The Business of Art: Printers and Paper

It's been on my agenda for a while now to start writing a new series of posts geared towards the business side of art.  I get a lot of emails regarding various aspects of running an art business and while I don't always have time to answer every one, I'm hoping to answer some of the more commonly asked questions here.  

I'd call this a weekly column, but we all know that may or may not happen.  So let's just say that I will post these as often as I can.  And if you have a question you'd like to me tackle, let me know!  

Today, let's chat about printers and paper.  I'm skipping out on the tech details because you can find those on your own.  Instead, I'm doling out a big helping of my very own opinions based on my experience.  

Since I'm constantly printing one thing or another, printers were one of my first business expenditures.  In my personal life, before I started my business, I'd used a variety of different brands of printers, most of which were frustrating in one way or another.  I settled on using Epson printers for my business though for pretty much one reason:  print quality. 

When I'm sending out print and stationery to customes around the world, I want to be sending something that I'm proud of, something that is truly beautiful and my Epson printers help me deliver that.  

I have two printers that I use all the time, one for every day use and one for printing art and paper goods.  

Everyday Printer:  Epson NX625

What I Use It For:  I use this little printer for my every day printing, mostly invoices and shipping labels, but also for printing out rough sketches and other quick proofs.  The built in scanner is also a handy addition to allows me to scan in sketches, textures and other things that I might use for my work.  The scanner bed is small at 9 x 12 inches but it works for me because I normally sketch small anyway.  If you're drawings are on a larger scale or you are scanning in painting, etc, you might want to consider putting out the money for a nice large bed scanner instead.  

But for me this one works just fine!  

What I Love About It:  It's fairly small and compact so it doesn't take up a ton of space.  It's gotten a hidden paper tray that keeps things neat and out of the way.  It prints quickly and is fairly efficient on ink.  

What I'm Not Crazy About:  It's wireless, which is one hand is fantastic because it's one less cord that I need to plug in somewhere, but on the other hand the wireless is iffy at best.  Sometimes it actually prints documents when it's supposed to, sometimes they will suddenly print three days later

Luckily it also has a USB connection so I can run it straight to my computer and print happily away with no problems.  Still, I'm tempted by the wireless option and wish that it worked a bit more consistently.  

Fine Art Printer:  Epson R2880

What I Use It For:  This is my real workhorse printer.  My first large format printer was an Epson 1400 which was fantastic but which printed it's last page about a year after I got it.  It was a bit disappointing to have to replace a piece of equipment after only a year, but in it's defense it printed literally thousands of pages during that year.  I was leary of getting another Epson at that point, but after reading lots of reviews and talking with other artists, I decided that Epson was still my best option for print quality and I upgraded to the Epson R2880, which I'm happy to say sailed past the one year mark with no problems!

I use this printer for my art prints and also for some of my stationery products like sticker sets and Mini Letter Writing Sets.  

What I Love About It:  The print quality!  Although I was always happy with the print quality on my old Epson 1400, the R2880 surpassed it easily.  I've found that the prints are even more crisp and brilliant and I've also had less trouble getting the printed colors to make up with how a piece appears on my monitor.  

The R2880 has two magenta inks, one Vivid Magenta and one Vivid Light Magenta, which I'm sure is responsible for the improved color clarity.  

I also like that I can print on rolls of canvas or paper up to 13 x 44 inches.  I've never actually printed anything up that larget, but it's nice to know that I can!

What I'm Not Crazy About:  It seems to go through ink a bit faster than my old Epson 1400 did.  It's quite large, which is to be expected with a large format printer.  And like every single Epson large format printer, it has issues with feeding paper sometimes, specifically thicker paper and fine art paper.  I've found when using thicker papers, I either need to feed the sheet individually and find the magic amount of sheets I can load at one time to get a correct feed.  It's frustrating at times, but like I've said, the print quality is worth the hassle to me.  

Epson makes printer cleaning sheets that remove the tiny bits of paper that get stuck to the printer rollers over time and those help a bit with the paper feed problem, but not entirely.  Printer cleaning sheets are cheap and reusable.  You can also make your own cleaning sheets by spraying a light layer of adhesive onto a piece of cardstock--you want it to just be slightly tacky, not too sticky--then run it through the paper feed.  

How I Save Money on Ink

No matter if you're talking about a large format art printer or an every day all-in-one printer, ink can get ridiculously expensive, especially if you print as much as I do.  Here's what I do to save money on ink:  

* I'm an Office Depot WorkLife Rewards member, so I get 1% back on ink purchases and I can also bring in my old ink cartridges for recycling to recieve $3 back on each day, up to 5 per day.  This adds up pretty quickly and every quarter I get a giftcard from Office Depot for the amount I've accumulated from buying ink and recycling ink, usually at least $200 a quarter.  Then I turn back around and spend my giftcard stocking up on ink!

* I try to make it a point to stay stocked up ink, so I usually check on Ebay every couple of weeks to see if I can find a good deal.  A side note:  I avoid buying refurbished ink catridges and don't use continuous ink systems either.  In my past experience, these clog up print heads and cause more problems than they are worth, so I stick with Epson brand inks.  

* Oddly enough Epson usually has the cheapest inks because they frequently send out coupons for 10% or 15% off.  When I get one of those, I use it to stock up on ink!  

All About Paper

In my opinion, finding the right paper for your work is just a matter of trial and error.  Try out a bunch of different things until you find something that is both affordable and high quality.  Here's a short rundown of some of my favorite papers:  

Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper:  A museum quality, acid free, 100% cotton rag paper that I use for my art prints.  It's a nice, bright white and has just enough texture to make your prints really pop with color.  I've tried out a few different fine art papers and this one is my favorite both for quality and affordability.  

Epson Premium Presentation Paper Matte:  This paper is realitively thin but handles color exceedingly well.  I like to use it for test prints, portfolio samples and even for my Mini Letter Writing Sets because it's a real dream to write on as well.  I know some artists use this for their prints as well, but I'm not a fan of that use and am usually disappointed when I receive art prints printed on this super thin paper.  

Wausau Paper Royal Linen 80lb Card Stock: A lovely bright white stock with a light linen texture, perfect for all sorts of printing projects, including stationery.  

Neenah Classic Crest 110lb Cover Stock:  A bright white cover stock that is super sturdy, perfect for calendars and notecards.  I use this for all sorts of stationery printing.  

And these are just four of my favorites, I have an entire shelf of different papers that I have used for various projects.  If you're unsure of where to begin, lots of places like The Paper Mill Store samples of just a few sheets of each type of paper that you're interested.  Epson papers though are only available in packs of 20 sheets or more depending on the paper you are buying and you can usually find the best deals on those through Amazon.

So there you go, a wrap up of my daily printing and paper routine!  Do you have questions about printers or paper?  Or do you have a suggestion for a new Business of Art topic?