How To Print 11×17 – Home Versus Commercial

By Chris Mullen, April 30, 2015

11x17 prints

How to print 11×17 PDF’s? and How to print 11×17? are both very common questions often searched on Google by many people including business owners, artists, marketers and managers. Let’s look at the pros and cons of printing 11×17 artwork from home and with a commercial printer.

Should I use a home printer to print 11×17?

Many home printers do not actually print a full 11×17 format, but of course, many of them do as well so it is important to read specifications concerning actual coverage. If you are printing a full color and full coverage 11×17 area, a spectrum of home printers might be available but often paired with shortcomings concerning profitability and quality.

Canon, HP, Brother and Ricoh manufacture home and office laser printers that try to serve home users, home businesses and small businesses with 11×17 printing, but most of those options fall short when considering high quality expectations especially when printing hundreds to thousands of posters.

Another problem is consumables (toner or ink) for these machines can be very expensive. That is the simple reality whether you are looking at inkjet or laser printers for printing 11×17 prints.

Speaking of inkjet, many of the above laser printer manufacturers also produce ink-jet printers with the capability of producing photo quality images on numerous papers. Smaller sizes such as 4×6 and 8×10 can cost anywhere between thirty to eight-five cents per print (source: howtogeek.com) which is far more expensive than choosing a commercial printer.

The main advantage of printing 11×17’s at home is convenience. Prints can be created individually and on-demand which some artists might actually prefer. The manufacturers know this and have configured that convenience into their consumable prices so beware.

Advantages
– Convenience
– On-demand printing
– More control over final product

Disadvantages
– Higher cost per print
– Time consuming

Maybe I should choose a commercial printer for 11×17?

As an owner of an online commercial printer, I can say that printing 11×17’s with a print company is the most logical choice for 90% of all projects. That’s because the machines (offset or digital presses) commercial printers are using are FAR superior to any home printer. Also, most larger commercial printers buy papers and supplies in bulk which allows us to sell prints for much less than home users can possibly produce them.

But yes, I indicated this golden rule covers about 90% of all print projects including products like band posters, movie posters, general flyers, festival posters and most artwork for resell. Commercial printers generally serve the most requested papers and card selections. When printing 11×17’s in CMYK mode using papers and card stocks that are glossy, matte or textured – a commercial printer should be preferred.

The 10% area is more complicated. When involving less popular medias (felt, rag, linen, watercolor etc.) or the giclee reproduction method, you may want to do further research. Many of the online printers that are primarily focused on fine arts printing and giclee printing boast incredibly high markups. In these cases, it very well might be cheaper to print using an inkjet or laser printer from the home or office. Please remember, we are talking about 11×17 prints here; not larger stuff like 16×20’s and higher. Those sizes would require an entirely different article.

Advantages
– Much less expensive per print for most projects
– Quality is very difficult to surpass

Disadvantages
– Media options might be very limited
– Giclee style printing can be expensive

Colors 

When working with CMYK, a standard for laser printers and commercial presses, a print company should be a superior solution. However, sometimes inkjet printers can handle the RGB color spectrum a little better. Unlike larger poster and banner sizes, 11×17 prints are almost always printed using the CMYK color mode by commercial printers aside from fine arts printing services. To reach more colors and offer more media choices, those companies utilize inkjet printers for all sizes ranging from 4×6 up to giant wall sized prints.

Conclusion

I personally think commercial printing for 11×17 prints makes more sense than producing that particular size from home. However, I own a print company and you may have to deem that opinion biased. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages that must be carefully considered by each person. We have not really discussed shipping, turnaround or color in depth, but the most important factors in making a decision will likely concern quality, price per print and convenience. Good luck with your 11×17 adventures. Please email me at chris[at]printkeg.com if you would like to add anything to this article or have questions. I am more than happy to discuss further with anyone.

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