Best Photo Printers In 2021
Long gone are the days where you need to wait for weeks on end to get your vacation snaps back from the photo lab. Like noodles, messaging and coffee, we crave instant gratification, and if you’re someone who enjoys keeping physical memories more than digital ones, the best photo printers are perfect for you.
Just 10 years ago, you’d never dream of being able to carry around a fully functional and marvelously satisfying photo printer in your hand, and yet here we are. Whether you’re a budding photographer, a collector of mementos, or just someone who likes to have a laugh and save the memories of those nights that, let’s face it, you might not remember, these photo printers could come in handy.
The Best Photo Printer
To get us started, our top pick of the best photo printers is the HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer. It’s affordable but still packs plenty of features to keep you coming back to it repeatedly, with reliability packed inside the 2.3” photographs.
It’s easy to use, and the sticky-backed photo paper makes it easy to stick into photo albums and scrapbooks just like you did once upon a time. On the more modern side, it connects via Bluetooth, and you can also personalize your prints to suit any occasion, making it a superb gift for photography lovers and all the creative people in your life, even if that person is you. You might encounter some heavy banding in the photos, but this isn’t too common for it to become a major issue, and with broad compatibility, and fun, augmented reality features, you’ll keep coming back to try out new things that are aching to be discovered.
Sticky backed photo paper
Multiple device connectivity
313 x 400 dpi
- Weight6.1 ounces
One-year hardware warranty
Bluetooth 50 and sleep mode
Some heavy banding through photos
The HP Sprocket Plus Instant Photo Printer is the first edition of our top choice, and if you’re not someone too fussed about having the latest tech, this could be the perfect alternative for you. It delivers instant snapshots and works with wireless photo printing for a convenient and cable-free experience.
The ZINK photo paper is ink-free (which is where the Z comes from), and it prints at 313 x 400 dpi to deliver decent quality pictures, although it makes them come out looking a little more Polaroid-y than you might like. With vintage styles never going out of fashion, though, this may not be a con in your eyes, and the end-result still produces a glossy photo that keeps it protected from damage. You can connect it to your social media accounts, the printing is speedy and efficient, and the rechargeable battery means you never have to worry about finding spare batteries ever again, all you need is a plug socket close by.
Wireless photo printing
Social media connectivity
ZINK photo paper
313 x 400 dpi
- Weight7.2 ounces
Glossy picture style
Slight Polaroid-esque hue with photos
If you’re looking for a photo printer that will do pretty much everything you could ever ask for (except bring your ex back, sorry bro), the Kodak HD Wireless Portable Mobile Instant Photo Printer is an excellent option that comes at an affordable price perfect for those on a budget or just getting started with photo printers.
It boasts all-in-one convenience and there are no buttons required to operate it, instead, you control it entirely from your Android or iOS device through the free companion app that you can download when setting everything up. Its wireless connection is reliable and you can also take advantage of NFC printing should you want to. It prints quickly and the results are both fade- and waterproof. However, if you’ve never used a printer like this before, the instructions aren’t the clearest we’ve ever encountered, but we’re sure you’re smart enough to figure it out. For more cool devices like this, check out our selection of the best portable printers.
No buttons required
Free companion app
- Weight8 ounces
iOS and Android compatible
Fade- and waterproof
50-second print time
Instructions leave a lot to be desired
And if you liked that, you’ll adore the Kodak Mini 2 HD Wireless Portable Mobile Instant Photo Printer, which delivers easy print technology, essential wireless connectivity, and both fade- and waterproof photos that come out onto 2.1 x 3.4 inch sheets.
There are multiple cartridge refill sizes available, from 20 to 30 to 50, while the companion app allows you to add filters, crop, include stickers, and create templates for photo Id or just to have fun. It’s compatible with Android and iOS, and the app is straightforward to use. However, you might find the paper jams a little too often for your liking which is probably the one thing you don’t want to happen. It also shares too many similarities with its younger sibling, which makes us wonder if the upgrade (and additional cost) is even worth it. If you are also interested in quality office equipment, be sure to check out our guide to the best large format printers.
Easy print technology
2.1 x 3.4-inch photos
Fade- and waterproof
Multiple refill sizes available
- Weight11.2 ounces
iOS and Android compatible
Paper may occasionally jam
For something slimline, sleek, and stylish, the Kodak Smile Instant Digital Printer lives up to its name by putting a smile on your face. It prints using 2 x 3 sticky back paper perfect for saving precious memories whether they were spontaneous snaps or carefully crafted and posed for social media. It also uses Zero Ink technology to prevent smudging, and the Bluetooth filter makes it easy to connect and operate wirelessly.
