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The Ultimate Guide to Epson® Ink Cartridges

The Ultimate Guide to Epson® Ink Cartridges

Epson ink cartridges are known for producing high quality text and vibrant photos, but with so many cartridges to choose from, how do you know which cartridge is the right fit? In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about Epson® ink!  We’ll review the types of cartridges Epson sells, the pros and cons of  printing with their popular EcoTank printer series, and show you some easy troubleshooting tips too so you can get the most out of your Epson printer.

Meet the ink cartridges

Individual ink cartridges

Epson printers use individual ink cartridges, which means each cartridge is filled with a specific ink color. This is unlike HP’s tricolor cartridges that contain three ink colors in one cartridge. Most printers require a set of black, cyan, magenta and yellow cartridges but if you own a photo printer, your might need a couple of additional cartridges like light cyan or light magenta.  Essentially each cartridge is a plastic tank that’s filled with ink.  On the end of the cartridge you will find a gold chip that communicates with the printer to track ink levels so you know when it’s time for a replacement.  When the cartridge is installed into the printer, it works with a fixed printhead inside the machine to create a print.


What sizes are Epson cartridges available in?

Epson ink cartridges are offered in either a standard yield or high yield / XL cartridge size.  Frequent printer users are better off printing with a high yield cartridge.  Because they are filled with more ink, they offer more prints and provide a better a long term value.  Standard cartridges are less expensive but will run out of ink faster.  No matter which size you go with, the cartridge will install the exact same way in your printer.  In fact, the physical cartridge size is the same regardless of the yield – the only difference is the amount of ink inside the cartridge.

To illustrate the cost savings of standard and high yield ink, we’ll compare the page yield and price of the Epson 702 ink cartridge series.  Epson printers that work with this series can use either Epson 702 standard yield or 702XL high yield ink cartridges.  Even though the Epson 702 standard yield is cheaper, it has a higher cost per page due to the limited volume of ink that’s inside.  The high yield on the other hand, is a more expensive but you get more value from it because it prints more pages at a lower operating cost.

 

Cartridge Series OEM Price* Page Yield Cost Per Page
Epson 702 Standard Yield Black $19.99 350 Pages 5.7 cents
Epson 702XL High Yield Black $39.99 1,100 Pages 3.6 cents

 


What is Epson ink made of?

Epson has a few sub-brands that they use to identify their different ink formulations.  If you look at the front of your Epson cartridge box you might notice the name “DURABrite” or “Claria” in the corner.  These names indicate what ink formula is inside the cartridge.  Knowing the ink formulations that work best for certain print jobs will help you choose which one to shop for. 

Epson DURABrite cartridges contain a pigment-based ink formulation that’s made for printing fade- and water-resistant text and images. Though not as vibrant as dye-based ink, DURABrite cartridges ink is still capable of printing good quality photos, making it a suitable cartridge for a wide range of print jobs.  If you own a standard Epson home inkjet printer, it likely uses DURABrite cartridges.

Popular Epson DURABrite ink cartridges: Epson 702 series, Epson 802 series, Epson 252 series, Epson 288 series

Epson Claria Photo HD cartridges contain mostly dye-based ink and are designed for amateur photo printing.  All of these cartridges are dye-based except for the pigment-based black cartridge that comes with some printer models.  If you own a lower end Epson photo printer, it likely uses Claria Photo HD ink.

Popular Epson Claria ink cartridges: Epson 302 series, Epson 312 series, Epson 202 series, Epson 212 series

Epson UltraChrome HD cartridges contain pigment-based ink engineered so they also produce accurate vibrant colors with a higher optical density DMAX for deeper blacks and wider range of tones. This formulation of ink allows users to enjoy the benefits of both pigment-based and dye-based ink and is used in high end photo printers like the Epson SureColor P600, printer models made for professional photographers . The cartridges are expensive but if you need gallery grade or archival prints, they are worth the investment.  With print permanence ratings of up to 200 years, your great great grandchildren will even be able to admire your work! 

Popular Epson UltraChrome HD ink cartridges: Epson 760 series, Epson 324 series, Epson 850 series


Epson Ink Cartridge Alternatives

It’s no secret that Epson ink cartridges are expensive to replace.  Here, we’ll show you a couple of cartridge alternatives that can help lower your printing costs so you can get the most value from your ink and your printer.

Epson EcoTank Ink Bottles

Epson was the first major printer manufacturer to release a cartridge-free ink tank printer back in 2015. Now five years later, Canon, Brother and HP have all come out with their own version of an ink tank, but Epson’s EcoTank line is still the most popular inkjet printer alternative on the market.

