We’ve covered one cost-effective printing strategy in printing multiple images on a single sheet of paper. But this isn’t the only way to keep your printing costs low.


We’ve covered one cost-effective printing strategy in printing multiple images on a single sheet of paper. But this isn’t the only way to keep your printing costs low.

Regardless of the type or size of printer you use – or the size of the prints you produce, there are a number of tried-and-proven ways to avoid wasting inks and paper. We’ll describe them in this article.

1. We can’t stress too emphatically how important it is to use the inks supplied by the manufacturer of your printer for keeping your printer working properly and minimising the need for reprints. No matter how cheap the third-party inks may be, they are simply not worth using for photo printing because they can’t be guaranteed as suitable for your printer. Nor have you any assurance about their colour accuracy and durability.

2. Make the best use of each cartridge by watching the warnings posted by the printer. Sometimes there’s more than 20% of the ink remaining when the first warning appears on your computer screen. This is simply to advise you to have a replacement cartridge at hand. Always continue to print until the printer indicates the cartridge can no longer be used.


A typical low ink reminder. A pop-up screen like this indicates certain inks are low but doesn’t require the cartridges to be changed immediately.

You can usually get at least three or four extra A4-sized prints after the low ink warning has been displayed. With practice, you will learn to estimate just how much ink remains and the area of paper it will cover. Most printers will cease operating when there’s insufficient ink in one cartridge to print a page. If yours doesn’t, a change in the print colours part-way down the print will indicate a depleted cartridge.

Replace the cartridge and insert a new sheet of paper before you continue printing. You will probably need to wait for a minute or two while the printer prepares the new cartridge for use.

3. Control maintenance tasks. Don’t run cleaning cycles unless your prints are showing signs of a blocked nozzle (missing dots or lines).

4. Think carefully about print resolution and set the appropriate resolution for the output size and application.
Documents can usually be printed at lower resolution than photographs. Photo prints at A4-size and smaller should be printed at 300 dpi (dots/inch) resolution, while larger prints can be printed at lower resolutions (250 dpi or 200 dpi for A3 size or 150 dpi for larger sizes). Large prints are viewed from greater distances so the amount of detail required is less.

5. Don’t assume the highest quality setting is the only one to use for photo prints. You may find there is very little difference in photo prints made with the top quality setting and the next one down, yet the amount of ink used with the top setting will usually be substantially higher.

6. Don’t leave your printer on when you’re not using it. Most printers will automatically run periodic head cleans while they are switched on. This will waste ink.

7. Always turn off the printer from the front control panel before turning off the wall switch. This positions the print head in a protected position that reduces the chance of the nozzles drying out.

Soft Proofing
Photographers who edit images with Adobe’s Photoshop software can take advantage of its Soft Proofing facility, which provides an accurate on-screen preview of how the image will print. Unfortunately, this facility isn’t provided in Photoshop Elements and it’s only usable in a colour managed workflow as it relies on ICC profiles. How well it works depends on qualities in the image, the paper/ink combination and the effectiveness of the profiles (and your calibration system).

Step 1: Make sure there are no images open on the Photoshop desktop then select View > Proof Setup > Custom.
This opens a Proof Setup dialog box with three drop-down menus: Profile, Intent, Simulate.

From the Profile menu select the profile of the paper you plan to use.


Set the Rendering Intent to Relative Colorimetric or Perceptual and check Simulate Paper Colour in the Display Options box. Leave Preserve Colour Numbers unchecked.

At this point you can save the preview profile for use with subsequent image files by clicking on Save. Give your profile a name that allows you to identify the printer and the media the profile has been created for. Click on OK and return to the Proof Setup menu where you’ll see the new profile has been added to the end of the list.

Step 2: Open the image you plan to print and select Image > Duplicate. This will create a second copy of the image. Align the two images so they appear side-by-side on the desktop.


Select the original image then click on View > Proof Setup and choose the soft proofing profile you created from the drop-down list.


Then click on Proof Colour in the View menu. This will probably cause some subtle changes to the original image, relative to the duplicate because the software is attempting to replicate the characteristics of the paper. The image will probably look flatter or less contrasty and there may be subtle hue or saturation shifts. These changes will replicate how the image will look when it is printed on the selected paper with the nominated printer.

