How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: How Do You Minimize Printing Costs?

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Although at-home-printing might be at an all-time low, that doesn’t mean the printer is down and out. This week we want to hear about your home printing setup and what you do to keep costs down.

Photo by Purdman1.

Whatever tips and tricks you use to minimize your home printing costs, we want to hear about them. Don’t even have a printer? Only use laser printing? Use special bookmarklets or browser add-ons to print just the stuff you need? Ship files to your tablet instead of printing? Whatever it is that you do to cut down on printing costs and manage your home printing workflow, we want to hear about it.

Sound off in the comments with your printing tips and tricks, then check back on Friday for the What You Said roundup.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/19/11

Comments (86)

  1. Steve

    For most ‘quick’ printouts I just set my inkjet to grey & draft, if I need to do more copies I have an old HP laser which is great for B&W copies, must be ancient (HP 1100)

    Anything good, and colour needed, I user the inkjet, not cheap, but what its there for.

  2. David William Edwards

    Print to PDF and file instead of hard copies.

  3. Antje(nonymous)

    Ship files to my tablet instead of printing, and outsource other jobs to a printing firm.

  4. Harry

    I use a custom CISS to keep the ink costs down and “Print What You ” to help avoid wasting that ink.

  5. Tom

    I use PrimoPDF to print directly to PDF format. It saves a ton of paper and ink costs when you just need to save a copy of a document and not print it out. If I need to take a copy of that document with me somewhere, I then upload it to Google Docs and use my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to view it.

  6. bemymonkey

    Thinkpad X-Series Tablet with OneNote + PDF Annotator…

  7. jplayer01

    Laser printer. Must-have if you tend to print lots of stuff, especially since toner cartridges are dirt cheap compared to what you pay for ink-jets (at least in my limited/anecdotal experience).

  8. Col

    Don’t buy £120 worth of spare cartridges at a time because your previously reliable old printer is sure to blow up the following week. Don’t ask…

  9. nt0xik8ed

    everything is saved as pdf, no printing

  10. BigT

    Here’s how we cut print costs at my ad agency

    1. S;pring for 1 Colour Laser Jet,

    2. FInd a good Generic Brand for Your Toner Cartridges (most are at worst half the cost of the name brand toners)

    3. Network the printer.

    4.Adjust quality to job. (Low quality sufficient for in house records and printing in most cases)

    and since paper is a part of printing costs.

    5. Recycle paper, if you spoil a page, keep it, the other side can be used for test prints or alignments.

  11. Trent Bentley

    I print to PDF as much as possible, but if I must make a physical copy, I use ecofont which prints tiny holes in the font to use less ink per page. The free version boasts 15% savings on ink and you just have to install the font and set as the default for your programs. It’s a Vera Sans type font, but perfect to save a little with ink or laserjet.

  12. Khai

    for black and white, we bought a cheap laser ($80 on sale with rebate)… in the 5 years we’ve owned it, it’s cost $160 in the 2 toner carts it’s needed… and that’s with my Wife. (a teacher), using it for preparing class notes…

    for colour, we gave up on the inkjets for the little we do.. since it was mainly photos or my 3Dartwork, we simply take it to Walmart and print it there with the photo machines.

  13. Alex

    As with others I print to PDF documents and read on my iPad. Or I email them to my kindle and read them there. Since I got my kindle I have only printed about 2 documents since February.

  14. Lady Fitzgerald

    I avoid printing as much as possible, as much to save space as money. Even though the upfront cost of a laserjet printer is higher, the per page cost of one is far less than an inkjet (there is no way I’ll own another one of those ink thirsty, clog prone POSs). I have a B&W laserjet which is cheaper to use than printing at a copy center. On the rare occasions I need a color printout, I take the file to a copy center on a USB stick for printing. For the rare color photo prints, I do the same, only at Walgreens.

    I try to be paperless as much as possible. Any data I see online I want to keep, I either copy and paste to a Word file (only when I need to edit the document or combine several snippits of info), or I convert directly to PDF using Adobe Acrobat (has more control than most virtual printers). Photos and graphics I usually save in their original file type.

    All the photos I’ve taken the past seven years have been digital. I keep the files on my computer for viewing and storage. I very rarely print them.

  15. Wayne

    I just use my printer for scanning most of the time these days. I bought a ream of paper 11 months ago and still have 2/3rds of it. Almost all of my correspondance is digital now. Thought about buying an Airprint compatible printer but not sure why I would bother.

