Review: Epson Artisan 50 CIS (CISS) Continuous Ink System

Review: Epson Artisan 50

with continuous inking system (CIS, CISS).

Epson Artisan 50 Inkjet Printer - about to be put to good use with a CIS, CISS, CI system.

CI System (CISS) and printer bundle here.

Great printer – 6-color photo printer, small form factor, outstanding prints, just a great 4×6, 8.5×11 top quality photo printer.  Will also do legal size paper, and prints to CDs and DVDs with included tray.  Professional quality photos – and when combined with a CI system, a perfect everyday printer for all kinds of documents.

Epson Artisan 50 refurbished inkjet printer from the website.

Detailed specifications available on Epson’s website:

The Artisan 50 replaced the Epson Stylus Photo R260, R280 (260, 280) as the only 6-color letter size “just-a-printer” offering from Epson.  Every other 6-color Epson printer  is a multi-function printer (Artisan 700, 710, 800, 810), or large format (1400, R1900).

Epson Artisan 50 with CIS, CISS, continuous ink (inking) system (solution).

The elusive refurbished Artisan 50 6-color printer with CI system – $59.00 at the Epson store.

When you can catch it – man they sell fast.  The refurbished printers include the same warranty as a new printer, and we have been happy with the quality.  You can also purchase new for $93-$99 from Amazon.




Short specs on the Artisan 50:

  • 4″ x 6″ photos as fast as 11 sec
  • Ultra Hi-Definition photos
  • CD/DVD Printing
  • 4.8 ppm black  – 5 ppm color
  • 6 (six) Individual ink cartridges
  • Dye based Claria inks
  • Prints from (4×6) to legal size (8.5×14)

This is just a printer.  There are no multi-function capabilities, and it will not print larger than legal size paper.  Great for what it does, but if you need a fax or a scanner, look elsewhere.

What About The Cartridges:

T078 – T077

The T078 and T077 (high capacity) ink cartridges cracked open and compared - which one has the most ink, and by how much?

The T078 and T077 (high capacity) ink cartridges cracked open and compared - the T078 has airspace! The T077 is completely full.

We cracked these cartridges open for a look a while back, you can see pictures and read more here:

Cartridges for the Epson Artisan 50 are priced out of the stratosphere – the printer uses six (6) individual ink cartridges.  Epson plays the same full vs. half-full cartridge game as HP and Lexmark.  There are two cartridges you can use in this printer; the “half-full”T078, or the “full” T077 series.

Epson even puts a sticker on the inside of the printer so there is no confusion.

Epson T078 T077 Cartridge Numbers Printed On Inside Of Epson Artisan 50 Inkjet Printer

T078 series “standard capacity”

– or what they really mean (half-full).  These cartridges contain Epson Claria dye based inks.  One for each color, and black; the T078 series cartridge contains about 7-8ml of ink.  Average price of $13-$14 per cartridge, or $75.00 for a full set.

T077 series “high capacity”

– or the more correct term (mostly-full), available through the Epson store.  You can sometimes find them on Amazon – here. Cartridges contain Claria dye based inks.  One for each color, and black; T077 series cartridge contains about 11-12ml of ink.  Average price of $20 per cartridge.  A full set of the T077 cartridges will run you $95.00 minimum.

Cartridges? Who cares…

Epson Artisan 50 refurbished refurb inkjet printer with CI system (CIS, CISS)

We really don’t care what the cartridge situation is – this printer was born to use a CIS, or CISS (continuous ink (inking) system).  The only thing interesting about the Epson cartridges is how many we will *not* have to purchase over the life of this printer.  This lets us focus on paper – Epson paper is quality stuff, however we think Red River Paper is the same quality and about half the price.

Ink and paper products for the Artisan 50 photo inkjet printer from Epson


Consist of these few steps (all covered in the included instructions):

  1. Equalize ink levels (tilt ink supply reservoir forward)
  2. Remove shipping plugs – (replace with breathers)
  3. Remove printer cartridge cover*
  4. install CIS cartridges and route tubing
  5. Trick “lid-open” latch (q-tip works great)*

*3.) This step is not difficult, however knowing how to remove the cartridge cover saves a few coins from the swear jar. The cover must be removed with a CI system so the tubing can escape, and the cover would not close anyway. The cover is not needed, it gets in the way, and it does not hurt the printer to remove it.  Off it comes.  See our install video for a working example.

