Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Toolbox: Inkjet Printers
What you need to know about photo printers today
My first inkjet printer had two ink tanks: one containing the black ink and one containing all three color inks. The advantage of this system is that you only have two tanks to deal with. The disadvantage is that if you print, say, a lot of scenic shots with sky areas that use up the cyan ink first, you have to toss a lot of good yellow and magenta ink when you replace the out-of-cyan tank. Today, most photo printers utilize separate tanks for each color. Thus, you need replace only the color that has been depleted, especially economical when your printer uses five or more colored inks.
The printer is actually the least expensive part of desktop printing; ink and paper costs can quickly exceed what you paid for your printer. Printer manufacturers' inks are always consistent and match the printing profiles. Third-party inks can be an alternative; they're less expensive, but you'll probably have to do a lot of testing to make them work their best. Also, keep in mind that using third-party inks can void your printer's warranty.
Some photographers use a second printer set specifically for black-and-white printing and equip it with special grayscale inks, which are available only from third-party suppliers. This way, they don't mess with their color printer at all and get the best of both worlds. On the other hand, the new photo inkjets that use multiple black inks turn out great monochrome prints without the need for a second printer.
Inks are only part of the equation. A wide variety of media is available for photo-quality prints. See our companion article on printing papers for a full account ("Choosing Photo Paper," page 60).
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