When You Should And Shouldn’t Buy Cheap Printer Ink

When You Should And Shouldn’t Buy Cheap Printer Ink

Printer manufacturers want you to buy their ink and would like you to believe that knock-off ink is killing your printer. So is knock-off ink actually a bad idea? Yes and no.

StackExchange user cabbey explains that cheap printer ink is fine for regular-purpose printing, but if you need any real colour accuracy you want to go with the official stuff:

There are all kinds of arguments around the quality, the longevity, potential damage to your print head, etc. But those are kinda irrelevant for “us” here on photo-SE.

If you’re printing pretty office charts and graphics, SURE. That’s what most of those inks are built for… some even brag about a “more vibrant red” with their ink.

If you’re printing pictures, on decent paper that comes with ICC profiles…nope.

The problem is that all the profiles are built based on the original ink, you change to a different ink and the profiles are all wrong.

Now if you’re printing ENOUGH volume, and you can find an ink vendor that’s consistent, you could in theory pay to have your own profiles built for your printer, your paper and their ink. But you’ll probably end up paying just as much for the custom profiles as you saved on the ink.

Basically, if perfect colour is important, you need to buy the good stuff. If not, knock-off brand ink shouldn’t damage your printer.

Are any of the generic/off-brand ink cartridges worth buying? [StackExchange]


  • Agreed 110% with the above statement, BUT this is not so for Colour Laser printers!! Knock off laser printer cartridges (and even more so, Colour laser printer cartridges) can really, REALLY stuff up your printer – You might save 50% on the cost of the cartridge up front, but when you include the reduced life of your Imager, Fuser, etc, etc, it is more expensive in the long run. Don’t forget the extra prints you will have to do from smudged or ruined pages, and the cost of the extra downtime.

  • yeh i use the real ink so my pi charts have that real deep red i want.

    if you use your printer everyday, your money saving option is to buy a cheap printer which these days have to a high enough dpi to do photos no problem and use cheap ink cartridgers. then run it till it dies with the money you say buy a new printer and some more ink.

    on the other end of the scale you only use the printer once a week. then you should stay with real ink.

    for people in between or those a little unshore, use 2-4 cheap ink then a real ink to clean the printer head.

    one more little thing to remember, ever time you turn your computer on and you hear the printer turn on. that sound the printer is making is a system chech it is also cleaning the printer heads. what they dont tell you is how much ink it wastes everytime it does that, its about a half A4 page colour picture.

  • You also didn’t mention Water based vs Oil based inks. Many very cheap non-genuine ink replacements use water based ink. This means if you had an important document or work project, and it got wet in some water or rain, the ink will just run off the page like a landslide.

  • Mio is correct and has the most relevant answer. Water based ink can clog your printer much easier than oil based and you will be forever trying to clean it. Also the best way to save money is to print anything not important in greyscale draft mode and only use full colour when really needed…. a little education goes a long way!

  • It only takes one dodgey toner or ink cartridge to screw up your machine. Being in the business of selling ink cartridges I can tell you now that I got so many returns and machine warrenty claims from non genuine cartridges that now we only deal with genuine brand ink and toner cartrdiges. If you want to save money on your ink, try instead to change your font to century gothic 10pt, this will save you about 30% on your ink consumption over Arial 11pt.

  • I print generally for school work, and use after-market inks for the printer. very cheap, and work great for the price, you can get from here : stores.ebay.com.au/gosmartchoice

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