  16. Josh B.

    Last I ran the math, selling my inkjet for a laserjet saved like .002 cents/page or something like that, even with refills. So I’ll be sticking to my trusty hp refills for a while. Lasers are great only if you don’t refill your ink cartridges frequently and want an OEM solution.

  17. Steve-O-Rama

    Ditch the damn inkjet printer. It’s a pox thrust upon mankind by the cartridge manufacturers. The less you use it, the more-often they clog. The more you use it, the more it costs (disproportional to the amount of pages printed, IMO). DIY refills are a bad joke at best, as are the generic cartridges. There is no way out of this cycle, save getting rid of it. Don’t give it to a friend either, unless it’s an Epson and they intend upon converting it into another type of printer, e.g. PCB (printed circuit board) masks, 3D, etc. [Epsons use piezoelectric cartridges.] The quality of prints from inkjets have increased over the years, as has their speed, but the costs rarely justify the few perks of owning an inkjet, in my experience. It should be at least a potential indicator of deception if the printer costs the same or less than the replacement cartridges, no?

    That said, I almost exclusively recommend laser printers to my associates, family, and friends. Luckily, I had a very intelligent girlfriend get me an HP laser printer for Christmas two years ago, and it’s been absolutely wonderful. Not only are the prints clear and smear-free, but I can use a highlighter on them without the prints bleeding. On top of that, I can use it to print PCB masks onto transparencies and/or magazine pages, and use that to make my own PCBs at home. Oh, and it spits out pages faster than any inkjet printer I’ve ever seen or used. Be mindful of WHAT you print though, since images with large black/dark areas will eat up toner very quickly.

    What if I want color prints? I have the option of hoping and praying that my old all-in-one inkjet printer’s cartridges aren’t clogged or out of ink (it’s still around; the scanner still works a treat, as do its integrated card readers), or I can go the more-economical route of having someone else print for me. I usually go through Kinko’s (now FedEx Office), and either send or bring the file in on a USB drive for printing. It’s fast, easy, relatively cheap, I don’t have to pay for cartridges or maintenance, and the quality is more than acceptable for my needs. Rarely, if ever, do I need a color print “right NOW,” so picking them up the next time I’m out for groceries is fine with me. If I need more than a handful of B&W copies, they go off for printing elsewhere, too.

    An option for college students might be to use their on-campus printing facilities, if they’re available. Black-and-white, and even color prints, were priced very economically when I attended university, and I’d imagine that the costs may be even lower by now, given the pace of technology. Might be worth a shot for the students out there, especially if your campus computer labs enforce a strict printing quota, or if the labs are full of people trying to print off their reports at the same time near the end of the term.

    Finally, the best way to minimize costs is, of course, to print less, which can be accomplished with higher efficiency (just go with me here). But in this context, what does efficiency mean? Printing less pages simply isn’t an option in some circumstances, advertising and related fields especially, but in others, it can mean taking some very simple actions: print on both sides, print more than one page per sheet, expand the margins, use recycled paper if it’s available, and turn down the contrast/quality (use Econo-Mode) settings as appropriate. Do those, and you’re getting the printing done using less supplies, i.e. higher efficiency. As always, YMMV.

  18. GeekInThePink

    when i need to print i use my best to print black ink only print outs using the “economical” and “fast” printing setup.

  19. Xps

    Like Tom, I use the free PrimoPDF print driver. I even added the “Drop files to convert” shortcut to my Send To context menu which makes it real quick and easy to “print” to PDF.

  20. Custom ink

    I just stumbled upon your informative blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. I will be your frequent visitor.

  21. Paul A.

    It’s funny to see this question asked one day after I installed a black and white laser printer, hoping toner will be cheaper than ink cartridges. Our ink guzzling color inkjet printer died after spending a fortune on color cartridges. We also recently found out that every time the inkjet primed itself before a print job, it wasted ink spraying some into a sponge to prime the nozzles. We did some soul searching and asked ourselves, how often did we really need to print in color, since we weren’t printing photos at home.

  22. Matti

    I don’t print much. However when I bought a printer I decided to buy a printer that holds 4 different color cartriges. Most of the printing costs come from buying the color cartriges, not buying the paper. When on of the colors run out I only have to change the specific cartrige.

