Best Refillable Inkjet Printers

There are a number of reasons why you should get an inkjet printer rather than a laser printer.  Most importantly, inkjets are often more affordable than laser printers. However, you will soon find out that the ink cartridges for inkjets are insanely expensive.  You would probably need to get a second mortgage or sell your first-born to maintain the printer.  BCH is here to help, as we've put together our top picks for the most outstanding inkjet printers (all can be refilled with inexpensive ink) in 2019. When compiling this list of the best inkjet printers of 2019, we took running costs into account. Therefore, the inkjet printers you find on this page will be economical to run, saving you money in the long run.


Best Printer for a Low-Volume Home Office

Printers that use PG-245 and CL-246 cartridges.  These printers are great for a volume of fewer than 500 pages per month.  They can print stunning 4x6 photos and laser-sharp text documents.  These cartridges are integrated, so when you change a cartridge, you also get a new printhead.  Unless the printer’s motor or rubber roller is worn out, you can expect these printers to run for years and years.  However, they do have a small paper feeder and are more suitable for occasional printing.

No Scanner; No WiFi (USB connection)

Scanner, No Wifi (USB Cable Only)

Scanner, Wifi, Home Use

ADF Scanner, Wifi, Fax, Office Use

*Canon MX490 Series.  The fax machine has a problem with refilled cartridges.  However, it has an automated document feeder (ADF) for the scanner.

Reset method:

These printers won’t reset.  The ink level will still be the same after adding ink.  You need to keep printing until the printer shows the following error message: “Error 1686/1688: The following cartridge is out of ink.”  Then, with the message window open, press and hold the STOP button for five seconds.  This will turn off the ink monitor and let you print forever.  The LED light will turn a steady amber color when the ink is low and will start flashing when you turn off the ink indicator.  It is okay to print with flashing LED lights.

Refill method:

  • Method 1: Simply drill a hole on top of the cartridge and add ink as needed. (Drill and fill kit for first-timers)
  • Method 2: Remove the Canon’s sponge and replace it with a larger sponge and a see-through window. (See Product)
  • Method 3: Remove the sponge completely and triple or quadruple the ink volume.  Now each refill equals three to four refills with a sponge (Spongeless).
  • Method 4: Install an ink system.  No more cartridge refills.  You will replace the cartridge only when it is burned out.  At BCH, we have both the conversion kit and ready-made whole unit with the printer. (See the CIS;  also see the ready-made printer)

Tip 1: What Brand Should I Buy?

In general, here are our feelings about the brands:

HP: Best for office or home-office use.  


  • Large paper tray
  • Fast printing speed
  • Easy to unclog


  • Refill solution can be tricky  
  • CIS needs more work
  • TIJ Technology, which cannot be used for sublimation printing

Canon: Best for home use.


  • The best printer for photo printing


  • Small paper tray
  • TIJ Technology, which cannot be used for sublimation printing

Epson: Middle-of-the-road for everything.  The most versatile printer


  • The refill chip has been worked out  
  • Plenty of CIS support  
  • Can be modified to print on sublimation ink  
  • Good quality photo if you buy an Epson photo printer


  • Frequent clogging and difficult to unclog


Best Printer for Medium Home Office Use

Epson printers with the T252 cartridge.  Epson has started making chips that aren’t resettable.  Therefore, these may be the last batch of resettable chips.  With Epson’s new cartridges trending over $100 per set, we should grab a T252 printer as soon as we see one.

The weakness of these printers is clogging.  Because the OEM ink is pigment ink, it is difficult to unclog.  We bought large quantities of used T252 printers from corporates.  Many of them printed less than 2,000 pages before they were clogged.  With a printer that is designed to print 2,000 pages a month, a printer would only have one month of print-life.  Therefore, you should print regularly if you choose this printer.  Also, we would encourage you to switch this printer to dye ink if you are handy.

Regular Size Printer

Wide Format

Reset method:  

You will either need a resetter or a refillable cartridge with ARC chips.

