Printing photos

Cheap ink cartridges

Written by Gail Bjork

Inexpensive, third-party ink cartridges and refill ink may save you money when printing your own photos. Find out if the savings is really worth it in the long run.

Off brand ink cartridgesWith the high price of ink cartridges for photo quality printers, it is very tempting to purchase cheap inkjet cartridges made by third-party vendors.

But should you?

Third party ink cartridges save money, but…

Studies indicate that third-party inks can indeed save money and make prints visually on par with inks made by the printer manufacturer. However, not every brand did.

Some clogged the print heads and/or produced poor prints from high resolution images. There is also concern about how long the prints will last when using cheap inkjet cartridges.

Permanence can be an issue

Permanence Ratings of name brand inks vary but some can last up to 300 years! Archival quality inks printed on archival photo paper give the longest permanence. In addition, longevity depends on the manner in which photos are stored. They last longest when stored in an archival-quality photo album.

Some third-party inks, while less expensive, only had Permanence Ratings of between one and five years. They may also fade faster.

Inexpensive and refilled ink cartridges are often advertised as having quality equal to name brands. But sometimes the claims exclude the permanence of printed images.

So think twice before buying cheap ink or ink cartridges. In fact, if the longevity of photos is important to you, do some research about printers and the type of ink they use, before buying. This information can be found at a manufacturer’s website.

Research about photo and ink longevity

For more information on this subject, visit the Wilhelm Imaging Research website. The company conducts research on the stability and preservation of traditional and digital color photographs and motion pictures. They publish brand name-specific permanence data for desktop and large-format inkjet printers and other digital printing devices.

Besides their own research, the site posts reprints of articles published in respected magazines about inkjet print permanence.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.