Guest Post: Common Printing Myths Debunked

Guest Post: Common Printing Myths Debunked

Summary: It's no secret: printing often gets a bum rap. Over the years, a few urban legends about printing, the price of ink, and everything in between, have escalated - resulting in a multitude of questions, misconceptions and (pun intended) bad ink. To set the record straight, I'd like to debunk some of these common myths about printing.


Editor's note: A long time ago (13 years, give or take), in a galaxy far, far away (San Diego, Calif.), a young artist named Thom Brown joined HP with aspirations of uniting the forces of science, technology, humor and customer experience. Now, as HP's resident ink and paper expert, Thom has made great strides in most of these areas as he strives to unlock the "truths" about printing. As you'll soon discover, he's still working on the humor part...

Common Printing Myths Debunked

By Thom Brown, ink and paper expert, HP

It's no secret: printing often gets a bum rap. Over the years, a few urban legends about printing, the price of ink, and everything in between, have escalated - resulting in a multitude of questions, misconceptions and (pun intended) bad ink. To set the record straight, I'd like to debunk some of these common myths about printing.

Myth: Printer ink is more expensive than high-priced liquids like champagne and gasoline. 

Truth: You may have seen comparisons of printer ink to champagne, perfume or gasoline as being some of the most expensive liquids in the world. But what those comparisons don't take into account is the usage scenario and technology of each of those liquids.

Printer ink is not consumed in the same way as the liquids with which it is often compared. For example, champagne is consumed by the glass - or by the bottle, if you're celebrating -750 mL at a time. Ink is consumed one print at a time, which can be done for pennies a print!

The materials you print last longer than the glass of champagne or the tank of gas...even if you drive a hybrid! Whether you are printing photos that preserve your precious memories, brochures that bring your company new business or maps that get you where you need to go, the value of these printed materials goes well beyond the price tag.

So, avoid comparing ink to perfume, champagne, gasoline, etc., when shopping for new cartridges. Instead, think about your printing habits and usage scenarios when making purchase decisions. Do you print often? If so, options such as HP's XL (inkjet) and X (LaserJet) high-capacity cartridges, which deliver more pages at a lower cost per print, might be the best choice for you. If you rarely print, you may prefer a cartridge that yields fewer pages and has a lower purchase price. 

Myth: My printer will stop working if I don't use a name brand cartridge in my inkjet printer.

Truth: I can't speak on behalf of other manufacturers, but HP does not prevent a customer from refilling their ink cartridge. That said, using off-brand ink is a little like hitting casinos in Vegas...with a higher probability of dissatisfaction and without the free drinks.

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for:  in third-party testing the alternative, so-called "bargain" inks have been proven to demonstrate reliability and quality issues, delivering significantly fewer pages (if the cartridge works at all). When you factor in the time spent troubleshooting failed print jobs, reprinting partially printed documents and the wasted ink and paper on poor quality print-outs, "bargain" inks aren't such a bargain after all.

My general philosophy is: get it right the first time. Print; don't reprint. Choosing original cartridges that were designed to work with your printer - no matter what printer brand - is a great way to do that.

Myth: Printed photos and documents will look the same no matter what kind of ink I use because ink cartridges contain nothing more than colored water.

Truth: Without boring you with too many geeky details, Original HP ink is pretty complex stuff that has to be chemically and physically compatible with every part of the printer, including the print head, print nozzles, cartridge components and paper. You know how James Brown is called "the hardest working man in show business?" Well, ink is the hardest working part of your printer! Every time you hit "print," you kick off a chain of events involving hundreds of ink nozzles (each about one-third the width of a human hair), that fire ink droplets at a page at high speeds (roughly 31 miles per hour). If any one of the more than a dozen types of ingredients in the ink becomes compromised or out of balance, you run the risk of subpar performance.