    On models that only hold one cartrige (which has all the colors needed in a single cartrige) you will see higher printing cost per print. One colored ink cartrige out of 4 (or 3) might run out while you might still have plenty of other ink remaining. When this happens you will have to change the whole cartrige and this is not very cost effective.

  23. Astri

    I print 2 pages per sheet. Smaller font uses less ink. At the same time I get less paper clutter.

  24. Bob

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned refilling inkjet cartridges, either at home or getting them done commercially. I’ve bought a small mono laser printer and plan to purchase cloned toner cartridges or purchase refills..

  25. Bob

    Anyone see Dilbert today? Thats scary…

  26. MJ

    I try to print as less as possible. My family does print from time to time, so I set my HP printer to fast draft and black ink only. But last week my printer went crazy and started to print full-black pages, emptying the cartridge, so all the savings were thrown overboard.

    I also keep all bad and old prints as draft paper. I use it for making as much exercises as I can when I’m having exams, so I’m not spending pages of my notebooks. However, lastly I use Word with its equation editor for that purpose.

  27. grigore

    with a software called inksaver. you can choose the percentage of ink to save when printing.

  28. wapanap

    A CIS massively keeps ink costs down. But a lot of stuff I send to my Kindle – no printing costs at all!

  29. Andrew

    Things like order confirmations are printed to PDF.
    Anything else is printed to a B&W Laserjet printer w/ duplexer.

    I do not own an inkjet printer – too expensive to maintain.

  30. Cornflower

    1. Print to PDF driver
    2. Firefox GrabMyBooks extension to convert to .epub for my Sony eReader

  31. KC

    Fineprint and a basic mono Brother laser printer do it for me!

  32. Bill Gooch

    i use both sides of paper. don’t print pictures any longer and don’t replace ink jet cartridges until they are really out of ink which is a long time after the “replace me light” goes on.

  33. Hisa

    I absolutely always print to PDF. CutePDF and BullZIP PDF Printer are my personal favorites though there are so many free ways to print to PDF that you would have to be crazy not to invest the 3 minutes it would take to find one, download it, install it, and figure out how to use it.

    If I absolutely need hard copies, I go for black and white on a laserjet. Screw graphs and charts in color; people will just have to deal with black and white. And yeah, quickprint is a lifesaver. I see a couple people have mentioned that, and they aren’t wrong about doing quickprints. Saves time and toner. Even my boss has expressed his enjoyment at my thrifty printing :) (saves him money!)

    For color jobs such as printing photos, I use an inkjet printer (HP and Kodak depending on the job). That right there is where most of my money goes as I do photography and print promos for my customers. They have to be perfect, and it is cheaper for me to do it perfect than for me to pay a company to do it half-@$$ed.

  34. Tom

    Business printing
    I use an expensive (>$1000) color laser that has low toner-cost-per-page.
    It seems like the more expensive the printer, the cheaper cost/page.
    In rough numbers, I figure that after about 20,000 pages, I am ahead of where I would be if I used a +/- $500 color laser.

  35. Tammi

    The first thing I do before I buy a printer is compare the cost of ink cartridges. Also, when the printer gives you a “warning ink is low” message, ignore it until it just won’t print anymore. You would be surprised how many more sheets you can get out of it! :-)

  36. John

    Print to OneNote. I use that little jewel to manage my life!

  37. Rick

    i default my printer to gray scale black and white. no accidental printing color or high def when not needed. if i need color or high def i change it on the properties box before selecting OK. also, i do a print preview BEFORE printing and resize to minimize paper usage and white space.

  38. Rob White

    Don’t print. Printing cost = zero

  39. Rick

    also, i buy generic compatible, similar coverage, print cartridges on line, if and when available, and i save up to 75% of ink cost.

  40. Johan

    Best way to keep printing cost low is by using FinePrint. It saves a lot of unnecessay printing. I normally print 4 pages on 1 sheet op A4 paper (double sided). FinePrint is a must have program for everone using a printer. For printing webpages, use Print Friendly, Readability or Joliprint. It saves a lot of ink/toner.

  41. Gian-Luigi Valle

    2 pages per sheet and cheap cartridges off ebay

  42. rws8258

    I used to use toner-saving methods, such as toner saving fonts / software… but, no longer. Instead, I now “Save to PDF” whenever possible.

    * Multi-function laser has a built-in “toner-saver” mode –and– I can “Scan to PDF”.
    * Auto-duplexing laser is for high quality jobs –and– cuts paper use in half.
    * Color inkjet is for photos only.