Removing the cartridge cover – not hard if you know *where* to pry.  Upper right-hand corner of the print head – remove the hinge with a flat head screwdriver. *Then* the cover is ready to come off.

Where to pry the cover off an Epson Artisan 50 inkjet printer for use with a CI System, or CISS, CIS, Bulk Ink.

Epson Artisan 50 cartridge cover hinge, clip and where to pry or place the screwdriver

Press cartridges down firmly to seat. Epson Artisan 50.

5.) This printer is perfect for use with a CI system.  There is plenty of clearance inside the printer for the tubing to run free, and the printer is easily tricked concerning the “lid is open” message with a q-tip.

q-tip open cover hack for Epson stylus photo Artisan 50

Ready to print!

At this point run a few test prints and see if you want the external inks on the left or the right, or maybe you want the ink tank in the back?  By running some test prints we can see how the tubing behaves and decide the best position for the external tank.

This printer has 6 colors, and produces incredible photos.  We ran off 15 or so photos on some Epson and Red River glossy and matte papers, and our prints all looked fantastic.

The Artisan 50, and most Epson 6-color photo printers less than $300, use a dye based ink – so colors are brighter and more defined.  Our CI system has dye inks as well, and they look perfect.  Nice to be able to print without having to worry about the ink price.

Installation video (instructions):

We decided the external tank should go on the left, but we might change our minds.

Installing the system is easy enough…

CD-DVD printing:

Popular choice among CD-DVD printers.

The Epson Artisan 50 6-color inkjet photo printer will also print directly to CDs and-or DVDs.  Make sure to get the “inkjet printable” recordable media, and print directly on the media – no more labels!

Epson Artisan 50 refurbished refurb CD-DVD tray insterted and ready for printing

The coolest CD-DVD printing we have seen was with the Artisan 700-710-800-810 series; so cool we made a video.  The CD-DVD tray is stored inside the printer – much harder to lose this way.

With the Artisan 50 CD-DVD printing is easy with the included CD-DVD print tray.  The media sits on the plastic tray, and once lined up, it is sucked into the printer were the media is printed to.  Works fine, but take your time lining up the tray, and whatever you do, don’t lose it.  Must use the bundled Epson CD-DVD printing software utility to print CDs or DVDs.

Epson Artisan 50 refurbished inkjet printer with CD-DVD tray inside printer during printing

Video of the CD-DVD printing process:

Takes about 3-4 minutes to print a CD or DVD, but the results are fantastic!

Plenty of room inside this printer…

Epson ink monitor is still watching you…

Epson Artisan 50 ink monitor image

The Artisan 50 is really perfect for a CI system.  The print head is of the same family as the old R200, R220, R340, R320, RX620, RX600 series.  The quality of prints is fantastic, and the CI system has plenty of room to operate inside the Artisan 50.

What to do when the cartridge runs out of ink?

There are chips on the end of each cartridge – these chips “keep tabs” on your estimated ink usage and will report empty at some point.  There are several ways to reset the ink levels, but with our system there is a button.  Press the red flashing button on the printer to get the print head to the “replace cartridge” location.  Simply press and hold the white button 3-4 seconds.  Now press the red flashing button on the printer  and your cartridges are now reset.

It is important to note – the cartridges cannot be reset at just any point – the Epson ink monitor must report out of ink (for any cartridge), and then a reset of all cartridges can be done.  Once reset, all chips report full cartridges.

Artisan 50 Inkjet Printer Refurbished CIS, CISS Ink System Custom - reset the cartridges when they indicate empty.

Notice these cartridges, the Epson T078, and T077 series inkjet cartridges, also work in the Epson Stylus Photo – R260, R280, R380, RX595, RX595, and RX680 series inkjet printers.

Ink quality:

We also tried some different papers.

