher quality. It shows the image as its being printed. It also claims to be color calibrated which is very important for matching the exact colors of your original file.
The ET 8550 has a much more basic but functional screen. It will not affect the print quality as such but it’s less helpful and not so easy to use.
The ET8550 is multi-functional and doubles as a minor home/office printer. Consider it as a printer with some office functions. As such, it has an extra paper tray at the top suitable for very small plain copy paper, a reasonable A4 scanner, suitable for printing greeting cards, etc, but it has no document feed.
Software For Epson Printers
Both printers work perfectly well with Photoshop and Lightroom, but it does come with its own Epson Print layout (EPL) software available as a plugin for Photoshop or as a stand-alone product for every aspect of printing.
It works seamlessly with the P700 but users of the ET 8550 might encounter some glitches and bugs using EPL. Bare that in mind.
Cat’s classes get rave reviews on Skillshare (affiliate), so if you want some reliable Photoshop tuition, look no further.
Size of Eco-Tank and Surecolor Printers
Both printers are compact for A3 printers. The ET 8850 is the smaller of the two, measuring 523 x 379 x 169mm (WDH) with a weight of 11.1kg. The SC-P700 measures 515 x 368 x 185 mm (WDH) and weighs 12.6kg. You’ll need slightly more space to use the P700, and don’t forget to allow extra space for the rear feed systems.
Conclusion – Printing Art Prints at Home
If you have prior experience with printing art prints at home and want to take your printing to another level the P700 is for you. If you want fantastic black and white prints without any color bias get a P700. If you want to sell your prints at a premium, it’s the P700.
If you’re a beginner and want to start printing art prints, without the expense of a top printer, the ET 8550 is a good alternative. If the economics of printing worry you, the ET 8550 wins. The inks are cheaper and if the price is more important than the best quality, go for the ET 8550. If you want to sell budget prints, it’s the ET 8550.
If you want to experiment with settings on different papers, the combination of pigment black with dye inks can produce very good prints, and because the inks are so much cheaper, it won’t break the bank.
The P700 is designed to use out of the box with the minimum of learning, with the caveat that you will need a replacement set of super expensive inks when you buy the printer.
And one final point. Please do not ignore the importance of using a professional scanner. The print can only ever be as good as the file it is reading.
The best Epson scanner is the Epson Perfection Pro V850 but it isn’t cheap. It’ll cost you over $1000. The alternative is the V600 which has a good reputation and is perfect for semi-pros and keen amateurs.
If you want the best scans outsource the job.
If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit: (Amazon affiliate links)
- Pentel Mechanical Pencils 0.3mm
- Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils
- Daler-Rowney Heavyweight Cartridge Paper
- Jakar Battery Eraser
- Tombo Mono Eraser Pen
- Faber Castell Putty Eraser
- Blu Tack
- French Box Easel
Want an alternative to Amazon? Check out ARTEZA Art Supplies (affiliate)
If you are serious about taking your art to the next level and selling your art prints, you need to check this guide out first!
If you found this article useful you may like these too:
- 25 Platforms for Artists to Sell Their Art
- What Kind of Art Sells Best? The Secrets Revealed
- Does Selling Art Online Work? (What No One Wants to Tell You)
- Is Selling Art on Etsy Worth it? I Found Out
- How to Sell Your Drawings (All You Need to Know)
- Can You Copy Art and Sell a Painting of a Painting? I Found Out
Plus find an ONLINE COURSE that suits you.
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