These reports address the concerns and arguments about the true cost of desktop printing. Using the Epson and Canon printers, we conducted a series of print tests using quality photo paper to determine how much ink is used in a full coverage 8" x 10" 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.
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 Canon 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.
Two hundred 8x10 prints of Bill Atkinson’s printer test were made. The montage of photos in Atkinson’s image provided near 100% coverage, used a wide variety of colors, and presented what amounts to a worst-case scenario of ink usage. A pre-primed printer was loaded with new and previously unopened ink cartridges. The image was resized to 8" x 10" at 300ppi.
Prints were made using the High Quality setting within a color- managed workflow. Inks were changed only when the printer stopped and indicated an empty tank. At the 200th print, a count was made of ink cartridges used plus an estimate of remaining ink cartridges. From that information, total use of ink in equivalent number of ink cartridges used was obtained. The ink usage was equated to amount per square inch and then converted to specific photo sizes.
Ink cartridge use calculations
New cartridges were installed at the beginning of the test. At the end of printing:
- Number of cartridges replaced (including the starting cartridge) was tallied
- Remaining cartridges were evaluated for amount remaining and thus volume used
For final ink estimates, a screen capture was made of the Canon 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
In order to quantify the total amount of ink used for 200 prints, the number of tanks replaced must be added to the amount of ink remaining in the printer. To describe that number, we created the Cartridge Equivalent Usage measure (herein CEU).
To depict the ink used in the remaining cartridges, a chart was created using the graph mentioned above. From that graph the amount of ink used in each remaining cartridge was recorded in percent terms. The percentage for each tank was added, then divided by 100 to provide the CEU of the remaining ink cartridges.
- The number of tanks used and replaced
- The amount of ink left in the remaining tanks
The CEU of the remaining tanks was added to the number of cartridges physically changed. This number was the total CEU for the 200 prints. Dividing the total CEU by 200 gave the CEU per 8” x 10” print.
Sum of the % used for remaining tanks / 100 = CEU of remaining tanks
CEU remaining + Cartridges changed / 200 = CEU of 8x10 print
CEU of 8x10 print / 80 square inches = CEU per Square Inch
Cost of Printing Per Page Chart
Summary of All Reports - This is the cost of ink used by print size
|Epson SureColor P700||4x6||5x7||8x10||11x14||13x19|
|Photo Black||39 ¢||57 ¢||$1.30||$2.51||$4.03|
|Matte Black||36 ¢||53 ¢||$1.22||$2.34||$3.76|
|Epson SureColor P800||4x6||5x7||8x10||11x14||13x19|
|Photo Black||20 ¢||30 ¢||68 ¢||$1.30||$2.09|
|Matte Black||21 ¢||31 ¢||71 ¢||$1.37||$2.19|
|Epson SureColor P600||4x6||5x7||8x10||11x14||13x19|
|Photo Black||30 ¢||44 ¢||$1.02||$1.96||$3.14|
|Matte Black||29 ¢||42 ¢||95 ¢||$1.83||$2.94|
|Photo Black||20 ¢||29 ¢||67 ¢||$1.29||$2.07|
|Photo Black||26 ¢||34 ¢||78 ¢||$1.51||$2.42|
|Photo Black||13.4 ¢||19.6 ¢||44.8 ¢||86.2 ¢||$1.38|
|Matte Black||15.4 ¢||22.4 ¢||51.2 ¢||98.6 ¢||$1.58|
|Photo Black||14.4 ¢||21 ¢||48 ¢||92.4 ¢||$1.48|
|Matte Black||17.5 ¢||25.5 ¢||58.4 ¢||$1.12||$1.80|
|Photo Black||21 ¢||30 ¢||70 ¢||$1.34||$2.15|
|Photo Black||27 ¢||40 ¢||90 ¢||$1.75||$2.80|
|Matte Black||23 ¢||33 ¢||76 ¢||$1.45||$2.33|
|Photo Black||19 ¢||28 ¢||63 ¢||$1.22||$1.96>|
|33 ¢||48 ¢||$1.10||$2.11||$3.38|
|18 ¢||25 ¢||59 ¢||$1.14||$1.82|
|26 ¢||38 ¢||87.5 ¢||$1.68||$2.70|
|34 ¢||49 ¢||$1.12||$2.16||$3.47|
|25 ¢||37 ¢||84 ¢||$1.62||$2.61|
|CANON PRO 9000||4x6||5x7||8x10||11x14||13x19|
|19 ¢||28 ¢||64 ¢||$1.23||$1.98|
|CANON PRO 9500||4x6||5x7||8x10||11x14||13x19|
|PRO 9500 PK||23 ¢||35 ¢||80 ¢||$1.54||$2.46|
|21.6 ¢||31.5 ¢||72.5 ¢|
PK = Photo black ink MK = Matte black ink