Among the great nuisances of modern life, few things irritate consumers more than the high price of printer ink. If you want to see black clouds roll in, just tell someone it's time to drive to the store, open the wallet, and purchase a new round of color cartridges.

Of course, that gloom is understandable. It's hard to justify paying so dearly for the privilege of printing out a grocery store coupon. And, while third-party printer ink cartridges may promise savings, they often get rejected by printers designed to sniff out off-brand intruders.

So how do you save on printer ink? Here are a few ideas.

1. Change the Font

Two years ago, a 14-year-old student in Pittsburgh created a stir on CNN by announcing that the U.S. government could save $234 million a year by printing its documents in Garamond instead of Times New Roman. While that discovery was eventually discredited—due to a point size issue unique to Garamond—the teen's instincts were right: Your choice of typeface can make a difference in ink consumption.

When Consumer Reports tested fonts several years ago, we got 27 percent more mileage when using Times New Roman rather than Arial, a default font in many browsers. Calibri and Century Gothic both outperformed Arial, as well. An option called Ecofont is designed specifically for frugality—it removes enough printer ink from its characters to stay legible while saving money. But you have to pay for it—lifetime licenses for Ecofont start at $19.99.

2. Print in Black and White

What's the point of wasting precious ink on a colorful ad or logo, when all you want is the driving directions to your best friend's summer home? By changing your default settings to black-and-white (otherwise known as grayscale), you spare the color cartridges.


Read our special report, "The High Cost of Wasted Printer Ink." It turns out that a lot of the pricey ink you buy might never hit the page.
 

3. Strip Out the Stuff You Don't Want

Many websites let you select printer-friendly versions of their stories, which automatically remove color ink-sucking ads and images, leaving you with nothing but text. If the site you're reading doesn't offer that option, a service like Instapaper, Clean Print, or Print Friendly can help you reformat the story yourself, saving on ink and paper. Some even let you skip the printing process altogether and save the article for future reading on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

4. Upgrade Your Printer

Printers vary quite a bit in how much ink they use, and this is one of the factors that Consumer Reports tests in the lab. Laser printers are known for their low cost-per-page (around 2 cents, usually) and fast print speeds—a particularly strong performer in our Ratings is the Dell S2825cdn, which costs $280, and $0.02/page to print.

Inkjets are catching up on per-page printing costs, if not speed: Consider the HP Officejet Pro 8610, an all-in-one model that costs $100 upfront, and prints at a cost of just 0.017 per page.

Then there’s the Epson EcoTank line of printers, which have a novel take on the home printer, eschewing the classic ink cartridge for ink bottles and reservoirs. The bottles cost $12.99 each, and you need four of them. The printers have a pricey upfront costs—the Epson Expression ET-2550 costs $299. But the per-page printing cost is tiny, roughly an order of magnitude lower than some other printers at just $0.003. Do all that arithmetic, and you'll be saving money after about three years. According to Epson, a set of Ecotank ink bottles is equivalent to around 20 standard-capacity printer ink cartridges.

5. Use Draft Mode

If you're like me, you rarely use your printer for dissertation projects, wedding invitations, or quarterly earnings reports. As long as the device spits out a legible soup recipe, you're happy. When the end result doesn't have to be high quality, use the draft mode in your printer settings. This will not only use less ink, but also print faster.

For more advice on printers, check out our buying guide and the Maintenance Ink Use column in our Ratings.