June 7, 2008, Category: Photography

Refillable Ink and CIS

r1900_lft_ang The cost to print photos on your own printer is higher than you probably realize. The money spent on a new printer is peanuts compared to the money that will flow out of your bank account for ink. A set of ink cartridges for an Epson R1900 printer will set you back $125. You’ll get about 40 8×10 prints, or $3 each. Add the cost of premium paper (often $1 per sheet) and you are spending what a professional printing service charges (Shutterfly.com charges $4 for an 8×10). When you consider paper jams, clogged ink heads, color tone mismatches, several hundred dollars for a printer, and the hassle of dealing with another computer peripheral… it makes more sense to use Shutterfly.

If you are not technical and not printing several pages of pictures weekly, I suggest you bypass a photo printer. You’ll save money, frustration, get better results, and you can stop reading right now and go do something more enjoyable. Did you know a simple cleaning cycle on your printer can drain 1/10th of the ink in your tanks? The truth is, once you add up the costs, photo printing companies are cheaper and easier.

On the other hand, if you are willing to spend a little time and energy doing research and endure a bit of frustration to set up an alternate ink system, you can drive the cost down…waaaay down. By carefully selecting paper and by using third party ink, my 8×10’s run about 30 cents each. Ink is the bulk of the savings. Epson and Canon will tell you that only their inks and papers will produce acceptable results but I’ll tell you right now that’s BS marketing hype. Of course they want you to buy their papers and inks…they are making a killing selling them to you.

IMG_0216Initially, I rejected the thought of refilling my own ink. The syringes and bottles of ink looked more like a drug lab than a home office. My cousin, Lou, convinced me to begin offering a refill service at the computer store we both were trying to get off the ground. He made it look simple; people brought in empty ink cartridges and we saved them over 80% and still turned a profit. In the end, bottles of ink and syringes became as common as motherboards and hard drives in our back room and nobody ever even accused us of running a drug lab.

Over the past fifteen years I’ve tried different inks and refill devices on Epson, HP, and Canon printers. I’ve had good and bad experiences. To increase your chances of a good one, you need to consider three important requirements:

1. Customer support (first and foremost)

2. Reliable hardware (refill kit or inking system)

3. High quality ink

When it comes to using a 3rd party ink you have two options: refill cartridges or a Continuous inking system (CIS). Refilling usually means a syringe is used to put ink into an empty cartridge. A CIS is a device that sits outside your printer and has tubes running from ink tanks into your printer. Each has pros and cons.

I researched the market, combed the newsgroups, and have picked three companies that appear to meet the three requirements. I have seen and tested CIS devices from each of them for the Epson R1900 and will be posting reviews of them in the near future. Based on my early results, each of these companies offers a reliable product with the potential to save an avid printer like myself hundreds of dollars. I will add detailed information as I continue to use their products.

Before you go down this road, there are pitfalls. Using these methods is not as easy as popping in an ink cartridge from Epson or Canon. Initially, give yourself several hours to get set up. Stay organized, read the directions completely, and clear off a good workspace. Take it slow and make sure you contact support if you have questions or comments (you’ll save yourself time and headaches). If you run into problems my research has found that you can rely on these companies to take care of you. Then, once you get your system setup, it will run quietly in the background with minimal effort to maintain (other than filling the external tanks or cartridges with ink). My dad has had the same CIS on his Canon printer for nearly four years now and I’d guess he’s saved over $5,000 in ink (he prints a lot).

When I use these inks I am completely satisfied. Photos are vibrant and although I haven’t tested for longetivity, others have claimed they stand the tests of time. Everything I have printed has held up well but it’s tough to do a 20 year test without a time machine. Now, having said that… if I compare side by side to Epson inks, I can see the difference. Epson has slightly better color. Not by a long shot, but it is noticeable when you compare them directly. To me, the minimal increase in color doesn’t justify the massive increase in price. And I have three teenagers who love to print and I’d never let them if my printer was stocked with liquid gold from Epson.

Here are the three companies I recommend if you’d like to trek down this path. If one doesn’t support your printer, try another.

IMG_0213 [640x480] www.efillink.com Ronnie at efillink.com excels at customer service. My experience and the comments on the newsgroups support this claim. He is willing to talk with you on Skype (in fact, he will make sure he is available if you schedule in advance with him and can walk you through your first refill or CIS setup), send you free replacement materials if his products have issues, and responds quick to requests for assistance. If you buy from Ronnie, you can expect follow-up emails asking if everything is running well and making sure that you are satisfied. In addition to a CIS, he sells the only refillable cartridge option for the R1900, which I prefer. Based on my output, I only have to refill every 3 weeks. He uses ink from Image Specialist and is having custom profiles built which may help prints rival those of the Epson ink.