      • Resetter (See the EP2 Resetter): can reset ink level to 100% when there is at least 20% of the ink (according to the ink monitor, not the physical ink volume) left.  When the level goes under 20%, the chance of a reset diminishes.  A resetter only works on an OEM cartridge or one-time use chips.  It cannot work on ARC chips.  The advantage of a resetter is that you can control when to reset the ink level.  If you are using expensive media, you don’t want to ruin the print in the middle of printing.  We have customers who reset the chip every night before leaving work.
      • Refillable cartridge with ARC chips (See the cartridge).  These cartridges are transparent and you can see the actual ink level.  The chip resets itself once the maximum number of pages printed.  However, you have no control over when the chip is going to reset.  Once a chip is reset, the printer will display “xxx cartridge cannot be recognized.” This will be because the chip is reset but you haven’t taken it out of the printer, so the printer will be confused.  Therefore, you will take the cartridge out and refill it when encountering this error.  You will have no control when the ink level resets, and the chip has to roll to the maximum number of printed pages.  Many people see a “low ink warning” and start to refill the cartridge.  This won’t change the ink level at all.  You have to wait till the chip resets itself and then add ink.

Refill method:

OEM: Drill a hole on the top of the cartridge.  The OEM cartridge has a series of air chambers.  You can either drill through them or use a reverse-vacuum method to fill them.  Either way, make sure to prime the cartridge after refilling.

Refillable Cartridge: There are two holes.  One is an air hole, and the other one is the refilling hole.  It is easy to tell them apart: it is very difficult to fill the ink through the air hole.  Most BCH cartridges will put the color plug on the air hole, which forces you to remove the plug for the first use.  We put the clear plug on the refill hole.  Once you remove the clear plug, you can use the color plug to seal the refill hole.  The air hole should be exposed to the air during operation.

Tip 2: What Model Should I Buy?

Printer manufacturers normally separate usage into office use and photo use.  For the office, they often use four colors.  You may also see that some printers have five colors with two black cartridges plus three color cartridges (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow).  To understand this, we need to talk about the differences between dye and pigment ink.

Colorants in dye-based ink are fully dissolved in water and in pigment-based ink are insoluble particles suspended in water. A crude analogy is that dye inks resemble a salt solution and pigment inks resemble sandy water.  

Here are a few pros and cons of dye-based and pigment-based printing inks. This analysis will help you decide which printing ink best suits your printing needs.

Four Ink Cartridge Printers

In a four-ink system, the black is definitely pigment.  However, some models use dye ink for the three colors, and some use pigment for the three colors.  HP used to use dye ink for the color cartridge in a four-ink system.  However, they moved to pigment for all of their office models.

Five Ink Cartridge Printers

Many printer companies use a “regular” black, which is a pigment, to print normal texts and a “photo” black (dye ink) to print shades of black in pictures.  Therefore, these printers can have the best of two worlds (pigment and dye).  HP thinks this idea is so clever that they call it “PhotoSmart.”  If this is the setup, then the rest of the three cartridges (cyan, magenta, and yellow) are definitely dye inks.

More than Five Ink Cartridge

These are photo printers.  They will be labeled for pigment or dye for each cartridge.  Most cartridges are dye cartridges.  These printers will provide more accurate color mixing.  Printers cannot dilute ink on the fly.   For example, when they print cyan, the ink is 100% cyan, and they cannot dilute the cyan to 50% cyan + 50% water when the printer needs to print 50% cyan.  Therefore, the printer only exerts half the amount of cyan ink, which covers less paper.  Basically, we are looking at 50% cyan and 50% white, and we feel it is 50% cyan.  

These six cartridges and more will have light cyan, light magenta, and a whole bunch of in-between colors to help with this issue.  The printer beats the four-color printer by miles in photo printing.



Best Heavy Duty Printers

For heavy-duty printers, we would recommend HP.  For those printers, we would look at the printing speed and compare it to the laser.  Inkjets have a huge advantage in the category of high-resolution printing.  Laser printers are good for office documents, but you won’t be impressed if you print a color photo with a laser.  You can have the best of both worlds if you can find an inkjet printer with high speed that is also economical to operate.  Again, the laser has the advantage of not having a clogging problem.  Do not select an office HP inkjet unless you have the volume.  