Tried some Epson premium presentation matte (double sided) S041568 (it was ok), and some Epson high quality ink jet paper S041111 (not awesome).  We then tried some of our Red River paper sampler – a luster photo satin, and about 15 different glossy photo papers – color adjustments took some time, however we were pleased with the quality of the prints we saw. We have no problems recommending this system, and printer to anyone – the print quality is outstanding.


Get it.  Well worth the price, and flexible.

If you are looking for a solid “just-a-printer” the Epson Artisan 50 is a very good choice – new or refurbished.  Low entry cost ($60-$129) for the printer, and a continuous inking system works fantastically well.  Lab quality photo prints, fast 4×6 photo prints, and when bundled with a (CIS, CISS) CI system the Artisan 50 inkjet photo printer becomes a great everyday use printer.

If you are planning on using Epson brand ink cartridges, all bets are off – the Epson brand ink is a killer.

Here is the refurbished printer link – (or try – $59.99

New printer – website – $99.99.

And there is always Amazon…

Epson Artisan 50 CIS, CISS, inking systems.

Review: CIS For Canon Pixma iP4700, iP4600 (CISS) CI system

Canon Pixma iP4700 and iP4600 CI System (CIS, CISS) Review:

Hot off the truck – iP4600/iP4700 CI systems with Canon CLI-221, PGI-220 series auto resetting ink cartridges.


When using a CI system, or CISS there are few important things to remember. Most important is to never, ever, ever put the external ink supply higher than the cartridges.  Keep the cartridges and CI system at the same level.  Setting the system next to the printer (on the same level) is the best, and recommended, way to ensure proper operation.

Read through the included directions, go slow.  Basic premise is that ink is fed from an external source to a set of cartridges that pass ink through the printer.  The cartridges must be there for the printer to function, so tubing is used to pipe-in-ink as needed.  No more needed cartridges, and no more refilling 5 cartridges at a time.

Quickly becoming a staff favorite.

iP4600 Pictured – Identical to iP4700:

iP4700 CIS Canon Pixma iP4600 Inkejt Printer Ink Solution

Been waiting for this one for a while.  This Canon “just a printer” series is awesome (no all-in-one features).  The Canon Pixma iP4200, iP4300, iP4500, iP4600, and iP4700 are basically the same printer from a print quality and technology perspective, and the differences are really just cosmetic – these are solid performers with either compatible ink, refills, or CI systems.

To top it off, all these printers include an auto duplexer feature so you can print on both sides of the page – all from a relatively compact printer.  Uses a standard power cord (unlike HP, pet peeve).

Step 1 – Set-Up:

Detailed instructions on this step are included with the system, and it is pretty self explanatory once you see the actual external ink tank.

First step is to equalize the ink levels in the external ink container, and then remove and replace the shipping plugs and included air breathers.  The system is shipped with the external tanks full of ink, so the system is sealed up for shipping as not to leak.  When removing the shipping plugs, make sure to watch the splatter – use a paper towel, tissue, or cloth to remove the shipping plugs and absorb any microscopic ink splatter.


To keep proper pressure, the external ink tank must be leveled off.  There is a chamber inside the chamber that has an opening at the bottom. Tilt the external ink tank forward, and the ink levels in the rear chambers will start to lower.  You will want to keep these levels low to ensure proper ink flow.  When you refill the external tank, you might have to repeat this process.

Tilt external tank forward - this will equalize the ink levels

For iP4700, iP4600 CISS tilt external tank forward - this will equalize the ink levels. Click for larger image.

Ink levels should be very low in chanbers at the back of the external ink supply.

iP4700 CIS, iP4600 CIS ink levels should be very low in chanbers at the back of the external ink supply. Click for larger image.

Again, this step is covered in greater detail in the included instructions, and we only mention it first because it is much easier to do with the shipping plugs installed.

Shipping plug – vs. Ink refill plugs.

The shipping plugs are the smaller plastic plugs located along the back of the external CISS tank.  The larger refill plugs are not to be removed until an ink refill is required.

Types of plugs on the outside ink tank for the Canon Pixma iP4700 CISS and iP4600 CISS

Types of plugs on the outside ink tank for the Canon Pixma iP4700 CISS and iP4600 CISS. Click for larger image.

