(actual Physical) Printer For Cards - What To Buy?
I have an opportunity to sell cards in a store; the numbers would be small, but hey, it's something, and cards are also ads.
The owner of the store says even $5 a card is a tough sell, and that includes her markup. So I have to get my cost down to a couple dollars a card, meaning I need to print my own.
I know "advice on what I should buy" threads are tedious and that most of the time, the OP has already made up his mind. But I haven't had a photo quality printer in years and don't know anything about current products.
I don't need large format, just photo quality. That means a good color gamut and a reasonably permanent ink. I'd also like something that doesn't dry up and clog like cement if it isn't used every other day.
I have an Epson A50, it actually uses pigmented inks, excellent quality, I don't think you can buy them anymore however. Also, the ink is so expensive even if you were selling the cards for $5 without a middle man I'm not sure you'd make any money. lol
Years ago I had an Epson 1270. Large format and good quality prints - when it was working. Which wasn't often. One day, after another futile head cleaning with Windex and paper towels, I got rid of it and decided to forget about printing at home.
I don't quite agree with the store owner about price but I assume she knows her market. It's a bookstore, not a gift shop, many book lovers are a bit thrifty. I'd be a "local artist". Birds, local landmarks, landscapes, artsy things.
I gave her a few, told her she could try putting prices on them and see what happens.
I’ve been using an Epson R2400 for about a gazillion years and have printed 1000s of cards and other art prints with it. I’ve never had a single problem with it, bless its pointy little heads. I have no idea if the newer Epsons are this reliable; I hope so, because even if it never breaks, eventually Epson will decide to stop selling its ink.
You have to use an inkjet printer regularly or the heads will clog… maybe you will sell tons of cards and so will be using it all the time.
$5 is a pretty low price for art cards these days. I sell them for that, but I’m in the boonies. I would think that in a populated area, you could get away with more than that. People do buy them to frame. Red River Paper makes excellent card stock.
I have an old Epson all in one that uses the 6 color dye based "Claria" inks...but I use third party refillable pigment based inks. They also make 4 color dye "Claria" printers which are supposed to still be fine for photos, which could be replaced with third party pigments if you want. Epson also makes 4 color "Dura-Brite" pigment based printers, but I am not sure they are meant for photos. I would think that postcards would still be fine using less than archival inks...so cheaper is still fine in my opinion. Using dyes clog less frequently than pigments. And Epson is making printers that are harder to use third party refillable cartridges in, so maybe used or refurbished is better.
Just an observation, if this is the only reason you want to buy a specialist printer for, that sounds really uneconomic especially bearing in mind the cost of quality inks. I gave up trying to print my own cards.
When I was selling to galleries I bought wholesale from specialist card printers as Adam suggested.
How many cards would you have to sell to recoup the cost of a printer plus the inks?
I've bought lots of cards online. Lots. No art/craft shows this year so I have boxes of them. Yes you can find sources where the price is low - with a lot of "ifs" "ands" and "buts".
I have hundreds of images and I like to push the new ones, because the same people come to these shows every year. I found the online suppliers too much of a hassle. Constantly changing "discounts" so you never know what you'll end up paying; minimum orders; unpredictable shipping charges and delays; and worst of all way, way too many "clicks" to upload, categorize, and order cards. These sites aren't aimed at photographers.
When this store opportunity showed up I decided to try printing my own and at least replace the old hassles with new ones :-)
Yes a printer will cost me money and even when shows resume it will take me a long time to make that money back. But I avoid the embarrassment of admitting I'm losing money on every card right off the bat. I'm thinking I might find other uses for the printer, maybe another store, maybe I can sell small framed prints. Really it's all just something to do with my photos, so no worries.
I use an epson P800. It is a 17” printer, but I have printed lots of cards with it (as well as my previous printers, both canon and epson). The advantage of the larger printer, is that ink costs are less. I sell on amazon and Etsy (as well as art fairs in the past), and the printer has well and true.y paid for itself (especially when I get orders for big prints). The most expensive part for note cards is the paper (although with a smaller printer it may be ink). I have gone a month or two without printing and had no problems.
I have printed small runs at home. But the problem is you won't make very much money after the cost of ink and paper. Also consider that most Epson Printers have a built-in "I quit" after so many printing jobs. Then you have to go out and buy another printer. One other issue I found: ink dries up unless you are doing constant printing jobs. That will force you to buy another printer too.
Printing houses are expensive and require big runs of the same design.
My advice: order $500 from FAA of various designs in 25 card runs, put it in your cart and ask for a discount. Or just straight up ask them what they will do for you in terms of a mix-and-match discount. If you end up selling a lot of one design, you can always try a large run at a printing house.
Any way you look at this, it will be an investment.
I bought an Epson ET-3750 from Costco nearly two years ago. I believe the cost was around $240. I am VERY happy with it. It uses tanks for the ink, not ink cartridges. When I bought it, it came with spare CMYK ink refills, which I've yet to use and I have only gone through about 1/2 the first ink supply. I use it for all sorts of printing. I think it only goes up to 8-1/2 by 11. It was such a relief to finally get a printer that didn't eat cartridges and prints beautifully. Never a single problem with it.
I have been printing 4x6 prints on Moab Lasal photo matte paper and, for some interesting texture, on Inkpress Media Watercolor Rag. I then make cards with Strathmore photo mount cards. I imagine this printer would also do great printing directly on photo cards. These are supplies you can find on Amazon or B&H photo. And when you buy at discount, you can get the cost way down to well under $1/card.
Have fun. I like making cards. I only use them for family/friends, but I KNOW mine look better than a lot of the ones I see for sale at local outlets.
What I figure the cost is - I usually use a cheaper notecard paper from red river paper - cost is less than 40-50c (although the last ones I got were 2nds), then envelops 7-13c; bag 7c. Envelops are cheaper from clear bags. Then with my printer, I figure on 5-10c for ink. Of course all the supplies are cheaper when you buy in bulk, you can also occasionally find supplies on amazon prime.