What Does 5% Page Coverage Look Like?

If you look on the side of your printer cartridge box you might see something like ‘3000 pages at 5% coverage’. ‘Great’ you say, but what does this actually mean? And what does 5% coverage look like?

Who Created This 5% Measurement?

This 5% measurement was created by those good, good people at the excitingly named International Organisation for Standardisation. In their document called ISO/IEC 19798:2007, they calculated that an average business letter printed on A4 paper would be covered by 5% of standard black ink or toner. Therefore, assuming you were printing an approximation of this average business letter, you would be able to print it 3000 times using one cartridge. Simple right? Well, it’s not quite as simple as it seems…

What Are The Problems With Using This Measurement?

The actual word count you can achieve per page when trying to keep to the 5% page yield can get thrown out by lots of different, and often small, factors.

These include:

  • Size of font you use
  • Type of font you use
  • Weight of font you use
  • Width of page border
  • Addition of extras such as graphs, images or simple lines

For example; independent research found that when comparing a typical group of popular fonts between a point size of 9 to 12, Calibri constantly gave you a greater word count for your 5% coverage than all the other fonts tested.

This means that theoretically, switching to Calibri for all your print work would automatically start saving you money in the long run. So, when faced with the question, ‘what does 5% page coverage look like?’, the answer is a rather frustrating ‘it depends’. The best way to use the 5% figures quoted on cartridge boxes is to just use it as a very rough guide. Think of the most basic short letter you could write as representing that 5%, and then compensate for every extra formatting or design you wish to add to your documents, as these will increasing shorten the number of pages you can print from one cartridge.

In Summary

Trying to standardise the average printed page is like trying to herd cats. In the real world we print a mind-boggling array things; from brief cover slips to business reports to the kid’s homework.

All this in reality makes it very hard to predict how many pages you will be able to print from a single ink cartridge using the 5% page coverage quoted on the printer box. The best thing you can do if you want to get the most value out of your printer ink is to always print using the most basic formatting where possible. By cutting down on big headlines, bold sections, fancy borders and extra graphics, you will go along way to cutting your cartridge costs and getting closer to the 5% figure…

…but I feel it may make the world a slightly duller place.