Printing at home, an office, or an engineering environment is subdivided into:
- small format (up to ledger size paper sheets), as used in business offices and libraries
- wide format (up to 3′ or 914mm wide rolls of paper), as used in drafting and design establishments.
Some of the more common printing technologies are:
- blueprint – and related chemical technologies
- daisy wheel – where pre-formed characters are applied individually
- dot-matrix – which produces arbitrary patterns of dots with an array of printing studs
- line printing – where formed characters are applied to the paper by lines
- heat transfer – such as early fax machines or modern receipt printers that apply heat to special paper, which turns black to form the printed image
- inkjet – including bubble-jet, where ink is sprayed onto the paper to create the desired image
- electrophotography – where toner is attracted to a charged image and then developed
- laser – a type of xerography where the charged image is written pixel by pixel using a laser
- solid ink printer – where cubes of ink are melted to make ink or liquid toner
Vendors typically stress the total cost to operate the equipment, involving complex calculations that include all cost factors involved in the operation as well as the capital equipment costs, amortization, etc. For the most part, toner systems are more economical than inkjet in the long run, even though inkjets are less expensive in the initial purchase price.
Professional digital printing (using toner) primarily uses an electrical charge to transfer toner or liquid ink to the substrate onto which it is printed. Digital print quality has steadily improved from early color and black and white copiers to sophisticated colour digital presses such as the Xerox iGen3, the Kodak Nexpress, the HP Indigo Digital Press series, and the InfoPrint 5000. The iGen3 and Nexpress use toner particles and the Indigo uses liquid ink. The InfoPrint 5000 is a full-color, continuous forms inkjet drop-on-demand printing system. All handle variable data, and rival offset in quality. Digital offset presses are also called direct imaging presses, although these presses can receive computer files and automatically turn them into print-ready plates, they cannot insert variable data.
Small press and fanzines generally use digital printing. Prior to the introduction of cheap photocopying the use of machines such as the spirit duplicator, hectograph, and mimeograph was common.