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When to Change Epson Inkjet Cartridges

The ink light on the front of your Epson inkjet photo printer is blinking. The Status Monitor has an annoying warning symbol on it. What's a photographer in his digital darkroom to do?

It would seem that the sensible thing to do is to change the ink cartridge. That's what Epson tells you to do. Not doing so seems like it might risk ruining the print you are in the middle of. To be safe, many users actually change cartridges when they start to get low for fear of having the light start blinking while printing.

But you don't have to.

The truth is, you can keep right on printing until the ink runs dry and the printer completely stops printing. Just change the cartridge then, and continue where you left off, right in the middle of a print. The printer will start up without skipping a beat. Well, without skipping any ink at least. The resulting print will come out just fine, with no evidence that you changed cartridges in the middle of it.

If you do have another color that is very close to being out, it can be worth going ahead and changing it at the same tie you replace the one that did run dry, but this is somewhat debatable. Whenever you put in a new, full cartridge, the resulting charging cycle will purge some ink from all colors. If a second color is nearly out, you may end up wasting less ink to change both together rather than incurring a second charging cycle immediately following the first. It can be hard to tell just how many more prints you'll be able to get of course, so don't rush things with a second cartridge that is only slightly low.

I can remember having one color run dry on my old Epson 2200, driving to the store to buy a new one with a half printed picture waiting for me and still having no problems finishing the print when I got home with a new one. You might not want to tempt fate this much though if you don't have to. Ink cartridges are dated, so don't stock up more than you need, but it can be worth having some of each color on hand in case you do run out. Typically, the lighter colors run out first, with light magenta being the first, followed next by light cyan and light black. The remaining order will depend a lot on what you are printing. After a while, you will learn which ones you need more of so you can buy accordingly.

Date posted: October 8, 2006


Copyright © 2006 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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