Post-processing and Printing Tips

The Ultimate Way To Print Your Photos At Home

The art of printing your own photos at home holds numerous benefits, especially for photography enthusiasts. It not only helps fine-tune your skills in capturing an image but also boosts your abilities in post-processing. I’ve extensively talked about the significance of this practice in one of my previous articles. But, one might wonder, why isn’t it more prevalent among photographers?

Two factors stand out – the cost of achieving a quality print and the technical complications that often come with it. Perhaps you’ve ventured into this territory before and, finding it too daunting, decided to leave it behind. But fear not, over the years, through trial and error with numerous printing methods, I’ve garnered ample knowledge to guide you through these challenges.

Epson L805 Tanks

Note: The solutions that I provide here are specifically tailored for those keen on regularly printing at home. To make the process as clear as possible, I’ll be mentioning specific brands and products that I’ve found reliable through my experience. We’re aiming for a sweet spot – striking a balance between the price per print and its quality. The goal here is to allow you to print your images at the lowest possible cost but at a quality that closely rivals professional lab prints. While I won’t delve too deeply into technical details in this article, I will offer general information that you should find practical and helpful as a photographer. After all, there are countless in-depth articles out there discussing the technical side of printing. This guide, instead, is designed to be as practical as possible. However, it’s worth mentioning that printing for commercial reasons could differ in certain aspects. So, let’s jump right in and tackle these issues head-on. Your journey to high-quality at-home prints starts here!

Selecting the Right Printer: Inkjet For The Win

Among the various printing technologies out there, inkjet printers stand out as the most suitable for home printing. But be forewarned, they come with their fair share of challenges, particularly concerning their print-heads and cartridge costs. They demand consistent use; leave them idle, and you run the risk of the print-nozzles getting clogged, rendering your printer useless. Clearing out these clogs can turn into quite the headache.

The workaround? Simply print a full-color page once a week. Considering the benefits I outlined in this article, printing one image weekly shouldn’t seem tedious if you’re genuinely invested in photography. It can be any picture from your collection, not just your most recent masterpiece.

Inkjet printers come in different qualities and types. Many are designed for general use, while some boast photography-grade capabilities and are usually marketed as photo-quality printers. Epson and Canon are highly recommended in photography circles. While there isn’t a hard and fast rule defining what a photo-quality printer is, they usually have more than 4 individual inks (up to 12 different cartridges), a resolution above 4800 x 2400 DPI, and typically use pigment-based inks since they last longer than dye-based inks.

The size of your prints is another critical consideration. It directly impacts the upfront cost and the amount of ink consumption. Personally, I find the A4 size to be perfect for home printing. Smaller prints allow me to evaluate my images better, and I can fit more prints on a wall or stand. But remember, this is just my preference.

Here are a few examples of high-quality printers:

  • Canon: Their Image PROGRAF PRO series, PIXMA PRO series, and some PIXMA products (the labels vary across regions) are excellent options. The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 series is their flagship product, delivering beautiful, top-notch results. But keep in mind, aside from the hefty initial price, replacing all 12 cartridges can set you back more than $500. And not all the ink is used for your prints. A significant amount is consumed for the printer heads’ self-cleaning (a feature you cannot disable).
  • Epson: Their Surecolor, Stylus Photo, and Artisan series are their high-quality offerings. But don’t be swayed by the fancy names; they don’t translate to real-world usage.

For home use, I swear by my Epson L805. And when it comes to prints that I sell to my clients, the Canon PRO-1000 is my go-to.

Epson L805 TanksThe Ink Dilemma: Finding a Cost-Effective, Quality Solution

Ink is where most people stumble. Traditionally, manufacturers provide ink in cartridges. These cartridges contain only a few milliliters of ink that deplete rapidly. This system was designed as a recurring revenue stream for manufacturers — a customer buys a printer once, but the consumable parts need constant replacing, much like a subscription-based smartphone app nowadays.

