Difference Wiki

Plotter vs. Printer: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 2, 2023
A plotter creates images by moving a pen; a printer produces images by applying ink or laser technology.

Key Differences

In the realm of producing visual outputs, plotters define a unique niche, deploying pens across the surface to meticulously draw detailed, high-quality images, especially revealing their prowess in the generation of vector graphics, such as architectural drawings.
Printers, on the other hand, with their varied technologies like inkjet or laser, translate digital files into tangible documents and images, splashing minuscule dots across the page, thus constructing the desired visual in a systematic, dot-matrix fashion.
Emphasizing precision and often utilized for large formats, plotters undertake a movement-intensive process, where pens slide across the paper, generating images with smooth, defined lines that are particularly sought after in technical and design fields.
Whereas printers boast a versatile utility, catering to a plethora of everyday tasks, from churning out textual documents to generating high-resolution images, offering a widely applicable solution that addresses diverse printing needs in both professional and personal contexts.
While plotters are commonly associated with specialized applications, such as producing CAD drawings, they showcase an unparalleled proficiency in rendering precise, clean, and intricately detailed visuals without a dotted appearance.
Printers dominate the general visual output domain, offering a variety of models, such as multifunction, laser, and inkjet, that deliver varied levels of quality and speed, affirming themselves as indispensable assets across an extensive array of settings, including offices, homes, and commercial print shops.

Comparison Chart

Creation Method

Utilizes pens to draw images.
Uses ink dots or laser technology.

Ideal Use

Detailed, large-scale drawings.
General, versatile printing needs.

Line Quality

Smooth and precise.
Dot matrix can be visible in some outputs.

Common Applications

CAD drawings, architectural plans.
Documents, photos, various everyday printing.

Size and Form

Often large and wide.
Available in various sizes and functionalities.

Plotter and Printer Definitions


A device primarily used for vector graphics.
The plotter efficiently produced the CAD design with utmost precision.


A device that produces textual or visual documents from a computer.
The office printer quickly produced the requested reports.


A device that draws pictures using a pen.
The architect used a plotter to create a detailed floor plan.


A machine that replicates digital files into physical copies.
She used her home printer to print the photographs.


A device to produce large-scale, precise visuals.
The plotter was crucial for generating accurate city maps.


A device offering diverse functionality like scanning and copying.
The all-in-one printer provided multiple services in one unit.


A machine for plotting graphs or printing vector graphics.
The engineer utilized a plotter to illustrate the project’s schematics.


An apparatus which can generate varied document types.
The printer can produce both color and monochrome documents.


A machine that prioritizes detailed, clean line quality.
The plotter is optimal for applications requiring seamless lines and details.


A machine using inkjet or laser technology for printing.
The laser printer ensured crisp, high-quality text output.


A small piece of ground, generally used for a specific purpose
A garden plot.


One that prints, especially one whose occupation is printing.


A measured area of land; a lot.


A device that prints text or graphics on paper.


A ground plan, as for a building; a diagram.


A 3D printer.


See graph1.


One who makes prints.


How does a plotter differ from a printer?

While both are output devices, a plotter draws images using a pen on paper, producing continuous lines, whereas a printer prints images using tiny dots.

What is a plotter?

A plotter is a computer hardware device used to design and produce large-scale graphics or drawings.

What are plotters primarily used for?

Plotters are mainly used for producing architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, and other high-quality line-based graphics.

Are plotters used for printing photographs?

No, plotters are not typically used for printing photographs. They are more suited for line drawings.

Are plotters faster than printers?

Generally, plotters are slower than regular printers, especially for complex drawings.

Do plotters use ink cartridges?

Traditional pen plotters use pens, but newer models may use inkjet technology and thus require ink cartridges.

Which is better for photos: inkjet or laser?

Inkjet printers are generally considered better for high-quality photo printing due to their color accuracy and detail.

What are the main types of plotters?

The two primary types are flatbed and drum plotters.

How do I choose the right printer for my needs?

Consider factors like printing speed, quality, cost of ink or toner, and intended usage (photos, documents, etc.)

How do plotters produce colors?

Plotters use multiple colored pens or other marking tools to produce different colors on the output.

Are plotters still popular?

While their use has declined with the advent of large-format printers, plotters are still utilized in specific industries like architecture and engineering.

Are there printers that can print in 3D?

Yes, 3D printers use materials like plastic to produce three-dimensional objects.

How large can a plotter print?

Plotters are designed to print on large sheets, often several feet in width and length.

How do printers work?

Printers work by placing small dots of ink or toner onto paper to form text and images.

What are the primary types of printers?

The main types are inkjet, laser, dot matrix, and thermal printers.

How do printers connect to devices?

Printers can connect via USB, wireless networks, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and other methods.

Do printers require regular maintenance?

Yes, to ensure longevity and quality, printers should be cleaned and maintained according to the manufacturer's guidelines.

What is a printer?

A printer is an output device that produces text and graphics on paper or other mediums.

What is a multifunction printer?

A multifunction printer combines printing with other functions like scanning, copying, and sometimes faxing.

Do all printers print in color?

No, some printers only print in black and white.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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