IMG_0219 www.inkjetfly.com Leo has also been quick to offer support and answer questions, even before I began testing his ink systems. His “Bigfoot” system has my favorite external tank design (a long and narrow set of tanks that easily sits next to the printer). Initial tests indicate that his ink has slightly more vibrancy than the Image Specialist ink, but not quite as much as the Epson ink. I have heard of another photographer who uses Inkjetfly ink but sticks with the Epson photo black and claims it is almost identical to a full set of Epson inks. I haven’t tested this yet.

IMG_0221 www.inkrepublic.com They seem to be the largest organization of the three, but I could be wrong. They sent me a solid system, included directions, and so far everything has gone smoothly. Comments on newsgroups are generally high when it comes to their products and support. They also use ink from Image Specialist.

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35 thoughts on “Refillable Ink and CIS

  • By Mel - Reply

    i look forward to your reviews. I’m sitting on the fence until i see get a comparison of these systems to install on my R1900.

    best regards, mel

  • By Warren - Reply

    I’ve been using the efillink refill cartridges for the R1900 and been pretty happy but the refill cartridges seem to be having chip related errors. The display window shows several with a red X through them as if they are empty and the others are grayed out. When I run through the online replacement routine it says the X’d cartridges are not compatible with the printer (although they had been workign fine). I’ve actually seen this several times…usually it clears itself up within a day or two. It doesn’t seem to be working this time. Has anyone seen this before? Ron wonders if it’s driver related, I’ll update when it is resolved.

    I’m getting new inks for the other CIS units in a couple weeks and hear they rival the Epson (which is much higher in gloss and color). This would be enough to convince me to use 3rd party ink for all my printing…I’m looking forward to testing them and will post my results.

  • By David Green - Reply

    I have the same efillink cis system and re-fillable cartridges and am plaqued by the red-X problems. Mine won’t clear this time either. Something is wrong. I’m calling Ronnie tonight. He indicates there are known chip problems, and tank fitment issues in the carriage.

  • By Warren - Reply

    It is not easy to make a suggestion on third party ink systems. Any option requires more time, work, and troubleshooting than original Epson ink. However, the money savings are considerable. New inks are being rolled out that are coming closer to the Epson ink, but still, they have not perfected the process.

    Here is what I suggest.

    • If you do minimal printing use an online printing company, Costco, Wal-Mart, or one of the many that offer reprint services. You’ll pay per print, but you’ll save tons on the cost of a printer, ink, paper, and (most of all) it is a lot less frustrating.
    • If you do minimal printing but want your own printer, I’d go with Epson Ink. The color is better, the hassle is less, but the price for ink is tenfold or more. If you don’t print a lot, the time you save by sticking with Epson is worth it.
    • For moderate levels of printing, I’d suggest the efillink.com refillable cartridges. Despite the occasional chip issues (I have been able to resolve them each time with minimal efforts), they work well. They are easy to refill and perform well and you will get good support from Ronnie.
    • For heavy printing and a full CIS, the bigfoot from inkjetfly.com is my recommendation. I like their tank design more than the other two and the support from Leo is great.

    No CIS was without headache (I had issues with every one of them). Setup takes time, it can be intimidating, and even once you get them working right your problems aren’t over. The key is to plan on some troubleshooting and work with somebody who is committed to assisting you throughout the process. Leo sent replacement parts whenever there were issues. He also listened to my complaints about the quality of the black ink and worked with his suppliers to improve it. He sent me 3 different sets to test, and another that I have yet to test. Each time is has improved over the original (which isn’t that bad, just not quite the same as the Epson).

    The Bigfoot had been working fine but has started having issues with yellow that I need to troubleshoot. Leo is available to work with me when I get a chance…I just haven’t been able to get to it yet. I’ll keep you posted.

    I’ve printed out thousands of prints that have turned out great. The couple of hours every few weeks to tweak the system has saved me hundreds of dollars in ink. It is also nice to let my kids print whatever they want and not have to be an ink Nazi. I like to encourage their photography and printing pictures is part of the process so it is nice to not stress about $6+ in ink for every 8×10.

  • By anni - Reply

    Do you know anything/have an opinion about Lyson CIS?

  • By Warren - Reply

    No experience with Lyon, sorry.

  • By Pim Van Hemmen - Reply

    Very helpful review. I just got the R1900 and like it, although there appears to be some banding on my prints. You cannot see it on the DVDs so I assume it has to do with the rollers. You don’t see it right away, but when you inspect the print you see that in the solid colors every 3/16 of an inch across the print there is a stripe across the width of the print. Have you experienced this? Should I return the printer?

  • By Pim Van Hemmen - Reply

    I should have added that I plan to go to the refillable ink tanks once I have this banding issue resolved. But I don’t want to go to a non-Epson solution until I know the printer is OK.

  • By Warren - Reply

    I have seen banding on occasion. I’ve usually been able to clear it up right away though, especially on a new printer. If you just got it and are having problems, I’d def suggest you contact Epson…especially before you use any 3rd party ink.

