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Forum: Digital Processing, Software, and Printing 08-10-2018, 03:57 PM  
Printing at home - what's the real cost?
Posted By MaineNative
Replies: 23
Views: 1,812
For me, what drove me to getting my own wide-format printer was panoramas. I would print a 8” x 24” pano but get charged $50 USD for a 16” x 24” because they were printing it on a full-width roll. At home I can either print two panos together or run a sheet through twice.

I have an Epson 3800. I was orihinally looking at a 13” wide, but the photo store I went to had a batch or refurbished 3800’s. The refurbished printer was $700 vs $1200 new. I discovered the main defect for the large number of returned printers was a faulty latch for closing the print tray—no problem with the print mechanism.

If I print something at least once a month, my print heads don’t clog. If I go a few months, I need to do a cleaning cycle or two. The print head recovers, but you consume lots of ink.

I find the large-format print market is different than the small consumer printers. For big printers you pay the “real” price for the printer and the ink price per print is less. I estimate my ink price for a 16” x 20” is about $2-3 USD.

I use mostly Epson, Red River or Ilford paper, which runs another $2-3 per sheet for 17”x22”.

For frames, I either buy frames on sale at craft stores or buy frames kits and have a local hardware store cut standard 1/8” glass to size. I figure if I used high-grade paper and inks, I don’t need UV glass.

I cut my own mats using a 40” Logan mat cutter. If you want to do lots of mats it is worth every cent! Buy lots of blades. I also have a 12” roller cutter for trimming small prints.

I keep my mat board in a big 40”x60” zip-up art portfolio to keep the dust out. You can get them ordered through art stores.

For mounting pictures, I used high-quality acid-free mounting tape and use a hinge mount to the mat or to foam board only at the top. Do not tape down all 4 corners or your print will wrinkle with changes in humidity.

My Dad used to make wooden frames, but that has a whole other laundry list of expensive gadgets to do it right!

One big advantage of doing your own printing is you can do a test print at 4x6 or 8x10 to check colors before you print a whole big sheet. I have 8x10 sheets that match my 17x22 for doing test prints.

Software wise, any program that lets you use print profiles is good. I do calibrate my monitor also.

My advice is do it in steps, such as start with a print lab, but do you own mat cutting. Then maybe do printing, then later get into framing as you master the previous skills.
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