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How to Save Money Printing (And How Not To)

Jason Fitzpatrick at How-To Geek has published a new guide on how to print efficiently. This is an important subject: as anyone who’s printed a photo at home understands, ink is expensive! The guide offers some very useful advice on how to set your printer settings to maximize efficiency and some alternatives to document printing.

There is, however, some advice that I would respectfully disagree with. Fitzpatrick writes:

Speaking of color photos, don’t print them at home. The amount of money you’ll spend chasing lab-quality prints is high and the chance you’ll end up with the same quality that the ten cent 4x6s from your local Walgreen’s photo kiosk have is low. At any reasonable consumer price point you’re just not going to get the kind of quality that will ensure your photos still look good a few years down the road.

According to print permanence expert Henry Wilhelm, of Wilhelm Imaging Research, this isn’t actually the case  (I recently interviewed Wilhelm for a forthcoming series of articles on photo printing). Photos printed on inkjet printers using the same brand of pigmented ink and photo paper as the printer you own will last far, far longer than the silver halide prints produced cheaply by retail minilabs and retail kiosks. It’s true that printing at home is more expensive, which is why you shouldn’t rely on home printing for the bulk of your photos. But you should print some long-term keepers at home – not in store – if you want them to last for generations.

Fitzpatrick also suggests refilling your inkjet cartridges yourself – instead of going out and buying pricey cartridges. However, as he cautions, this is very difficult. Left unsaid is that third party inks (and third party printer paper – i.e. papers and inks made by brands other than the brand of your printer) do not deliver the same level of print permanence. Now, if you’re just printing documents at home, this isn’t an issue and refilling is a very economical choice. However, if you’re printing photos with the expectation that those prints will retain their color and the paper won’t yellow, then refilling is not the way to go.

Author:Greg Scoblete

Greg Scoblete is the editor of Your Digital Life. He has been covering the photographic world for the past ten years for a variety of publications including PDN, This Week in Consumer Electronics and Digital Photographer.