Test Strips
If you don’t use Photoshop, you can check the way an image will print by printing test strips. The process is similar to the one used by traditional photographers, although much easier with an inkjet printer.

Step 1: Edit the image in your favourite software application and save it separately at the correct output size – either in a special ‘printing’ folder or with the tag ‘for printing’ added to the file name. If you want white borders, this is the time to use the Image > Resize > Canvas Size setting to position your image on the page. In the example shown, the image size is 25 x 14.05cm, which fits comfortably on an A4 sheet. To print it with a white border, select Canvas Size and set the New Size dialog box to match the dimensions of the paper (29.7 x 21.0 cm).


Step 2: Using the Crop tool, select a strip that runs through a critical area of the image where you want detail to be fully resolved. The strip should be rectangular but it can be almost any size you want – as long as it covers the key ‘exposure’ area. Do not change the size of the image as this could change the print quality. (There is no need to save the ‘test strip’ unless you wish to use the same area subsequently. If this is the case, tag the file name with ‘test’.)


Step 3: Load the printer with a sheet of the paper you will use for your final enlargement. Open the printer driver and set the paper size and orientation to match this paper. Then return to your software application and select Print. Uncheck Centre Image and use the Position settings to position your test strip on the sheet of paper. (You may also be able to drag-and-drop the test strip into place.)


Step 4: Print the test strip using the settings you will use for the final print. Now assess the test strip, checking colour, brightness, sharpness and any other adjustable parameter that is relevant. Make the required changes to the saved image file and, if you wish to check them again, get ready to make a second test strip on the same sheet of paper as you used for the first.

If you’re happy with the colours and tones in the test strip, undo the crop. Then adjust the image to the correct size for printing and centre it on the page.

Step 5: To make a second test strip (for the first or another image), repeat the steps above until you reach the point where you position your second test strip. Use the Image > Image Size control to see how large your cropped test strip is (re-crop or resize it if necessary so it fits on the paper). Measure the distance from the top (or side) of the page and adjust the Position settings to make the second test strip fit in either below or beside the first one.

Step 6: Load the paper in the printer again so the second test strip is correctly printed. (Most printers work from the top of the page downwards, which means you should load the paper top-downwards.) Print the second strip and evaluate it as outlined above.

With care, you should be able to fit between four and six test strips of a suitable size for making A3 prints on a single sheet of A4 paper. The illustration below shows a typical example.


Success depends on accurately measuring and setting the correct position for each successive strip – and remembering to orientate the paper correctly each time you make a print. (If you’re using an Epson R800 or R1800 printer, turn off the Gloss setting to prevent an excessive build-up of resin on the surface of the paper when making test strips.)

You may need to refer to the printer driver page to match the image Document Size to the Scaled Print Size. Checking the Scale to Fit Media box in the printer driver will ensure your picture fits the paper and is placed centrally on the sheet.
Inkjet Cartridge Capacities
It is common knowledge that manufacturers of inkjet printers make most of their profits by selling inks and papers. However, in comparison with many other products, the cost of the technology in printers is remarkably low so buyers are getting a high level of features and performance for their dollars.

The ink cartridges for most consumer-level printers are small, partly because they’re held in the print head, which has a limited carrying capacity and partly to keep their prices down for home users who don’t do very much printing. Interestingly, because the ink delivery mechanism must be replicated in each cartridge, this pushes up the overall cost.

Some manufacturers have begun to provide higher cartridge capacities for their consumer printers. This lets purchasers choose the best capacity for their own requirements and will be a long-term money-saver for many home printers.

If you’re printing more than 10 large prints per week, the printer with larger cartridges could be a better choice. However, if your output volume is lower – and if there are weeks when you don’t make any prints – a cheaper printer with smaller cartridges would probably be more economical to run.
Useful URLs
The following websites provide additional information on the topics covered in this chapter.
www.computer-darkroom.com for some excellent tutorials on colour management and soft proofing and articles on using Adobe software.
www.luminous-landscape.com for a series of ‘Understanding’ articles that includes soft proofing, colour management, colour theory and many other topics.
www.adobe.com/designcenter/tutorials/ for step-by-step tutorials on new features, key workflows, and advanced techniques with Adobe software.|
www.photoreview.com.au for articles on digital printing and printer reviews.
This is an excerpt from Printing Digital Photos Pocket Guide 6th Edition.
Click here for more details on this and other titles in the Pocket Guide series.


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