How to beat printing costs

Save ink and still create great prints

Around the end of the 19th century, King C. Gillette began making disposable razor blades. He sold the handles for these at less than cost price, making a loss but drawing in the punters. Then he sold the blades themselves at far, far above cost price, ensuring a steady revenue stream from numerous customers for years to come. Naturally, the design of the blades was patented, preventing competitors from making cheap alternatives.

The Gillette business model still thrives today, emulated for numerous other products. Chief among these is the printer. A colour inkjet can be bagged for just $50, and there's no way manufacturers can turn a profit at that price. Instead, companies make their money on the ink. In some cases, printer ink is five times as expensive per millilitre as vintage champagne.

Thankfully, a combination of consumer pressure and a healthy market for third-party inks and cartridge refills is leading manufacturers to gradually lower prices for consumables. Today's printers offer lower running costs than you'd have seen three or four years ago. But that doesn't mean any of us can afford to casually waste ink and paper.

There's the environmental factor to consider, too. How many emails do you receive these days that urge you to consider whether printing the contents is really necessary?

In the following workshop, we'll explore several simple but effective ways for you to minimise your ink usage. You might be surprised at some of the options that lurk beneath the Properties or Preferences panel of your printer driver. We'll also show you how to cut down on paper wastage and avoid costly mistakes when printing photos.

Throughout the workshop, we use a Canon Pixma MX310 multifunction printer. Many of the screenshots refer to this unit's driver. If you're not using a Canon printer, your driver will be different, but don't let that put you off. All drivers are broadly similar and you'll be able to adapt the tips to your setup. At last, you'll be beating the printer manufacturers at their own game.

1. Most printers use Standard quality mode by default. You can save ink by selecting a lower-quality mode for printouts that are for 'internal' use only. Enter the printer driver's Properties and select Fast - this uses less ink than Standard mode. To save colour cartridges, tick Grayscale Printing.


Step 1

2. It's in printer manufacturers' interests for you to use lots of ink, and you'll probably find even Fast mode isn't particularly economical. Hitting the Custom button will often reveal 'hidden' modes. Our MX310 normally offers three quality levels, but under Custom there are five. Fast mode is level 4 - level 5 uses less ink still.


Step 2

3. It's a pain having to adjust the driver settings every time you print. To configure your own defaults, open Windows' Control Panel and click the printer category. Right-click your printer, select Properties, click the Advanced tab, then hit Printing Defaults. The driver settings you choose here will become the default.


Step 3

4. Once you've set up your defaults with economy in mind, it's a hassle resetting everything for print jobs that require high-quality settings - photo printing, for example. A little-known trick is to install your printer twice. You can then select two sets of defaults. When you print, simply choose the setup you require.


Step 4

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jason D'Allison

PC Advisor (UK)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

This Holiday Season, protect yourself and your loved ones with the best. Buy now for Holiday Savings!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill


I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?