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Epson Pro 3880 Ink Usage

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Ink usage is always one of the first questions I get from photographers contemplating fine art printing. It’s understandable, really, since ink is one of the exorbitant but unavoidable costs.

The tool amount of ink I started with is 9 x 80mL = 640mL. According to the Usage Count accessed through the printer’s menus (don’t write to ask me how – read the manual, p99), I’ve used 28.4mL. I assume that includes the ink required for start-up. The most recent 12×16″ prints I’ve made (all on 13×19″ Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk)  have used between 1ml and 1.7mL (average of 1.325mL). What’s interesting is that a 12×16″ image area = 1.33 square feet. So my ink usage appears to be ±1ml per square foot.

In another study done by Red River Paper, they calculated about 7.7mL for 10-8x10s = 1.33ml per square foot. But of course, so much depends on what you are printing. So far, most of my photographs have been on the lighter, mistier side, so, no doubt, my ink usage is lower. I’ll check again after I’ve printed some of my rock portraits in my Platform portfolio.

Knowing how much ink is used, I can work out a rough estimate of cost. An 80mL ink tank is in the neighbourhood of $70 once HST is factored in. So each ml costs $1.14. The ink used in an average (so far) 12×16″ print comes out to be 1.325 x 1.14 = $1.51. Throw in the cost of the paper at $3.84/sheet and we’re looking at a total of $5.35.

But don;t be deceived by the low number!! Photography is rather like a fishing trip: while the fish may be free, when you add in the cost of the trip, you’re looking at 10s to 100s of dollars per pound! If you want fish – their cheaper at the local fish market. Although a print only “costs” $5.35, we’re forgetting all the equipment, travel and storage costs plus the time it takes to create, process and make the print. Then there’s the framing!! (BTW – if you are contemplating doing your own framing purchase a good Logan board-mounted mat cutter and save yourself a fortune in custom-sized mat windows – then be sure to use outside mat-dimernsions that fit into standard frames: 11×14, 16×20, etc – but that’s another story!)

That being said, it is helpful for printers to know exactly what they are in for with respect to costs. If you are contemplating fine art printing, this is food for thought.

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