Getting the Most out of your Printer Ink Cartridges

Getting the Most out of your Printer Ink CartridgesPrinter ink is expensive. Over time ink costs can dwarf the original cost of the printer. Every time you have to purchase more ink you take a hit to your wallet. Then before you know it, the printer is telling you you’re low on ink again.

Below are a few tips for the savvy consumer to get the most out of their ink cartridges. Follow them and over time your ink cartridges will last longer and you will get to keep more of that money in your wallet.


Shake your cartridges before you install them in the printer. It will increase the quality of your prints.  You have no idea how long ink or toner has been sitting idle before you install it in your printer. As a result, the particles tend to settle.  Gently shaking your cartridge will mix the contents again. Your printer does this same thing automatically while it warms up.  The noise you hear coming from your laser printer is it churning up the toner.  In inkjet printers the stir is produced from the cartridges moving back and forth before printing.

For the highest quality prints, it is recommended to use up a cartridge within six months. Beyond this the ink may start to dry out and separate, leading to poorer quality prints.

Making it Last

Set printer to draft mode. Most of the printers on the market have this option, although depending on the model they may be called something like econo-mode or ink saver. Use draft mode for your everyday printing needs. The print quality will be a little lighter, but still quite legible.

In ‘normal’ mode, the print cartridge makes multiple passes over the same area spraying a coat of ink each time. This leads to bolder characters. In ‘draft’ mode the cartridge head makes one pass and continues on. You not only save ink, but benefit from a quicker print job as well.

This can save you 10-20% on your ink, depending on whether you are switching from ‘normal’ or ‘best’ mode. However, use the ‘normal’ or ‘best’ mode when you need to make a good impression.  These settings provide a crisper print.

Loosen up the ink. When the print notice tells you that your ink cartridge needs replacing, remove the cartridge from the printer and give it a gentle shake. Or better yet, move it from side to side and up and down. Many printers will warn you that your ink cartridge is empty when you actually have ink left.  Shaking the cartridge releases ink that might be stuck inside. This one trick will work a few times before the ink is actually used up.

Save your color. Use your color cartridges for when you need color. Even when you are printing in black, your printer may be using a small amount of color as well. As your printer receives the signal from your computer, it tries to match the color exactly.  If your print job only needs black, get around this wasted use of color by setting your printer settings to print only in black and white or gray scale.

Use a third party service for photos. This is a quick way to drain your ink supply.  Unless you need that photo right away you may be better off having your photos printed elsewhere. Many places allow you to upload your pictures online and pick them up within the hour. Or they give you the option of having them delivered by mail.

Carla Eaton has a B.A. in Mass Media and writes on the topics of business, technology, and design. She currently blogs for, who specializes in HP ink cartridges.


  1. If you find a revolutionary cheap ink cartridge, go ahead and use it! You’re doing nothing wrong. That’s the beauty of it all. You can find lower price points if you search hard enough.

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