In the fall my printer died.

It made me very sad but it had lived a long printer life (7 years) and served me well.  Like many of you, I print A LOT of full color art on my printer.  Portfolio pages, proofs for clients, submissions and more.  I knew I needed a new printer and found the whole process of deciding which printer to buy to be quite confusing and aborted the mission several times.  (Luckily I started investigating before my printer stopped working.)

My computer guy kept telling me to look at laser printers – the cost of ink would be less (I had an Epson wide format and spent about $1400 in ink a year – ouch!)  I decided I could live without the wide format and for the occasions that I needed it, I could have the printing done online or locally.

I’ve had a few people ask what I decided on and felt a blog post to share my experience was due.

Long story short:  I bought an HP OfficeJet Pro 8500 Premier. Here are the details from HP’s website:

Professional printing meets big energy savings in our Officejet Pro 8500 All-in-One. Not only will you save up to 50% on cost per color page compared with lasers1, you’ll use half the energy2.

Lower operating cost than lasers
•    Print professional color documents for a cost of up to 50% less per page than lasers when using HP Officejet inks1
•    Economize by replacing only individual cartridges that run out
•    Print more pages and replace cartridges less often with high-capacity cartridges (sold separately)
•    Save up to $500 per year on professional color printing costs compared with laser printers3

Lower energy use
•    Save energy with this efficient, ENERGY STAR® qualified all-in-one instead of using various separate machines
•    Reduce your paper consumption and costs by printing on both sides of the page

All-around great performance
•    Get laser quality at speeds up to 15 pages/minute black and 11 color5; get maximum speeds of 35 black, 34 color##
•    Get bolder blacks, more vivid color, and less smearing when using plain papers with the ColorLok technology
•    Get water-resistant documents on plain paper with inks designed for business4
•    Easily share this all-in-one and efficiently use resources with the embedded wired Ethernet networking
•    Print up to 500 sheets without reloading via an extra 250-sheet tray (sold separately)
•    Access photos and insert images into documents via memory card slots

A very nice Office Depot store manager spent about 45 minutes with me explaining the printer, how the new ink technology made the printer less expensive (ink wise) than a laser printer, etc.  I even ponied up for the premier version with an extra paper tray – thinking that I could keep my higher quality paper in the bottom tray and not have to change the paper for different print jobs.

We had a bumpy start, my printer and I.

I almost bought another Epson to use for my portfolio printing because I just wasn’t getting the quality I wanted or expected from my new printer.  I was frustrated!  I couldn’t select the extra tray with my quality paper when I wanted to and couldn’t figure out why.  So on my way to get a second printer (where was I going to put it?  And I wasn’t happy thinking I had to buy not 1 but 2 printers…) I tweeted.

Yup.  Twitter to the rescue once again. I had met a woman who worked for HP on Twitter when I was at BlogWorld in October.  She happened to see my tweet and because we had bonded on Twitter, asked how she could help.  (She’s @iizLiz on Twitter – you should follow her!)

Liz helped me figure out the best paper to get the rich colors I needed for my portfolio – Brochure Paper, 180g, Glossy.  Yeah!  Getting happier…

But I still didn’t understand why my paper tray plan wasn’t working!  The nice Office Depot guy thought it would…  Well Liz bent over backward for me and had a Market Development Manager who actually helped develop my printer call and talk to me about my issues.  It turns out, tray 2 can’t be used for special paper (something about the rollers) so I could have saved some $ and skipped that upgrade.  I gave him some feedback on the machine, learned a bit more about it and now I’m happy and own only 1 printer – my HP.  (They gave me some free ink too for my trouble and because he felt bad that I was mis-informed about the extra tray option.)

My advice for anyone looking for a new printer.

1. Don’t just rely on websites that compare printers and sell them.  Check the manufacturers websites as well when you think you have one of interest – you will get the most details there.

2.  Don’t just rely on a sales person at the store.  They are trained to a point, but don’t know the more technical details someone that does a lot of full color printing needs to know.

3. Ask your friends what they have and how happy they are.  Ask why they like or don’t like their printer, how much them spent on the printer and their ink costs… ask! Ask! Ask!

4.  Finally, don’t make yourself crazy with the decision.  It can feel like a huge deal – and it is important to get a printer that will print your art well – but in the end, it isn’t worth too much time away from your art or losing sleep over!

Best of luck of happy, long-life printers that put your best art forward!

– Tara Reed