4 Color vs 6 Color Printer – Extended Comparison

We often get confused before buying a color printer.

It becomes complex when there are terms like 4 colors, 6 colors, and 8 colors.

We are here to help by describing them constructively.

In this write-up, we will be differentiating the key areas between both with pros & cons and try to recommend a suitable printer for regular home use.

Main Differences

The main differences between a 4-color printer and a 6-color printer lie in their ink systems, color gamut, print quality, and costs. Here’s a breakdown of these differences:

  • Ink System: A 4-color printer uses the traditional CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) ink system to create a variety of colors. In contrast, a 6-color printer adds two more colors to the standard CMYK system, which can either be lighter versions of cyan and magenta (Light Cyan and Light Magenta) or entirely new colors, such as orange and green in the Hexachrome system.
  • Color Gamut: The color gamut refers to the range of colors a printer can reproduce. A 6-color printer has a broader color gamut than a 4-color printer, allowing it to produce more accurate colors and smoother gradients. This expanded color range is particularly beneficial for printing photographs, artwork, or other materials that require high color fidelity.
  • Print Quality: Due to the broader color gamut, a 6-color printer generally delivers higher print quality compared to a 4-color printer. It can reproduce more subtle color nuances, more accurate skin tones, and smoother color transitions. This makes 6-color printers more suitable for professional photographers, graphic designers, and other users who require top-notch color reproduction.
  • Costs: While 6-color printers offer improved print quality, they often come with higher costs. The additional ink colors can increase the cost per print, particularly for color and photo prints. Additionally, 6-color printers may have higher initial costs and maintenance expenses compared to 4-color printers. As a result, users must weigh the benefits of improved color accuracy against the increased costs when choosing between a 4-color and a 6-color printer.

In summary, the main differences between 4-color and 6-color printers are their ink systems, color gamut, print quality, and costs. While a 4-color printer is suitable for general color printing tasks and offers lower costs, a 6-color printer provides better color accuracy and quality, making it more appropriate for professional applications that demand high-quality color reproduction.

4 color vs 6 color ptinter

4 color printer

A 4-color printer refers to a printing device that utilizes the standard CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) ink system to produce a wide range of colors. CMYK is an acronym for these four primary colors, which are mixed in various proportions to create a multitude of hues and shades. The 4-color printing process is the most common method used in both inkjet and laser printers for everyday color printing tasks.

These are the best 4-color printers with a wide borderless printing feature.

In a 4-color printer, the printing process begins with a digital image or document that is separated into its four primary color components: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. The printer then applies each color ink layer by layer to the paper or printing surface, either by spraying microscopic ink droplets (in inkjet printers) or by using toner particles (in laser printers). As the colors overlap and mix, they form a wide array of colors, allowing for the reproduction of most images and graphics.

While 4-color printers can produce a wide range of colors, they may struggle to reproduce some subtle color nuances, bright hues, or fine details found in high-quality photographs or professional graphics. This limitation is due to the restricted color gamut offered by the CMYK system, which cannot reproduce every color visible to the human eye. In these cases, a printer with an expanded color range, such as a 6-color or 8-color printer, may provide better color accuracy and detail.

Overall, 4-color printers are suitable for general color printing tasks, such as documents, presentations, and simple graphics. They offer a balance between cost and performance, making them a popular choice for home and office use. However, for applications that require higher color accuracy and quality, such as professional photography or graphic design, printers with an expanded color gamut may be more appropriate.

6 color printer

6-color printer prints with a combination of 6 different color tones often referred to as Hexachrome color. Apart from the 4 CMYK color ranges (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow & Black), there are two additional color tones which are orange and green.

So, in a 6-color printer, the color tone is  CcMmYK which refers to the additional light magenta and light Cyan. A 6-color printer may be difficult and often expensive to a 4-color printer but due to having a color variety, it produces more vibrant and colorful images.

These are the best 6 color printers that print vibrant color photos as well as allow the users to convert them to DTF printers for T-shirt printing.

Here are the two versions of a 6-color printer

There are two different versions of 6 color printers. One is Hexachrome 6c and the other is 6c dark/light.