  43. Chas Tees

    I use PretonSaver ( Free for home use ) so far I have saved over £70 in six months

  44. Jack

    A few years ago our printers were worn out and needed to pick up some tech as my kids entered high-school and college. We toyed with inkjet, but the old Gillette marketing was/is overly apparent (give them the razor and sell the blades ( or printer and toner in today’s market ).

    We found an old Samsung color printer going out of production. I just wish I had purchased a network version. My daughter printed enough we got her a b/w laser. It works well for us, no major issues. Still not as ‘bullet proof’ as the old HP LJ II we had. [ One of the problems with the HPLJII was it wouldn’t die. Finally the scanner motor died after 8+ years, so it was an excuse to get rid of it! ]

    The economics of laser printers were significantly better than inkjet then (several years ago), but from what I have seen (no, I haven’t studied it recently) have not changed. Actually inkjet is good if you prints several times a week. If you print more than that, the cost of toner is much cheaper, and if you print much less (like we do) the toner doesn’t dry out between like inkjet cart’s do.

    The color laser is great also because it doesn’t smear if it gets wet (my wife carries printouts to a horse barn in all kinds of weather for her daily work notes). There may be versions of inkjet that are not water based.

    We did look into the ‘picture’ inkjets. They have the same problems as others, but the resolution is better than the lasers that were they competing against in our ‘consumer’ level market. Still, we could have our pictures printed at Wal-Mart cheaper (either on-line or in-store) and use the laser when things were not a critical.

    I did consider the wax supplication printers. Their supplies don’t dry out like inkjet, but if the printout gets to hot, the wax smears.

    A great option in laser printers is more memory (as much as it will take especially if it naively processes post script! Or even with network support since it can’t depend on it’s server to pre-process files).

    We print even less today, but I would go back with color laser instead of inkjet. Just because it will ‘stand ready’ to print without the supplies aging while waiting for a print job.

  45. Int0XeD

    Bought an old laser printer from Goodwill that uses MASSIVE cartridges (*10k) and get them refilled at Cartridge World. two years of printing for like $50 and I print all sorts of things. Color printing is done with care however. Check your local goodwill/VOA they frequently have great prices on older hardware

  46. David

    95% of my printing is in draft mode with black ink only. Rarely do I print in regular mode or colour.

    I buy my 42 ml HP45 ink cartridges on eBay from a supplier in Hong Kong for only $7.50 each, including S&H and taxes.

  47. Frank Verano

    I am the editor of a couple newsletters which I used to print out and distribute. I used a lot of paper and ink and it was a lot of work. Everyone (practicaly) has a computer. Why print it out on my printer? I let my readers print it if if they wish on their own printers. I now post the newsletters on club websites. The amount of work to create and edit the newsletters editing functions is now minimal and I no longer have certain constraints, like siz

  48. Frank Verano

    I am the editor of a couple newsletters which I used to print out and distribute. I used a lot of paper and ink and it was a lot of work. Everyone (practicaly) has a computer. Why print it out on my printer? I let my readers print it if if they wish on their own printers. I now post the newsletters on club websites. The amount of work to create and edit the newsletters editing functions is now minimal and I no longer have certain constraints, like size, fonts, colors, etc. I do what I want. (Period.)

    Forgive me for the incomplete post. Just hit the wrong key and poof, it’s gone!

  49. KB Prez

    When I first got a computer, for some reason I thought I had to print everything. Now I only print what I need to and I use double-siding.

  50. unknownBut2Me

    I have a source for minimally used 24# paper (e.g. bottom 1″ or so of one side only printed). All my draft printing is done in “economode” on both sides. Very seldom do I do anything else! And, I NEVER replace ink cartridges just because my printer says I should.

  51. Ace

    When I print (unless I need color, which I do on rare occasions) it is with a black/white laser printer on toner saver, and either duplex printed, two pages on one side, or both (duplex and two pages per side). Nothing I do needs to be printed without toner saver on and I crank the DPI all the way down while I’m at it.

    But that’s only if I need to print. And when cranking out multiple 50-100+ page manuscripts, plus whatever notes need to be printed alongside them, multiple times with what tend to be tiny edits, it helps to cut paper use by 50-75% and toner usage by about the same.

    Of course I try to print as little as possible, but when working for several hours on the same document it just seems like my eyes are ready to roll right out of my head from all the scrolling I have to do.