  • By Carla Morrow - Reply

    First off, THANK YOU for writing this article! I have a R1900 that I use for my art business, and with the economy all iffy, I have been looking for ways to save a few bucks any where I can. I am interested in investing in the CIS from inkjetfly and I wanted to check to see if you had any updates to this article. Any assistance is MOST welcome, as I have never set up a cis system before, and Im worried about the long term quality of my prints. Thanks again for your help! best of luck!
    Carla Morrow
    AcrylicDragon Fanatasy Art

    • By Warren - Reply

      I wish I had something better to report. I’m still not satisfied with the quality of ink in terms of color saturation and how often 3rd party ink seems to clog the heads. I’ve had several companies say they will send me newer improved ink, canisters, and/or CIS systems…but so far nothing has come through that gets two thumbs up. These systems work, but they take a lot of effort to keep them going. And the colors are still way short of OEM quality. If I find something that works better (I’ve tested about 8 different systems now) I will certainly let you know. If you want me to review one that doesn’t show up, send the manufacturer a link to this article. I’ll be happy to do it for anyone who thinks they’ve finally got it right.

  • By Win - Reply

    Thank you for doing all the testing and posting. Have you tried Cone Inks? from InkjetMall? What has been your experience?

    I have an Epson R800, but really want to be able to print larger. Cost of ink on pro-sumer 13″ wide printers is exhorbitant (with the concomittant problems of small ink carts losing a large % of their ink for cleaning/priming),. but we just cant’ justify the expense (or space required) for a 3880

    Thnaks for your input

    • By Warren - Reply

      I haven’t tried Inkjetmall. If they contact me to test for them, I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • By Daniel - Reply

    Hi Warren,

    Just read and enjoyed your article “Zen Photography in 10 Steps”. I’m putting in a link, but don’t know if it will work. http://www.warrenhenke.com/writing/essays/zen-photography-in-10-steps

    (By the way, your link to the “Zen….” article from your Photography tab seems to be broken, the one in Writing works fine)

    Now to the reason for this post. I have an Epson Stylus Photo 1400, and have been using refillable cartridges purchased from Precisions Colors (which uses Image Specialists ink) with no problems after hundreds of photo prints. From my limited experience I agree that Epson Ink is the best, but also agree that it’s simply not affordable to those of us who like to print a lot, but are on a budget.

    Your comments in this section (above) are the best I’ve come across on the subject. Because I enjoy printing very much, and want to continue to be able to print with little concern for cost, I’m writing to ask the questions below.

    1. I’ve been very pleased with Costco (Kirkland) photo paper, but it only comes in 4 X 6 and 8.5 X 11 sizes. Could you recommend inexpensive larger sized paper in both matte and photo quality (hopefully 13 x 19 size).

    2. You’ve now tried 8 different systems and many different inks. Your comments make it clear you’re not real enthusiastic about any of them. However, I wonder if you could tell us, as of now, if you have a favorite selection or two with regard to inks, refillable cartridges, and Continuous Ink Systems.

    Any comments or help will be very much appreciated. I hope to find time to explore your site further.

    Best of luck in all your endeavors,

  • By Madison - Reply

    Hi Warren,
    Thank you for the great information. I was very iffy about switching over myself. However, I recently installed the CIS for my Epson 1400 and ran it couple times. I come back a day later and the ink level on magenta is empty. Now couple more days later cyan is almost empty. I’ve printed couple pages at the most, but now I already have to order the refill inks. Very frustrated. Do you have any idea why this is happening?

    Would greatly appreciate any feedback you can share.
    Thank you so much!

  • By Andrea - Reply

    I see your last post was a while ago, I am glad I ran into this article – thank you so much!
    At this point if you were to recommend the least headachy of the refillable cartridges and CIS which would they be? And which ink was closer to Epson?
    thank you sooooo very much!

  • By Warren - Reply

    The reason I haven’t posted for so long is the utter discouragement I have felt trying to find a 3rd party system that works and prints well. I’m still looking. Ron at eFillink.com is the only one that hasn’t given up and is sending me a new round of cartridges to test. I’ll let you know what I find out. If they work out better (ink blots on pages and clogged nozzles have been a problem so far) I still have the problem of color quality to address. But Ron is confident he can deliver an ink color and profile that I’ll be happy with. I’ll keep you posted. The other companies gave up with my questions and requests for improvements.

  • By Richard Ross - Reply

    Warren, I just set up my R1900 and love the quality but the ink really goes fast. I want to go with a compatible ink because of I have a lot of printing to do. Please keep us up to date on what you find out with Ron’s latest inks. I will just have buy OEM inks until I know what is best. I had a R800 and loved it but had problems with a clogged ink cartridge that I couldn’t get cleared and it was with OEM inks. So I went with the R1900. I look forward to hearing good news on these inks.
    Thanks for sharing your information with all of us.