Instead of using ink cartridges to print, EcoTank printers rely on ink bottles and a refillable ink tank system to power your printer.  Similar to filling up your car with gas, when a particular color is empty in the tank, all you have to do is fill it up and you can continue printing!

EcoTank owners love ink bottles because they print A LOT more than a standard Epson ink cartridge, offering thousands of prints per bottle compared to an average of a few hundred with most cartridges.  On top of that, ink bottles are cheaper too, priced from $12-$22 (depending on your printer model).  With such low operating costs, EcoTanks are undeniably enticing, but they aren’t for everyone.  If you don’t print a lot and your printer sits idle for a long period, the tubes inside the tank may clog and cause print quality problems.  If that is a concern, you are better off buying an inexpensive laser printer.

You can learn more about ink tank printers and our favorite EcoTanks in our InkTank Buying Guide.

Low cost compatible ink cartridges

Another great way to save is with compatible Epson ink cartridges from LD Products.  LD Products has been selling affordable compatible alternatives to the Epson brand for over twenty years and we offer a huge selection of compatible ink cartridges and ink bottles all priced with your budget in mind.  Check out our ink and toner finder to search for your preferred cartridge series and snag a great deal on the ink you need.

 

Does Epson have a subscription ink program?

Epson does not have a subscription ink program at this time.  Subscription ink services let you print a predetermined amount of pages each month for a set fee.  For some users, this a convenient way to manage their monthly printing costs, but there are some drawbacks too – for a complete analysis of the pros and cons, check out our HP Instant Ink Program guide.

If you are looking to save on Epson ink costs, the best way to spend less is by buying low cost compatible cartridges or switching to an EcoTank printer, which is much more cost effective.  When choosing a printer, it’s important to map out what your goals are.  If you print occasionally, we recommend buying an inexpensive Epson inkjet printer and printing with compatible cartridges to lower your costs.  If you print a lot every month and need to print photos, an EcoTank is the best way to save.  If you print a lot but are printing mostly text-based documents, buy a Brother or HP laser printer instead of an Epson.  Compatible cartridges are available for laser printers too and since they use toner powder instead of ink to create a print, they won’t dry out over time, which can be a huge long term cost savings.


What is the best Epson ink cartridge?

All Epson printers offer standard yield and high yield cartridge sizes, but certain cartridge series are more economical than others.  To get the most value, choose an Epson printer that works with cost-efficient high yield cartridges.  When you are shopping around, pay attention to what cartridges the printer uses.  Not all cartridges print efficiently! Let’s compare the Epson 410XL ink series and the 802XL ink series as an example.  The Epson 410XL high yield black ink cartridge prints up to 500 pages for $24.99.  The Epson 802XL high yield black, on the other hand, costs twice as much but prints 2,600 pages.  When you compare the cost per page between these two cartridges you are actually getting a better value with the more expensive cartridge.  You can lower your printing costs even further when you switch to an affordable compatible version from LD Products.

Cartridge Series OEM Price* Page Yield Cost Per Page
Epson 410XL High Yield Black $24.99 500 Pages 4.9 cents
Epson 802XL High Yield Black $49.99 2,600 Pages 1.9 cents

 


How long does Epson ink last?

Epson ink cartridges can last for up to two years in their sealed packaging.  Even after two years you may still get some use out of the cartridge, so don’t immediately throw in the towel when the “low ink” message appears.  To try and extend the life of the cartridge, run the built-in cleaning function on your printer.  This process cleans the printhead nozzles, dislodging any dried ink that may have built up over time.  After the cleaning is finished, print a test page to see if the print quality has improved.  If there is no improvement, try running the cleaning function 1-2 more times – sometimes an extra cleaning or two will do the trick.  We don’t recommend running the cleaning function more than that since every time it is run it depletes some of the ink inside.  Still having trouble?  It may time to get a new cartridge.


Do Epson inkjet printers come with ink?

 Yes, most Epson printers come with a set of starter cartridges.  Starter cartridges are filled with less ink than a standard yield cartridge, so you can expect to print a limited number of pages before they need to be replaced.  You can tell that a starter cartridge is installed by looking at the part number on the side of the cartridge.  If there is a “-I” after the part number, it is a starter cartridge.  For example, the starter cartridge version of the Epson 702 series will read “Epson 702-I” on the side while the standard yield version will read “Epson 702” and the high yield version will read “Epson 702XL”.


Does Epson sell laser printers?

Currently Epson does not offer any laser printers or toner cartridges.  However, they do sell a handful of business oriented ink tank printers that are designed to deliver similar output and cost efficiency as a comparably classed laser printer.  The Epson EcoTank ET-M1170 monochrome ink tank printer is a solid entry level option and includes enough ink to print up to 6,000 pages at an incredibly low cost per page.