With a combined total of more than 500 years experience, the HP ink chemists and scientists have introduced more than 100 new inks over the past 20 years. That figure becomes even more impressive when you consider that it takes three to five years and up to 1,000 prototype formulas to perfect each new ink. Plus, HP achieves exceptional purity with its inks by putting dyes through a series of purification steps - ensuring that you get the best print experience possible, and saving you from bad prints and wasted time.

Another fun fact about HP photo inks: they can resist fading for up to 100 years!

Myth:  I'm saving the environment by avoiding printing my emails whenever possible.  

Truth: You've probably seen "Consider the environment before printing this email" on the bottom of many of the emails in your inbox. But "to print or not to print" an email is not the only factor that should be included when considering the environmental impact of your printing habits:

  • Choose products that are ENERGY STAR® qualified, to save energy around the clock. Even if I forget to turn it off, the printer I'm using at home right now automatically drops into low energy "sleep" mode, so it will use less power when it's not printing.
  • It may seem obvious, but recycle your used paper, print cartridges and printers when you're no longer using them. Most office buildings offer paper recycling services and printer manufacturers offer solutions for dealing with used cartridges and hardware. For example, you can recycle your HP print cartridges and any brand of IT equipment pretty easily through the HP Planet Partners program, which includes innovations such as HP's "closed loop" inkjet cartridge recycling process, the first and only of its kind, which combines recycled HP inkjet cartridge material with recycled water bottles to create new Original HP inkjet cartridges.
  • The biggest impact on the environment is paper use, so keep these things in mind: - Office paper with recycled content is available in lots of options. The EPA recommends 30% post-consumer recycled content in most types of office-use paper claiming to be made from recycled materials, so check the packaging for this info. - Choose paper from reputable manufacturers that produce paper responsibly. Organizations like the World Wildlife Federation's Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN) exist to unite companies working to ensure their paper comes from sustainable forests and credible forestry certification programs. Check the paper packaging for this info as well.
  • Carefully choose what you want to print: - DON'T print an email unnecessarily - DO print photos that you want to share and archive. We've all lost images or had a hard drive crash. - DON'T print Web pages with only a few lines of text - DO print, DON'T reprint! Choose the printer, cartridge and settings that give you what you want on the first try, so you don't have to waste time or money reprinting.

Want to "consider the environment" when printing? Take into account the various aspects that go into responsible printing, from the hardware to the paper and the document itself. And think about your printing habits before making ink purchase decisions, factoring in how often you print, the types of documents you print and the real usage scenarios you experience. You'll save yourself time and money in the long run by choosing products that most closely match your needs, ensuring you print wisely and responsibly, every time you hit "print".

About Thom Brown: When Thom isn't gigging with his band or working on his vintage Vespa scooter, he splits his time geeking out between the lab and technical marketing. He combines his understanding of the "crazy complicated" and interesting technology needed to make an inkjet work, with the latest competitive ink and paper comparisons, and then tells the world about it in a way everyone (including his four-year-old twins) can understand. For more information on the ins and outs of printing, follow Thom on Twitter @Thom_SoCal_HP !

Note from Adrian: Guest posts are not "paid-for" ad pieces. My criteria for choosing to publish a guest post are the same as for any other post - that it be interesting, informative and fun!

Topics: Hardware, Banking, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Hewlett-Packard, Printers, Software

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  • Another option for cost savings

    There is also the software optimization and management option for
    reducing printing costs and the associated environmental impact.
    Optimization helps reduce toner and ink costs by up to 50% through
    the elimination of redundant printed pixels. Management helps
    ensure that employees are not printing what they are not supposed to
    print, that printed material uses paper efficiently and that you know
    who is printing in your organization.

    Please visit our website, to learn
    more about Preton Saver, our print optimization and management
  • Want to lower your cost of printing?

    That's easy: BUY A LASER PRINTER!

    At home, I don't print often enough to keep the ink from drying out, so my last two ink jet printers ended up in the trash (both HPs). I replaced them with a networked color laser printer (a Brother) that doesn't care if I go for a week without printing. I get over a year out of the cartridges rather than throwing them away in frustration when I can't get decent quality prints.