System includes all necessary materials

  • External ink supply – no more refilling small cartridges
  • Dummy “pass through” cartridges, with auto reset chip
  • 5 individual gaskets – must be placed inside the print head (sounds harder than it actually is)
  • Tweezers for gasket placement
  • Metal tubing guide
All items included with iP4700, iP4600 CISS, CIS package

All items included with iP4700, iP4600 CISS, CIS package.

Gaskets, Step 2:

Hardware included with Canon CIS For iP4700, iP4600, iP4500, iP4300, iP4200

Hardware included with Canon CIS CISS For iP4700, iP4600, iP4500, iP4300, iP4200. Click for larger image.

Before the cartridges can be installed in the print head, a set of gaskets must be placed on the ink inlets.

This process (placing the gaskets) is the same for the Canon Pixma iP4200, iP4300, iP4500, iP4600, and iP4700 series.  After removing the installed cartridges (if present) simply place a rubber gasket over each of the five (5) ink inlets – this must be done before you install the new CIS, CISS cartridge set.

Gaskets have an obvious orientation with the wide side to the back, and the smaller rounded edge to the front.  The gaskets will prevent the ink from pouring through the printer, so they are a necessary part of the installation.

There are 5 cartridges for the Canon Pixma iP4300, iP4200, iP4500 printers, and each seal must be covered.

Installing Cartridges – Step 3:

Remove orange covers, install as normal…

Cartridge covers should be removed slowly – do not break cartridge locking tab, and watch out for ink spilling out once the covers are removed.  It is a good idea to hold the cartridges together in a bunch.  Also the orange covers detach from the cartridge in the front (non-chip side), and then just move off the locking tab.  You will know it when you see it.

Removing the orange clips from the CLI-8, PGI-5 cartridge set for  install into the Canon Pixma iP4300. iP4200, iP4500

Watch out here:

Be careful with this step.  Ink seems to run through the cartridges very easily – and we mean very easily, and we made a big mess on our first install attempt with this system.  You want to make sure you hold the cartridges up-side down when removing the orange cartridge covers –  it would not hurt to hold the cartridges above the external ink tank to keep ink from running out of the cartridges.  Try to hold the cartridges in one hand and install the cartridges in the print head as a bunch.  The quicker you can get the cartridge set in the printer, the better.

(pressure builds up during shipping, and the ink is just ready to pop out once the orange caps are removed, just be aware.)

Look out for “Error Number 6502”

Once you get the cartridges in the printer, look out for this error message:

“Error Number : 6502

A problem has occurred with the printer mechanism. Cancel printing and turn off the printer.  Wait a few moments, then turn the power back on.  If the problem persists, contact one of the service centers.”

This happens because there is an optical sensor inside the printer, and if there is to much light getting inside the printer (via the open or cracked lid) this error message will pop up:


You can easily remedy this issue by modding the case, or by using a piece of cloth to cover the exposed area.  If the lights start flashing like crazy at you, the printer must be restarted with the excess light eliminated.  Do your best to get the lid to close at least partially.

Press down on the cartridges until you hear an audible “click” – or at least feel one.  All the red lights should be lit up showing a good connection.

Make sure you hear (or feel) an audible click when seating the cartridges for the Canon Pixma iP4700 and iP4600 CIS, CISS systems.

Make sure you hear (or feel) an audible click when seating the cartridges for the Canon Pixma iP4700 and iP4600 CIS, CISS.

Routing Tubing – Cartridge Cover Trick – (Final) Step 4:

Canon pixma iP4600, iP4700 CIS, CISS, Inking System Tubing

Now simply route the tubing out of the printer as you see fit – we think the natural fit is to the right of the printer, but you can experiment to see what works best for you.  You may have to mold the included metal bracket to suit your needs.  In this configuration the lid almost closes completely.

Making the printer think the cover is closed…

The “printer cover latch” needs to be fooled into thinking the printer cover is closed (since the lid cannot be closed with tubing coming out of it) – simply take one of the shipping plugs that was removed from the external ink tanks and insert it into the latch area with the included tweezers.  The printer will now think the printer cover is all-the-way closed, and your printer will function normally.  There is the added benefit –  a partially closed lid protects the under-side of the print head by keeping dust and particles out of the “print-track”.

