This article is part of my “How to Make Planner Stickers to Sell on Etsy” guide.

Choosing a printer is one of the most important decisions you will need to make as you prepare to open your own Etsy sticker shop. Generally speaking, there are only two factors that determine the quality of your final product: the print quality and the sticker paper. To achieve success, it is crucial to find a reliable printer that is capable of producing consistent, high quality results.

First and foremost, I would like to mention that even low-end printers are capable of producing beautiful results. Although there are noticeable differences in quality between the lowest-of-the-low and highest-of-the-high printers, there are plenty of printers on the market nowadays that cost less than $100 which are more than sufficient to make planner stickers.

That being said, I do still recommend you purchase the best printer that is within your budget. Cheap printers are not made to be as durable as their more expensive counterparts. This means that you may end up needing to replace the machine sooner than anticipated, especially if you use the machine frequently. Additionally, cheaper printers are not as cost efficient in the long run; the ink/toner in lower quality printers is actually more expensive than the ink/toner in more expensive machines. If you intend on running your Etsy shop for more than a year, you might actually end up saving money by purchasing a higher quality machine up front.

Regardless of whether you are looking at low-end or high-end printers, there will always be one question you will need to answer… laser or inkjet?

The short answer to this question is that both are capable of producing beautiful stickers. I personally decided to buy a laser printer. Check out the tl;dr section at the bottom for the overall comparison.

Here’s the long answer:

Cost Analysis:
There are plenty of articles online that discuss the differences between laser and inkjet printers, especially in regards to cost. I suggest reading a few of them to gain a general understanding of the calculations. Spoiler alert: the price per page of an inkjet printer is generally much greater than that of a laser printer.

A typical low-end color inkjet printer costs around $100, with replacement ink in the $30-$40 range. A low-end color laser printer costs around $200, with replacement toner in the $60-$80 range per cartridge. Thus, the initial investment cost of an inkjet printer can be much lower than the overall initial cost of a color laser printer. However, looks can be deceiving. Inkjet cartridges typically only last for 100-200 pages. Laser printers, on the other hand, are capable of printing 1000-1200 pages before needing a replacement. Therefore, the overall cost per page of a laser printer is typically much cheaper than that of an inkjet.

As an Etsy shop owner, cost per page is a very important concept. This value will be used to determine the market price of your stickers. Obviously, the cheaper and more quickly you are able to produce your product, the higher your profit margins and the more capable you are of offering competitive pricing.

Print Quality:
If you read any articles as suggested above, you may have found that inkjet printers are generally better suited to printing photographic images, while laser printers are better at printing text/graphics. Although this statement is definitely true, you should not interpret this to mean that laser printers are incapable of producing good quality photographs. To make things completely clear: if you buy a decent color laser printer, you should have no problems with printing photographic images. Take a look at this picture below that my laser printer produced:

In my opinion, the laser printed version of the original photograph is still a beautiful, crisp image.

Yes, there are sometimes a few noticeable flaws that appear to be a result of the laser printing. However, I have never had an issue where I've felt my planner sticker designs were limited due to the constraints of my printer's quality. Would these issues occur from an inkjet printer? No; the inkjet printer would produce perfect results. However, I feel that the laser printer does a good enough job to meet my quality standards.

Sticker Functionality:
Due to the fundamental differences between how ink and toner printers operate, there are some key differences between stickers that are created from laser vs inkjet printers. Namely, ink absorbs into the page whereas toner actually fuses as a caked layer on top of the paper. Stickers that are created from an inkjet printer will bleed if exposed to any amount of water. Toner based stickers, on the other hand, are slightly more resistive to water damage.

While this initially sounds like a good feature, there is actually a downside to having a protective layer of toner: you are actually writing on the toner, not just the paper. This means that it can sometimes be more difficult to write on toner based stickers, especially if the colors are very heavily pigmented (The more intense/darker the color, the more toner that is caked onto the page). Check out this picture below. You can see that the same pen writes clear and dark on the blank page and lighter colors, while it struggles to leave a mark on the heavily pigmented darker green tones.

If you end up choosing a laser printer, I recommend designing your stickers with this issue in mind. You should leave areas lighter in sections where the user is expected to write. I also recommend doing a pen test so that you are informed as to what pens work and do not work on your product.

Paper Curl:
Laser printers use heat to fuse toner to the paper. As a result, they can sometimes curl papers to the point of being unusable. Personally, I have not been able to successfully print on high gloss clear sticker paper or polyester sticker paper for this exact reason. This is definitely one limitation of laser printers that I have experienced. Inkjet printers do not have this problem and typically are able to print on a wide range of materials.

Gold Foil:
A popular feature on planner stickers is to add gold foil using a Minc machine. This machine uses reactive foil that bonds with toner. Thus, you will need to have a laser printer to do any sort of gold foiling. If you intend to use gold foil only on certain parts of your designs, you may need to get creative and use both an inkjet and laser printer.

Other Considerations:
Because laser printers are less common than inkjet printers, it can sometimes be difficult to find supplies that are compatible with your machine. Office supply stores may only sell certain variations of refill cartridges and offer only the most basic types of supplies. Remember, not all papers are designed for use in both inkjet and laser printers. You should always double check that specialty papers are compatible with the heat and fusing process.

I personally have had trouble finding extra large refill cartridges, laser compatible vellum, and laser compatible clear transparencies in retail stores. However, due to the internet and accessibility of online shopping nowadays, the only inconvenience is the need to wait a few days for the products to be delivered. As an Etsy shop owner, you should be aware of this issue; If you unexpectedly run out of supplies in the middle of fulfilling orders, you may end up mailing them out late if you forget that you cannot just run to the store to pick up any last minute supplies.

Lastly, I would like to mention that both inkjet and laser printers will encounter their fair share of printing related issues. Both are susceptible to streaking over time, unexpected color variations, and paper jams.

Check out my Trials and Errors of Printing Etsy Planner Stickers article to read in more detail about some of the problems I’ve faced in the first few months of making planner stickers.

tl;dr

Laser Printers:

Pros:

  • Cheaper cost per page
  • Gold foil compatible
  • Very good print quality

Cons:

  • More money upfront
  • Harder to write on the stickers
  • The heat can curl some types of papers

 

Inkjet Printers:

Pros:

  • Less money upfront
  • Best print quality
  • Able to print on more materials

Cons:

  • More expensive cost per page
  • Wide selection and easy to find in retail stores

 

Ultimately, either type of printer will be more than sufficient to make planner stickers. The decision is up to you!
Let me know what you end up buying!