For non-photography uses, it’s possible to circumvent this mechanism. By replacing the ink-feeding mechanism with ink tanks and using third-party inks, the costs can be dramatically reduced. This method is commonly known as CISS (Continuous Ink Supply System). However, I strongly discourage this approach for photography. Third-party inks often have different color shades, which can significantly impact the print. You need a consistent outcome each time you print, and third-party inks just don’t guarantee that.

As users began embracing the CISS method and the market for inkjet printers shrunk, manufacturers responded by creating their own CISS printers, branded as Ecotank, Super-tank, Smart tank, and so on. While CISS reduces ink costs by up to 90%, most of these printers are intended for general use and not up to par for photography.

Among all the home printers I’m familiar with, only Epson offers a photo quality solution with a CISS system. The L800 series is suitable for A4-size prints, and the L1800 series is for A3-size prints. These printers feature 6 ink colors, a resolution of 5,760 x 1,440 dpi, and use pigment-based inks. To my surprise, the image quality rivals much more expensive systems. The downside? Due to marketing strategies, they’re not globally available. They’re available in Europe and Asia but hard to come by in the US. Despite this, I believe they’re worth the effort.

How do I know this? Beyond my subjective experience, I also rely on the data. I use an X-rite color calibrator (color calibrators measure color values numerically and are used to set color profiles). This device can measure both monitor and print colors. When printing the measurement charts using this printer and checking the color values with the calibrator, the wide color gamut these printers can reproduce on quality paper is remarkable.

You can purchase all 6 original Epson inks for as low as around $50, and each ink bottle contains 70ml of ink, which can last for months. As long as you use the printer regularly (i.e., maintain it), you can expect consistent results over an extended period, barring the occasional need for re-calibration. Each print on an A4 size sheet will only cost you a few cents.

The Art of Selecting Paper: Finding the Right Medium for Your Prints

Canon PapersChoosing the right paper is just as vital as the ink and printer you use. Each type of paper possesses its own unique characteristics and tint, which will affect the final product of your image. An A4-size photographic paper can range from a few cents to as high as 10 dollars per sheet. Notably, photo papers come in different weights and finishes, and they each have their own capacity for reproducing color gamuts and tones. Additionally, each paper carries an inherent tint, with some better suited to warm temperature pictures, while others excel for cooler tones.

Reputable brands to consider include Ilford, Hahnemühle, Fotospeed, and others. It’s worth experimenting with different brands to discover which you prefer and which best complements your style of photography.

My personal preference for home printing is Canon papers. Specifically, the Pro Platinum series offers a glossy finish, the Premium Matte provides a matte finish, and the Pro Luster presents a semi-gloss finish. These papers typically cost less than 1 dollar (for A4 size) depending on the supplier, and they consistently produce satisfying results. For commercial purposes, I tend to gravitate towards Ilford Gallery papers. Although they are more expensive, they deliver superior results, which I find crucial when selling my work.

If you’re interested in wide-format prints, roll papers can be a cost-effective choice, with certain printers like the Epson Surecolor supporting this format.

Now, if you’re looking to add a unique touch to your prints, you might want to consider Translucent Vellum Paper. This type of paper is semi-transparent, with a slightly rough texture, often used for overlays and inserts. Its delicate, semi-transparent nature can create a dreamy, vintage look, providing an extra layer of depth and dimension to your prints. Remember, the type of paper you use is part of the creative process. It’s not just about capturing a beautiful image; it’s also about presenting it in the best possible way.

Choosing the right paper is as much an art as it is a science. You must strike a balance between quality and cost, all while taking into consideration the unique characteristics of the paper that will bring your prints to life. The paper is the final touch, the physical medium that transforms your digital art into a tangible form, so choose wisely and don’t be afraid to experiment!

