5 Best Practices for Color Printing

Submitted by Mary Shamburger on Thu, 05/25/2023 - 13:23
People stand around a computer waiting to print a color image.

We all want our color prints to look sharp, but it can be difficult to figure out which color combinations and printer paper options to use. 

Even when you perform a color printing test before scheduling a large print job, you are still wasting money on ink or toner—and those dollars really add up if your company prints significant amounts of marketing material.

A 2014 student-led study revealed that Chanel No. 5 perfume costs $38 per ounce, while the equivalent amount of Hewlett-Packard printer ink can cost up to $75. 

This means that printer ink is two times more expensive than designer perfume.

Let’s break this down a little bit: say you want to decide which expensive perfume or cologne to wear for a big meeting. You have several perfume options to choose from, but you want to try them out before deciding which one to use. 

You would probably lightly spritz a small amount of each perfume on tiny strips of paper to consider different options before deciding on your perfume for the day, right?

What you probably wouldn’t do is drench three or four sheets of paper in different perfumes, wasting ounces of expensive product and hundreds of dollars to try out different scents before choosing a combination to wear.

But that’s what many of us do when we print color documents. 

Sometimes it is difficult to decide on color, font, and image type until you’ve seen what it looks like on paper—and this means wasting hundreds of dollars on ink and toner.

Luckily, there are many ways to save money, while also achieving good color printing results. At STPT, we have been helping customers navigate the intricacies of color printing for almost 40 years, and we want to use our industry expertise to save you time and money on color printing.

Keep reading to learn more about the top 5 best practices for color printing.

What Is CMYK?

Before we get to the color printing tips, you may want to learn more about printer ink and toner. 

CMYK refers to the four colors of toner or ink commonly used during the printing process: Cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black). 

The CMYK color model is a subtractive color model, which means that colors are added to a white background to remove other colors from the visual field, and this type of color is commonly used in laser printers.

To learn more about CMYK color, CMYK vs. RGB color, and color printing terminology, check out CMYK Meaning: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

If you already know all you need to know about that, then let’s jump in:

5 Best Practices for Color Printing

1.    Save Money By Choosing the Right Font and Text Size

If your printer isn’t setup on a maintenance plan and you are buying toner cartridge replacements on your own, then it matters how much toner is used on your page. 

To save money on color printing, it is a good idea to look at the font you are using for your prints. It is also a good idea to check margins and font and image sizing before printing any documents.

Thinner, smaller fonts can save money on ink. For example, a study found that using Garamond font with thinner strokes could help a school district reduce its ink consumption by 24%, and save as much as $21,000 annually.

2.    Make Sure You’re Using The Right Printer Settings for Color Printing

If the print job you’re working on doesn’t strictly require color printing, you can save money by making sure to print in black-and-white. 

If you have a color printer and don’t set the printer to print only in black-and-white for a print job, then it will use your CMYK toner—even if it looks black and white on the computer. This is why it is important to print in black-and-white on your print driver when you don’t need to print in color. Doing this can save you hundreds of dollars every year.

Print drivers also have different settings for prints based on print quality. Most printers default to toner saving options. While this may save you money, it will also affect the color quality of your prints. 

Make sure your printer’s settings are set for high-resolution printing when printing important color documents or photos. The higher the dpi (dots per inch) resolution on your printer, the better your color prints will look. 

3.    Choose the Right Printer Paper for Color Printing Best Results

Paper brightness is measured on a scale of 0-100%, with 100% representing the brightest paper. The brighter the paper, the more vibrant your color impressions and photos are going to be, so it is important to check the brightness level of the printer paper before printing in color. Some users also prefer glossy sheet paper for color printing.
If you want a high-quality photo printed, you may need to use a photo printer or have a pro do it. Printers dedicated specifically to photo printing produce better quality images than typical home printers. 

Check the dpi, or dots per inch, limit for your printer to make sure your printer can produce the photo quality you need. The more dots per inch your printer can handle, the more visible and detailed your prints will be.

4.    Select the Right Color Printing Ink Option: CMYK to Pantone and More

Choose appropriate ink and toner for your machine and the print job. 

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s actually a lot of variation when it comes to toner and ink options. 

For example, if you require a special color option for branding—like Home Depot Orange or Coca-Cola Red, then pantone color would be a good option.

If you’re printing something that is especially bright or neon in tone, then using CMYK+ toner would ensure your print quality matches your needs.

5.    Save Money With a Cost Per Page Service Agreement

If your business does a lot of printing, then consider signing up for a cost per page service agreement with your print vendor.

This kind of agreement allows you to print using as much ink or toner on a page as you want. Instead of paying based upon use of color ink or toner, the cost is set at a standard per printed page, with all aspects of printing (including printer costs, service, and supplies) included in one monthly invoice. 

A service agreement would be a good option if your business does a significant amount of color printing because it offers significant cost savings for users. 

The Best Color Printing Practices Should Match Your Business Needs 

The best practice for color printing is deciding on strategy. What is more important for you or your business: saving money or print quality?

While these two things are not mutually exclusive, it is important to understand how you’re using color and whether your color printing practices match your business priorities.

You can produce quality prints and save money too, but you may need to make adjustments to your color printing practices.

To learn more about color printing best practices: Reach Out to Us

Our printing specialists can help you achieve the results you want!