Hexachrome 6C

Hexachrome, often referred to as 6C, is an advanced color printing process developed by Pantone Inc. It expands upon the traditional CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) printing process by incorporating two additional colors: orange and green. By adding these colors to the existing CMYK system, Hexachrome significantly broadens the color gamut, allowing for more accurate color reproduction and a wider range of colors in printed materials.

The Hexachrome system improves color vibrancy and provides better color accuracy compared to the standard 4-color CMYK process, especially when it comes to bright and vivid colors. The orange and green inks help to fill the gaps in the color spectrum that CMYK alone can’t cover, enabling smoother color transitions and more precise color matching for logos, photographs, and other designs that require high-quality color reproduction.

Hexachrome is particularly beneficial for graphic designers, photographers, and other professionals who need to match specific colors or produce high-quality prints with a wide range of colors. In addition to producing more accurate colors, Hexachrome printing can also reduce the need for spot colors, which are custom-mixed inks used to match particular colors that the standard CMYK process can’t reproduce. By using the expanded color range of the Hexachrome system, designers can achieve more accurate color matching with fewer spot colors, potentially simplifying the printing process and reducing costs.

It’s worth noting that Hexachrome is a proprietary system and may not be compatible with all printers. Additionally, the use of two extra inks can lead to higher printing costs compared to standard CMYK printing. As a result, Hexachrome is often reserved for situations where color accuracy and vibrancy are of the utmost importance, such as high-end marketing materials, professional photography, and fine art reproductions.

6C Dark or Light

When discussing 6-color printing processes, the term “6C Dark” or “6C Light” refers to the specific combination of inks used to expand the traditional CMYK color gamut. These additional colors can either be dark or light versions of existing CMYK inks or entirely new colors, such as orange and green in the Hexachrome system. The choice of additional inks depends on the specific printing process and the desired outcome.

In a “6C Light” system, the additional colors are typically lighter versions of cyan and magenta, known as light cyan (LC) and light magenta (LM). The inclusion of these lighter inks helps to produce smoother color gradients and transitions, as well as more accurate skin tones and color subtleties in photographs and other detailed images. This system is often used in high-quality photo printers to improve the overall color accuracy and detail, especially in areas with subtle color variations.

On the other hand, a “6C Dark” system may incorporate darker colors or entirely new colors, like the Hexachrome process that adds orange and green to the CMYK palette. These additional colors help to extend the color gamut, allowing for more vibrant and accurate color reproduction across a broader range of hues. The “6C Dark” system is beneficial when printing materials that require rich, saturated colors or a wider color range than the standard CMYK process can provide.

In summary, the terms “6C Dark” and “6C Light” describe different 6-color printing systems that expand upon the traditional 4-color CMYK process. The choice of additional colors depends on the specific printing technology and the desired results. Both systems aim to improve color accuracy, vibrancy, and overall print quality, making them suitable for applications that demand high-quality color reproduction.

Let’s compare two printers

This is a comparison of two printers. One is 4 colors (Epson Ecotank ET 4800) and the other is 6 colors (Epson Ecotank Photo ET 8550). Here’s what we have noticed:

If you want to know which is best between Canon MegaTank & Epson EcoTank color printers, check this out! 

Epson ET 4800 Epson ET 8550
Type 4 Color 6 Color
Black Page Yield 3340 Prints 4990 Prints
Color Page Yield 4213 Prints 3320 Prints
Ink Type Dye Dye & Pigment
Black Print Cost 0.004 US$/print 0.004 US$/print
Color Print Cost 0.010 US$/print 0.026 US$/print
Photo Print Cost 0.026 US$/print 0.070 US$/print
Photo Print Time 93.4 s 48.1 s
Print Speed (Black) 8 PPM 15 PPM
Print Speed (Color) 4 PPM 10 PPM
Price

When comparing the Epson ET 4800 and Epson ET 8550 printers, one of the most significant differences lies in the number of colors each printer utilizes. The Epson ET 4800 is a 4-color printer, while the Epson ET 8550 is a 6-color printer. This distinction has a considerable impact on print quality, especially for photographs and other color-rich documents.

A 4-color printer like the Epson ET 4800 uses the traditional cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) ink system to produce a wide range of colors. While this method works well for most general printing tasks, it may struggle to reproduce some subtle color nuances and shades, leading to less accurate color representation in certain instances.

