Picking The Best Ink And Paper For Your Inkjet Printer

Your Cheat Sheet For The Best Prints

Isn't it odd that in a world where everything seems to be stored in digital form, we still wind up printing so much content to paper? Computers get all of the glory, but everyone still owns a printer.

And yet, you probably don't put much thought into the printer you use or the settings you choose beyond picking between color or greyscale right before you click the Print button.

Of course, that all changes when you're standing in the printer supply isle, cursing the prices of paper and ink, right? 

Even if you only occasionally print photos, invoices, and emails, you can easily spend $200 a year on inkjet printing supplies. That's enough to buy an entirely new printer, which is why you should carefully pick those components.

Cost isn't the only factor at play here, either. Your purchasing decisions have a real impact on the quality of your print, and that fact isn't just limited to photos. Ink and paper can change the quality of essays, stories, and articles comprised purely of text.

Whether you're just curious about printing technology, just want more for bang your buck, or were particularly entertained by Tom's Hardware Benchmarks Inkjet Printer Paper!, we're covering the basics of what you need to know to get the most out of your printing tasks.

Consider Paper And Ink

Producing high-quality prints requires the right paper and the right ink. You can't get by with just one or the other.

When you look at something on a computer monitor, light is passing directly from the screen to your eyes. Whether the lights are on or off, you still see what's being displayed.

The same can't be said for a reading a paper in the dark. Unless you have night vision, reading in the dark is almost impossible. If you use an alternate light source to illuminate your content, however, you change the way that paper looks. This is why your printer uses cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK; the K stands for key), whereas computer monitors employ red, green, and blue (RGB) subpixels.

  • mayankleoboy1
    the most interesting thing in this article was the B&W sunlight photo on the third page. awesome photo. can we have some more?
  • cmcghee358
    I'm not gonna lie, I didn't read this. I read probably 90% of Toms articles because even though they are technical, they are still interesting. The title of this simply turned me off.
  • kalidasa
    Thanks for telling me how I can find my own quality inks and paper for printing. Now I can spend hundreds of dollars testing out the "thousands", as you put it, of third-party suppliers of printing materials.

    paraphrase of this article: We don't endorse buying first party, brand-name inks and paper; we're just here to tell you the extremes you can go through to find an alternative! p.s. HP is great!
  • bennaye
    clearly someone was bored at Tom's...
  • iam2thecrowe
    there is only one simple answer to "what is the best ink/paper for my printer". The answer is only the manufacturer of the printer makes the correct ink that and paper suitable for the printer that will yield consistantly good results for photos and prevent the head from getting clogged. The manufacturer pre-sets settings in the driver to deliver the right amount of a particular ink to a particular weight/absorbancy of paper. Use those presets with other paper/ink and you will get varied results. When you work fixing printers for a few years you will understand this is fact, not just manufacturers trying to sell overpriced ink. And you also have to remember that overpriced ink is there to make up for the losses they make on low end $50 printers.
  • TonyJ
    No mention of Ilford paper and Hobbicolor ink. Very basic overview... Try the photo printing forums for better advice.
  • I switched from using vendor inks a long time ago due to the massive cost of a full set of 8 cartridges (approx £25 each) and as most of my printing is general documentation the extra cost cannot be justified. When the printer isn't used for a few weeks/months the heads do clog but this also happened with the vendor inks and wasting the expensive ink to run the cleaning program and the test page is just painful to watch, this is a fraction of the cost with the non-vendor inks.
    Fade can be an issue on the photos that are left in direct sunlight (conservatory) but there is always the option to take the image to a kiosk for a better quality print, or simply print a different picture for the frame.
    I don't keep large collections of printed photos in albums so I guess I might think differently if I did.

  • mayankleoboy1
    i feel this article was just to fill the gap between something big thats coming up tomorrow or by monday.
    could it be BD? you guys probably have a sample but it must be under NDA
  • Arbie
    More than print quality, my biggest problem is that the cartidges go dry = empty all by themselves, just sitting there for a few weeks. This is in a Canon ip-4000 printer. Leakage of so much ink would be obvious, so it isn't that. It just disappears. I live in a dry climate, but all of the ink including pigment is gone so it doesn't seem to be evaporation. It's as if the cartridges had simply been used up, which I know hasn't been done since only I have access to the printer.

    ==> Does anyone else have this problem? Put in all new cartridges, print two or three pages, let it sit for several weeks and then find one or two cartridges almost empty? BTW I'm using cheap ebay cartridges, and don't plan to spend the money it would take to install a set of Canon units unless that's known to be the cure. I can't remember how the first set of (Canon) cartridges fared.

    Thx - Arbie
  • TonyJ
    Arbie...my biggest problem is that the cartidges go dry = empty all by themselves... - Arbie
    Make sure to turn your printer off when you aren't using it. If it cycles on and off with your computer, it will cycle through its cleaning process each time. That could be your problem...