Use an included shipping plug to press down the lid closed latch on the printer.

Use an included shipping plug to press down the lid closed latch on the printer.

Now start printing.  You might need to make some color adjustments in the printer driver software, and you might want to experiment with different print settings (like glossy setting for plain paper).  Print quality of both photos and text documents were solid.  Use good paper and photos will last forever.

Custom color adjustments can be set in the printer driver (Mac OS X)

Custom color adjustments can be set in the printer driver (Mac OS X)

We know that compatible cartridges are cheap for this print series ($5.00 each, $25 a set), and refilling is one way to go, but if you print more than a ream of paper in a 2 month period, a CI system is a great alternative to buying cartridges repeatedly, and dealing with refilling hassles are a thing of the past.  This system just sits there and works.

No more cartridges…

Suffering from “cartridge confusion?” Well, no more!

No more ink cartridges - CISS, CIS is the way to go with this printer series.

No more late night, or weekend trips to track down an ink cartridge (included chips auto reset) when one runs out. Canon makes it so the empty cartridge must be replaced before the printer will function (think of it as holding your printer hostage).  Gone are the days when you could print your report (that is due in 15 minutes) in simply blue ink.

Overall this system is an excellent value and will pay for itself quickly.  If you can follow directions, and are mildly proficient at problem solving,  installation can be done by anyone.

Get your Canon iP4700, iP4600 CIS here $85.00 shipped.

If you would rather use Canon brand ink cartridges, or compatible 3rd party alternatives, get your cartridges here.

Full video on installation:

Canon CI System (CIS) For Pixma iP4500, iP4300, iP4200

Canon CI System iP4200, iP4300, iP4500

(CLI-8, PGI-5 Cartridges)

Get one here.

These Canon printers work great with a CI System, and while the cover must be kept open partially, this is a small price to pay for an unlimited ink supply.  Compatible cartridges for these printers can be had for $5.00-$7.00 (original Canon cartridges are $15.00 each!), and refills are possible with special chips (or by turning off the Canon ink monitor), CI systems provide a hassle free way to print thousands of documents or photos for pennies on the dollar.  Here is a video we compiled of a complete install of a CI system into a Canon Pixma iP4200, iP4300, iP4500 (CLI-8, PGI-5BK) printer.

Main things to watch for:

  1. Equalize ink levels – easy as pie
  2. Gaskets must be used in order to prevent leakage – no problem
  3. Careful with those cartridges – they can make a mess on install

CIS – Canon Pixma iP4200:

CIS (CISS) for Canon InkJet Printers Coming…iP4700 CIS

Testing in bunches.

We have been testing a bevy of printers and will have reviews posted shortly.

Test printing with the Red River Paper sampler -20 different inkjet printer papers

We have been using the super cool sample printer paper packs from Red River Paper to run a full set of tests on not only the printer and the CI system (CIS, CISS), but how 20 different papers (light glossy to heavy matte) work with the printer/CI system combo.

Canon items we are posting shortly:

Canon Pixma Alternative Ink Solution CIS, CISS, Inking System iP4200, iP4300, iP4500

We can say that both systems work as advertised, and we are quite impressed with the performance of these printers when equipped with a CIS, CISS, or CI system.  You can stop refilling ink cartridges, and go CIS easily, and for less than $100.00.  Cartridges used are the PGI-5bk, and CLI-8 series, as well as the newer, and smaller, CLI-221, and PGI-220 series cartridges.

No more cartridges!

How To: Epson Artisan 700 Scanner Unit Open Hack

Not really a hack – like an ink cartridge hack, more of a make your life easier exercise.

Why is this necessary?

When using a CI system with your Artisan 700, or 710 inkjet printer the tubing that sticks out from where the ink cartridges are installed, gets crushed by the scanner unit.  To prevent this, you can simply re-locate the scanner sensor that is right behind the cartridge slots – to the peg on the underside of the scanner lid. Very simple process, easy to do.

If you see this error, you will know what we mean:

The scanner unit is open, When replacing ink cartridges(s), close the scanner unit after replacing.

Epson Artisan 700 scanner unit open sensor removal and relocation.