On the other hand, the 6-color Epson ET 8550 printer not only includes the standard CMYK colors but also features two additional colors: light cyan and light magenta. These extra colors help to produce smoother gradients and more accurate color reproduction, especially in photographs and images with subtle color variations. This improved color range makes the 6-color printer more suitable for professional photographers and graphic designers who require high-quality color prints.

It’s essential to note, however, that the added capabilities of the 6-color printer come with increased costs. The color print cost per page for the Epson ET 8550 is 0.026 US$/print, more than double that of the Epson ET 4800 at 0.010 US$/print. Photo print costs are even higher, with the 6-color printer costing 0.070 US$/print compared to the 4-color printer’s 0.026 US$/print.

In conclusion, the choice between a 4-color printer like the Epson ET 4800 and a 6-color printer like the Epson ET 8550 will largely depend on individual needs and priorities. The 4-color printer offers lower printing costs, making it more suitable for everyday use and general color printing tasks. However, if superior color accuracy and print quality are of paramount importance, the higher costs associated with the 6-color printer may be a worthwhile investment.

These were the 5 best regular home-use budget printers that we shortlisted earlier.

Color Print Quality

The Epson ET 4800 appears to be a budget-friendly family printer with a 4 color option and makes good color speed but at a slower speed than the Epson ET 8550. The quality of the color is more vibrant in ET 8550 which is also accessible by the smartphone.

Overall, the color quality was okay for the ET 3800 printer and we really appreciate its yield ratio which was 4,213 prints with color. The Color print yield was even higher than the ET 8550 which makes the cost per page incredibly lower.

Besides, the 6 color printer (ET 8550) produces less quantity than that of the 4 color printer but produces amazingly detailed documents.

Only the ET 8550 can produce a borderless print which is an added advantage here.

The weaknesses of both printers

Despite having positive sides, both printers have some drawbacks as well.

The ET 4800 cannot automatically print double sides of the document which means you need to manually flip the document when needed. Also, from the automatic document feeder (ADF) you cannot do the suplex scanning which was not seen while testing the ET 8550.

There have not been any major weaknesses of the 6-color printer (ET 8550) except for some minor color mismatching issues which often go after calibration.

The Dimension

The ET 4800 appears to be taller than the ET 8550 by an additional 2.7 inches. However, the second one is wider than the ET 4800 with a very good build quality. Both of the printers are available in two different colors and are delivered with inks.

Print Speed

The Epson ET 8550 is 150% faster than the ET 4800. However, the print time taken by the printers is always justifiable from the users’ objective. For instance, the Epson ET 4800 is surely a suitable choice for home users and students since it costs significantly less than the other one.

Scan Performance

Unfortunately, the Epson ET 8550 does not have any automatic document feeder for scanning which limits its appeal but the scan speed it offers is 100% higher than what the other one shows.

You can scan documents up to 8.5″ x 14″ in Epson ET 8550 but the maximum document size of the Epson ET 4800 is limited to 8.5″ x 11″. That means, if you want to scan the legal size documents, the second one is the only suitable option that you have.

Average Color Delta E

Average color DE refers to the color quality of a color print which is measured on a scale of 0 to 10+. Overall, any prints above DE 5 are considered to be good except for the need for specialized use.

While assessing, the Epson ET 4800 had a color DE of 6.63 and the other had 6.48 which means that both printers offer above-average color tones.

Print Details

Print details are measured by the resolution in DPI or dots per inch. We have seen that both printers were capable of printing at 5760 x 1440 resolution which is amazing about the price of both.

Why 6 color + is preferred in commercial printing?

These are the reasons why commercial printing requires 6 colors or even more:

  • Commercial prints are high-value adding materials that target to convert the audience into customers so, maximum print resolution is the priority.
  • For business competitiveness, everyone tries to be unique and the uniqueness starts from the print material they are sharing with others.
  • Commercial printers offer increased productivity with 6 colors
  • The printing company employs a lot of staff and tries to offer something appealing to ensure their business sustainability.
  • Overall, the graphical presentation becomes more attractive with the 6 color printers.