    At work, we have been slowly weaning our people away from personal ink jets and to networked lasers. Most of our printing is B/W, but every department now has at least one color laser available. The bigger printers are not only faster, but the print is permanent, unlike the ink jets whose print smears if it gets wet. Yes, the big printers cost more up front, but we make up for that with lower overall cost of operation and longer life of the printers themselves.
    • I'm a laser printer fan too....

      My home printer is an HP LaserJet P2035 monochrome laser printer. It's a Good Thing.

      Due to infrequent usage, my inkjet printer was constantly clogging. I got sick of wasting ink on Unclog Nozzle routines, and sent it packing to the local recycling center.
    • I totally agree

      At home I print so rarely that my HP OfficeJet constantly had dried ink problems. I bought a mono laser but occasionally I still need to do color printing. After looking for several years I found a Samsung COLOR Laser for $100 at a Black Friday sale, so bought that. I now have the Samsung color laser right next to the Samsung mono. I print a few pages a month, almost all mono. I figure the 700-page initial [u]color[/u] cartridges will probably last me several years.
    • @itpro_z

      I agree. I got tired of the expense of ink and clogging I dumped my ink jets for a laser. With my HP ink jet I would have to replace the cartridges about once a month at a cost of $60-$70 dollars and not get that many prints out of it. Now with my Brother laser printer I spend about $70.00 on a toner cartridge and it last me about 1 year.
      On average laser prints costs about .03 per 8.5x11 print. Color on the other hand costs about .20 per 4x6 print.

      Ink is VERY EXPENSIVE! No matter how somebody tries to spin it.
    • Another Cost saving Move.....

      Buy a new printer. When your ink cartridge goes dry it costs approx $65.00 for 2 new ones (black & color) but a new printer with full cartridges only sets me back $49.95!
      • ...not really a cost-saving measure!

        Last time I tried that, I noticed the ink cartridges that came with the printer were "starter" cartridges with a really tiny amount of ink in them. I think I had to replace them with "real" ink cartridges after something like 50 pages. Normal sized cartridges last way, way longer than 50 pages!!!
    • this has been..

      my experience too - switching from ink-jet to laser printing:

      "...That's easy: BUY A LASER PRINTER!"

      Agree completely. My advice to anyone who has an ink-jet is to ditch it for a laser printer also.

      Nice post!
  • What a waste of space

    So, Zdnet now runs commercials in space that is supposed to be editorial content? What, did HP give you a new printer to shill for them?

    That said, I wanted to make a couple of comments. I have used HP, Canon, and Epson printers over the past 10 years, both for printing on paper as well as CD/DVD printing.

    The Epson printers (starting with the C80) were great--for about 1 year. Then the pigment ink would begin clogging the nozzles, and eventually we'd just buy a new Epson printer and trash the previous one.

    We've had several HP inkjet printers, and the technology is great, but we HATED how the printer software seemed to take over our PC. All we wanted was a freaking printer driver so it prints when we hit "print."

    Canon printers, in contrast with the others, are bulletproof. We use one Canon printer for CD/DVD printing, so we use Canon inks in it, because it really does make a big difference in fading over time. For our other Canon printers, though, we just throw in generic ink, and they continue to work great.

    If you're doing serious photography you need OEM inks and papers. The companies spend many millions on R&D for print accuracy and stability. For regular stuff, generic ink is great, and a tiny fraction of the cost of OEM inks.
    • for what it's worth...

      as an IT guy, I'd agree with the general consensus that lasers are more economical than inkjets. When I've calculated cost per page based on cartridge yields over the years it costs about 1 cent per B/W laser page vs about 7 cents (at best) per color page. When researching a new printer, I always focus on the cost per page numbers based on the standard yield. I've found that the more expensive printers actually have a lower cost per page than the cheaper ones and are cheaper over a 3 to 5 year timeframe. I've had experience with mostly HP in my prior jobs and my current employer prefers Dells, which have been pretty good for us. I would also agree that HP's software is bloatware and much more cumbersome than it's needs to be.
  • RE: Guest Post: Common Printing Myths Debunked

