It’s not exactly hard to come across good printers nowadays. There are even printers up in the International Space Station! Technology has come a long way in the last few hundred years and, by historical standards, any print of the last 20 years is a good print. But what makes an exceptional print? Between picture resolution, DPI, printheads, paper type, and ink and toner quality, there is an endless list of factors that can affect your print quality.

We can probably all agree: an exceptional print should have rich colours, be printed on high quality paper, as well as be engaging and deep and an accurate representation of the source image. But there’s only so much of this that a printer is in control of. The DPI, or dots per inch, essentially describes how pixelated a finished print will look. The more dots in an image, the more precisely representative the colour of each dot can be and the more seamless it will look. While the DPI is usually in the hands of the printer, it closely relates to the resolution of the original image; if you’re printing something that’s only 600 pixels across, no matter how high the DPI is, the print is never going to look smooth. The larger the image, and the higher the image quality, the more detailed the finished print will be.

While different printers can take different paper types, and even other mediums, picking the right paper for your print will have a huge affect on the picture quality. Even the best printer in the world can only do so much with an ordinary sheet of A4 paper - the colour saturation can affect thin paper, leaving it wet and rippled. And whether vibrant or dull, an image will look totally different depending on whether the paper is glossy or matte. It’s not just about picking the fanciest option either - it’s about the style you’re aiming for.

In choosing a printer, you’ve already made a decision about whether you’ll be using ink or toner. Inkjet printers use liquid ink, and laser printers use toner powder. Between them, they vary in printing style and effectiveness. Even within the category of ink or toner, they will offer variations in colour and quality. So a really great print needs more than a top-of-the-line printer - it needs the right top-of-the-line ink or toner.

Even if you have all the right equipment, good quality printing needs the right environment to function at its best, too. Printheads can get dusty in an often used, never switched off, printer, or the ink can dry out. Taking care of the setup you do have is as important as getting a good setup to begin with.