  • By drum yon - Reply

    I have been using the Epson R2400 for some 3 years now, along with a Stylus Color 3000 that I use for proofing. The R2400 has been a great printer but the ink costs associated with it have been been somewhat astounding. Since I use the R2400 for both Photographic work AND graphics and DTP my ink usage may be somewhat higher than usual. For quite a while I toyed with the idea of going to some sort of refillable or continuous ink system but there were always caveats associated with most
    of these devices and I looked at quite a few. There’s really no way anyone can REALLY determine which of these devices actually works other than taking the plunge and investing in one. So after much deliberation I decided to go with a refillable cartridge system rather than a CIS because ALL the CIS devices I devices I checked into required stuff to be hanging out of the printer or to be
    drilling holes in it since the R2400 was never designed with CIS in mind. The Idea of cartridges appealed to me because I like things nice an neat. So I decided to go with the Efillink cart system as it was really the only system that was getting CONSISTENTLY (important word there) good reviews from people on the forums that actually had them. My setup consists of the R2400 8 ounce cart package, chip re-setter, and cleaning kit.

    Personally I wouldn’t recommend someone getting any sort of third party continuous system unless you have a method of profiling the system to the paper(S) that you’ll be using. I had to do this with the Epson K3 and I’m using epson papers (among others) as the canned (downloadable) profiles were close but not quite close enough. I use a DataColor Spectro with SpyderPRint Pro. After installing the Efillink cartridges the first thing I did was print out the 8 Color test pages I got off of Rons’ site. The First print (on plain paper at Best Photo setting) showed banding on LLK, LC, K, C, M, and
    Y. Since I use a print server I installed the SSC utility on the server so I could use the more superior head cleaning options that this utility allows. This utility has a bevy of useful features but DOES NOT
    work with Networked printers unfortunately. So I ran a SSC Power clean and then printed the second 8 color purge page which now showed perfect blacks but still some slight banding on M, LC, and C. At this point I did a SSC color ONLY clean and printed the 3rd, 8 color purge page. All colors were now perfect with no banding on any color.

    Now it was on to profiling. I use mostly Epson papers with some Ilford heavy bond for very large photographic prints. Epson S041124 for graphic output and S041405 for regular photographic prints. The 2 Epson papers are the ones I use the most and are the ones I profiled first. Epson S041124 is a lighter weight smooth satin gloss paper. The R2400 prints inherently darker but even more so on lighter paper. Im guessing the lighter the paper the more chance for ink to blot as the printer uses
    pretty much the same amounts of ink at any of the given settings regardless of the paper being used. I print a 225 color and 255 chip gray sheet (2 sheets) for each of the given printer settings and then spectro those into a profile for that particular setting. On the R2400 there are 4 settings, Fine, Photo, Best Photo, and Photo RPM with is used for printing on canvas (which I have yet to
    use). Printing out the first set of chip sheets on EPSON S041124 in FINE mode with the Image Specialists ink set, I compared those to it’s K3 counterparts. There wasn’t much of a difference really other than the noticeable slightly darker blacks which was a welcome change from the K3. Whites and mids were neck and neck with the K3 with no really noticeable differences. Once I got the
    chip sheets spectro’ed, and a profile for the Epson S041124 paper in Fine mode completed, I printed some composited graphic material out of photoshop using the new profile. Compared to output from the K3 ink set there is VIRTUALLY NO DISCERNABLE DIFFERENCE IN PRINT QUALITY! Same goes for pure photographic material. The blacks are slightly blacker but this was something I was missing with the K3.

    So, all in all a GREAT investment. The same to better print quality, for what approximately amounts to 3$ per color cartridge to print as opposed to the genuine Epson K3 which I was paying from 11-13$ per color cartridge. I must say as well, Ron Luk of Efillink is very attentive to his customers and I can’t say enough about the kind of support he provides. I will also say that I am NOT, in any way shape or form, affiliated with Efillink in any capacity other than being a customer of the R2400 cart system. I recommend the Efillink cartridge system for anyone who has a profiling system and a Epson R2400 printer. This cart system actually makes a good printer even greater by reducing the costs it takes to run it.

