Friday, March 01, 2013

6 Ways to Maximize Print Quality on a Student Budget

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If you’re a student, you know how important it is to turn in assignments that look great. But you don’t need to blow next semester’s stationery allowance to make a good first impression with your professors.

The following are six tips for printing professional-looking reports and term papers at home without breaking the bank on printing costs:

1. Choose your templates carefully. Before you start to think about printing, consider formatting. Your word-processing software has dozens of beautiful, free templates. But many of them seem to have been designed by ink manufacturers — they use a lot of fancy color blocking in the headers and footers or incorporate ink-rich borders on the sides of the pages. While these look fantastic, they aren’t easy on your wallet. Ink is the highest cost when it comes to home printing. Look closely at the template’s decorative elements to see if you truly want to use them. The good news is that most templates are easily customized, so if you do want to use some elements, a few clicks should make it more budget-friendly. You can start by changing colored elements to grayscale and lessening the fill density of shapes from 100 percent to about 25 percent. This consumes far less ink.

2. Print long documents in five-page increments. When you’ve spell-checked and edited your paper, don’t rush to print it immediately. Before you print the entire 25-page paper that you can’t wait to drop on the professor’s desk in the morning, you should print the first page, check to make sure your margins are right, and the headers and footers look good. Then, print the next five pages and check those pages for missing colors or streaks through the text — both signs you’re running low on ink or that you need to do some printer maintenance, like cleaning the print heads. If you print the whole document at once and watch TV while it finishes, you run the risk of an ink malfunction or an unchecked  formatting error — which means you’ll have to print the whole thing again.

3. Consider the paper and ink you use. You can save simply by being smart about what paper and ink you buy. There are plenty of discount paper and discount printer cartridge choices available online and at your local retailers. Be wary of going too cheap on paper, though. There are times when it’s best to use the highest-quality paper so the text looks crisp and clear. When it comes time to print resumes and cover letters for prospective jobs or continuing education, it’s wise to budget more for your paper needs.

4. Avoid images or graphics with lots of dark colors. It shouldn’t be surprising that dark colors use more ink to print. Before you make a hard copy of your projects, go through the document and see if you can lighten any images or illustrations. Most word-processing software programs have shortcuts for doing this quickly and simply.

5. Font can make a difference. For long documents, like thesis papers and creative writing projects, your font choice will also impact how much ink and paper you use. An recommended using Century Gothic or Times New Roman to cut printing costs. However, before you become too frugal with your fonts, check with your professor to see if he or she has any font and formatting preferences.

6. Test your printer before starting the print job. Just like you should check your car’s oil level and tire pressure before going on a road trip, it’s a good idea to give your printer an once-over before you print. Print a test sheet to make sure that the colors are coming through correctly and that there aren’t any oddities with streaks or strange margins. 


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