If you're gearing up to run a sticker business, you absolutely need to be capable of printing stickers. Many people swear by a specific inkjet printer or laser printer, myself included. What's the best cheap sticker printer? We'll go through some of the most popular printers that can handle sticker printing here.
And remember - you'll also need to cut your stickers! The ability of your sticker printer to work well with whatever personal / DIY cutting machine you have is essential. From print speed, print quality, and cost, we'll go through it all. Let's get started!
As you begin your search for a printer for stickers, it's important to know the difference between an inkjet printer and a laser printer, because it will determine what your cost per print, and print speed will be. Inkjet printers generally cost more money per print and print slower, but some people prefer the vibrancy of inkjet printers.
Laser printers, in contrast, use toner instead of ink cartridges. They print much faster and although toner is expensive, it can do much more. Laser printers are definitely the best home printer for vinyl stickers. Laser prints have the opportunity to be automatically waterproof, and can even have decorative foil applied to the toner for neat, holographic effects. However, the start up cost of a laser printer is more; and toner can be pricy.
You should choose a laser printer if you:
You should choose an inkjet printer if you:
I think that in this day and age, you should definitely be using a wireless printer. They're often not that much more than a wired printer, and it is convenient to be able to design in one room and use your printer for stickers in another room. Luckily, a wireless printer is easy to find and very affordable.
Duplex printing is nice when you need a printer that can handle things besides stickers. I often use duplex printing when I'm printing out receipts for large orders, or even just using it for my every day needs. For the best experience, look for automatic duplexing, not manual.
You can buy vinyl sticker paper that works with either a laser or an inkjet printer, but just be aware that the sticker paper will be coated specially. If you run a piece of sticker paper meant for laser through an inkjet, you may ruin your printer. So be sure to read the labeling on your paper package before starting to print vinyl stickers.
Just because vinyl stickers are the most popular search term doesn't mean that you have to only make vinyl stickers. Instead of vinyl stickers, you could also create polyester stickers, or stickers from other material. I love OnlineLabels for their selection of paper, and I exclusively use their paper for my sticker business.
Laser printers are naturally more able to do waterproof labels and stickers because they use toner, not wet ink, to make their stickers. Look for waterproof paper, or if you use an inkjet, you'll need to look at laminating stickers to achieve your desired effect.
By cost, a laser printer is going to be cheaper because toner is cheaper per print than ink cartridges. There are some things that can help bring the cost down for newer ink technology, like an ink replenishment service. HP Instant Ink is the most popular service for replacement ink cartridges, but you'll have to look at the numbers yourself to determine if it's worth it. A close runner up is Epson's EcoTank printers, which feature large ink tanks and make replacing ink a breeze.
The printer that I use for my business is the HP m454dw, a color laser printer from HP. I actually own two of them. They're under $500 to purchase, and toner lasts quite a long time. It's not in the HP Instant Ink program because it's a laser printer, but it's been printing stickers reliably for me for close to two years. Its print speed is outstanding, and it wakes up from sleep very easily. If you're serious about buying a printer for stickers, I think this is the best printer you'll find.
UPDATE MARCH 2022: As soon as I published this, it seems like HP has retired the m454! I would recommend either buying it renewed, or taking a look at another printer in the m400s, like the HP m479fdn also from HP. You can't beat their quality of prints for the price. The two that I have are seriously the best printers.
The best printer for stickers (inkjet) is likely the Epson EcoTank series of printers. These printers, which are just a couple hundred dollars, feature large ink reservoirs that give you the experience of laser, but with ink. Some models will print larger than 8.5x11, if that matters to you. Epson printers definitely work best with name brand ink for sticker printing. As mentioned before, the print speed for inkjets is much slower than laser alternatives, so temper your expectations for this printer for stickers.
Although I've never owned an EcoTank, I use a cheaper model of Epson as a backup printer and to be honest, other than print speed: it works perfectly fine.
Most people who choose inkjet end up choosing a Canon Pixma printer as their go to. The Canon Pixma series features great reliability, uptime, and vibrant prints. They are affordable, starting at less than $200 for their entry models. The Canon Pixma is often someone's first "real" printer before they upgrade. It's still an inkjet, so expect slow print speed, but it's a good starter printer for stickers.
If you're looking for a dedicated color label printer, you might want to take a look at the Primera LX 3000. The price tag is large (~ $3,000), but it features an integrated print and cut AND lamination opportunity, which can offset the issues with using ink instead of toner when you're printing stickers. They don't offer that model on Amazon, but here's another popular choice, the Primera LX910.
If you're planning to print mostly black and white, don't rule out a budget option like a thermal ink label printer instead of a true printer for stickers. I really like the Rollo printer - it just works after you set it up, which is really important when you're looking for a printer for stickers. I've done thousands of labels at this point, from thank you stickers to address labels, and they all look great. Plus - no ink! You don't need special sticker paper, either.
You don't just need a printer, you need a machine to cut your stickers, too. So as you consider printers, think about the whole package: printers, cutters, and even packaging.
I think the best sticker making machine for most hobbyists who are selling on Etsy is probably the Cricut Explore Air 2. It's got a Bluetooth connection and it's pretty fast. If you're planning to cut a lot, you could consider the Silhouette Cameo as well - but to be honest, I've had nothing but issues with mine.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by these options: don't worry! There are also ways that you can get your stickers printed by someone else. You don't NEED a printer of your own. CustomStickers, StickerMule, FastStickers, and others are all great sticker suppliers.
Choosing a cheap printer for stickers can be intimidating, but that doesn't mean you should give up. Choosing the best printer for stickers (2022) is ultimately up to you: what you want to do to print your own stickers, whether you want a wireless connection, or how much you want to spend. A cheap sticker printer may work for you now, but not later. So if you're not sure, go ahead and get your printer from a place with a generous return policy, so that you can be sure that it's what you want before you fully commit.