Cut your printing costs

Cut your printing costsWith the paperless office still a long way off, printing is a significant cost for most businesses. Here's how to stop your printer running costs soaring

Get the right printer

It's a good idea to think about running costs when choosing your printer. Making the right printer purchase in the first place will help you keep future spending down:

  • Avoid tri-colour cartridges. Tri-colour cartridges contain three colours of ink in one unit. Avoid printers which use these, as they waste lots of ink. You have to replace the cartridge as soon as one colour runs out – even if there's plenty of the other colours left. Instead, get individual cartridges that you only replace once the ink has run out completely. This saves money and makes it easier to monitor and forecast running costs.
  • Consider third party cartridges. EU and US trade laws mean it's generally illegal for printer manufacturers to void a printer's warranty if you use printer cartridges made by a different company. These cartridges can be much cheaper than the manufacturer's cartridges. Check if they're available for your printer – look for reputable vendors who sell cartridges which have been fully tested.
  • Check the feature list. Printer manufacturers regularly try out new features. Some of them can really increase how much ink you use. For instance, some printers mix all the colours together to make black – very expensive!

Get your printer settings right

When you print documents that don't require the highest quality printing, use these settings:

  • Draft mode. Using this mode may mean dark colours look slightly lighter and text is a little less sharp. However, the small sacrifice in quality is more than made up for by the fact that you could be using half the usual amount of ink. What's more, draft mode usually prints faster.
  • Greyscale printing. Colour cartridges cost more than black ones. So only use them when you have to. Greyscale mode will convert colour in your document to a grey tone, printing everything in black and white and slashing the cost to print each page.
  • Print on both sides. This will halve the amount of paper you use. Many printers can do double-sided printing automatically (it's sometimes called a 'duplex' feature), so if yours does this, use it.
  • Use cheaper paper. Modern printers are much more tolerant of cheap paper than they used to be. Most new printers will happily take weights as low as 75gsm. You can either replace the cheaper paper with good stuff when you need it, or use separate paper trays for each paper type.

Not sure how to change your printer settings? If you use Microsoft Windows, go to the Start menu, click Settings and then Printers, or click Start, Control Panel, then Printers. Remember to change the settings back when you print important documents.

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Small steps to cheaper printing

Some really simple steps can help you cut your printing costs too:

  • Check formatting. Eliminate needless headers and unnecessary big bold text. Even insignificant changes like reducing your standard font size from 12 points down to 10 will result in significant savings over time. You could even try an 'eco-friendly' font!
  • Recycle old cartridges. Dispose of your old printer cartridges appropriately. Responsible cartridge suppliers will take them off your hands for free. Alternatively, check out
  • Print in batches. Printers go through a warm-up process when you switch them on, wasting power and a small amount of ink or toner. They go through a similar process before every print job. So if your prints can wait, queue them so they go through in one batch.

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