  • By drum yon - Reply

    This is an update in regards to purchasing what is called an “8-Ounce Set” from a company called Efillink. This is essentially a refillable ink cartridge setup for EPSON R2400 printers. I have used this setup for a little under 2 months and found many anomalies and one large show-stopping defect in the hardware of these kits.
    1. When using these carts, or probably ANY refillable cart, it is customary for there to be many ink flow problems when carts with low ink are changed out for refilled ones. However it is also a non-documented fact that due to these design flaws of even the “NEW” carts it is also customary to have to do what is known as “purging”, wherein one has to print test pages of the Ink channels in question in order to restore proper ink flow from the cart to the print head. This can sometimes involve much time spent, and MANY pages of plain paper to be wasted as well as Ink (used for cleaning the print head). EFillink recommends that “whenever a SINGLE cart is low on ink, in order to minimize costly ink/head cleanings, it is advised to replace ALL 8 carts (there’s 8 on a R2400) at the same time”. The problem with this is you MORE than make up the wasted resources of INK and plain paper using this method as you now have 8 misfiring ink channels to contend with rather than the single one. The result is a massive waste of ink doing head cleanings and waste of plain paper doing test prints to restore the 8 ink channels back to working order. This is good for Efillink. They can sell you more ink that way which is how they are making their money in the first place. With the more expensive Genuine Epson K3 carts, just replace and go.
    2. The ink monitoring system that the Epson driver provides is no longer reliable with these refillable carts. There is a Russian utility (called SSC) that provides a number of different functions for Epson printers that includes an ink monitor as well but this utility does NOT work with printers on a network at all. This no longer functional ink monitor makes it almost impossible to tell when a cart REALLY needs to be replaced. Real world tests reveal that when the carts are 80-90% full the incumbent system already flags them as being empty and the chips reset themselves. Here is PRE-sales banter regarding this from efillink;
    “The chip will auto reset at 20%. But if you do not pay attention to
    the software ink monitor, the chip will reset to full while the cartridge
    is going empty. Each time you print and make the paper selection,
    you will see the software ink monitor. Keep an eye on it and you will
    be good.”
    When actually PHYSICALLY LOOKING at the ink level present in the carts at the time of reset they are slightly less than FULL. This undocumented “feature” is explained away, POST sales, by efillink thusly;
    “The 3rd party chips are made to allow you to reuse the cartridge over and over. The chip auto reset the software ink level without having to remove the cartridge from the printer. This is ideal when you are using a CIS with an external tank which keeps the cartridges filled with ink. I do think the refillable cartridges should be fitted with chips that require the use of a chip resetter to force the user to take the cartridge out for a chip reset and refill the cartridge at the same time. This will make the actual ink level and the software ink level in sync. The refillable cartridge holds 18 ml, the original Epson cartridge holds 14 ml. The 3rd party chip is made to match the Epson ink capacity or the chip will not work. At 20%, the actual ink level in the cartridge should be at about 50%, assuming the chip and the actual ink level started at 100%. The chip and the printer estimate the amount of ink used each time a print is made, a head clean is performed…the software ink level is adjusted to reflect the change.
    Some fast double talking going on here. In reality the ink levels are approximately 80-90% full…
    3. The real Deal breaker for me on these carts was found matter-of-factly when I went to replace a cart with a “LOW” ink level. Turns out the cart, in actuality, was ~85-90% FULL of ink, but the monitor already flagged the cart and the chip reset itself. I keep the Standby set of carts full of ink in a small plastic tray and the carts themselves are kept oriented exactly the way they sit in the printer. Nothing pokes them and nothing topples them over and the fill plugs are intact. When I went to grab a FULL cart from the tray for replacing (a basically full cart anyway) I noticed a large amount of INK pooled in the bottom of the tray. Upon further investigation I found that 3 (THREE) of the standby carts were LEAKING ink from the SEAMS. Not from a port or valve but FROM THE SEAMS of the carts themselves. Luckily this didn’t happen when these things were INSIDE the printer. At this point I have removed all EFILLINK gear from my printer and refuse to use EFILLINK products any further and informed Efillink about this repeatedly. After many attempts to drive the point home that I am NOT interested in receiving “replacement” carts as the things are of inferior quality and design, I still have not received an RMA and/or refund.
    4. This brings us to the last and final point, the ink-to-paper quality. The first few prints or so were of almost indiscernible quality, color wise, to K3 ink. My guess is that there was still some GENUINE K3 ink present in the system for an unspecified amount of time after installing the carts with the Image Specialists ink. As of 1.5+ months later the prints and color quality have degraded somewhat in the fact that Red’s, Magenta’s, and Yellows are not as brilliant as they were with the K3. And I have profiled this ink to my papers. It seems that the IS ink, on its own, simply lacks the color gamut that would even put it close to K3 in this category. Blacks with the IS ink are slightly darker than real K3 but not especially noticeable overall. What it comes down to is NOT AS GOOD of print quality with this ink as opposed to real K3. Also, archival qualities in the realm of being waterproof (as the K3 is totally) the Image Specialists ink epically fails in this category.
    There is NO refillable system inks that will render SUPERIOR quality to Genuine Epson K3 and the Efillink stuff is no exception. At first impression you will notice little change to your naked eye, but as you continue on with the Image Specialists ink and the last bits of K3 leave the system you will start to notice color gamut compression manifesting itself in less brilliant reds and yellows. I have since gone BACK to GENUINE EPSON K3 because, of this writing, there isn’t anything better quality-wise for the R2400 or any other Epson printers that I have found. Efillink, as well as other vendors of these refill cart kits and CIS’s also claim that archival qualities of the ink are “of K3 quality”. I have not tested the Image Specialist ink for Direct Sunlight Fade, or Age, but I had a chance to test color-fastness of the ink with a simple water splash test on 2 identical prints made on the same Epson photo paper. One print was done with Genuine Epson K3, the other with Image Specialists after approximately 1.5 months, well after all K3 was out of the system. Water on the Genuine K3 was repelled by the print and simply beaded up when first touching it. If gotten to fairly quickly there was no damage at all to the print. If left on the print the paper will eventually soak up the water but the K3 didn’t run or distort. The Image Specialist ink totally blotted and ran pretty much as soon as water touched it. This leads one to believe that possibly the other archival qualities of the ink that are claimed by the sellers could be false as well.
    Efillink is a web-based, one person operation that uses SKYPE as the preferred method of communication. They have an actual phone number, but I’ve never had any luck getting a human to answer that line. It seems as that efillink gets its customers to “sing their praises” on forums such as this by offering them free stuff in exchange for good things said about their products. Efillink will say or do pretty much anything to get your money. However, once you have paid them there is NO hope of ever getting it back short of taking them to court. All mails sent to Efillink about the show stopping CART INK LEAK PROBLEM and request for RMA and Refund was met with the same “we will replace the carts, and even fill them with ink…”, rhetoric. Efillink seems to think that when THEY fill the carts ink magically won’t leak from the seams. In this particular case the 3 carts of the 8 that were leaking from the seams were in fact filled by Efillink in the first place. So it appears I’m now out $400 and stuck with these funky carts and ink which are about as useful as a diet crouton at this point. Efillink DOES NOT offer any money back guarantee for their products which says volumes about how much they stand behind them.
    Bottom line items to keep in mind when considering ANY ink jet refill or CIS schemes are these;
    1. NO real archival quality for your prints
    2. NOT the widest possible color gamut printed to paper. NONE of them will rival commercial processing, sans K3 ink, which is why you purchased the printer in the first place, right ?
    3. You WILL chance possible damage to the printer by faulty cartridges leaking ink into it
    4. You WILL save money on ink costs, but you will waste a lot of time, ink, and plain paper each and every time you change a refillable cart in order to get the ink flowing back properly to the print head. This probably not so much with a CIS, but you get my point…
    If you fit the requirements for trying a refillable cart system, or CIS you’re going to need at least a month or two to really test it. But buy the things from somewhere that will at least guarantee their stuff. MIS INKSUPPLY.COM guarantees their stuff for 60 days no questions asked, so you can stay clear of Efillink. And NO, I’m NOT advocating MIS, nor am I affiliated with MIS, or own any of their products. Their website actually says “60 day no questions asked money back guarantee”. I have no idea if their stuff is any better than Efillink. They do offer a method to refill Genuine Original K3 OEM cartridges with their inks. The process doesn’t look too complicated, but there’s definitely the possibility for leakage, via the user installed refill port located on the bottom of every Epson OEM cart, with that system as well. Even barring the leakage problems you’re still left without Genuine K3 ink which is really the whole point of the printer in the first place. There is no “compatible” ink that even comes close to replicating ALL the properties of Genuine K3. The rest is just semantics.

