This printer uses a thin plastic tape in a cartridge to print. It has the standard three color plus black mounted in the unit.
For variations they have a photo 3 color set, and a photo finish tape. They also have metallic specialty tapes. All tapes are about seven dollars each.
This printer is a great printer if you can afford a second printer. I have used it as my main printer because of the superior quality, but I have had to live with many frustrations. The black and the colors seem to stand out and have a photographic look. They are waterproof and don't smear. Each color is printed separately so the paper makes a complete pass for each color then retracts to print the next color and by some miracle they usually line up.
The advertisement in the store states that you can use plain paper and the cost is less than the ink jets. After several months of use this does not seem true.
The unit I purchased offered a fifty dollar rebate, but the fine print stated that due to the large volume of rebate request it would take ten weeks, this is a bunch of "bull" because of computer technology this does not take extra time, they are looking for ten weeks more of interest and cash flow or they just want to make sure the customer hadn't taken the unit back, so there statement degraded their creditability. The; check did arrive in ten weeks.
The unit needs high quality smooth paper, if there is grain in the paper only the top of the paper grain is printed so it looks pock marked. If you print envelopes the back side fold causes the print to skip and bar codes will be missing bars. Notebook paper with holes causes the paper to tare and tape to brake.
When you run out of a color you have to have a replacement handy for there is no warning, the unit just stops. I f the tape brakes you can repair it by snapping open the cartridge, taint easy but can be done.
Every once in a while the printer will balk and not accept instructions, Alps never answered my e-mail esquires, but the unit usually works after you reboot.
When you print colors you sometimes just have to leave the unit and come back latter for it often takes twenty minutes to print a picture, but at least there is a picture progress report on your screen.
Although this may sound critical, it is not, I just like to let others know what to expect, and to use the internet as a means of information exchange. I enjoy the quality pictures and printing . The printer is worth its cost and minor frustrations.