Computers: Saving Printer Ink

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Printer ink is very expensive. Printers are typically sold below cost. Manufacturers make most, if not all of their profit in selling ink cartridges. Anything I can do to save ink saves me a lot of money.

I have a HP Deskjet 2050 J510 series that I purchased for $49.99 at Wal-Mart last year. Ink cartridges cost in the mid-$30s each, with this printer using a black ink cartridge and a color ink cartridge. The printer will not print in black without the color ink cartridge, so I do everything I can to preserve color ink which is more expensive than black ink.

For years, every time I would print, I would click on “Properties” in the printer window so that I could change the printing “Media” preference to “Plain Paper, Fast Draft Quality.” This setting is appropriate for every type of print and casual graphic printing; it uses the least amount of ink.

Adobe Reader Print panel - Document Properties

Adobe Reader Print panel – Document Properties


And while it is wonderful to know that I can change this setting every time I print out a document, map or recipe, I started thinking there must be a better way. There is! Simply change the printer’s default settings to print in “Fast Draft” mode.

Change the Default Printer Settings

I have Windows 7, so the procedure may be slightly different for Vista and definitely different for XP, though the concept is the same: Control Panel – Printer – Default Settings – choose preferences – save preferences.

Below is a step-by-step, visual explanation of how to change a printer’s default settings so that the printer uses the least amount of ink.

Windows 7 with HP Deskjet Printer

  1. Click “Start” Button
  2. Open “Control Panel”
  3. Click "Start" and then  "Control Panel"

    Click “Start” and then “Control Panel”

  4. Select “Devices and Printers”
  5. Open "Devices and Printers"

    Open “Devices and Printers”

  6. Select your printer to open settings (click or double click).
  7. Select your printer from devices

    Select your printer from devices

  8. Select “Set Preferences” or whichever option allows you to “change defaults”
  9. printwindow5

  10. Select “Paper/Quality” tab.
  11. Use drop-down menu for “Media” and choose “Plain Paper, Fast Draft Quality” and click “OK” to save.
  12. Click on "Paper/Quality" tab and select "Plain Paper, Fast Draft Quality" and click "OK" to save preferences

    Click on “Paper/Quality” tab and select “Plain Paper, Fast Draft Quality” and click “OK” to save preferences

  13. Your default print setting is now “Fast Draft” which uses the least amount of ink.
  14. You can also print color documents in Greyscale to save on color ink. While still in the “Paper/Quality” tab, click the “Advanced” button.
  15.  Click on Greyscale settings to open drop-down menu. Click "Advanced" button. Choose "Black Ink Only" to NOT use color cartridge

    Click on Greyscale settings to open drop-down menu. Click “Advanced” button. Choose “Black Ink Only” to NOT use color cartridge

  16. Under “Printer Features” click “Print in Greyscale” drop-down menu. Choose “Black Ink Only” to not use colored ink, printing everything using black ink only. Click “OK” to save preferences.

If you want to print in color with Greyscale default set to “Black Ink Only,” you will need to change the settings manually each time you print a color document by opening the Printer “Properties” panel, turning Greyscale “Off” and clicking “OK” before printing.

Turn "Print in Greyscale" Off manually to print in color if default is set to "Black Ink Only"

Turn “Print in Greyscale” Off manually to print in color if default is set to “Black Ink Only”


This might be too much work for most people, but it is an option. If you have small children who like to print out everything in sight, setting Greyscale to “Black Ink Only” might deter them.

Here’s to saving ink and money!

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