    With DVD, external drives and cloud computing / storage I cannot think of any good reason to print photos!
  • No Myth

    My home HP cartridges were shot after too many refills. Went for new ones and saw a Pixma printer/scanner/copier cheaper than the refills!!
    My new Canon works like a charm, no software issues as with HP, newer technology, drivers work with XP and 7.
    Let's get to work on those linux drivers, people.
  • Translations.

    "But what those comparisons don?t take into account is
    the usage scenario and technology of each of those

    In other words: "It's true, but we have a very poorly
    thought out excuse we use to pretend we have a valid
    explanation for our prices."

    "That said, using off-brand ink is a little like
    hitting casinos in Vegas?with a higher probability of
    dissatisfaction and without the free drinks."

    In other words: "We still hate it when you refill."

    "Another fun fact about HP photo inks: they can resist
    fading for up to 100 years!"

    In other words: "You want that archival quality stuff?
    Buy our even more expensive photo inks!"

    "When Thom isn?t gigging with his band or working on
    his vintage Vespa scooter, he splits his time geeking
    out between the lab and technical marketing."

    In other words: This guy barely works in the lab or in
    marketing. He's spending it being in a band and
    working on his vintage scooter.
  • Is this a paid advertisment for HP?

    What a one-sided load of crap!
  • Replacement Ink is a Shell Game

    IMHO, anyone lured into purchasing the average ink jet printer usually
    does so by its initial purchase price. Once the supplied low capacity
    ink cartridges are empty, the average person runs out and usually
    pays through the nose for replacements.

    Printer companies factor this into marketing plans. They know that
    many people will not discard a working printer no matter the cost of

    Do the math per page and use a laser printer to save over the long
    run. Even if you only print once in a while, chances are that the print
    heads will clog and you will have wasted the cartridges.

    IMHO, a color laser makes more economic sense for printing over the
    majority of ink jets. If I really want photos printed, I can upload them
    to one of the local chains and have them printed cheaper than any
    photo printer I have used.
    • @ExCorpGuy

      Yep, it's really sad when your ink runs out of your new ink jet printer and it's cheaper to buy a new printer than to refill it with ink.

      For example, the Canon Pixma MP250 brand new costs $40.00. To refill it with ink costs $36.98 and for the XL $48.99. And they don't tell you the yield.

      Where I work we have 8 HP Color LaserJet 5500s. The total cost to refill the toner of all the colors is $1,249.
  • RE: Guest Post: Common Printing Myths Debunked

    90% of printer R&D seems to be directed at finding ways to prevent re-filling. Seal the carts, the users drill them. Attach chips, the users reset them. Hide the chips, the users bypass them. Call in the lawyers, the refillers win in court. What's next? Carts that self-destruct in a cloud of smoke when empty?

    Net result: minimal trust and maximum suspicion on the part of the consumer. HP might well have brilliant inks that last for a hundred years ... but nobody's going to believe that's why a set of refills (with a teaspoon of ink apiece) costs more than the frickin' printer.

    As a recovering HP printer user, I have bad memories of HP printer software CDs that install tons of unwanted and obnoxious software and nagware on your drive. My advice: lose the disc and download the driver!

    (Canon Pixma here, shooting German ink from generic carts, with zero problems.)
  • he didnt answer this one

    "Myth: My printer will stop working if I don?t use a name brand cartridge in my inkjet printer."

    he talked about refilling a HP cartridge and not replacing the HP cartridge
  • Myth: this isn't a lazy piece of journalism

    Of course it isn't it's a blatant advert for HP.
  • RE: Guest Post: Common Printing Myths Debunked

    BUY HP!! they'll go broke if you buy someone else's ink...