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Understanding the Cost of Printing in Color vs Black and White

3 min read

Chris Dolle

Updated February 26, 2024


Printing remains a vital part of any business. But if you are the one tasked with determining your company’s printer needs, you likely have done a little head scratching. There are many things to consider, especially when determining the cost of printing in color vs black and white. If you are evaluating your company’s printing needs or thinking about making changes, it’s important to understand a few things.


Five factors to consider in the cost of printing in color vs black and white


1. Equipment investment


When considering the cost of printing in color vs black and white, one of the foremost factors to consider is the initial investment required for equipment and infrastructure. Color printers, particularly those capable of producing high-quality outputs suitable for professional use, traditionally have commanded a higher price than their black and white counterparts. While this can still be true today, the price has come down dramatically from their early days.

Black and white printers, on the other hand, tend to be more economical in terms of upfront costs. They are generally simpler in design and functionality, resulting in a lower initial investment.


2. Toner usage


Color copiers tend to be associated with higher toner cartridge costs. The reason is because color printing devices typically require four different color cartridges - cyan, magenta, yellow, black – to print the right color. Printing in black and white, on the other hand, uses a single black cartridge. If your output skews heavily toward the need for color, the additional cost of toner needed to operate a color device may be worth it. Businesses can reduce toner usage and save money by only printing in color when necessary.


3. Quantity and speed


It’s important to understand your business’s printer output and speed of work. The number of copies your company prints per month will determine a few things when investing in a new copier. If you have a low volume output or it’s for individual use rather than office-wide use, you may be able to utilize a low volume, slower speed printer. If the machine is used by multiple users with various printing needs, you may want to consider a higher-speed multi-function device.


4. Performance and function


Performance, like cost, is an area of misunderstanding when it comes to assessing the differences between color and black-and-white printing. It used to be that color printing was considered slower than black-and-white, but that’s no longer always the case. The two are now comparable in performance. Today’s color printers also have all the same features previously believed to only be in black and white devices – duplexing, high-capacity paper trays, finishing options, and media choices. Additionally, color devices today can be managed on the network in the same way black-and-white printers were traditionally.


5. Usage and output


It’s also essential to consider the broader implications of color versus black and white printing, particularly concerning the quality of documents being produced. Think of things like technical drawings, detailed spreadsheets, sales presentations, and marketing materials. Color printing lends itself well to these types of documents along with things like posters, brochures and flyers, where visual appeal plays a crucial role in engaging audiences and conveying brand identity.

In contrast, black and white printing may be perceived as more economical but could potentially compromise the impact and intended effectiveness of the document. Businesses must strike a balance between cost considerations and business objectives, leveraging color printing strategically where it delivers the most significant return on investment. In addition, most color devices can be set to default printing in black and white, which provides a significant cost per copy savings but allows the flexibility to print in color when necessary.

Analyzing historical print data can provide valuable insights into the proportion of color versus black and white prints, enabling businesses to tailor their printing fleet accordingly. Implementing managed print services and printing policies can further optimize usage patterns and minimize unnecessary expenses.


So, is printing in color or black and white best for your business?


The choice between color and black-and-white devices is ultimately up to your business’s individual needs. By carefully weighing factors such as initial investment, toner expenses, printing volume, and usage considerations, businesses can devise printing strategies that strike an optimal balance between cost-effectiveness and visual impact.


Informed decision-making, backed by thorough cost analysis and strategic alignment with business objectives, is key to maximizing the value of your printer investment. By leveraging the insights and expertise of a managed print provider, businesses can navigate the complex cost of printing in color versus black and white, unlock greater efficiency, and find competitive advantage in their operations.




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