Don’t Waste Ink: 7 Ways to Conserve

In 2013, news stations were a flurry with coverage of 14-year-old Suvir Mirchandani who found a way to save the federal government $136 million each year: change the standard typeface from Times New Roman to Garamond. Garamond is an elegant serif font like Times New Roman, but has thinner and smaller letters. Thinner letters = less ink.

Typography nerds and the cost conscious rejoiced!

However, there was one big problem: the Garamond typeface was compared with the Times New Roman typeface, both at size 12. However, not all font sizes are created equal. Garamond at size 12 is naturally smaller than Times New Roman at size 12. Therefore, the government may need to print Garamond at 13 points, which uses slightly more ink than at 12 points, thus negating the cost saving effects of Garamond. Oops

Regardless, bravo to Mirchandani for his resourcefulness and to you as well for seeking out ways to conserve ink and thus save money.

Luckily for all of us, we don’t have to conduct a massive study to learn how to reduce our use of ink.

Here are some tried and true ways to conserve ink:

Think Twice Before Printing

This probably comes with a big “duh!” but it’s worth stating stating again and again: think twice before printing. Your print jobs will likely fall under one of three categories: those you MUST print for clients or official documentation, those you need to print for internal use, and those you can easily handle electronically. You definitely need to print the first category, you can probably get away with printing the second category in draft mode or black and white, and you really don’t need to print the last category. Think twice to save on ink and paper.

Always Be Printer Friendly

Ten-to-twenty years ago, many websites were printer friendly by nature. White backgrounds, black text, and minimal images made for a website that was not so beautiful for the eyes, but definitely beautiful for your ink levels. These days, the reverse is true. With the trend of dark backgrounds/images overlaid with white text, and a focus on responsive sites, printer friendly versions have gone by the wayside. Luckily, smart people have built software that can solve this problem so consumers can have the best of both worlds regardless of how a website is set up. Behold, PrintWhatYouLike, PrintLiminator and PrintFriendly – all tools that enable ink-friendly printing.

Expert tip: ALWAYS use print preview to see what you’ll get before sending a job to the printer. This will also help to prevent you from accidentally printing all 54 pages of that contract you so loving read, when you only needed to print page 1. Don’t let that happen.

Study your Printer Settings

Get to know the ins and outs of your printer settings. Most printer settings allow you to select standard options such as printing in black and white and fast draft mode/low resolution. However, each printer driver comes with different settings. Study up on yours to learn the model-specific settings that can save you ink and toner.

Some of the settings you might find include:

  • Reduce print density. This will create lighter prints by using less ink. This might not be ideal for the final client-facing prints, but would work great for internal use.
  • Grayscale or black and white. This is also a great option for those internal documents. Note that if you print a black and white document with your printer color setting on, your printer will still use color ink. That seems strange, at first. However, when printing the color black in color mode, your printer will always try to get that exact black you have in the document, which sometimes requires a bit of magenta, cyan, or yellow. If black and white will do, make sure your printer settings are set to black and white to prevent this from happening.
  • Draft. If you’re not printing a final document for a client, draft mode is usually your best bet for saving ink. In draft, sometimes known as fast print mode, the printer uses less ink by only passing over an area on the page once rather than covering it with ink several times. This results in a low, draft-like quality, which is perfectly fine for many internal documents.

Once you’ve found printer settings that would work for the majority of your print jobs, access your printer settings through your control panel and save the settings you’d like to stick with. This will save you from having to change the settings in the print dialogue each time you print.

Consider an Ink Coverage Calculator

If you print in high volume, you might consider investing in some ink coverage calculators. A well-known calculator is APFill® Ink Coverage Software – this is what Mirchandani used to calculate savings in his study. Some lesser known software include: PressPerCent, and PrintCalc. However, if you’re not a high-volume printer, these may not be worth your while. Be weary of paying dollars to save pennies!

Mind the (Font) Gap

On the same train of thought that Mirchandani had, Ecofont has a font with strategically placed holes in its characters, and claims that using it can reduce your consumption of ink and toner by up to 50%. If you’re not a fan of EcoFont, Century Gothic is a great option for saving ink, due to its thin letters. (Sorry, Garamond, you had your moment in the sun.) You may already have Century Gothic, but you likely don’t have EcoFont. Neither font is free, so, as with the Ink Coverage Calculator, this is something that’s best for high volume printers.

Second Guess Low Ink Warnings

Until you actually see changes in your print quality, don’t replace your toner or ink just because the LCD says “toner low.” This is usually just a warning and is a great time to order new cartridges if you don’t already have some on the shelf.

Keep the Power

We’ve all had that experience of turning the printer on, then hearing loud, annoying noises, while the printer is “warming up.” This is your printer initializing the print heads – it actually uses ink each time it does this. You can reduce this unnecessary waste by letting it go into sleep mode between uses, rather than fully turning it off every evening.

As you can see, there are many ways, high-tech and low-tech, to conserve ink. Follow the above tips and you should be on your way to great savings.

Image via bradleypjohnson, Flickr.

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