This article may puzzle you. We represent a printing company, why we would like to give you advice about printing at home?
The answer is simple, we don’t want you to spend money on things you can do at home.
Printing your artworks yourself is not as easy as you think and you need to be aware of the pros and cons.
- The main pro is convenience. Printing your own photos at home is a convenient and quick job that you can produce without needing to leave your home.
- Another advantage is that printing at home is cheaper but, is this true?
- Quality, you apparently believe that printing at home will assure the quality of the job, we will analyse this too.
There are things to consider; the relation between investment and potential profit and the kind of thing you want to print at home should be carefully considered.
Starting by thinking about what you would like to print: Postcards, artworks and stickers typically represent the most standard items.
Keeping in mind that you will be naturally looking for high-quality prints that will make your copies as amazing as the original and making a profit at the same time, these are the things you should consider:
Investment on the equipment and supplies:
The printer will be your fundamental tool. There are many you can rely on.
The quality of the prints and the size is what we always consider. But usually, we forget to consider the kind of inks the printer will be using.
Naturally, every advantage of our printer will make it more expensive.
Let’s start by making postcards. They are not big. Typically, you will make two on an A4 paper.
All printers can print A4. But you must look for a photo printer. The best photo printers will produce high-quality prints of your high-resolution images. While just about any printer can reproduce hard copies of your photos, it’s only these photo printers that are up to the task, delivering prints that are practically photo lab quality. A printer like Canon Pixma TR4550 or Epson Expression Photo XP-970 will do the job. They cost between £ 150.- to £ 250.-
Usually, these kind of printers use DYE based ink, which is ok for your postcards.
What? Hold on!
DYE, what is that?
As we mentioned, we usually forget about inks. Essentially, there are two kinds of inks: DYE and Pigment ink.
What is pigment ink?
Pigment-based inks are made up of a collection of solid particles that come from pigment powder. Comparatively to dye-based inks, the solid particles of pigment-based inks result in less smudging and longer-lasting presence.
What is dye ink?
Since the beginning of inkjet printers, dye-based inks have been around. Using a dye dissolved in water, along with various optical compounds, dye-based inks create a brilliant and vibrant colour on the page. They also result in sharper text fonts too. However, due to the thinner and less durable nature of dye-based inks, they will fade rather quickly when exposed to too much sunlight.
• Pigment ink delivers longevity.
• Pigment ink is better prepared for sunlight.
• Pigment ink works better with glossy paper.
• Pigment ink has less smudging potential.
• Dye ink produces vibrant colours.
• Dye ink is cheaper than pigment ink.
If you want to know more about inks, please read this article: Pigment Vs Dye Ink: Battle Of The Inks
Now we got the printer, is that all?
No matter the ink printer you buy, you must be aware of the critical problem all these have: clogging.
Unless you use the printer regularly, the inks will dry and obstruct the print ink head. Sometimes you will be able to clean them, but most of the time you will not. Replacing the print ink head is as expensive as buying a new printer.
As a result, do you think that you are going to produce enough prints to keep your printer working?
The “invisible” cost of keeping your printer “in shape”
Let’s say you do not have enough orders to print every day. This is ok, it will happen at the beginning of your business. But you will need to print something anyway and also run some maintenance cycles.
Do you know how this cycles works? It works by circulating the ink in the system. Yes, even if you are not printing your postcards, the printer will nevertheless be using inks.
But where does the ink go? To the maintenance waste ink disposal tank, also called “potty tank”. And when the potty tank is full, the printer is gone. Usually, home printers will not allow you to change the waste tank.
A lot of ink, and money, wasted.
When you buy a printer they come with inks. But the cartridges are not the standard ones, they are small cartridges. They are to fill in the printer system with inks and allow you to make some prints, but not more.
Furthermore, you will be using the high quality paper you purchased for postcards to keep your printer in shape. It may not be as expensive as the ink but you do not want to use low-quality paper for this as, if the paper is too bad, it may also damage the printer ink head.
A reasonable investment would be for you to buy a not too expensive print. The ink will not be too expensive if it is a DYE, and you can utilize it for many other things at home other than just for postcards.
Can I use it for something else?
Controversial question as we will now need to consider ethical matters too.
You may want to print copies of your artworks to sell them.
The printer is good, so the quality of the prints will be excellent too. But when you are selling a copy of your artworks, you are not selling just a brilliant print.
Your customer would like to keep your artworks for a long time. Can you provide this?
No, you cannot!
You can “cheat” your print by adding a layer of UV protection. It will help, but not too much.
You can indeed use Acid-free cotton-based paper, such as the famous Hahnemühle, Canson or similar, but be aware that they guarantee longevity only if you print following their advice, which means by using pigment ink, and your printer is for dye ink.
Printing postcards are ok as they end up in the bin after a while, unfortunately (although we offer a postcard print service with an advantage).
But printing artworks to be framed and hanging on a wall, may be exposed to the sunlight, it is a different matter.
Will you sell your artworks under this condition, and expose yourself as an artist and a businessman/woman, to have a problem with your customer? The print will fade in time (short time depending on the environmental circumstances), your customer will not be happy and probably will not recommend you.
Furthermore, you will not be capable to offer a “Certificate of Quality” as your print will not comply with any reasonable standard.
Naturally, you will not be qualified to offer a “Limited Edition Certificate” either, as like before, the quality of the print will not be enough. Also because an external company should warranty that you are truly releasing the copies you said and no more.
So yes, you can print copies of your artworks. The quality of the image will be outstanding; the quality of the print itself, not so. But it will depend on the market you work with, if the product you are offering is suitable enough.
Can you solve this problem? Obviously, you can, but it will be necessary to invest more money.
You need to buy a photo, pigment ink-based, printer. The most competitive printer in this category will be from £ 650.-.
But remember the inks will be more expensive too. Not only because the inks themselves are more expensive, but also because these printers use more colours, such as specific blacks and magentas.
Keep in mind you will need to keep the printer working regularly; remember the invisible costs too.
But now you will be able to offer, not only a beautiful print, but a very good and long-lasting one too (if you use Cotton based, Archival paper).
Moreover, you can print stickers now. They are typically based on a plastic/vinyl substrate. You can print them using pigment inks but not using DYE inks.
You would be able to offer open prints, but not “Limited Editions” as they need to be controlled by an external entity.
This is my opinion/advice; you should have a proper market already before considering investing in this kind of printer.
The size of your prints
This is another thing to consider as “Invisible Costs.”
With your printer, you would be able to print the sizes you want as long as your printer allows it.
But papers come in standard sizes, usually based on A sizes. If you want to print a standard/traditional postcard, the size is 6x4in. You will find that you will need to cut your A4 paper to the size you want. As you will probably not be going to have any use for the leftover paper, the cost of printing a traditional postcard will be, for you, the same as printing on an A4 paper.
This is not the only problem you will suffer with the papers. Proper storage is vital. If your paper gets damp, you will not be able to use it.
Unfortunately, the desition is up to you. Right now you can recognize what to consider to print your artworks at home.
You know you can print some things with a little investment.
I will start with postcards and simple open prints. Develop the market and, in the future, consider a substantial investment if you want to keep printing everything at home.
One last thing to consider: If you buy a pigment ink-based printer you will also be able to enter into the sublimation business too (please, unless you have a great experience, do not think to convert your DYE printer into a Pigment ink one, it will damage your printer very quick)