  • By John Molloy - Reply

    I’ve tried more than a few cis systems and I have settled on InkJetCarts for ink and systems. They use the “dampers” and so far with my wife’s Epson 1400 it has worked perfect! My old Epson C-88+ on the other hand seems to throw a fit and refuse to print bright yellow at times but then I had that problem with Epson liquid gold as you aptly describe it so I can’t blame the “cheap” stuff. On top of good products the owner one Ross Hardie is just wonderful at helping out with information and even gets back to my e-mails sometimes in 30 minutes or less depending on the hour and day! I never had that happen before with anyone. The ink is formulated according to printer for example the Claria ink my wife uses is “Claria type” from InkJetCarts. I didn’t see this outfit mentioned on this site but I might have missed it. I do know the cis system is the same basic type as Ink Republic carries but Ross has the latest versions. The old damper cartridges had black “O” rings and the new ones have industrial rings that are more difficult to slide on the “Posts” but really seal tight! Anyway this is my experience and I appreciate sites like this so “we’uns” printer dudes can compare experiences with a view to cheaper but also Better printing! Regards…ME! “Handle on InkJet Forums is “printfan1138”.

  • By Simon Shapiro - Reply

    My two cents’ worth:

    I think we are mixing several issues here:

    * What the big company does no one else can do: Does anyone think
    Epson really manufactures the ink in their cartridges?
    I even doubt they fill the cartridges (it is not their core
    competence). Nor should they.
    But this notion that only the big boys can do it right is
    silly. Edison, George Eastman, Alexander Graham Bell, etc.
    were not big boys when they started.
    Give the smaller producers a chance. Making ink is not rocket
    science. But it takes time to match existing ink in a “black
    box” environment.

    * Quality Control. Having a cartridge leaking is dumb.
    Arguing with a customer about it is stupid.
    For the small producer to compete with the giant requires
    adhering to absolutely the highest quality. Building a plastic
    container that leaks at the seams is a mark of poor QA, and
    should prompt the seller to switch to another manufacturer,
    unless the original one demonstrates the improved QA, and eats
    all the defects.

