RPI OS: How to add a printer on your Raspberry Pi? (CUPS)


Adding additional drivers on Linux has always been difficult, particularly installing printers.
As our Raspberry Pi runs on Raspberry Pi OS (a Debian-like distribution), it’s almost the same.
You’re lucky if you plug your printer in, and it works immediately. I’ll explain how to do it correctly in this step-by-step tutorial.

The easiest way to install a printer on Raspberry Pi OS is to turn it into a print server. CUPS is a service that can be used to install printers and share them on the network. This works for almost all printers.

I’ll show you how to install CUPS and your printer model in this post.
Note: if you have a 3D printer, you should also read this tutorial about the applications you can use on Raspberry Pi.

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Prerequisites To Install A Printer On Raspberry Pi

Prepare The Raspberry Pi

You’ll need a Raspberry Pi to follow this tutorial, but the procedure is almost the same on any Debian-like distribution.
Try to prepare it with the following steps:

  • Install Raspberry Pi OS on your Raspberry Pi.
    Choose the version you prefer. You can follow this tutorial with both versions.
    The full version allows you to access CUPS in local, so it may be faster.
  • Update your system: Open a terminal and type those commands:
    sudo apt update
    sudo apt upgrade

    On a desktop version, you can check the notification icon or use the Add/Remove Software tool to update all repositories and packages.
  • Enable SSH if you want to follow this tutorial from your computer:
    sudo service ssh start
    If you have the desktop version, you can also enable it in the Raspberry Pi Configuration tool, as explained in this article.

    VNC is also a great tool for remote access if you prefer a graphical control. More details in this article.

That should be enough for the Raspberry Pi preparation.

Are you a bit lost in the Linux command line? Check this article first, for the most important commands to remember, and a free downloadable cheat sheet so you can have the commands at your fingertips.

Get The Printer Ready For Installation

We’ll install your printer on your Raspberry Pi. Before anything else, you have to collect all the needed information and prepare it for the installation:

  • For a USB Printer:
    • Turn the printer ON.
    • Plug it into your Raspberry Pi.
  • For a Network Printer:
    • Turn the printer ON.
    • Make sure the printer is available on the network.
    • You can check this on your computer.
  • In any case, take note of the manufacturer and the exact model, to install the driver later.

Install CUPS on Raspberry Pi

Here are the required steps to install a printer with CUPS on a Raspberry Pi:

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  • Install the “cups” application with the package manager.
  • Allow remote access to the CUPS web interface.
  • Use the web interface to install the new printer.

We’ll now see how to do this in detail, but first, let’s start with a brief introduction to this tool.

What is CUPS?

CUPS stands for Common Unix Printing Standard.
Developed by Apple for macOS, it brings support for printers in the Linux world.

CUPS uses IPP (Internet Printing Protocol) to manage local and network printers.
It’s the main way, maybe the only one, to install a printer on Linux systems.

So we want to install it on the Raspberry Pi to help us to configure our printer.

CUPS Installation

On recent releases of Raspberry Pi OS with Desktop, CUPS is now preinstalled. So if you just installed the desktop version, you shouldn’t need to follow this installation step. If you have the “Print Settings” tool under Preferences in the main menu, you are fine.

You can even try to use this tool directly instead of following the complete tutorial. I’m writing this tutorial so anyone with any system version can follow it. But for a desktop user, it might be a bit tricky and the “Print Settings” tool is probably more intuitive.

Anyway, if you use the Lite version or want to make sure CUPS is installed, the installation process is straightforward as the package is available in the Raspberry Pi OS repository:
sudo apt install cups

Type Y when asked to continue the installation process.
There are many dependencies, so it can take a few minutes on the Raspberry Pi.

At this step, with the Raspberry Pi OS Desktop version, you should already have access to the CUPS web interface at http://localhost:631.
But for a remote access, we need to edit the configuration file.

CUPS Configuration

The main configuration file is available at /etc/cups/cupsd.conf.
Follow these steps to adjust the configuration:

  • Open the configuration file:
    sudo nano /etc/cups/cupsd.conf
  • Find this line:
    Listen localhost:631
  • Replace with this one:
    Port 631
    CUPS will now listen on the port 631 no matter which IP address is used in the web browser.
    The goal being to be able to access it from your computer. But it’s not enough, as there are other security measures in place.
  • We need to allow access from any computer on the network.
    To do this, find these groups and add the Allow @local directive inside all of them:  
<Location />
  Order allow,deny
  Allow @local
</Location>

# Restrict access to the admin pages...
<Location /admin>
  Order allow,deny
  Allow @local
</Location>

# Restrict access to configuration files...
<Location /admin/conf>
  AuthType Default
  Require user @SYSTEM
  Order allow,deny
  Allow @local
</Location>
  • Save and exit (CTRL+O, CTRL+X).
  • The last step is to restart the CUPS service to apply changes:
    sudo service cups restart

You can now access the web interface from any computer on the network:
http://<IP>:631

If you have a firewall on your Raspberry Pi (iptables or ufw for example), you also need to allow access on port 631.