    When it comes to color printing I simply refrain as much as is humanly possible because the inkjet is a complete hog even when on a low DPI. The problem being: when I need to print color, I can’t usually print low quality stuff, because it looks just like that… low quality, or in a word, trash. (*cough* artist *cough*)

  52. Diffus

    What’s the best way to save useful information on this site for later reference? I tried to print this article and comments to a PDF, but it truncated at the Print button after the main body. Aaargh.

  53. Jan

    I had a HP b/w inkt-jet.
    I was baffled by the print costs. I tried refilling, a vew times I found the inkt at the bottum of the printer, an inkt-bath.

    Then I could buy an old, never used 24-needle printer. And I managed to find a supplier of no-name inkt-lint-cartridges (E2,50 per piece).

    So now I print very low cost, also because of the noise it makes and the relatively long time.
    I am very content with it.

  54. DocDave

    I often use Fineprint software printing two pages per sheet; not for letters of course but it’s great for ‘in house’ documents.

  55. MMJ

    I do a lot of what’s listed:
    1. I mainly “print” to PDF
    2. When I print hard copy:
    a. I use draft mode along with, if possible, an eco-font
    b. If possible, I print two pages to one
    c. Cut/edit to get only what I need printed on the page
    d. As much as possible, I print grey scale
    However, I learned some new tricks to incorporate from the comments—Thanks!

    Like a few mentioned, I prefer lasers to inkjets because inkjets have a tendency to dry out if not used regularly. I wind up putting the cartridges in the fridge/freezer to keep them moist. Per-page costs are lower than going to copy machines or outside printers, which I use as needed for specialty printing.

  56. Betty

    Unless I really need a printed page, I use doPDF and print to a pdf file. When I do need a printed page, I almost always use black ink only with draft printing. That save a lot of ink, and still gives a decent quality to everything but pictures.
    The biggest savings comes from refilling the ink cartridges. Printers are cheap – but they get you on the cartridges. Once you get used to refilling them, it’s a snap – and really cheap!

  57. Abdullah

    I use a laser printer in addition to doing the following:
    1. I prefer printing double-sided, it uses half the paper.
    2. I print on econo-mode.
    3. I refill the toner instead of buying a new one everytime it finishes. I replace the toner with a genuine only after I’ve refilled at least once or twice depending on the quality of the print.
    4. Printing 2-pages per sheet when possible to save paper.

  58. Salty

    I use Greenprint. I normally print to PDF with it. If I really need to actually print something, Greenprint can remove pages or images I don’t want. Of course I print both sides in draft B&W mode if I do print to paper.

  59. Jerwil

    I use CISS (continuous ink supply system). $2.00 a bottle of 100 ml. ink.

  60. grumps

    I think I got you all beat.
    I use my old trusty Epson LQ 300 with fan fold paper.
    One ribbon costs around AUD4.00 abd kasts for ever.!!!


  61. Stewart J. Miller

    I print in draft mode, on both sides if possible, and print to pdf. Whenever I print a web page, I have the default browser set to not print background colors, or I print to pdf and save into a folder.

  62. DMO

    Print to PDF and
    make a copy to Evernote or Dropbox and Mobile device.

  63. Anonymous

    Korey Here,

    I read what everyone else wrote about saving money on printing costs and I do most, if not all of those things too, like; print to PDF and save documents to other devices, and using fast draft mode. But I am sad to say I use one other technique as well. My inkjet printer cartridges cost me about $24..99 CDN for black and white Cartridge, and $29.95 CDN for a Color Cartridge. However, as my ink cartridges get low, I look around at the sale flyers and can usually get a brand new inkjet printer for around $19.95. So, buying a new printer turns out to be cheaper for me than buying ink cartridges. Unfortunately that means a load of printers ending up in my trash heap. Now that’s really sad, don’t you think???

  64. yo_soy_dominicano

    I use screen capture a lot in my browser (chrome), I also print on both sides of the paper whenever possible. The thing that saves me the most money is an aftermarket refill system that I had installed to refill the depleting (and costly) ink cartridges. With just over ten bucks I have enough ink to last me a long, long, long time. That being said, I only use my printer for personal things and when I do use it for business, it doesn’t amount to much. The last measure I use is sending the files to my mobile device for viewing when needed. I have had the same ream of paper for at least 6 months now and I am about half way through it.

  65. jonmar

    I mostly use pdf but when I do have to print some thing I buy generic inks which do save you a lot of money. where I get mine is Ink Station & no shipping fee Which is a big saving on its own.