    * Sponge vs. Sponge-less: Perhaps this needs emphasis.
    + The cartridges are being vigorously shaken as printing
    progresses. Just put a finger in the print-head path during
    printing – the bruise will convince you of the ‘vigorously’
    + Re-filled cartridges, on the average, are half empty.
    + Vigorously shaking a half empty liquid container will foam
    up the liquid, and fill it with air baubles.
    + Foaming and aerating the ink will cause chemical changes.
    I would worry, for example, about the binders (the stuff
    that sticks the ink to the paper after the ink dries).
    + Hardened ingedients in the ink will clog the print head.
    perhaps permanently (remember, the ink becomes non-water
    soluble after being exposed to lots of air).
    + Baffles in the cartridge may reduce the foaming but will
    not eliminate it.
    + A simple piece of sponge will do a much better job at
    stopping sloshing. Think race-car fuel cell vs. the tank
    in a passenger car.
    If you want, IMHO, to use in in bulk, do not use rechargable
    cartridges, use a CIS instead. A decent CIS will keep the ink
    cartridges 90-95% full at all times. When the tank is full,
    it does not slosh. If it does not slosh it will not foam,
    bauble, nor oxidise.

    Finally, if printer manufacturers would charge a reasonable price
    for their inks, the price of the printers will go up to whatever
    level the suits think will maintain their profit margin.

  • By John Molloy - Reply

    Still printing with a damper based CIS system with no trouble at all. Windex resolved a clog I had with a second Epson printer we have and it is printing just fine. One question I have had for some time now concerns mixing inks. My wife got started with one good brand and it is just fine but I have found another brand that is formulated for her printer and is reputed to be as good for less than half the price. My question is if we stick to dye based ink only, do we really need to clean out the tubing and dampers first before switching inks or is it ok to simply run down the first ink and then switch to the new brand. To make the change without actually mixing the different brands of ink in the bottles I was thinking of cutting and reattaching the tubing to the new fill tubes holding the new inks. I would think that this is no different than using Epson OEM cartridges starting out with a new printer and then using inks in a CIS system which is the recommendation from CIS people. If anyone has done this or has insight on this question could they please post it for me? Thanks in advance!

  • By John Molloy - Reply

    Please check my math on this . Assuming you are running a CIS system with an Epson 1400 using the 240 mil bottles, that is 6×240 or a total of 1440 mil of ink. Assuming Epson OEM cartridges have 12 mil of ink per cart that would be the equivalent of 120 Epson Cartridges at $20.00 each! That works out to $2400.00. Now I know if you shop around you might find Epson OEM carts for a bit less( perhaps $18.00?) or i might be a little off on that 12 mil per cart comment but not too much I think. So, lets knock $300 off my figures just for the sake of argument. I can buy the 1440 mil bottles for a total for all 6 for $60.00 and have. And the ink prints great and I can see no difference in the quality. That means my CIS system saves me at least $2000.00 each refill! The OEM only camp can say what they want and bless them but for me, I’m loving the savings and we print a lot of full page photographs and I just bought my wife a new Panasonic Lumix camera (FZ-35) with just a small part of our savings!

  • By Warren - Reply

    There is no question; it saves a ton of money. It’s just a matter of whether the sheer frustration at times is worth the savings…which depends on the volume you print. There is also the issue of quality, which so far hasn’t quite matched the Epson OEM inks.

  • By John Molloy - Reply

    To answer Warren’s comments. Yes indeed, the ton of money saved is sweet but I can also honestly say that the quality of prints we get are so close to OEM results that we can not see the difference and my wife is a “Fine Artist” so her eye for color balance is well trained! We are not photo pro’s but we average close to 100 full page prints a month and more at times! As for the Shear Frustration factor mentioned, so far it has not existed since from the time I set her printer up to date, we have not had any problems with the CIS system at all. The bottom line for us is that we can finally afford to print all we want and are really enjoying it! We have 4 printers at the moment and I’m setting them all up with either CIS damper systems or the refillable dampers with the “chip bars” that tell the printer that it has full carts. I have both dye based and pigment based kits already installed or ready to go! If I see something better I’ll probably go for it but what we have right now is really working for us! With the money saved I not only bought my wife a new camera but I got her another Epson 1400 ( still in the box) as a backup when we eventually wear the first one out!

  • By John Molloy - Reply

    OK! I did it. I changed over to Inkjetcarts brand Claria type ink from Ink Republic ink right in the bottle without purging a thing. I know many people that say that is asking for a problem but I am taking that risk since both inks are dye inks although different brands. I’ll let you know if I goofed or not but it will take a few days. When I got the printer I was told to use the Epson Carts and then change to the bulk ink so I reasoned that this is the same thing and that worked out great! Anyway I’m only risking a relatively cheap printer, a C88+ model and I figure if it clogs I can run cleaner or windex through the unit and regroup! Yellow in the c88’s always causes problems for some reason but the wife’s 1400 stylus seems happy and she is approaching at least a thousand full color prints. If there is no problem with the C88 I will switch her 1400 over to the Inkjetcart ink also as it is good and only $3.50 per bottle for 120 mils. Happy printing!

