How much does it cost to print? Here’s how to calculate it

Image of piggy bank and question marks over some prints

‘How much does it cost to create a print?’ This is one of the most common questions we get asked. But there is no straight forward rule for calculating the cost, as there are so many variables that will affect it:

  • The paper type (Digital Photo or Fine Art)
  • The paper size (A4, A3 etc.)
  • The type of image you’re printing (sparse white arctic vs dark jungle)
  • The size of the cartridges in your printer
  • The use of custom ICC profiles
  • The amount of wastage (paper and ink)
  • The number of head cleans performed

However, we have created a formula to try and help you get the most accurate costs for your prints.

How to calculate the cost of the ink

Over many years of printing at PermaJet, we have averaged the amount of ink used for a square metre of paper to be approximately 13ml. This average is based on using a range of different media types as well as a variety of different images and ink coverage.

We also know that a square metre of paper is the equivalent of 16 x A4 sheets. We’re going to use these figures to calculate the ink used per A4 print:

  1. Firstly, calculate the cost of your ink per ml by dividing the price of the cartridge by its volume. e.g. If a 14.4ml cartridge has a retail value of £16.99, then £16.99 ÷ 14.4ml = £1.18 per ml.
  2. You would then multiply the price per ml by 13, which would give you the total cost of ink per m2 of paper e.g. £1.18 x 13 = £15.34.
  3. Finally, divide that figure by 16 to get the cost of ink per A4 sheet e.g. £15.34 ÷ 16 = £0.96p per A4 sheet.

To work out the costs for your own ink and paper, the formula would be (cost of ink per ml x 13)/16 = average cost per A4 print.

One tip to maximise the ink usage and help you save money is to make sure you use custom ICC profiles and the correct media setting for your paper. This will ensure you use the optimal amount of ink required for the paper type.

How to calculate the cost of the paper

Calculating the cost of the paper is far easier. Simply divide the cost of the pack by the number of sheets.

e.g. if a 25 sheet pack of A4 PermaJet Oyster 271 has a retail price of £16.96, then £16.96 ÷ 25 = £0.68p per sheet.

So, to get the total cost you would then add the ink and paper together. In this case an A4 print would be 96p of ink + 68p of paper = £1.64 total.

Allowing for wastage

As we all know, not every print is a success for a variety of reasons:

  • Wrong ICC profile applied
  • Wrong paper size selected
  • Wrong paper used
  • Banding
  • Cartridge failure
  • Head strikes

Ideally, you need to take this wastage of both ink and paper into account to get a more accurate print cost, especially if you’re trying to calculate a price for selling your prints.

We suggest adding 15 – 20% of the initial cost to get a final figure. By adding a 20% wastage figure this would make the total print cost approximately £1.97 in this case.

We hope this formula will help you to figure out your own print costs going forward. If you need any more advice on paper and printing, feel free to get in touch!

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