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8 Tips for Cutting Wide-Format Printing Costs

Brian Nadel

Wide-format printing can be a budget buster if you don't follow these simple tips.

Make no mistake, using a wide-format printer can be an expensive proposition that makes producing traditional office documents seem downright economical. After all, everything is bigger, including the printer's price tag, the paper and how much ink you need. 

All of this adds up to a potential budget buster. If your company is struggling with the expense associated with creating banners, posters and marketing materials (but you need a wide-format printer), there are several ways to curtail the costs. From buying ink in bulk to combining prints, there's a lot you can do without sacrificing the printed materials your company counts on. 

Here are eight ways to reign in wide-printing costs.

Editor's Note: Looking for a wide-format printer? We can help you choose the one that's right for you. Use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free: 

1. Bigger is better with ink cartridges.

It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the easiest ways to save money on wide-format printing is to buy the largest ink modules you can get. That's because as the ink module's size increases, the ink's cost drops quickly. It's the same ink, it just costs less. 

For instance, Canon sells three cartridge sizes for its iMagePROgraf Pro-4000 series: 160, 330 and 700 milliliters (ml). The cost of the ink declines from 61 cents per milliliter for the small (160 ml) cartridge to 52 cents per ml for the medium one (330 ml) to 42 cents per ml for the large (700 ml) cartridge. Overall, it can add up to significant savings. 

Better yet, printers that don't utilize ink cartridges can save you even more. Some printers, like the LUS 150 formulation that the Mimaki JFX 2000 uses, contain ink reservoirs. When a particular color of ink is running low, you simply pour ink from a bottle into the appropriate reservoir. It can be messy, but the cost is approximately 10 cents per ml of ink. [Interested in buying a wide-format printer? Check out our best picks.] 

2. Use draft mode.

The easiest way to shave wide-format printing costs is to avoid using top resolution or photo-quality settings for works in progress. Instead, print in draft mode. You'll get a print that is suitable for marking up and soliciting comments on while slashing 20 to 40 percent of your costs. 

You may be able to configure the printer's default settings so that an item is automatically set to print in draft mode. Users must then manually change the printer's setting to print an item with high resolution for final prints. 

3. Combine print jobs.

Wide-format printers create large printed items that other devices can't produce. But smaller items can be combined to cut costs, save time and reduce paper use. 

Say, for example, that you have 10 prints to make ranging in size from 24 x 36 inches to 48 x 60 inches on your Roland Soljet EJ-640. They can be printed individually or arranged across the EJ-640's 64-inch wide bed. They're printed more quickly, and there's less waste (but the prints will need to be trimmed). 

Some printer manufacturers include nesting software, like Epson's Layout Manager, that optimizes placement of individual prints on the sheet to help you make the most of your print jobs. 

4. Faster printers allow for greater efficiency.

We're always in a hurry to get the print job done, but a faster printer can be a great way to further lower expenses and make the printer pay for itself, because the more you use it, the less it costs per item printed. 

Take printing a dozen D-sized (24 x 36-inch) posters with HP's PageWide XL 6000 printer. It's capable of producing them in less than a minute, leaving the printer ready for its next job. This increases the printer's capacity utilization while lowering the cost per item. You might even be able to consolidate costs by eliminating slower printers in your office and instead using one fast device. 

5. Two rolls are better than one.

It may seem like an inconvenience, but a wide-format printer that can switch between two or more paper rolls easily can be a money saver. This is because you don't need to waste 10 or 15 minutes taking the old roll out, inserting the new one and feeding the paper properly. With a dial-roll device, you select the right paper size in the setup menu, just like you would with a regular printer if you were printing legal-sized documents versus letter-sized items. 

6. Reduce paper waste with print preview and overseeing printing.

One of the best ways to cut paper and ink costs is to train employees to use the Print Preview function before they print their project. This step eliminates a lot of mistakes and waste. 

It's also a good idea to monitor your print job. The paper doesn't always feed straight into the printer or the ink isn't always laid down evenly. If you catch it early, you can start again with less waste. 

Some printers, like Epson's SureColor P20000, have a sensor hidden near the print heads that monitors the print, detecting any changes in ink density variations, paper skewing and slack. If it detects a problem, it corrects it instantly so there are fewer wasted prints. 

7. Cut repair bills with an extended warranty.

Wide-format printers are complicated, expensive machines, and there's nothing worse than having a broken machine sit idle. That's where an extended warranty comes in. 

For instance, it costs about $2,200 to extend the original one-year warranty for Canon's imagePROGRAF iPF785 for an extra year. It's money well spent, because in the event the printer requires a major repair, the costs to repair the printer coupled with the costs to your business in terms of delays, productivity, etc., are astronomic compared to $2,200. 

Check to make sure the extended warranty is transferable should your company sell the printer. 

8. Limit employee use and require necessary approvals.

Finally, one of the best ways to reduce printing costs is to limit its use. Curtail access to the printer to only those employees who need to print and monitor who's printing what. 

HP's SmartTracker software works with all PageWide XL devices to control the printing process, including who can and cannot print on the device. It also shows who is using the printer with helpful graphs and can estimate per-page costs. 

Another bonus to this approach is that you can charge back the use of this companywide resource to those departments that use it most.

Image Credit: geppe/Shutterstock
Brian Nadel Contributing Writer
Brian is a technology writer based north of New York City. He writes stories for, Tom's Guide, ComputerWorld and Scholastic Magazines. He is the former editor-in-chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.