  • By John Molloy - Reply

    so far so good, been a week with no visible difference. the 2 brands seem happy with the marriage.

  • By John Molloy - Reply

    Good Golly , I haven’t seen one comment other than mine in weeks in here, guess I have to give up on this venue as it seems no one comes in here very often. Too bad as I liked the comments I have seen in here before! If anyone is interested I have still seen zero problems with having added and mixed two different brands of dye, water based inks together. Happy Printing!

  • By Steve Streeper - Reply

    I’ve had my R1900 for a couple of years and am amazed at how much money it costs to run it! It seems that my yellow nozzle is perpetually clogged. If I interrupt a printing session for more than five minutes, I get to clean the nozzles again to get a clean print.

    Today I had some time for printing, but had to do chores, work, etc. After cleaning the nozzles TWICE before leaving for work, I returned home this afternoon, only to enjoy another nozzle cleaning! I took time off to eat, only to return to banded prints…another cleaning. After actually printing two 8×10’s, eight 4×6’s and a couple of banded failure 8×10’s…those three carts I replaced this morning are now down about 35%!

    I plan to move to a CIS as I just can’t afford to feather Epson’s nest any longer. Thanks, everyone, for your comments and insight. The Epson OEM stuff is nice, but WAAAY to much money for what you get.

    Steve Streeper

    PS-Does anyone know how to clean a specific nozzle when it clogs??

  • By Warren - Reply

    A round about way to purge one color is to print a solid page of only that color. Efillink.com has them available here:

  • By vixsolympian - Reply

    GFs etsy business is taking off. This week she went through half of her dark magenta cartridge (she printed 90 cards last night) and I had to find a better way. After reading your review we canceled an inexpensive CIS from amazon and I bought her the bigfoot CISS for her epson 1400 and it should be here in a few days. Hoping her cartridges hold out till then. Thanks for the great review.


  • By Vaibhav - Reply

    Hello Warren, I am from India. I recently decided to buy a printer for my home use. I had narrowed down to Epson’s L-series. Particularly L355. After googling, reading online reviews and visiting forums a lot I had decided for it. But I want to have a final expert’s verdict. So, please help me by telling will it be a good printer as it is factory-fitted with CIS. I want to take photo prints also from this printer and this is what troubling me. Will it be good enough in producing good photos?
    Please give your views so that I can move forward.

  • By Warren - Reply

    Sorry, I have been riding my motorcycle through Alaska and been away. I gave up on the Epson printers. I bought a Canon Pixma Pro 100, so far I haven’t had problems with the ink. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • By G. F. - Reply

    Tale(s) of woe:
    Initially used an HP Deskjet. Replace it with an Epson R280 so I could print on CD/DVD & make decent looking fotos. Tried a fairly costly CISS that I couldn’t get to work. Tech support was 1 step above nonexistent. Bought an Ink Republic CISS that was an absolute bear to get working. Had to use a hair dryer to rid the cartridge area of moisture, then I could reset the ink levels. When it worked, it was great.

    That R280 died after about 2 years, was replaced by another that was “still in the unopened box.” Setup with the IR CISS was again a bear but eventually it worked – no hair dryer needed this time. However, after about a year, it would make horrendous grinding noises when it was powered up. Letting it sit sometimes overnight, sometimes for a few days, & it would perform OK.

    Wanting something more dependable, I checked & searched & researched & decided on an Artisan 730, AIO, that could print on CD/DVD & do duplex. Again, a bear to set up, not the CISS but the printer itself. Epson tech support only minimally helpful. It worked for about a month then “paper jam errors” even though I was printing on DVD’s. Epson replaced it with a rebuilt 730, same problem. Epson again replaced it with another rebuilt 730, same problem. Finally, after asking for a new unit instead of the rebuilt one, I got one that worked. Worked fine, nice fotos, good DVD printing, loved the automatic duplex printing feature. Then, at 14 months of age, just out of warranty, “paper jam errors” again.

    At the recommendation of LJH enterprises who had sold me the CISS for the 730, bought another Epson, an Artisan 1430. Really nice prints, does a decent job printing on DVD’s, though at half the speed on the 730, but an absolute ink hog. No more CISS – this time refillable cartridges. But it won’t do automatic duplex printing – It has to be done manually – print odd # 3 pages, then reinsert paper, print even # pages, after remembering to reverse either the print order or the pages themselves before the 2nd printing. Did I mention I’m a Macintosh user? Did I mention the Epson web site for the 1430 does not specifically say it won’t do 2 sided printing? “Not all printing options are available for the Macintosh.”

    Rant’s over. Sorry.

    Question was/is why did I stay with Epson? Don’t know.

    I guess Caveat Emptor applies here.

    I’d appreciate any comments/insights.


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