The scanner lid is so sensitive that when routing your CI system tubing out the front, or even sides of the printer, the lid will not fully close without pinching the tubing.  All this requires is a screwdriver, some scotch tape, and some patience.

CI systems for this printer are available here.

(CIS, CISS) Continuous Inking System FAQ

Continuous Inking Systems Frequently Asked Questions.

What you can expect v1.1 (updated 2-9-10):

No more cartridges!

Just say no to the ink cartridge

Just stop buying cartridges. Never have one "go out on you." Auto reset, unlimited ink.

CIS for all – kinda.

If you are in the market for a new printer – it is important to know (before you buy) what printers work best with CI systems (CIS, CISS). Maybe you are curious about your existing printer, and want to know if a CI system is right for you. If you want to know the chemical properties of 3rd party ink as compared to the manufacturer original, this may not be for you. The focus here is getting the lowest (quality) cost-per-print with an inkjet printer – period. Using CI systems can result in cost per page prices in the fraction of a cent range (excluding paper) but is the system reliable, and does it deliver a solid print? Aftermarket inks are very good (usually dye based), and while they are perfect for everyday use – if the desired result is to hang in a gallery, or sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars, you are gonna want to stick with manufacturer brand inks, however we think their longevity claims are overstated, but that is another FAQ.

What are requirements?

Not all printers are the same, and not all printer users have the same needs. Be realistic about your printing estimates – we have found that people who can print for fractions of a cent, tend to look for reasons to print more, and this is an easy thing to do in these digital times – share it with the world, hit print. With a continuous inking system (CIS, CISS, bulk ink) you can now afford to print your entire digital lifestyle. Printers are a dime a dozen, and there are literally hundreds on the market – finding a multi-function inkjet printer for the office is easy; finding one that gets the best cost per print can be challenging.

Other options available:

CI systems are not the only option, however in our opinion they are so easy to use (with the right printer), and inexpensive to operate that it just makes sense if you actually need to use the printer. There is also the added bonus of not needing to pick up an inkjet cartridge so you can scan, or send a fax – or <gasp> print. With a CI system, buying cartridges is a thing of the past. Chips on the cartridge that monitor page count auto or manual-reset when the printer tells you the cartridge needs replacing.

What is a CIS?

A CI System, or Continuous Inking System, sometimes known simply as CIS, CISS, or bulk ink system.

How it works:

Ink is delivered from an outside reservoir, or ink supply to the printhead via a set of pass-through ink cartridges. Ink is fed (via tubing) from outside the printer to the ink tanks, to be printed on the page. Works best with Epson printers, however some Canon, HP and Brother printers also work well with a CI system.

Not every printer out there is suited to easily work with a CI system. In our experience, CI systems work best with inkjet printers that have individual ink tanks for each color. It is much easier to deliver ink to 4, 5, 6, or even 8 individual ink cartridges, over trying to deliver all 3 primary colors to a single cartridge (think HP). If your current printer uses two cartridges (one black, and one color), CI systems may not be for you. They are out there, and available, however they can require constant attention and cartridges may need to be replaced every so often (this means removing and reattaching tubing – all 3 colors come from the same cartridge, etc…). The hassle factor is very high, and you could have a mess on your hands.

CIS disaster with a 2 cartridge system

CIS disaster with a 2 cartridge system. All colors are in the same cartridge making a CI system not the best choice in some cases.

So what printers work best?

On the other hand, Epson printers (some Canon, HP, Brother) use individual ink cartridges – exclusively – however within those printer models, some work better than others. CI systems are also available for some Canon, HP, and Brother printers that use individual ink tanks. HP is starting to produce more and more “individual ink tank” type printers, and some realistic CI system options will be available for the HP 564, and 920 cartridge series shortly.

CIS CISS installed into Epson inkjet printer

CI system - ink is fed from outside the printer to a set of dummy cartridges to provide unlimited printing at a price you can actually afford.

Reset the cartridge when empty, but how?

Another thing to consider is the way the cartridges are reset when the printer registers as out of ink. The dummy, or pass-through cartridges that are included with your CI system also have a chip on the end that communicates with the printer, just like an overpriced brand name cartridge. When it comes time to “change” a cartridge, what is the reset method? There is the auto-reset method, where the printer is immediately and transparently fooled – there is the remove and replace method, where the cartridges must be physically removed from the print head, and re-inserted to reset the chip back to “empty” – and there is the “press-this-button” on the cartridge, and everything is reset, method. Each printer is different, so check to make sure what method is used before you buy.

