Portable printers are growing in popularity for both leisure and business use thanks to lower prices and technology that improves every year. For sharing snaps on the go, today’s portable photo printers are highly versatile, able to print everything from sticky-backed labels to store-quality 4×6 prints.
If you need to print documents instead of photos, you’ve got good options there as well. Heavy, low-quality portable printers have given way to high resolution models that can handle anything up to letter size paper while still fitting in a briefcase.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that you still need to regularly refill the ink, film, or special paper. Refills continue to be a defining factor in portable printers, and will dictate the future cost of using your device. Today’s portable printers use thermal technology, ZINK (Zero INK), compact cartridges, and everything in between, and prices can vary widely.
Whatever your needs, though, we’ve found the best portable printers available for labels, sticky photos, instant film, 4×6 photos, and business printing in 2021 to help make your buying decision easier.
Best Pocket-Sized Portable Printer on a Budget
The PeriPage Pocket Printer is the smallest and lightest printer on our list. At little more than 3 x 3 inches and weighing under seven ounces, it’s an incredibly compact device. Wireless and powered by a rechargeable lithium battery, it never needs an ink refill, using reasonably-priced rolls of thermal paper instead.
Created in 2017 with a successful crowdfunding campaign, the company expanded its product line with a variety of exterior printer colors: white, blue, pink, red, yellow, and brown. There are a variety of refill options, including sticky thermal paper, colored thermal paper, and a few choices of label paper.
The printer connects to your phone via Bluetooth, letting you use the Android or iOS app to edit and scan text, create labels, add stickers, or upload photographs.
The PeriPage is tiny and inexpensive, but that convenience comes at a cost: it only prints in black and white. As a result, this printer is best for creating labels, printing shipping information, or designing custom stickers rather than sharing photos with friends.
The Peripage can print images, but they will only appear in black on a white or colored background, rather than the full-color prints you can expect from other models.Buy on Amazon
Best Portable Printer for Photo Stickers
HP’s Sprocket Instant Photo Printer is a wireless portable printer for producing 2″ x 3″ photo stickers on the go. It’s very much pocket-sized at roughly 3 x 4.5 inches and only six ounces, so you can take it along anywhere you go. The rechargeable battery lasts for up to 35 photo prints per charge.
Connect via Bluetooth using the HP Sprocket app for Android or iOS to take a new photo or pull one from your current gallery. The app lets you customize your photos with emojis, filters, frames, text, and more. You can connect the printer to multiple devices, letting you share photos and printing capabilities with friends and family.
The sticky-backed photos are printed on ZINK Zero Ink technology, which doesn’t require separate ink cartridges and prints smudge, water, and tear-resistant photos. Zink sticky back photo paper is available in 20, 50, and 100 sheet refills, at a cost of around 50c per print.Buy on Amazon
Best Instant Film Portable Printer
The Fujifilm Instax Mini Smartphone Printer takes us back to 90s Polaroid cameras. The printer uses 10-shot film cartridges just like the good old days, but unlike the good old days, this model connects to your smartphone.
You can choose photos from your phone over Bluetooth via the Android or iOS app, making this a better option than Fuji’s cheaper Instax Instant cameras that print whatever photo you just took, no matter whose eyes are closed.
The Instax Mini also lets you print photos from video clips, or reprint the last photo you printed for easy sharing with a group. Get endlessly creative with the compatible app (Android or iOS) by tweaking your photos, adding filters, or adding custom text and graphics.
The Instax film refills can be expensive, but per-shot pricing is more reasonable when you buy multiple cartridges at once. You can pick and choose refill film with decorated borders in various colors and styles, and there’s a monochrome photo option as well.Buy on Amazon
Best Portable Printer for 4 x 6 Photos
The Kodak Dock is a portable instant photo printer designed for standard 4 x 6 color photographs. Dock older Android phones directly onto the printer via the micro-USB port, or use Wi-Fi printing for newer models. The included Lightning adapter lets you print from an iPhone, and you can also connect iPads, digital cameras, and USB sticks.
A cartridge and photo paper refill is required to print photos, and is good for 40 shots. Depending on the number of refills you buy at once, the price ranges from 30-50c per photo. The photographs print with a protective laminated layer.
The printer is a little over three pounds, so it’s easy to move from room to room around your home or office. You can also transport it easily enough in a carrying case from one location to the next, but probably wouldn’t want to travel with it long-term.
You’re paying for the convenience, but if you want the ability to print quality 4 x 6 photos without going anywhere or waiting for an online order to arrive, it’s a device you’ll be pleased to own.Buy on Amazon
Best Portable Wireless Printer for Business
Canon’s Pixma TR150 Wireless Printer is a top of the line portable printer designed for business travel. It offers wireless printing from computers, phones, and other devices, and connects via Canon Print, Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and more.
The wireless printer has a 50 sheet paper tray and can print letter (8.5 x 11 inch) sheets, making it an ideal companion for business travel. At just over 10 pounds and 12.7 x 7.3 inches you won’t be taking it on any backpacking trips, but it’s easily portable enough to keep in the car or suitcase for when you need to print work documents on the go.
The printer can use an optional Canon LK-72 battery pack (sold separately) that allows printing without a power source. With the battery fully charged, you can print up to 330 sheets, and it only adds another half-pound of weight.
Using standard Pixma ink refill cartridges (black and color), the price per page is quite reasonable for a portable printer. For printing documents no matter where you happen to be, you could do a lot worse than the Pixma TR150.Buy on Amazon
Portable Multi-Surface Printers
The latest trend in portable printers is multi-surface printing. The concept is gaining popularity, and it’s easy to understand why: you can print whatever you want on any surface you choose in just a few seconds.
The technology is very much in its early stages, which means there are only a couple of unimpressive multi-surface printers available on the market right now. Other versions are in active development, however, and it’s certainly worth keeping an eye out for new, improved models over the next year or two.
Looking for creative gift ideas or just another fun gadget to add to your own collection? Check out our roundups of the best mini projectors, the best solar-powered gadgets for camping, and the best tech gadgets for campervans.
Main image via Canon, other images via Amazon