Add your printer

Allow pi user to add a printer

To install a printer, we need administrative rights on CUPS.
To do this, we need to log in with a user in the lpadmin group.

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As CUPS is now preinstalled on Raspberry Pi OS, this step is not necessary on a desktop release. You just need to do it when using a Lite version.

Here is the command to make sure the “pi” user is allowed to install a new printer with CUPS:
sudo usermod -a -G lpadmin pi

That’s all we need, pi is now in the lpadmin group.

Use HTTPS

To add a printer, CUPS may ask you to use HTTPS instead of HTTP (as there is an authentication step). So now switch on the HTTPS URL: https://<IP>:631.

You’ll get a security warning from your browser.
We don’t have a certificate, so accept this warning and continue to the CUPS web interface.

Add the printer

We can now add the printer using the CUPS interface.

  • Open the CUPS web interface: https://<IP>:631
  • In the top bar menu, click on the “Administration” menu.
  • Then click on Add printer:
    cups add printer
  • CUPS will ask you for a login and password.
    Use the pi credentials: pi /raspberry by default.
    • Once logged, you see a list of printers like this:
      cups printer list
      CUPS should have already found your printer on the network, or if plugged in.
      Select the printer you want to install and click “Continue”.
  • In the next step, CUPS asks you to set the printer properties, like name and description:

    Don’t forget to check the “Sharing” box to share this printer on the network for others computers.
  • Then you need to select the corresponding driver for your printer:

    If the specific driver is not available, take a similar one, or upload a PPD file from the manufacturer if you have one.
    Finally, click on “Add Printer”.
  • In the last steps, it asks you to configure the printers settings.
    You may have several tabs to fill:

    Leave this all by default and come back later if you need to make some changes.
    Click on “Set Default Options” and that’s it, the printer is installed in CUPS.

Test page

From CUPS

Directly in CUPS, in the printer page (you should be there), you can print a test page and see if everything works well.

In the “Maintenance” drop down, choose “Print Test Page”.

You printer will print the CUPS test page, so you can check that everything seems OK.

From another app

Now that you installed the printer in the CUPS interface, you can use it from any application on your Raspberry Pi.

For example, in the LibreOffice Writer application, I now have my printer in the Print menu:

So I can select it, and print a test page from here too.

CUPS is not only a way to install printers easily but it’s also a print server to share printers on the network. If you check the box “Share this printer” during the installation, you can print from another computer, using CUPS.

To do this, you need to install samba.
Follow these steps:

  • Install the samba package:
    sudo apt install samba
    Samba is a service to share files on Linux, and it’s also useful to share printers.
  • Access the default share on your Raspberry Pi.
    For Windows users, type this address in your file explorer:
    \\<IP>\
  • You should see your printer in this folder:
  • Double-click on it to install it on your computer.

While there is no point in doing that on a windows computer for a network printer, it can be useful to turn your old USB printer into a network printer.
Once configured in CUPS, you can use it from any device on the network, even if it’s not a network printer.

It can also be faster with several Linux/Mac on the same network.
Install CUPS and the printer on the first, and just link the shared printer to the others.

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Conclusion

You now know how to install any printer on your Raspberry Pi.

The trick is often to find a Linux version of the driver for your specific version. The best way to find them is to use Google and search for something like “MODEL linux driver“. Even if they try to push the full suite for Windows users by default, they generally have the Linux driver hidden somewhere on their website. For EPSON, you can also use this page for example.

There are some funny projects where you’ll need a printer so this guide might be handy.
I remember a cool photo booth for example. You take a photo and the Raspberry Pi prints it automatically.
I think it’s in my list of 20 projects for your kids if you want to check it.

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Patrick Fromaget

I'm the lead author and owner of RaspberryTips.com. My goal is to help you with your Raspberry Pi problems using detailed guides and tutorials. In real life, I'm a Linux system administrator with a web developer experience.

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