10 Tips for Reducing Ink Usage in Your Printer

If you have bought a $100 personal printer or are considering purchasing one, you probably know how quickly a small printer can exhaust printer cartridges. And since you have looked at the cost of replacement cartridges, you will know how expensive they are. A printer cartridge on even the smallest of printers can cost up to $30 and will only provide you a few hundred copies. But there are ways to stretch your print cartridge budget if you are careful.

(1) Print Only as a Last Resort

This is rule one in the new world of small, replacement ink cartridges. You will be amazed at how much less printing you will perform, how much ink will be saved, and how little your wastebasket is used if you get into this habit.

Go through all corrections, modifications and tweaking of your document or photo before printing. Save previous drafts on your computer if you desire, but hold off on the final document before printing.

(2) Use Draft Mode

If you are like me, and like to see a printed version of a document or photo before the final product is ready, set your printer to draft mode. Make sure it is the lightest mode possible and still be legible. Setting the printer to draft mode takes less than 10 seconds. The saved ink will add up over time, especially when printing 10 to 20 page documents, or printing multiple copies.

(3) Print in Black and White

Look at the document you are printing and consider what it is being used for. Do you really need the colour border? Black and white printing is more inexpensive, and provides a better yield in terms of the number of copies. Sometimes a black and white or shaded copy may actually look better. This isn’t to suggest you create a black and white world, but use colours for printing judiciously.

(4) Scan and Email Documents

Instead of making copies of written material received, utilise the scan function of your computer when you can. If it is a document you plan to give to a third person, consider emailing it. It usually takes a little longer to scan, but not much more so. Your computers storage capacity should outlive your printer cartridge. Additional storage, like flash drives, may be less expensive than replacement printer cartridges.

(5) Know Your Replacement Cartridge and Cost per Copy

This is good advice for someone in the market for a new, inexpensive printer. Look at not only the cost of a replacement cartridge, but the number of copies the replacement cartridge can be expected to deliver.

Replacement cartridges of most personal printers can be expected to produce about 200-400 black and white copies. For colour ink cartridges, expect half that amount. Divide the cost of the replacement cartridges by the number of copies expected from the cartridge and you will come up with your cost per copy figure.

(6) Refill your Cartridges Yourself

If you pump your own gas, you shouldn’t be afraid to refill your ink cartridges. A refill kit will cost between $15 and $25 depending on whether you are refilling black and white or color cartridges. The kits will usually contain enough ink for several refills. One caveat, use replacement gloves when refilling, or be prepared to get ink on your hands. Ink is not easy to remove. Anticipating the mess, many kits now come with rubber surgical gloves. You can save up to 80% of the cost of ink by replacing it yourself.

(7) Don’t Trust Your Computer

Your computer, or printer software, may be telling you the toner cartridge is low when it really isn’t. In testing by PCWorld.com, it was found that indicator lights began to appear when as much as 40% of the ink in the cartridge was unused.

On my printer, I can usually get another 100-150 copies before the cartridge is really out of ink. Take the cartridge out, shake it, and determine if there is really any ink remaining.

(8) Keep the Print Nozzle Heads Clean

Doing so will keep the printer from clogging, printing smears and wasting copies. A cotton swab dipped in a little rubbing alcohol should take car of any residue built up on the nozzle heads. Just be very careful not to touch the gold contact leads. It will only take a few minutes every few weeks, and is time well spent.

(9) Before Any Large Print Job, Run a Diagnostic Test

This is especially true if you are running a large colour print job. The diagnostic test will be a single page, and can show if a nozzle is clogged (poor print quality and smearing), low ink (faded colours) or improper alignment of the cartridges. It is best to find this out on the first page of the job, rather than on page 20.

(10) Consider XL Cartridges

Cartridges with high yield can produce up to two thirds more copies than a standard cartridge. But because of price variations between different cartridges, use the cost per copy formula to determine whether you will save money.

Guest post by: James Adams writes in-depth overviews of consumables for Epson printers for CartridgeSave.co.uk, a leading online supplier of printer cartridges in the UK.

18 thoughts on “10 Tips for Reducing Ink Usage in Your Printer”

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  3. Thanks for sharing a useful tip.My printer actually print up to 5000 pages but I was only getting 3000 pages.Now I reslised due to what the problem it happened.Anyway thanks for sharing the tip.

  4. thats a really cool advice i have to print my college assignment and have to waste a lot of sum on cartridge.. thanks for the share

  5. This is mainly why i don’t have my own photo printer. Most imagery is viewed on the web, i rarely ever feel the need to have a photograph printed and when i do, i just run down to my local printing facility.

  6. Good tips.

    I also print for a long time after the cartridge is “empty.”

    In the Canon BCI-6x series, there’s a felt in there that does not go dry for a long time. Also, it will print just fine for a long time after several of the tanks are reporting empty.

    It’s all a scam.


    • I use BCI6 catridges as well.. the printer driver tells me that a cartidge is empty and at that stage the printer will refuse to print if you do not change the catridge.. how do you manage to force the printer to print when that happens ?

      Also noticed that any 3rd party ink I use to replace original cartridges will print horrible pictures… is that your experience ?

      • Miley

        On my s9000 when it stops printing and notifies you that the ink is out, you can hit the resume button on the printer and it will keep printing.

        There’s a light on the top that will be blinking this amber/yellow color.

        I tried 3rd party cartridges once, actually still have some in there, and it still prints great. They were around US $1.50 each. Maybe you got some really bad ones. I’m sure the quality varies a LOT.

  7. My brother bought me a new printer and my first thought was what a lovely present and then I did wonder at the cost of the ink cartridges when they run out!

    I like your tips; especially to print in draft mode. I will remember that one as I do have quite a few things planned for 2011 and will need to be printing more than I did last year.

    Thanks for sharing such a practical post. Much appreciated.

    Patricia Perth Australia

  8. Thanks for sharing a useful tip. i have to print my college assignment and have to waste a lot of sum on cartridge..
    Thanks for sharing such a practical post.

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  11. When inkjets first gained popularity, I always wondered how the great quality printers could be so cheap. I later learned that printer companies are in the business of selling ink, not printers. Since then I use a laserjet printer that is much more economical in terms of ink cost per page. Sometimes you need to use an inkjet to print a photo but that photo is going to cost you so better to just stick with black and white and print your photos at Walmart.

  12. I must say the printer is our worst enemy. Using it cost a lot of money in replacement cartridges but if we don’t use it regularly and suddenly have an assignment to print, the printer will give problems, for eg. paper jams, print quality degrade, etc.

    Washing the nozzle consumes more ink. It is all a great business for the printer manufacturers. Fortunately, there is the print preview and draft mode for us.

  13. I am a small business owner and I use a portable printer for printing estimates and invoices. The cost of ink for this thing on a monthly basis is as much as my cell phone bill.
    “Use draft mode” is a good tip. I will definitely use it next time and see if there is any real savings in it.
    ”Refill your cartridges yourself” may not work for some printers, as I am pretty sure cartridges for my printer no not have that option.

    • David,

      For that use, you definitely need to find some cheap knock off ink tanks.

      The Canon tanks (6 of them!) for my printer are $13 a piece.

      Cheap knock offs are $1.50 each and work just as well, best I can tell.

      Search The Google.


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