If your scrapbook is only going onto the Web, or being distributed on a CD-ROM, you probably don't really need a printer for your projects. However, there are many reasons, aside from scrapbook making, that you might need a printer. Several types of color printers are available, but color ink jet is by far the most common and the least expensive. You can also find color laser printers, but they tend to be very expensive, and don't give as natural looking results. Ink jets, as the name implies, work by firing tiny jets of ink at the paper. Generally, printers use four colors to create any image: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. Other printers use a six- or even seven-color system, adding light cyan, light magenta, and light black to improve the reproduction of delicate flesh tones and light sky blue. In addition, some printers now can use either a matte finish or regular black ink. The matte black makes a very definite difference in the quality of any black-and-white work you might need to do, mainly because it looks more dense and black. Color laser printing uses the same process as color copiers. A powdered toner is fused to the paper as it passes over a heated wire on its way through the copy machine or laser printer.
Some printers only take standard 8 1/2x11 paper; others can handle much larger sheets. If you like the traditional 12x12 scrapbook pages and want to create your page layouts digitally, you need a printer capable of handling that page size. In my opinion, Epson makes the best of the wide-body printers. Check out the Epson Stylus Photo 1280 at http://www.epson.com and in Figure 3.7.
While you're visiting the Epson Web site, take a look at their section of craft ideas. They have some beautiful photographic backgrounds for your scrapbook pages, as well as templates for pages and tips on how to fix bad pictures. Go to http://www.epson.com and look on the left side of the screen to explore solutions for craft projects. It's worth the time.
It has a six-color Photo Ink System, and gives you BorderFree photo printing in six popular sizes. BorderFree means that it can print all the way to the edges of the page without leaving a white margin like some printers do. It's compatible with Windows and Macintosh and includes software. You get both Epson Software Film Factory and Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0. It's a good buy at about $400. You can find other wide-body printers with four-color inks for a little less money. Check your computer store, and ask to see print samples from any printer you're considering buying.
Figure 3.7 The Epson Stylus Photo 1280 is a very good extra-wide printer that can handle 12x12 sheets.
Printers, like scanners and cameras, demand that you install a driver. A driver is a simple piece of software that lets the printer communicate with the computer. The driver is what sets up the printer controls and tells the printer how many copies you want to make, the paper size you selected, and any other details it needs to know, such as what kind of paper it's going to print on. Some papers are naturally more absorbent than others, and require different amounts of ink.
Be sure to look in both your computer store and in office supply or art stores for different types of printing papers. There are a great many choices, from basic white copy weight paper to glossy photo paper, matte photo paper, even textured papers, canvas, silk, and metallic foil. You can purchase precut stickers to print on, in a fair selection of shapes, plus full transparent or white glossy sticker paper pages to cut out and stick to your scrapbook pages.
If your printer only prints black-and-white images, and you aren't ready to consider purchasing a color one, you can still create interesting scrapbook pages in black and white and add color accents with paints, markers, or stamps after they are printed. And you can, of course, load your pictures or finished pages on a CD and have them printed at a local copy or print shop such as Kinko's.