Cheapest Way to Print: Online vs Local vs Self-Printing

While smartphones have made life more convenient and information more accessible, access to a printer is still a must. Whether you have to print an essay for your English professor at the last minute, or your restaurant needs to update its new menus, ink and paper are still needed in this digital age.

Printing may also be more economically friendly than electronic communication because of paper’s ability to be used as a reusable source. Many printing businesses are also recycling any and every type of paper waste they can, which keeps costs down for all consumers.

But what if you need a big banner for your school or you just opened a small business and need some new business cards and new menus? Contrary to popular belief, the cheapest way to print may not always be from your home or local print shop.

Let’s go over where to print your project to get more bang for your buck.

Online Printing

Good for: Large orders


Online printing takes a lot of the guesswork out of the whole printing process. Plus it’ll take care of some of those issues you may come across, like which paper and ink are best to use. The efficiency and speed provided by a reputable online printing service make it incredibly useful for many projects.

Comparing printing prices online is as simple as a click of a button. Add in the convenience of being able to order business cards for cheap or fliers for that school event, and going online may be the cheapest way to print your project. Plus, the speed at which you’ll receive your order makes it all worth it.

Another aspect to consider is that when dealing with an online vendor, the price per item will decrease as the order volume increases. In other words, you’re getting more bang for your buck. You’ll also be able to preview your work before everything is finalized, and sometimes, you’ll receive a sample before committing to a full order.


Unfortunately, when it comes to online printing, you don’t have much control over the quality or outcome. Sure, you may have stated what you needed, but you can’t really specify how you want things to look and feel. You’re at the mercy of a company and technology that received your order all those miles away. Add in the fact that you’ll usually have to pay for shipping, and online printing may not be the best option for your project.

Self-Printing at Home

Good for: Small batches or single pages


You don’t need the fancy pearl shaded stock paper with smear-resistant technology—you need something to print your essay or that article you need to read for the meeting tomorrow. Just a simple piece of paper with some black ink is all you really need.

Honestly, just having a printer, whether it be the one you bought or the one at your job can make life simple. Plus, you’re not going to need to pay for shipping, handling, and tax, which makes it so worth it.


Having a printer on hand may be useful, but just like with any machine, some upkeep will be needed. We’ve all heard the horror stories of printers jamming or straight up not working right when you needed it most.

You also have to factor in the cost of printer ink: it’s considered one of the most expensive liquids in the world. Although you may not be buying a gallon of the stuff at a time, make no mistake that the price tag on a pack of ink can put a dent in your wallet for the week. To put it in perspective, a gallon of gas is less expensive than a single cartridge of ink!

Local Printing at a Shop

Good for: Specification and customer support


One of the great things about conducting business with a local printer is that you’ll be able to discuss your project or plan with a professional, face-to-face. Instead of dealing with a portal, you’ll be dealing with someone who’ll be communicating with you throughout the process. When it comes to expertise and quality, it seems that nothing can match the professionalism of a local print shop.

The cost of dealing with a local printer is also something to consider. Although it may seem cheaper to do your work online, you need to factor in a few other things as well. It’s important to look beyond the list price and focus on the people who are working with you to make sure your project is absolutely perfect.


Speed is going to always be of the essence whenever you have something to print, and sometimes local print shops can’t keep up. One day, they may be focused on printing business cards while the next day they’re focusing on banners. Time is money, and if you need your menus or banners as soon as possible, the local print shop may not be able to keep up with the demand.

What’s the Cheapest Way to Print?

Printing costs are going to always depend on the project that you’re creating, and sometimes, the cheapest way to print for one thing may be the most expensive thing to do for another. An online printing service is an easier and cheaper option when you don’t have time to worry about paper and ink selection, but a local shop may be worth the price if your project needs absolute precision.

No matter what though, whether you’re going to your local library to print out that article or going to a reputable online printing service like for cheap and quick printing services, doing a bit of research will help you find the most economically wise solution.