Okay, so here's the thing... I have a Pixma Pro9000 II, which I have been using for about two years now, and for the same two years I have been repeatedly and increasingly frustrated with its ink usage until I have to hold myself back from throwing the POS out of the window (such as today).
I KNOW I put in brand new cartridges a month ago, and in this interval, I printed maybe 50 black and white pages of text at low quality, and maybe a handful of photos. Now this thing is telling me I'm out of cyan and magenta. WTF?! All other ink levels are more or less full.
Now look, I did not print a handful of cyan and magenta posters this month. We're talking 4x6 balanced exposures here. This sort of random ink depletion happens with other random colors too. In fact, I don't even need to print to see the ink levels drop before my eyes. All I have to do is turn the printer on and off, and the ink is visibly lower than seconds prior! Some drop, while others remain. Tomorrow, when I turn in on, it's probably going to tell me that I'm running low on red, although today it's full.
It costs me around $80 to fill this piece of sheisse up with ink each time, so I'm sure you understand my frustration.
Based on my observations, I have arrived at the following hypotheses:
1. Every time the printer does its stupid buzzing and clicking cleaning cycle, it actually sprays geysers of color like Ron Jeremy after eating a kilo of Skittles.
2. My printer heads may dry out periodically because of low humidity or something, and the printer decides to flush the contents of its cartridges to get anything through.
3. The ink evaporates.
4. Canon deliberately programmed this thing to engage in ink wasting cycles other than printing my photography or timed the cartridges to deplete after a certain period of time.
I'm curious if anyone in this community has ever experienced anything of the sort, and what you have done to remedy this.
You have to print on a very regular basis to get the most out of your ink cartridges. On both Canon and Epson ink jets, if you don't print for a couple of weeks, one of two things WILL happen:
1. The printer will perform a small amount of automatic ink consumption to keep it flowing.
2. The ink will dry out, clog either the cartridge, the ink head, or both.
"I KNOW I put in brand new cartridges a month ago, and in this interval, I printed maybe 50 black and white pages of text at low quality, and maybe a handful of photos."
^^ THIS ^^ is your problem: "a handful of photos". If you don't print for a while, or print enough often enough, at the very least some ink will be consumed if you have the printer configured to prevent drying (which is usually an option on the higher end models.) Even if you let the printer do it's think to keep ink flowing, if you don't print for long enough (which can be as short as two weeks), the ink WILL start to dry. This is more of a problem with pigments than dyes, but it can happen with both.
A dry ink cartridge will sometimes trigger a change in the tanks chip that makes it tell the printer that it's empty, when it isn't. If that happens, the tank is well and truly gone, dried like a bone. If that doesn't happen, but you are missing a color in your prints, you can try running a couple cleaning cycles to see if that will clear any blockage. Maybe 40% of the time, you can clear up blockage in a dried tank or ink head. Usually, though, once they dry, whether they register as empty or not, they need replacing (again, more so the case with pigments.) Keep in mind that if you do run a couple cleaning cycles, your going to drain ink from that whole bank of tanks. Sometimes it's actually cheaper to just replace the one tank, instead of ending up having to replace five of them.
Also, keep in mind that different color ink is susceptible to drying in different time frames. On my PIXMA Pro9500 II, yellow and magenta tend to dry out quicker than other colors. Gray seems to "seep" more than other colors. The only means I have to combat the issue is to keep printing, so I get my money's worth out of those very expensive 14ml ink tanks. I would also point out that dye inks are pretty runny, and they stay that way so long as they are in solution. Dye is particles suspended in a thinner, where as pigments are emulsions. Dye ink tanks can indeed bleed like a son of a gun if they are not handled properly. You should never pinch a die or pigment ink tank from the sides...even the slightest pressure on a Canon dye tank will result in a significant amount of ink squirting all over the place. I just put some tanks into my MX922, and on one of them, just a little bit of shaking and gravity resulted in two relatively large drops leaking out, ruining my shirt and staining my floor. This is one of the reasons I went with the Pro9500 II, rather than the 9000 II...pigments are a lot easier to handle, and don't squirt out of the tank at all in any circumstance.
Just keep printing. If you have no reason to print, then you might find that a cheaper printer with cheaper ink tanks is more conducive to your needs.