What is color coverage? The answer is a little complicated, and this complication can cost you a boatload of money if you’re not careful.

As people most commonly understand it, color coverage is the percentage of a page covered in color. However, the maximum color coverage isn’t 100%, it’s 380%.

How Color Coverage Gets Calculated

Color coverage gets calculated by how much each toner cartridge covers. There are four cartridges (cyan, yellow, magenta, and black), and each of them can cover 95% of a page.

This part is where the numbers get strange.

If you use all black ink to cover a page, you will get 95% coverage with the black ink. However, if you print a page that is all orange, you will get a color coverage of roughly 160%. Orange uses a mixture of yellow and magenta, so each toner cartridge would cover 80% each, adding up to 160%.

How Does Color Coverage Impact Your Monthly Costs?

Most contracts have a clause stating that if you use a historical average of more than 20% color coverage, your copier company will charge you extra for each month you cross that average.

Your copier company bases the 20% color coverage on an average of 5% of each color cartridge used, making 20%.

How Can You Avoid Paying Extra Money on Color Coverage

You have four action steps you can take to make sure your color costs don’t skyrocket out of control:

Eliminate the 20% coverage up charge from your contract.

If possible, have your copier rep remove the provision that allows them to charge you extra money if you go over 20% color coverage. If you can’t get rid of this provision, keep a sharp eye on your color usage and make sure your total monthly color coverage stays below 20%.

Run and analyze a test print.

Compile a test print that your rep can run on the copier you’re looking to buy. Run an analytics tool on that print to see the exact amount of coverage on that page. The results of this test print will help you keep better tabs on your color coverage moving forward.

Use different printers for different coverages.

You may have some copiers or printers with either high color coverage limits or no restrictions. Run your color prints through these machines, and run your low coverage prints on your less expensive printers.

Beware using tabloid sheets.

Tabloid sheets are exactly double the size of standard letter sheets. Therefore, they use twice the color toner. To prevent going over your color coverage allowance when using tabloid sheets, cut your color usage in half (meaning if you were using 20% color coverage on standard sheets, you’d need to use only 10% coverage on tabloid sheets.)

By following these steps alone, you will save yourself thousands of dollars on the life of your copiers and color printers.