What is a Plotter Printer?

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Updated November 22, 2022

If you are new to the world of document reproduction, you may wonder what a plotter printer is. Firstly, understand these devices are not that much different than regular printers. 

In fact, wide format plotters use toner, color, and material, just like inkjet printers and laser printers. The only major difference is that among the variety of materials they print on, they’re typically used for architectural drawings, technical drawings, and maps. 

Many of the best printers feature different designs and capabilities, and this includes plotter printers. So what exactly is a plotter printer, do you need one, and what benefits do they bring to the table for average folks? Keep reading to find out.


  • Plotter printers, also called drum plotters and pen plotters, use specialized drawing tools to make highly detailed and professional-grade prints, especially when compared to traditional printers that are not used to create vector graphics and technical drawings.
  • The print head never lifts from the substrate when printing, resulting in highly precise and accurate prints.
  • This increased accuracy of flatbed plotters also comes into play when making multiple copies of the same print.

Plotter Printers Defined

Traditionally just called a plotter, this type of printer uses specialized markers or pens to draw lines on long sheets of paper to accurately render computer-aided designs and detailed schematics, which is very different than the definition of sublimation printing. With this said, plotters are used primarily in industrial and commercial settings for use with specific software programs to create unique and highly-detailed prints, which is much different than what MICR printers do.

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What is a Plotter Printer Used For?

As previously indicated, plotters are used primarily in business settings, often to draw up architectural plans or to create highly-detailed prints for use in 3D renders, though they have many other uses. The main hurdles to average consumers becoming acquainted with this type of printer are cost and size. They are much more expensive than standard inkjet or laser printers and are large, cumbersome, and bulky. Still, they have plenty of uses in a variety of industrial sectors.

Benefits of a Plotter Printer

Despite being out of reach for the average consumer, plotters offer some serious benefits, especially when compared to standard printers.


This printer type is known for being ultra-precise, which comes in handy when printing architectural plans or 3D renders. Plotters rarely lift up from the page, allowing for this precision. Of course, the precision available in standard inkjet and laser printers is more than fine for average consumers. When you jump to business-adjacent printing, however, you will find the added precision highly useful.

STAT: Plotters also print on a much larger area, which is why some companies refer to them as wide-format printers. (source)

Accurate Prints

Plotter printers also create highly accurate prints with virtually no degradation. Standard printers exhibit slight deformations and degradations as you create multiple reproductions of the same image. Plotters avoid this due to some distinct design choices. As such, this feature continues to aid architects and other professionals who need multiple prints without even a chance of degradation.

Plotters FAQs

What is the difference between a standard printer and a plotter printer?

A standard printer does not print using continuous lines, making it a not-so-great choice for architectural drawings. However, traditional printers allow for multiple paper size options.

What is a wide-format printer?

Wide-format printers create prints on wide-format substrates. Some flatbed plotters are wide-format, as are many traditional printers. However, wide-format plotters are not universal, so read the fine print before making a purchase of a modern plotter.

What plotter printer options do I have?

There are many plotter options out there, from flatbed plotters to drum plotters and pen plotters. There are even inkjet plotters and electrostatic plotters, both of which excel with a variety of materials.
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