  66. siggi_pop

    Use my Canon ip4200 color inkjet, it’s old but still working great.
    To keep costs down, i bougth something called “scorpio system”
    basically it’s an ink container, attached to custom made ink cartrigde in the printer, via tubes.
    The whole system included with manual, cost me somewhere around 90 $
    the printer is now supplied with ink from an externel ink container, which can easily be refilled,
    using bulk ink, that can be bought cheap online.

  67. Glenn Rowsam

    Buy all your groceries and gas with a charge card that accumulates points. Pay off the monthly bill in toto so that there’s no interest charge, Use the points to get gift cards for Staples or Office Depot. Buy your ink cartridges with the gift cards. Oh yeah, print in draft B&W mode two-sided as often as you can.

  68. Chet

    I use XPS, or PDF to print documents. If I absolutely need a hard copy I print the XPS or PDF document out.

  69. Cody

    Print2pdf for jobs that dont need printed
    FinePrint and an old hp laser printer for docs that do need printed
    FinePrint grabs the job then allows you to print multiple pages per sheet of paper in many different formats and styles along with watermarking abilities and some.

  70. tommy2rs

    Mostly by having a crappy printer that only works when it wants to. Otherwise the wife’s projects (she’s a professional graphic artist) would bankrupt us in ink costs. Though she is threatening to by a new $800 six cartridge printer to get around my cost saving procedures….lol.

  71. DeanTheViking

    When I need to print to paper, and I don’t need the graphics, I copy and paste just the section needed to NOTEPAD.

    This removes all formatting so I get only the text.

    Then I copy and paste to WORD so I can edit and format as needed.

  72. 01nb

    Use PDF whenever possible. If not, then:

    Laser Printer. Find one that suits needs but has reasonable replacement cartridge/drum costs.

    Use for replacement toner.

    Buy paper when the big office supply stores offer quality cases (92 bright or better, 20lb) for $30 or less.

    Enjoy (relatively) inexpensive printing costs.

  73. Roy

    I used to use all kinds of refilling and reconstructed cartridges until I found the CISS units. These units (as described above) cost less than the cost of original cartridge set. My Epson stylus photo 1400 wide print hogs ink!(@ $19.00 per cartridge x6) With this setup, I print like crazy, graphics, many photos, anything, and it is very reasonable. Bulk ink is approx. 10 to 14 bucks per each color/bw 8 oz bottle + shipping which makes it approx. $75.00 or so, for almost a years printing! Also, I find that my very good photos are as good as the original Epson inks!

  74. Roy

    Another tip!
    This little program called (PRINT KEY), has saved me untold hours and work! It is very inexpensive, Approx. $19.00 when I purchased mine. Also, there is a free version which does excellent copies.
    To use, just install and hit the (print key) on the top row of keyboard.
    It copies anything from one word to a complete page! (Excellent Photo copies!) Just position the (crawling ant box) box around what you want and hit save or print! I usually save to a pre made and named folder on the desktop. Then, I can do whatever I need as often as needed!

  75. Gregg DesElms

    Ways to reduce printing costs…

    Purchase the cheapest paper at Staples, OfficeMax or OfficeDepot… but by the case, especially when it’s on sale. Obviously, recycled paper is the greenest, but isn’t always the cheapest. Your conscience is your guide on that one.

    Use aftermarket inks, purchased in bulk for either refillable ink cartridges; or, perhaps better yet, a “continuous inking” system of some kind. I so want to link the reader to what my considerable research has found to be the best and least expensive of the aftermarket, third-party, bulk and continuous ink suppliers, but I don’t want to be accused of trying to promote anything. Just trust me when I tell you that among all the aftermarket inkjet whores out there, there’s at least one supplier of ink, refillable cartridges, and continuous ink systems that I’ve found which operates ethically and VERY cost effectively. And the way I happen to buy ink from this suppler saves me something like 80% off the normal cost of purchasing HP-brand ink cartridges for my printer. Seriously. I pay one-fifth, today, for ink, what I used to pay even when I purchased HP-brand cartridges… even from an online company which deeply discounted them. And contrary to the propaganda by the printer companies, the colors are fine, the ink lasts, it doesn’t damage the printer or the print heads, and there are no leaks. In fact, if one learns how to take it slowly when one refills (so that one doesn’t drip anything or knock anything over), not a drop gets anywhere that it’s not supposed to.

