Do You Really Need a Color Printer?

Ink On Our Fingers--Let the Testing Begin!This may seem like a dumb question to ask in this day and age.  But if you sit back and think about it, do you really need color printing in your home or small office?  After a  bit of soul searching, we concluded at Wirth Consulting that we don’t need really a color printer because our Web-based business does not require us to communicate or deliver products in hard-copy form.  Sure, color prints are attractive, but they are not a necessity.

We also know that, going in, the cost of printing in color is considerably more than that of black-and-white printing.  In fact, a recent post on our Web blog (“Five Easy Things that You Can Do to Get the Most Out of Your Printer“) shows that you can save as much as $0.0214, or 2.14¢ per page, if you print in black-and-white in lieu of color.

Who really needs color printing?

  1. Home or small offices with photo-printing applications.  However, since color is easily abused/misused, it may be a better idea to invest in a photo printer that is designed to produce the ultimate photo-printing quality.  Most photo printers are designed to connect directly to a single PC, limiting their use and abuse, allowing you to ultimately manage your production of expensive color prints.  Furthermore, with most run-of-the-mill color printers, there tends to be a trade-off between photo and text quality.
  2. Home or small offices that communicate with customers in hard-copy form.  To a great degree, hard-copy communication is virtually a thing of the past, as most business communications are now conducted digitally via e-mail messages and with Adobe PDF documents.  To be sure, hard-copy customer business-communication demands color letterhead and color logos, and studies have shown that the use of color increases comprehension, making it appropriate for use in form letters, invoices, and any direct hardcopy communication with customers and clients.  With color, you can highlight critical content so that readers pay more attention.
  3. Offices that produce their own brochures and/or sales collaterals.  Without a doubt, color is essential for marketing/advertising/sales brochures and collaterals, making these materials much more attractive, and readers more likely to pay attention to them.
    Homework and school projects.  For the most part, students don’t need to print anything in color unless they are budding artists (and they all are) or they need to print homework or school projects.  It’s not really a necessity for homework, but we can easily envision a teacher being more impressed with homework printed in color versus homework printed in black-and-white (see #2 above).  How much is the color status symbol and the possible extra credit worth to you?

Keep in mind that color is easily abused (and far too often).  It is way too easy for users to print everything in color and waste a lot of ink, toner and dollars.  For instance, it’s really unnecessary to print any Web page or e-mail message in color, but you can be sure that this wasteful practice is widespread.

In summary, for most, printing in color is simply an expensive luxury that most homes and offices cannot afford to take lightly.  However, if you decide that you need a color printer and are concerned about managing its costs, be sure to refer to our guide “Five Easy Things that You Can Do to Get the Most Out of Your Printer.”  If you do require color, we also recommend that you consider investing in a black-and-white printer for shared use, and a color printer that is directly connected to a PC that you can control that is specifically used for the printing of the critical color applications listed above.

Happy Reading!
Terry Wirth

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