This report addresses concerns and arguments about the true cost of ink in desktop photo printing. Using the Epson Stylus R2000, we conducted a series of print tests to determine how much ink is used in a full coverage 8”x10” print. From that figure we extrapolated ink usage per square inch. The objective is to share a realistic cost per print vision with inkjet users. The choice to pursue photo inkjet printing is in the end an individual economic choice.
This chart shows the cost of ink used in making prints:
The “true cost of inkjet printing” is a source of constant debate in the media and on web forums. With claims of ink costing five to ten thousand dollars per gallon, it’s not a mystery why the debate continues. Still, inkjet printer sales and printing continue to increase and studies indicate this trend will continue in the short and mid-term. Do the majority of end users simply not care about the cost, or do they know something that is missing from the discussion? This report looks at the cost of ink per square inch for two Epson desktop printers. The goal is to determine the cost for various popular print sizes, and to report those numbers. Further, we hope to spark more discussion and debate about the merits of inkjet printing in light of its unique ability to offer on-demand continuous tone photo reproductions that will last many decades.
Ink cartridge use calculations
New cartridges were installed at the beginning of the test. At the end of printing:
For final ink estimates, a screen capture was made of the Epson Status Monitor, which shows a display of ink cartridge status. From the screen grab, a graph breaking the ink level into 10% increments was used to make an estimate of ink remaining. It was assumed that the Status Monitor display offered an acceptably accurate account of how much ink was in the cartridges. From previous experience we observed the printer quitting immediately or just after a cartridge displayed “dry”. That proved helpful in making estimates of ink left per cartridge. (See end section for all screen grabs)
For the purpose of this experiment, the question of how much ink is left in an “empty cartridge” is moot. If the printer quits then effectively the cartridge has run dry. The final results focus on actual yields, not questions of lost milliliters in spent cartridges.
Cartridge Equivalent Usage
The CEU of the R2000 for 200 satin 8x10 prints is below:
Costs in Dollars
Our calculations are based on the current Red River Paper price for R2000 inks.
Using the Cartridge Unit Equivalent figures, we’ve extrapolated the cost of ink by print size (roughly 100% coverage)
Equation: (Square Inches Printed) x (CEU per Square Inch) x (Cost of one ink cartridge) = Ink Cost Per Print
Sources of Error
We acknowledge that there are potential errors in testing and calculations. They are listed below:
Given possible sources of error, it is fair to attach a margin of error of +/- 10% to our results.
Red River Paper always assumed and communicated with customers that $1.00 worth of ink per 8”x10” print was to be expected. At current ink prices, that is probably an overestimate. However, given potential sources of error, using the $1 figure could be applicable for those pessimistic of our calculations.
What does this mean then to the photographic community at large? In our opinion it is and always has been up to the end user. The value one places on print quality, convenience, speed, control, and media availability is what determines if inkjet is right for them. Given that the quality of the average $700 inkjet printer rivals or may exceed a $50,000 photo lab printer, the typical inkjet user indeed has a great tool at their disposal.