What should you notice before buying a 4-color or 6-color printer?

These are factors you should always check before choosing any printer. There are more than 25 decision-making factors which we have earlier talked about in our comprehensive buying guide. But, for discriminating between the 4 colors & 6 colors, the following are the key factors:

Key Decision Making Factor for occasional use printer

Print Technology

There are different kinds of printing technology and you need to choose the one wisely. Usually, inkjet printers use liquid ink droplets to produce prints and the droplets are again quantified by the size of each. For instance, a lower-size droplet represents better-quality color prints.

Both the 6-color and 4-color printers are from Inkjet technology and you should focus on the resolution that they make.

There are other printer types such as thermal & laser. Normally thermal printers take the help of heat to place the color over any paper that we see in a shopping mall’s point of sale (POS).

Laser printers are the other type that uses a laser beam to place to visualize the characters. Laser printers are truly fast & obviously more expensive than inkjet printers.

You can have a look at the differences between a laser printer & others.

Types of Ink

There are different types of inks. Inkjet printers run on both fillable ink tanks and ink cartridges. The ink tanks are more affordable since the tanks are refillable for an infinite time but the ink cartridges are not reusable. Furthermore, per print cost becomes lower with an ink tank but for the cartridges, the costs are not as low as the fillable inks.

You have a look at the detailed differences between ink tanks and ink cartridges here.

Print Yield

Print yield is a parameter that helps to anticipate the number of prints you can make with a set of inks. A higher amount of print yield also reflects the lower print per page cost. As you have seen in the earlier comparison table the yield may vary depending on the black & color prints. The reason is when you print black only, one ink is used but the color prints require multiple.

When choosing a 4-color or a 6-color printer, it is not recommended to go for the lowest print yield since print quality is the most important factor for the user.

Color Quality

As you have seen both the printers above were capable of making good quality colors which are proven by the dE number & resolution. However, there are some other issues that may affect the color of your printer and you need to troubleshoot instantly.

If the driver of your printer is outdated, the colors may deteriorate to some extent. That’s the reason we always recommend updating the driver when possible.

Sometimes the print head gets clogged by the residue & the outside dust. We, therefore, recommend running schedule maintenance to keep the print head and nozzle efficiently working. Follow these 7-step easy maintenance steps to get good color prints.

Occasional Use Printer Maintenance Checklist

You need to carefully choose the paper type when making color prints. For example, if your ultimate concentration is to print a photo, you should always get the glossy photo paper with proper GSM as mentioned by the manufacturer.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are the most frequently asked questions you may find useful

What is the main difference between 4-color and 6-color printers?

The main differences between 4-color and 6-color printers are their ink systems, color gamut, print quality, and costs. 6 Color printer will consume more color but will produce higher quality compared to the 4-color output.

What is the difference between 4 color and 8 color printer?

8-color printing will use more amount of ink while printing which means that a printed document with an 8-color printer will contain less graininess compared to the 4-color prints.

Which color printer is fast?

Usually, inkjet color printers are faster than ink tank printers due to the fact that inkjet printers can deposit colors more efficiently compared to the print head of ink tank printers. Usually HP Officejet pro series are the fastest color printer. You may find other models outlined here.

Is laser or inkjet better for photos?

Laser printers offer higher yielding and higher speed compared to the inkjet printers. Usually, the inkjet printers need higher GSM papers compared to the laser printers. For professional color printing, we always recommend inkjet printers but for faster print, laser printers win the battle always.

Let’s Conclude

If you are a student and occasionally make color prints then the 4-color printers are always the best option to go with. Otherwise, 6 color prints are only recommended if your priority is to get good images with proper & detailed color tones. But you should always remember about the initial cost, ink consumption amount & the print yield which tells when the printer will pay back and how fast will it do!

Ethan Robert
Ethan Robert

Hi, I'm Ethan.

After graduating from the University of North Dakota, I started knowing the CNC and that becomes my passion.

Earlier, I had fascination of 3d printers, Laser cutters and other CNC machines. Later on, I started analyzing those machine and started blogging on my known things by a different way.

I aim to assist you with the insights of 3d printer, laser engravers and computer printers with the help that you save your money and take the right decision before you purchase any machine.

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