The Hidden Costs of Printing and the Ultimate Solution

When considering the total cost of printing at home, it’s essential to account for some less-obvious factors. Sure, the initial price of the printer is an apparent expenditure, but the price of the cartridges is a cost that will continue to occur over time. As I mentioned earlier, it’s essential to remember that ink isn’t used solely for printing your images. A significant amount of ink goes into nozzle cleaning each time you turn your printer on or off, and at specific intervals while the printer is in use. This regular maintenance contributes to the overall cost of operating your printer.

But, one of the sneakiest costs of printing comes in the form of test prints. As you tweak and perfect your edits, you might find yourself printing multiple versions until you achieve the desired result. By using a calibrator and color profiles, you can greatly reduce this cost. Although a calibrator capable of profiling both the print and the screen will set you back around $300, it’s a worthy investment. This one-time purchase can enhance the quality of your prints for years to come, leading to far fewer test prints, less wasted ink, and less wasted paper.


In conclusion, the main reason prints can be so expensive is the price of inks. While many factors contribute to the overall cost, the price of ink is the most significant recurring cost. As a result, finding ways to reduce the cost of ink is crucial for photographers who want to print their work at home.

A great solution to this problem is the Continuous Ink Supply System (CISS) by Epson, specifically the L800 and L1800 series, which include all sub-models (like L805). This system reduces ink costs by a significant margin, making home printing more accessible. However, it wasn’t necessarily a favorable move for the company as it reduced its revenue from ink cartridge sales. As a result, these models can be hard to find, especially in certain regions. Nevertheless, the effort to locate and purchase one of these models is undoubtedly worthwhile considering the cost-saving benefits.

By understanding and implementing these insights, you can make your home printing journey much more affordable and efficient. Don’t let the initial costs deter you – with the right equipment and a little savvy, you can bring your digital work to life in beautiful, high-quality prints.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which is the best printer for home use?

Choosing the best printer for home use, particularly for photographers, depends largely on your specific needs and budget. For high-quality, lab-standard prints, you might consider options from both Canon and Epson. Canon’s Image PROGRAF PRO series and PIXMA Pro series, for example, are well-regarded among photographers for their excellent print quality. These options, however, are pricier when it comes to ink costs. For those looking to strike a balance between quality and cost, the Epson L800 and L1800 series printers (including all sub-models) are excellent options. These models incorporate the Continuous Ink Supply System (CISS), which can reduce your ink costs by up to 70%. While these Epson models may be harder to locate, especially in the US, the effort to find one is certainly worth it for the significant cost savings in the long run. Remember, both Canon and Epson options can deliver lab-quality prints. Your choice depends on how much you’re willing or able to invest in ink costs.

2. Is it cheaper to print or copy at home?

Printing at home can be cheaper in the long run, especially if you’re printing frequently. While the initial cost of purchasing a printer and its consumables (ink, paper) may seem steep, these costs will balance out over time if you’re printing regularly. Not to mention, printing at home provides the convenience of not having to go to a print shop each time you need something printed.

3. How can I print high-quality at home?

The key to high-quality home printing lies in three major elements: your printer, your ink, and your paper. A quality printer like the Epson L800 or L1800 series, paired with manufacturer-approved ink, will deliver excellent results. Choosing the right paper is also crucial. Different papers suit different image tones. For example, Canon Pro Platinum has a glossy finish, Premium Matt is Matt, and Pro Luster has a semi-gloss finish. For commercial purposes, higher-end papers like Ilford Gallery papers can provide superior results.

4. How can I reduce the cost of printing?

One way to significantly reduce the cost of printing is by utilizing printers with a Continuous Ink Supply System (CISS), like the Epson L800 and L1800 series. This system greatly reduces ink costs, which is the primary recurring expense in printing. Additionally, investing in a color calibrator to improve print quality and reduce test prints can also help save money in the long run.

5. Why is a print so expensive?

The primary reason a print is expensive is the cost of the ink. Most printer manufacturers make a significant portion of their revenue from selling ink cartridges, hence the higher cost. Another factor is the hidden costs of printing, like ink used for nozzle cleaning and test prints. However, using systems like Epson’s CISS can substantially lower these costs.