How to install an Epson ink cartridge 

When you open a new Epson ink cartridge, you first need to remove the small yellow piece of tape that is on the end of the cartridge.  This piece of tape is covering the vent hole on the cartridge and if it is not removed, the cartridge will no function properly in your printer.  After it is removed, the cartridge is ready to be installed in the printer!

In the steps below we will break down the installation process for an Epson WorkForce WF-4720 printer, but the steps are similar with almost every Epson printer.  For specific installation steps for your machine, you can consult your Epson printer manual, which can be found on Epson’ website.

How to Install Epson 802XL Ink Cartridges in an Epson WorkForce WF-4720

  1. When a cartridge is low, a message will pop up on the display screen that tells you which cartridge needs to be replaced. To start the replacement process, select the “Replace Ink Cartridges” button
  2. Then select “Next” and “Start”
  3. Open up the top cover of the printer to access the cartridges
  4. Squeeze the depleted cartridge gently by the two ends and pull up to remove it from the printer
  5. Insert your new cartridge into the same slot and press down to secure. Then close the top cover
  6. The printer will take a few moments to initialize and then you can start printing with your new cartridge!

How to troubleshoot Epson ink cartridges

How to fix streaky or light prints

You can fix streaky or light prints by running the cleaning option on your printer.  If you haven’t printed for a while, the printhead can dry out and  cleaning will prime the printhead so it’s ready to print again.  We’ve included the cleaning instructions for an Epson WorkForce WF-4720 printer below, but the process is similar with other Epson printers:

  1. Select the “home” button on the printer LCD display screen
  2. Select “Maintenance” and then select “Printhead Cleaning”
  3. Touch “Start” to begin the cleaning process, which will take a couple of minutes
  4. After the cleaning is complete you can print a test page to check the print quality
  5. Under the same “Maintenance” menu you should see an option that says “Printhead Nozzle Check”. Select this to print out a test page.  If the test page pattern is solid, you have fixed the print quality and can continue printing.  If the test page is still light or broken, run the cleaning a second time.

We suggest only running the cleaning function 2-3 times when there is an unresolved print quality issue.  If you run it any more than that, you are just further depleting the ink that is inside the cartridge and at that point will likely need to buy replacement cartridges.

How to troubleshoot an Epson ink cartridge error message

Sometimes an error message will appear on your display screen that prevents your cartridges from working.  This message usually comes up because the gold contact chip that is on the side of the cartridge is not able to communicate with the printer.  A quick cleaning of the chip typically clears up the error message right away.  To clean the chip, wipe it down with a dry-lint free cloth and reinstall the cartridge in the printer.

If you clean the chip and you are still getting an error message, you can also try doing a hard reset on the printer.  With the cartridges still installed, power down the printer and unplug it from the wall for about a minute, then plug it back in, power it back on and try printing again.


How to clean an Epson printhead

The printhead is a component of the printing process that helps transfer the printer ink onto the page.  Printheads clog because nozzles get blocked by either air or ink.  If you are getting poor print results, cleaning the printhead usually gets your printer going again.  Epson printheads are built into the printer and there are a couple of ways they can be cleaned.  The first is an automatic cleaning, or running the built-in printhead cleaning cycle, which we explained earlier in this article.  A second, more thorough (and complicated) option is cleaning the printhead manually.  We explain how to do both in our  How to Clean an Epson Printhead article.


Can Epson ink cartridges be refilled?

Epson ink cartridges cannot be refilled as easily as other cartridge brands like HP and Epson refill kits are not widely available.  You may be able to find some Epson refill kits online but the refill process and print quality of the kits may vary.  We suggest switching to an Epson EcoTank printer if you want to go the refill route.  Refilling ink an EcoTank printer is easy, mess-free and you’ll likely save more money in the long run with it than with a refill kit that works with a standard Epson ink cartridge.


How can I recycle my Epson ink cartridges?

We recommend recycling your used Epson ink cartridges locally if you can.  Office supply stores like Office Depot, Best Buy, Target, Staples or Walmart are all equipped to accept recycled cartridges.  Visit Earth911.com to find the closest office supply store or recycling facility in your area, just search by material type (ink or toner) and your zipcode! If you purchased an original Epson printer cartridges, you can ship your cartridges back to Epson directly through the Epson Recycle Program but you will need to pay for postage.

 

Savings based on price comparison between remanufactured/compatible cartridge prices on www.LDProducts.com and OEM cartridge and printer prices from the listed retailers: Amazon and Staples. All products are reviewed independently. As an Amazon associate, LD Products earns from qualifying purchases through links on this page.  All prices effective as of August 31, 2020.  OEM names are registered trademarks of their respective owners and are not affiliated with, and do not endorse LD Products.

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