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Have you ever wondered what costs are involved in printing that go into determining the selling price of prints? In this article we’ll give you a bit of insight into the costs involved.

The main costs can be categorised as follows:

1. Equipment & Software
2. Consumables
3. Shipping Costs

Naturally there is a bunch of additional costs associated with running any business, this includes labour, rent/mortgage payments for office space, electricity/water, and such. For simplicity’s sake we’ll not include these elements here, but they are of course the largest monthly outgoings for any business and this is just as true for a professional printing company.

Let’s tackle the other three components below.

Equipment & Software

There are various pieces of equipment and software that a professional printer may need to acquire to produce high quality prints. Usually, the single biggest investment will be the printer, and typically a company may own more than one.

Large format printers, depending on the size and brand will cost somewhere between $5,000 – $20,000 and have a usage life of between 3-5 years after which they are largely written off.

In addition to the printers, a good printing company would also have invested in at least 1 high-end monitor designed for photo editing and printing. In our case we have a couple of BenQ SW321C monitors. These monitors reproduce 99% of Adobe RGB colour space which enables us to better colour match between what we see on the monitor and what will print out.

There is also many other pieces of equipment and software required. You’ll need things like calibration tools for monitors, tools for creating ICC profiles, automated paper cutting machines. The list goes on.

A professional printer can’t get away from having 1 or more licenses of key software such as Adobe Creative Cloud in order to access Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat. More recently we’ve seen the need and benefit for investing in licenses for various AI related image editing software which really helps fast track and improve the results of image enhancement and enlargement.


There is lots of consumables but let’s simplify the article by just focusing on the most obvious ones – ink & paper.

The positive aspect to consumables is that the investment in such items will usually be correlated with the volume of printing that the company is producing and over time we have a pretty good gauge on how to manage our inventory effectively [i.e., stock enough to cover demand, but not to much].

As a company we have decided to focus on stocking higher end papers and canvases from Hahnemühle because we find that the quality is high, and it’s consistent, which is better for our customers. This means our investment in buying such papers and canvases is much higher than those incurred by your everyday printers using lower grade papers.

Modern printers from Canon, Epson and HP are typically quite economical on the ink usage and the software we run allows us to easily see the cost of the ink used on each of the prints we produce. We leverage this costing information to help calculate the suitable cost that is passed back into our pricing for our customers.

We’ve generally seen that suppliers of inks and papers have substantially increased their prices over the last 12 months and much of this ends up having to be passed on to the end customer.

Shipping Costs

One of the highest costs we face as a business is the cost of distribution to our customers. This includes the various packing materials which may include tissue papers, cardboard or plastic tubes, various tapes, and then the physical delivery cost itself. In general these costs are passed on to the customer but it does mean buying in bulk and storing significant volumes of shipping materials.

In closing

Setting up and running a printing business requires a significant upfront investment in various pieces of equipment and software to do the job to a professional standard. It can turn into a bit of a rabbit hole chasing those small incremental gains.

Your commercial space also needs to be large enough to store large paper rolls and large, bulky equipment with plenty of space to move around and hang prints for drying and packing. High end art papers and canvases also require proper storage in humidity-controlled environments.

It is the investment in such machinery, software, people and premises that sets apart a professional fine art printing company vs. your everyday printer, and this is why you’ll observe a difference in pricing.

We hope you found this brief introduction useful, but feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

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