As for other features, you can use customizable filters to add a little more character to your snapshots, and the rechargeable battery means you can use it whenever, wherever. The lightweight design also makes it highly portable with the durable poly-resin case ensuring durability. It’s compatible with a range of devices, although where it falls flat is the resolution, which while decent, is not quite what we expected from a photo printer that’s pushing $100. You may also be interested in some of the best laser printers from our list, so check them out.
2 x 3 inch sticky-backed paper
Zero Ink technology
- Weight1 pound
Durable polyresin case
Compatible with a variety of devices
Resolution is not as impressive as we’d like it to be
As the name suggests, the SereneLife Portable Instant Mobile Photo Printer puts you at ease and makes you feel all floaty, filled with confidence that this is the easiest photo printer you’ll ever use for $84.99 (at the time of writing).
The inkless operation prevents mess and avoids the extortionate prices you expect to pay for ink cartridges these days, while the 2 x 3.5 photos give you a little (but only a little) more options detail-wise than its slightly smaller competitors. It offers wireless photo transfer so you can print even when the printer is on the whole other side of the room, and the PICKIT app makes this simple and straightforward. But while the Bluetooth connectivity is convenient, it struggles to stay synced and connected sometimes, so it may be that you’ll need to get up off the sofa and fiddle about with it, but at least you can stretch your legs, so that’s always a bonus. Our guide to the best 3D printers features more cool products like this, so check them out.
2 x 3.5-inch photos
Wireless photo transfer
- Weight9.6 ounces
Prints 25 on a single charge
Struggles to stay synced using Bluetooth
Our final pick of the best photo printers is the Brother Versatile Compact Color Label and Photo Printer, and if we’ve ever seen a product that describes itself perfectly, it’s this one. Versatile is the name, and versatile is its name, providing options for both photo and label printing perfect for the uber-creative and uber-organized person who lives with someone obsessed with making memories.
As for functions, it is easy to connect, with inkless printing that comes out at 313 dpi for crisp and clear snaps to guarantee you’ve got a professional style that looks sophisticated and unique. It’s easy to use, and the free label editor app is another neat feature that you might become obsessed with, even if you’ve never designed a label before in your life. You get a 1-year limited warranty, which is useful for any hardware issues. However, if you’re looking for a speedy printer, this may not be the one for you, and while it won’t take too long to print your photos and labels, it still takes some time compared to other options. You may also like some of the best label makers from our list, so take a moment to check them out.
Easy to connect
Free label editor app
- Weight1.45 pounds
Easy to use
1-year limited warranty
Useful cutting and scoring feature
Slow printing compared to other options
Photo Printer Buying Guide
Features To Look For In Photo Printers
Before you decide which photo printer would be the perfect new addition to your household (and late Christmas present, too), check out which key features you need to look out for.
Resolution - For decent quality pictures, you’ll need a DPI (dots per inch) of 300 or more. This won’t provide the high-definition photographs you get with larger printers, but for compact and portable options, and considering the paper size, it will look perfect.
Connectivity - Everything seems to be wireless nowadays, and these photo printers are no different. You can connect to them via Bluetooth and use a companion app to select, edit, and print the photos for cable-free convenience, although some connections are stronger than others.
Print Speed - You don’t want the printing process to be too rushed, but you also don’t want to wait around all day. Around 50 seconds is a decent printing speed for your average photo printer, but labels may take a little longer depending on the size and detail.
Size - These photo printers are designed to be compact and easily portable so you can use them wherever you like. You may not want to carry one with you, but there may come a time where you need to. With rechargeable batteries, they do not require a consistent AC power source, and when you’re done, you can slot them away on the shelf until next time easily.
Ink Style - Zero Ink cartridges are the more popular option for these photo printers as they resist the potential for smudging, dry quickly, and are also fade- and waterproof. You want your photos to look excellent for as long as possible, so Zero Ink, or ZINK, is likely the best option. You can also choose what size refills you require depending on how often you use it.
Operation - As a 21st-century machine, you operate the printer using companion apps which allow you to print a photo directly after taking it or you can upload it from your phone’s photo Gallery. In these apps, you can adjust the photos, add frames, crop parts of it and set filters to make your pictures pop.
Warranty - A warranty is always useful regardless of the product you buy but with electronics, it is arguably more worth having than anything else. Warranties vary between brands, but you’ll generally find a warranty between 12 and 24 months offering varying levels of support, from simple troubleshooting to hardware replacement.
- Introduction to How Ink-Free Mobile Photo Printers Work - HowStuffWorks