Plotter vs Printer: Detailed Comparison

People have the misconception that there is no significant difference between plotters and printers. But, that is far from the truth. Both of them are used to print images and texts. Both of them are used to create replicas of images in high-resolution. But both are not the same.

The method involved in producing the images is very different from each other. The different methods are mainly because of the formats of the file, subject matter as well as the material.

We understand your confusion between the two. This is why we have discussed widely the differences between printers and plotters. We can assure you that after going through this article carefully, you will have no difficulty in understanding the difference between the two.

What is a plotter?

Plotter is not a printer like what people believe it to be. But, in reality, it belongs to the category of printers. It prints images on the paper with the help of various pens after taking commands from the computer. These are used to produce hard copies of designs as well as large graphs on paper. Its uses are mainly understood when you wish to print construction maps, business charts, engineering drawings as well as architectural plans.

How and Where to use a Plotter?

They are mainly used where the requirement is to precision in the diagrams and requires proper and acute measurement. This is why they are mainly used in the fields of engineering and architecture.

You can use plotters in mainly two ways.

  • The first one is by using it as a peripheral component that you can add to the system of the computer.
  • The second way you can use them is by using it as a standalone device having its personal internal processor. The rate of producing a hardcopy data is slow for them. At the same time, it can draw continuous lines. They can continue to print hundreds of pages of the same drawing. They do not require to be given continuous orders to do the same job.

The latest plotter that has been introduced to the market is 3D Plotter. In this plotter, pens are not used to print the image. Instead, they use knives to cut out a material. The knives are arranged together to perform the desired instruction given by the computer.

What is a Printer?

Printer is a device that is used to generate a hard copy of texts as well as graphics. It is a hardware output device that acquires the data from the computer system. In simpler words, the printer provides the hard copy after processing the soft copy.

How and Where to use a Printer?

You can connect your printers to the computer using two ways. The two ways are by using a USB cable or wirelessly. Another thing with printers is that there is no bounding to connect only one printer with one computer. You can connect several computers to a single printer. With wireless printers, you can also use your phones, digital cameras, notebooks along with computers to print texts, graphics, or images.

In the market, you will come across thousands of printers depending on speed, size, cost,  and quality of the output produced. The data produced by a printer is comparatively fast. At a time, printers can produce only a single line. The hard copies of texts and graphics can be achieved on a paper.

Printers are of two types. They are impact and non-impact printers.

Plotter vs printer

After the brief description of plotters and printers, you may have understood what they are. But there still remains the confusion of what is different between the two. In the following section, we will thoroughly discuss the differences between the two.

Uses

Plotters use blades instead of knives and are best for simple colored signs. Plotters are used to print architecture as well as engineering drawings. This is because the accuracy and precision of printing in plotters are very high. Printers can produce high-resolution images and graphics. They are used to reproduce shadows, design elements, gradients, and color images.

Nature

Printers are peripheral devices. It is used to create a solid representation of digital data. The digital data can be represented in your smartphones, tablets, notebooks, and computer screens. Plotters have two types of nature. They can act as a standalone device having its personal internal preprocessor. They can also be a peripheral component that you connect with your computer.

File Reading

The types of files that can be read by printers are PDF, JPG or JPEG, BMP as well as TIFF files. For plotters, they are able to read AI, DWG, and CDR files along with other kinds of files available in vector format.

Cost

While comparing the cost between printers and plotters, it has been found out that plotters are more expensive than printers.

Printing speed

The printing speed of printers are faster than plotters. At a time while printing, printers can print only a single time. For plotters, at a time it has the ability to print several and continuous lines.

Format of output data

The output data that you will get for printers are in the format of pixels and bitmap. Among the two, you will come across pixels more. For plotters, the format of the output data is very much alike to that vector graphic or an image that is created using lines.

Software

The software mostly used by printers to print images is Photoshop. Apart from this, other apps used to edit images are also used. The software that is mainly in use for plotters are Adobe Illustrator, Flexi, Corel, and CAD.

Application

The main application of plotters is in specialized fields like engineering, drawing as well as architecture. The main use of printers is to produce or print texts, graphics, and images on a piece of paper. They are also in-demand amongst graphic artists. This is because they use printers to produce an output of signs and posters. Also, printers are used by people belonging to different professions for quality display.

Resolution

Printers highly depend on resolution. You will highly come across images that have been printed but the output is distorted. This is because the image has been enlarged which makes the pixel size bigger. In the case of plotters, they are independent of resolution. Without losing the clarity of image, you can enlarge the image to be produced by the plotter to any extent.

Types

Printers can be classified into two types. They are impact as well as non-impact printers. You can classify plotters into four different types. They are Flatbed plotter, Cutting plotter, Drum plotter, and Inkjet plotter.

BasisPrintersPlotters
UsesPrinters can produce high-resolution images and
graphics.
They are used to reproduce shadows,
design elements, gradients, and color images.
Plotters are used to print architecture as
well as engineering drawings.
NaturePeripheral devices.Standalone as well as
peripheral devices.
File ReadingThe files that printers can read are
PDF, JPG or JPEG, BMP as well as TIFF files.
Plotters are able to read AI, DWG, and
CDR files along with other kinds of files
available in vector format.
CostLess expensive.More expensive.
Printing SpeedFaster than plotters.Slower than printers.
Format of output dataThe output data is in
the format of pixels and bitmap.
Similar to vector graphics or an
image that is created using lines.
Software Photoshop as well as other apps that
are used for editing images.
Mainly used are Adobe Illustrator,
Flexi, Corel, and CAD.
ApplicationUsed to produce or print texts, graphics,
and images on a piece of paper
In specialized fields like engineering,
drawing as well as architecture.
ResolutionHighly dependent on
resolution.
Completely
independent of resolution.
TypesThey are of two types -impact and non-impact.They are of four types: Flatbed plotter, Cutting
plotter, Drum plotter, and Inkjet plotter

Final Word

After reading this article, you must now understand that there is no such similarity between printers and plotters except the fact that both can print high-resolution artworks. Printers and plotters are two important devices that are required in different fields.

The methods involved are very different in both of them. After reading this article, we hope that all your doubts regarding both are clear and you can easily differentiate between the two.

If you have any questions or doubts regarding the two, feel free to write to us. We will be happy to help you.

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