Epson 1400 Ink Alternatives

June 28, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

I do my own printing on an Epson 1400, wide format, color printer. While I am generally very happy with this machine, the cost of Epson inks has always been a source of irritation. The cartridges (there are six) cost $20 each and contain 10ml of ink. If you do the math this works out to about $7,000 a gallon!

 

The cartridges do last pretty well and you can probably print thirty 11x14 prints on a set, which works out to only a few dollars per print. But the printer wastes a lot of ink with unnecessary head cleanings and there is always the muffed print that has to be re-done. Add these factors in and suddenly you are looking a four to five dollars in ink for every print. This is kind of expensive.

 

The alternative is to use third party, refillable ink cartridges. I do this and the cost is about one fortieth – yes, ONE FORTIETH – the cost of Epson ink. Using refillable cartridges, in fact, is so cheap that you really stop worrying about ink costs altogether. There is a downside, however.

 

My preferred ink has been D2 ink from MIS Associates, www.inksupply.com. Unfortunately, I discovered that this ink fades rather quickly. Left in bright room, images will turn nearly completely blue in about two years. Epson ink does not do this. It is very light-fast ink.

 

I was very pleased, then, when Jon Cone, www.inkjetmall.com, announced his new, long-life, dye ink – InkThrift CL. This ink is somewhat more expensive than MIS but it still a fraction of the cost of Epson ink. But how good is it?

Working with Mark McCormick-Goodhart at Aardenburg Imaging, www.aardenburg-imaging.com, I had been able to get the MIS ink tested using Aardenburg's highly scientific fade test process. The results proved what I already knew – MIS ink does not last well. The full report on this ink is available at http://www.aardenburg-imaging.com/cgi-bin/mrk/_4777c2hvd19kb2NfbGlzdC80.

 

I contacted Mark about running the same tests on the new Cone ink. Unfortunately, Mark has stopped offering this service. I decided to run my own unscientific test on the Cone ink and see how it fared compared to Epson and MIS. My methodology was simple: print two copies of a test image using the same ink and paper. Put one copy in drawer and hang the other copy in an east facing window that receives direct sunlight for about two hours a day plus indirect light for the rest of the day.

I hung test prints for MIS, Cone and Epson on March 6, 2014 and took them down on June 28, 2014. I scanned the stored copy beside the exposed copy and you can see the results here, http://homershannon.zenfolio.com/epsoninktests. I am disappointed to say that the Cone InkThrift CL looks about the same as the MIS. The Epson Claria, which Aardenburg also tested and proved to be excellent, looks good.

 

This goes to show that you get what you pay for. Purchase expensive inks and you get good longevity. Purchase cheap inks and you will be disappointed with their light fastness. This is not to say that you shouldn't use these inks – I still do. But, you shouldn't use these inks if you are offering your prints for sale unless you are letting your buyers know that is what you are doing and price your product appropriately. For fine art quality prints you have to use Epson ink.

 

Still, I can't quite get past that $7,000 a gallon price... people think gasoline is expensive at $3.75!


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