Reset button for CIS CISS inket printer systems

When the printer says your ink cartridge is empty, simply press this reset button on the Epson Artisan 800 inkjet printer.

Make sure to get the right printer:

When purchasing a new printer, it is always a good idea to look at what type of cartridges are used anyway, and how much ink they contain. There are some cartridges you will want to avoid at all costs (no matter what your printing needs are), and some that provide better cost per page rates.

It’s you vs. them.

One thing needs to be understood – printer companies make their money on the ink cartridges, not the printer. CI systems are not sold by the printer companies – this is a 3rd party invention, and in our opinion, quite ingenious. CI systems require some maintenance – clearing up tubing tangles, refilling of external tank after 1,000-3,000 prints, reset of chips via either auto, or manual – but overall if you print more than a ream of paper in a 6-8 week period, CI systems can save you a ton of cash on consumables (cartridges) and even enable you to print even more for pennies on the dollar. They are definitely worth a look.

Still viable for low volume printers:

If you print less than a ream of paper per month a CI system can still work for you, but you literally may never need to buy another cartridge or refill. Systems that contain ink will last on average about 3k pages. You can still save cash by using compatible cartridges, or re-manufactured ink cartridges as well. The typical full manufacturer cartridge set ($80.00) will net about 400 text prints; your mileage may vary.

Identify CI systems by cartridge:

Look for the cartridges – this will help refine your printer search. Then, within that selection, look to see what actual printer works best with a CI system, and from that list select based on your printing needs. Does it need to be large format? Fax capable? Photo Printer? All-In-One?

Most all Epson printers (some exceptions) work very well with CI systems. If you see a CI system listed on our site we can recommend it for use in those printers that use these cartridges. In some cases we will have some (CIS, CISS) associated online content (installation video, CIS in action, reviews, pictures, set-ups, etc.), and you also have the option of purchasing printer and CI system bundles that we have tested in our shop before shipping.

Printers we like with CIS, CISS, Bulk Ink Systems:

Epson is our favorite. We print lots of photos, and we just think Epson printers are the best at printing photos, hands down. A CI system makes the Epson printers even more fun to work with, as printing costs are negligible. Canon has some 6-color and 8-color printers that produce a quality print, but we just prefer the Epson print quality. Not all Epson printers work well with CI systems – think NX series (tight fit for a CIS).

The knock on Epson in the past (for a general purpose printer) has been cartridge price. To expensive to be an everyday printer. This changes when a CI system is introduced into the mix. Print thousands of pages for an initial investment of $95-$179, and refills which are equal to 50-60 Epson cartridges, are available for $30-$50. Save thousands on consumables – there is also the added bonus of never having to purchase another inkjet cartridge ever. Never run out of ink, never replace one cartridge only to have another need replacing the next day. Low hassle printing for a fraction of the cost of manufacturer brand ink. In some cases, a printer plus a CI system may actually be cheaper than purchasing a set of cartridges for your current printer!

Epson Printers we like:

Epson Stylus C120 Inkjet Printer CIS Inkjet Ink System

Artisan 700, 800, 710, 810

Absolute best performer – printer is constructed like a CI system internally. No moving parts, simple to use and operate. Multi-function photo printers. May be the last printer you ever purchase. If you are looking for a deal on this printer, check the Epson store, or Amazon. We also offer these printers as bundles with a CI system, and additional set of refills.

Epson Workforce 30 – Stylus C120

These two are the exact same printer. Just a printer – has 2 black cartridge slots, fast printer and easy installation. Bundle deal here.

Epson Workforce 500

Multifunction all-in-one. Complete with built-in fax, auto document feeder (ADF), color scanner, printer, copier, media readers, 4-color office printer. Get up to 5-6k pages with this bundle.