    Next, configure the printer so that it operates in “draft” (or “economy” or whatever your printer maker calls it) mode by default. You can switch it to “normal” or even “best” quality on the fly, for any given print job, if you need to; but set the printer to default to “draft” so that simple everyday printing which either only you will ever see, or which it’s okay to give to others looking the tiniest bit less dark black than “normal” or “best” modes provide, uses less ink.

    Related to the immediately-above paragraph is using advance printer settings (if they’re available) to make changes to settings like “ink volume,” or “overspray” and other settings like that to ever-so-slighhtly reduce the amount of ink which reaches the paper even if the printer is in “normal” or “best” modes. The printer manufacturers who make the expensive ink cartridges have a vested interest in your using-up as much ink as possible; and so most of them set their printers to deposit the maximum amount of ink possible without wetting and soaking through the paper. If one’s printer has the advanced settings (and not all printer software allows it), then one can configure things so that less ink is used — even if only marginally less — without adversely affecting print quality… even when in “draft” mode.

    There are also utilities out there which plug-in to the web browser, and which allow a person to select just the part of the web page that s/he would like to print. There are several out there, so research them all and figure both which one has the features you want, and also will work reliably in the browser. One of the ones I tried actually slowed browsing and increased browser crashes. Sadly, that was the one with the best features, so… go figure.

    For non-browser printing there are utilities out there which will print pages two-up on a landscape-oriented 8.5×11-inch sheet of paper (or four-up, or even six- or eight-up… though at those sizes things become very hard to read on any given page, and the overall page starts to resemble a photographer’s contact sheet). Those same utilities will print easily-readable three-up on 8.5×14-inch legal paper.

    Of course, there’s the old trick of not throwing-away printed pages which are no longer needed, annd which are printed on one-side only; and then printing new stuff on the unused/blank side. Of course, what’s printed on the blank side has to be something that only you’ll need for your internal stuff because you’d never want to give something like that to someone else. One must be careful, though, because not all printers are made to do two-sided printing, even when the means by which it’s achieved is manually turning the paper over and running it through the printer again. With some printers, so doing puts ink in places (typically on rollers) where the manufacturer never intended, and so the printer can start malfunctioning. With laser printers, especially, this can be a problem because there’s a heat process involved which melts the powdered toner that’s deposited onto the paper in little letter-shaped piles into the finished letters; and when the paper is run through the heat process, some printers only want toner on one side. In such printers, if there’s toner on the back side also, then the heat/melting process causes toner residue where it doesn’t belong (typically on the transport mechanism which moves the paper through the fuser (the part where the heat is generated). So before running any paper that’s already been printed on through any printer, make sure that the printer’s manufacturer says that the printer won’t be harmed by it.

    Finally, there are downloadable fonts out in the world which are sometimes called “green” fonts which use less ink because if one looks at them on the printed page using either a microscope or very powerful magnifying glass, one can see little “holes” in them… little circular dots/places along the body lines of the letters where there’s no ink… in other words, little “holes” in the letters. This, allegedly, reduces costs by using less ink. Whether or not it ACTUALLY does (or whether the amount less that is used is in any way significant or consequential) is another matter. But it seems to me that such “green” fonts (or “eco” fonts, they’re sometimes called), if they even work a little bit, would, if coupled with my ink-reducing both advanced adjustments, and also use of “draft” mode, described a few paragraphs back, might potentially combine into some not-insignificant savings over time.

    Those are all the things that I can think of, off hand.

    Hope the helps!

    Gregg L. DesElms
    Napa, California USA
    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  76. GeorgiaCowboy

    Take out all the ands, ofs, thes……………………………………

  77. MaxB

    I have a Lexmark X2650 which uses ink jet cartridges. When the cartridges are about half empty i inject 3mm of water into each of the ink chambers which more than doubles the life of the cartridge and has no noticeable effect on the quality of the printing. I know it sounds crazy but it works just fine.

  78. Flo

    I use Preton software. It prevents you from using excessive ink by adjusting the quality down. It will pop up after you hit “print” and you have the opportunity to adjust the settings before you hit “print”. It’s been good for me and it works on my home network. However, Preton has to be installed on all computers. Preton is free. You can find it by putting “preton” in your search engine search bar.

  79. Pegi

    We use our laser printer for all black & white printing. We set our graphics to draft before printing to save ink.

