Let us get functional!

looks simple enough...
Printing is a pain. But in art, as in life, it is necessary to print off references and rough drafts. When tattooing I would print off maybe 5-10 sheets as I refined my artwork for placement and size. Today's printers are amazing and can put out publisher quality text and photos. But when you're looking to print just black line work or a black and white photo for reference it can be costly to maintain the all important ink. So, my quest for this post is to find the most cost effective (cheapest) printer that will allow those who use a printer to save some money and still keep their sanity. LET THE SEARCH BEGIN!!!

Obviously the first thing to do is to hit ol' google.  A search for "cheapest black and white printer" turned up some good leads. The first ones came from a Yahoo answers post. In the post multiple people sing the praises of the HP61 cartridge and dish out some hate for HP at the same time. The HP61 line is under $20 and if you go generic it can be as low as $11. However, the HP61 only gets you about 160 pages of text. While line drawings do not use as much ink, the number of pages per cartridge is a good benchmark for calculating cost. So, the best case for the HP61 is $.07 per page. Plus I already have a printer that uses the HP61. I know there are better options so the search continues...

I realized that I am essentially looking for a copier. And usually the more work I can do at home the cheaper it is for me to use whatever device I've got going at the moment. While it can take some of my time it does save me money and, well, I enjoy it. Same principle of why I enjoy fly fishing so much, because I can make most of what it is that I usually need to replace. While printers may not seem like a user heavy device, like say a letterpress, there are some printers that allow you to replace the toner. So, lets see what type of toner based printer/scanner combos are out there.

Laserjet. That seems to be the route. I found a 5 Pack of TN450 toner on ebay for $54. I like the numbers, seems with this set I can knock out 13,000 pages of stuff. That is two cases of paper. The downside is the drum. There is another component of Laserjets that has a limited lifespan. Luckly for us the drum is usually around $40 for most of the popular Laserjets. Going with the Brother DCP7060D listed in the eBay auction we can pick one up on Amazon for $150. Considering my desk jet 3510 by HP starts at $75 and that they both come with ink it seems almost neck and neck. I would have to print 960 pages in the HP 3510 to reach a cost of $150. But I don't want cost I want cheap...lets turn to the low cost leader, Craigslist!

Maybe I got lucky finding this HP LaserJet M1217, but for $60 that's a pretty good deal.

The toner for this beast on amazon is dirt cheap at $20 and it is not as large as some of the other laserjets. It seems to function with modern software and also offers the ability to fax! Talk about old-school! Makes me want it all the more. This would be the winner if everyone could get to Seattle...or Kent for that matter.

While I couldn't narrow down a single printer that is cheaper to initially purchase and use, the way to go seems to be a used laserjet. Difficulties faced lead to availability to compatibility with your operating system. I could see a lot of struggles with trying to connect the older models to a computer without an optical drive. Some of the cheaper laserjet printers are cheap due to their size or that fact that they are outdated.

While that might work for someone who only needs to copy and not print, it seems crazy to purchase a stand alone copier and still need to buy a regular printer for everyday use. Though I may never actually need to print 13,000 pages, the Tim Allen in me secretly wants to be able to duplex 40 sheets a minute.  Unless you own a business and need to add up savings over a year or several years I think were actually doing pretty good with what we can get at the local wally world. While I may still be frustrated with my HP 3510, I have to accept my fate that it suits my needs. It fits on the desk, scans my drawings (and leaves out my blue trace lines!), and prints in a nice dark black that prevents me from going to the light table for every trace. At least it was worth a shot...