What Does 5% Coverage Mean?

You’ve bought your ink cartridge or toner cartridge, put it in your printer and printed away. Sooner than you thought it would, your printer tells you you’re low on ink or toner. You check how many pages you’ve printed and see that it’s nearly half of what’s stated on the box or in the specifications you saw. And then you notice a little piece of text next to the estimated page yield, ‘at 5% coverage’.
What, you may be asking, is 5% coverage and why can I not print that many pages? We answer that question often, so we’ve put together a guide on what 5% coverage is and how to get the most out of your printer cartridges.
What is 5% coverage?
The 5% coverage standard was created by the International Organisation for Standardisation as a way for printer manufacturers to reliably state how much a printer cartridge could print. There are three standardisation documents that are used:

ISO/IEC 24711:2007 for mono or colour inkjet printing,
ISO/IEC 19752:2004 for mono laser printing, and 
ISO/IEC 19798:2007 for colour laser printing.

These documents use 5 commonly printed pages in different designs in order to determine how many pages a cartridge can print. The coverage pages assume basic text, with no bold characters, no graphics and no pictures. Five percent page coverage looks like this:
That’s not a whole lot of text at all and is not very close to what you would print in a real world situation. In fact, a full page of text is actually about 30% - 40% page coverage. And printing pictures or graphics along with the text increases your coverage percentage. Essentially, 5% coverage is an estimate of what the printer cartridge is capable of printing.

The amount of pages your ink cartridge or toner cartridge can actually print is based on a number of factors, like the content of a printed page, the size of the document being printed, whether you’re printing in colour or black and white, how often you print and even environmental factors.

How can I get the most out of my printer cartridges?

There are programmes you can use that will measure the page coverage of the page you want to print. A good example is AVPSoft’s APFill programme. It will give you the page coverage percentage as well as the percentage of various colours and shades.
If you don’t want to go the download and software route, you can follow these tips:

Use Calibri for your text. As these fonts are narrower and lighter they will use less ink or toner when printed. And it’s best to stick to 11 or 12 point font.

Use economy or draft mode to print out text based documents. You only really need to print on the highest quality settings if you’re printing out your family photos. Using the economy or draft mode will also make your print speeds faster.

Only print in colour when it’s really necessary. Set your colour settings to greyscale as even if you are printing in black and white, some inkjet printers will still use colour ink.

Use printwhatyoulike.com to eliminate white spaces and ads from webpages you want to print. 

Print only what you need. There’s no point in printing a whole book when you only need a few paragraphs or pages. 

Avoid printing the borders on Excel spreadsheets, they can increase your page coverage considerably. 

You should also generally avoid running too many print head cleans on your ink cartridges as this can use up a lot of ink.

By printing carefully and planning your printing, you could end up printing out close to the manufacturer’s estimated page yield.
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