Since acquiring my HP printer over a year ago, I’ve made hundreds of prints and gone through multiple rolls of paper. This gives me a pretty big data set on which to compute my actual printing costs and the numbers work out to approximately $1.76 per square foot. This cost can be broken down into ink, print heads, and paper as follows:
|Ink||$0.83 / sq. ft.|
|Print heads||$0.05 / sq. ft.|
|Paper||$0.88 / sq. ft.|
|Total||$1.76 / sq. ft.|
These numbers are based on the following assumptions
- Ink Usage. I print on the best detail settings and use the gloss enhancer. Averaged over hundreds of square feet of prints, my ink usage comes to 1.65 ml/sq. ft. A $130 ml ink cartridge costs about $65 dollars which works out to $0.83 per square foot.
- Print Head Costs. I haven’t yet had to replace any of my print heads but they are rated to last at least 2500 ml. Each print head costs about $30 or about 5 cents per sq. ft.
- Paper. Paper costs varies by type, but a 24″ wide by 50′ long roll of professional satin costs about $0.88 per square foot. Premium matte is significantly cheaper at $0.30 per sq. ft., but fine art papers like HP’s Hahnemühle or canvas run nearly $2 per sq. ft.
Note that these numbers don’t include adjustments for
- Extra costs for printing proofs.
- Usage for calibrating the printer and profiling papers.
- Paper wastage from the print size not exactly matching the paper width.
HP’s numbers for printing costs are similar, but not surprisingly come out lower. For satin / semi-gloss paper they report an overall cost that varies from $1.46 to $1.63 per sq. ft.
Printing Costs at Commercial Labs
To put the numbers in perspective here are the costs for using a commercial lab (not including shipping or tax):
- West Coast Imaging: $10.80 / sq. ft.
- MPix: $7.50 / sq. ft.
- White House Custom Color: $7.58 / sq. ft.
- Adorama: $4.20 / sq. ft.