Laser for Comparison:

HP LaserJet Pro M15w Wireless Laser Printer (W2G51A)

Print speed: 15 pages/minute

First page out eight seconds

Page per cartridge: 1,000

Cartridge cost:

HP Color Laserjet CP4025DN Printer (Certified Refurbished)

Print speed: 35 pages/minute

First page out ten seconds

Page per cartridge: black 8,500 color 11,000

Cartridge cost:

HP LaserJet Pro M281fdw All in One Wireless Color Laser Printer, Amazon Dash Replenishment ready (T6B82A)

Print speed: 35 pages/minute

First page out ten seconds

Page per cartridge: black 8,500 color 11,000

Cartridge cost:


HP PageWide Pro 477dw Color Multifunction Business Printer with Wireless & Duplex Printing (D3Q20A)

Print speed: Office documents: 55 pages/minute; Pro-Quality: 40 pages/minute

Monthly volume: Recommend 750-4,500, Max 50,000

Page per cartridge:

Cartridge cost:

Tip 3: What Refill Ink Should I Choose? The Pros and Cons of Dye-Based Inks:


  • Cheaper. Dye-based inks have been around longer than pigment-based inks.  Because of its development and manufacture process, dye-based ink is more affordable.
  • Brilliant Color.  Dyes have a wider color range and accuracy of color and are the standard ink type used in most inkjet printers.  Printers that utilize dye-based inks will produce prints more vibrantly, and pictures tend to look more realistic than pigment-based inks.
  • Anti-Smudging.  The dye gets deep into the substrate and stains it.  Therefore, the ink is extremely hard to remove after it is dried.  It is suitable for label printing.
  • Easy Unclogging.  The dye can be dissolved easily, so it’s much easier to unclog.


  • Not Waterproof.  The color will fade with long exposure to water.  However, it is not as bad as people think.  
  • Fade Under Sunlight.  Most dye ink, unless it is labeled as UV resistant dye, cannot be put near sunlight for a long time without fading.  A rule of thumb is, for regular dye ink, you shouldn’t put the picture next to a door or window.  For UV resistant dye, you shouldn’t put the picture outdoors.  For outdoor usage, you should use pigment ink.
  • Bleeding.  Because the dye works by penetrating the print media, it may bleed through the page.  However, almost all printers have a function to adjust the ink volume, so bleeding is not much of an issue now.

The pros and cons of pigment ink

Pigment-based inks are pigments of color that are ground down very finely and then suspended inside a liquid matrix in order to create ink.


  • High UV Resistance: The preservation of color is the main advantage.  The colors are stored inside the pigments, acting as a barrier to external forces such as evaporation or oxidation.
  • Water Proof
  • No Bleeding and Crip Prints.  The ink will not penetrate the paper surface.  Instead, the ink lies on top of the print media and dries there.  Thus, the texts look a lot clearer than dye ink.


  • Expensive.  Pigment ink is almost three times the cost of dye ink.
  • Duller Color.  Think of dye ink as similar to stained glass and the pigment ink as similar to putting a layer of paint over some glass.
  • Smudging.  Because pigment lies on top of the media, it can be removed by abrasion.  The smudging is not a big factor for porous media, such as regular paper.  However, for any coated paper, pigment ink will not be a good choice.
  • Clogging.  The clogging is almost detrimental to pigment printers.  Pigments do not dissolve in water.  Once a printer is clogged, it is almost impossible to remove the clog, thus making the printer useless.

Using Dye Ink in Pigment Printers

All pigment cartridges can be replaced by dye ink.  All pigment print heads can handle dye ink exceptionally well.  However, it is not true the other way.  The reason is the printer is programmed to clean itself routinely and the vigorousness of the routine depends on ink type.  A pigment ink printer, being more prone to clogging, will clean harder than dye ink.  Therefore, if we put dye ink in pigment ink, the printer will clean more than is necessary, and no harm will be done.  On the contrary, if we put pigment ink in a dye cartridge 1) not all dye print heads can handle pigment ink, especially Canon printheads.  For example, some high-resolution Canon single pico printheads cannot print pigment.  2) The printer will under-clean itself and is more prone to clogging by dried pigment.  As we mentioned earlier, a dried pigment is detrimental to the printer.  

With that said, professional print shops use pigment ink in a dye printer.  For example, the Epson 1430 (dye printer) is widely used with pigment ink to print T-shirts.  The shop owners clean the machine regularly and also have plenty of replacement printheads in case of clogging.


Aug 1st 2019 BCH Technologies

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