Epson Stylus Photo 1400

Large format 6-color photo printing. Now you can actually use this printer. With cartridges for the Epson Photo 1400 costing $20.00 each ($120.00 total), a CI system is a no brainer for this printer. Epson cartridges can always be re-installed if necessary. Get this CI system (CIS, CISS) for only $119, or buy the bundle ($299).

You may own one of these Epson Printers:

Other “older” printers that also work well include the Epson Artisan 50, Stylus C64, C66,C68, C84, C86, C88, CX5000, CX6000, CX6400, CX6600, CX7000, CX8400, CX9400, CX9450, CX9475, Stylus Photo R200, R220, R300, R320, R340, RX500, RX600, RX620, and the newer models – Stylus Photo R260, R280, R380, RX595, RX680, and large format Stylus Photo R800, R1800, R1900 inkjet printers.

HP Printers we like:

HP 02 CIS CISS inking system

Thinking individual ink tanks here. You can use a CI system with HP printers that use only 2 cartridges (black, color) however in our experience these type systems do not always perform well, and require more attention.

HP Officejet 6000, 6500, 7000

Uses the HP 920 cartridge. Individual ink tanks for each of the colors and black cartridges. Nice performer, overall gets good grades. Cartridges move along with the print head.

HP 02 Series Cartridge

Why a cartridge and not a list of printers? Because there are to many printers that work with this cartridge. Should be a photosmart series printer. HP Printers that use the HP 02 series cartridge, can take advantage of a very reliable and easy to use CI system. There are no moving parts, and ink is fed directly to the cartridge from an external source. Very easy to install and use. Cartridges do not move. For a complete list of compatible printers, please look here.

HP 564 Series Cartridge:

Another cartridge that gets used in a bunch of printers. CI systems can be had for this cartridge series, and all the printers that work with it. Cartridges move along with the print head. Very nice solution.

Canon Printers we like:

Coming soon…CI systems are under development for the newer Canon Pixma iP series of printers. Check back soon for our recommendations.

Brother Printers we like:

Coming soon…we have started testing on these printers, and we like what we see so far. More to come.

What about the ink quality?

All CI systems we offer contain dye based inks. As a general rule most 6-color photo printers that cost less than $300.00 or so also use a dye based ink from the manufacturer. Dye based inks are common inmost photo printers as they will produce a “brighter” and more “detailed” image. You can find pigment based inks (more durable, but duller image) in 4-color office, or general home use printers. All printer manufacturers have discovered the magic of attaching a fancy name to their inks to increase their marketability – Epson has Durabrite (pigment), Claria (dye), and UltraChrome (pigment) brand ink, and even HP markets the Vivera (dye) brand ink.

Simply put, dye based inks fade – they are water based, and water evaporates over time, just a fact of life. Printer manufacturers will talk about their special formulas, or added ingredients, but unless you are selling your work for thousands of dollars per print, there is no reason to pay the equivalent of $11,000 a gallon for ink. There are steps you can take to protect your prints, and even the printer manufacturers admit that their longevity testing was done with prints behind glass, on special paper, and out of the sun. The most important factor is really paper. If you print to a good quality paper, half the battle is won. For text, or simple document printing – stuff that will not see the sun – the prints will last your lifetime, that is for sure.

HP says:

“light fade testing under glass (as of January 2005) on HP Premium Plus Photo Paper.” Link.

Epson says:

“Ink fade resistance ratings based on accelerated testing of prints, on specialty media, displayed in a glass frame in indoor display conditions.” Link.

Put it in a picture frame. Done.

CI Systems not for everyone?

CIS, CISS, or bulk ink systems do require some basic maintenance, and the occasional cartridge chips that will not reset can be a pain, but if you can put up with a few quirks of the system a CI system can save you literally, thousands of dollars on ink – over the life of the printer. We are confident that with the printers we have highlighted above, your experience with a CI system will be a good one.

Video: Epson Stylus CX6000 With CI System (CIS, CISS)

Epson Stylus CX6000 CI System Install:

Video – this is an older printer, however it still works great and it works even better with a continuous inking system.  Look how easy it is to install, and use.  The ink sits outside the printer and is fed to a set of resettable dummy cartridges.  If you still own this printer, and are not using a continuous inking system, get one today.

As you can see from the video, installation is easy, and the quality is fantastic.