  80. Brian

    Checkout Fineprint.( Amazing program to save toner; ink and paper.
    Saves more paper and toner, lets you choose double or single sided; remove graphics if you don’t need them to save much more ink when printing airline confirmations; web pages etc. and allows you to set different profiles for the laser such as 300DPI toner save; 600dpi graphics no toner save etc. Lets you preview prints; delete pages from a print before printing so you don’t print unneeded pages. Lets you specify number of copies; can reprint; etc. Makes the experience just fantastic.
    One trick it allows is fairly easy printing of some double sided and some single pages in one print e.g. a tax return. You delete the single sided pages; print; undelete; delete double sided pages and print again. So easy.
    I think it costs $50. I have had it for years and saved that many times over in ink; paper and convenience. It has a trial. Also allows you to create multiple printers. So if you have an inkjet, just click ‘Color’ or ‘B&W’ when you choose your printer and you don’t have to set anything else. Their support is also great.

  81. Rick S

    I don’t let it run out of ink and refill ahead of time. My HP don’t like it and gives me warnings but works fine. Should it ever stop me from printing like my old one did I’ll replace it with a different make.

    I never worry about saving ink because I refuse to get ripped off by buying their over priced cartridges.

    I had to destroy a couple of cartridges to find out how they filled them at the factory. They sure don’t want you to fill your own. lol. I’m running an HP Officejet Pro L7590 very nice machine.

  82. Joan

    The suggestion of buying a new printer that is on sale instead of buying an ink cartridge, may not be a cost saver even if the printer cost less than a new cartridge. Most new new printers come with a “starter” ink cartridge that contains a lot less ink than the replacement cartridges. So even if you find a printer that cost less than the replacement ink cartridge, you are also getting less ink.

  83. rohn

    Laserjet vs inkjet – I got a “free” corporate laserjet printer that was being dumped. Price was right! The “empty” toner cartridge lasted me over a year.

    When you buy a laser printer, splurge for the automatic duplex (2-sided) feature. Much easier than manual duplexing. Enable 2 sided printing on your default printer driver so you don’t have to think about it

    Tools like PretonSaver,, that intelligently reduce toner use by reducing dot overlap and introducing minute white spaces

    EcoFont,, introduces macro sized white spaces into the font. If you zoom in on it you will see the dots. The thing is, the font has to be wider than a “normal” font at same point size, so you end up with longer documents

    Define narrower margins on your pages. For example, Word defaults to a 1 inch margin. I change that to 1/2 inch with 0.2 inch gutter for 2 sided printing.

    Reduce your font size by 0.5 to 1 pt. The size reduction is not noticeable, but it does save 10% or so on the ink.

    Selective printing. Don’t print the whole web page, select the text to print and paste it into a blank word file. That can be done with tools like:

    Don’t print un-need images. Most web articles include graphics that are pretty to look at, but don’t actually contribute to the content. Who cares about the author’s picture, or that pretty graphic that has nothing to do with the article? And web sites include tons of advertising, including images that have nothing to do with the article, so lose them too.

    The HP Smart Web Printing tool (free) allows you to grab parts of many Web pages and print them together as a single document. It has no layout capabilities other than reshuffling the order of elements, but it will print to any type of printer–HP or not.


    the FinePrint printer driver (free with restrictions, $50 to register). It sits on top of your normal printer drivers and lets you combine jobs, remove unneeded pages, convert to grayscale (to save on color consumables), omit images, and print up to eight pages per sheet

    For users of older Epson printers, the SSC Service Utility (free) lets you reset counters and the like for many of the company’s Stylus-series printer cartridges. This tweak allows you to refill cartridges with your own ink without having to endure low-ink warnings.


    I use PretonSaver Home Edition…it allows you to decide the percentage of ink you want to save per print and also tells you how much money you saved. You can get it for free at

  85. astral_cyborg

    If I want to test a document, I print it as a PDF document, too. I use doPDF for that or LibreOffice’s function, depending on what I want to do.

    For simple documents, I try to print them in grayscale and with draft option enabled.

    For user manuals or similar documents, where I might need them in the future and that contain lots of pages and information that I may not require, I try to print them with 2 or 4 pages on a single paper sheet.

    Finally, I keep separately bad printed papers or other useless ones and I use them to print personal or unofficial documents, from the back white side of each paper, which is clean.

  86. Matt

    While on your samsung galaxy tablet, and in the drop box application, is there a way to print from drop box to your wi fi printer?

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