Guest Post: Common Printing Myths Debunked

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.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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!

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