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Large Format Printers: How to Calculate Client Bill-Back by the Square Foot

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Over the years, many of our AEC clients have expressed their number one reason for using a large format printer is because they don’t have to delay work in the case of a change to their plans.

Since each work site must have the most up-to-date plans and drawings, one simple change can lead to a delay in work. And if you don’t have your own large format printer, you can find yourself losing an entire day on the job if your print shop isn’t able to fulfill your request in time.

For this reason, firms and shops like yours often prefer to purchase or lease their own large format printers. However, running your own large format printer and printing multiple drawings with multiple changes can lead to a lot of unexpected expenses.

So, how should you charge your clients for your printing costs?


There’s a major problem that crops up when calculating client bill back for large format prints: the variability of media size a large format printer can produce.

Law offices, for many years, have billed back clients for all documents printed in regard to their case. This is because standard office copiers and printers work with letter, legal, and tabloid sized media — all standardized paper sizes that do not change.

With print and output management software, legal firms (and any other organization that works with standardized paper sizes) are able to easily calculate bill back printing charges for their clients, simply based on the number of images printed.

The drawings for a build plan or blueprint can vary wildly, however. One print can be 24” by 24”, and another could be 32” by 83”. Sure, you could manually measure the length and width of a print, and then calculate the surface area of the paper, and then input that into your output management software, but this process would be extremely labor intensive, and not at all profitable.

As of right now, there’s only one way to automate your client bill back for large format prints: PaperCut.

By installing PaperCut on your large format printer, you can automatically calculate the square footage of a print and bill back your client based on the size of the print. PaperCut works the same on a large format printer as it does on any printer or copier, so if you already have PaperCut installed on your print server, adding this capability to your large format printer is simple.


Once your large format printer is hooked up to your PaperCut client (which you can learn how to do so here), setting up a bill-back pricing system is straightforward and simpler than you’d expect.

Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide on how to set up bill-back for your large format printer:

  1. Open your PaperCut Admin Console, click “Printers,” and select your large format device.
  2. Select “Charging” from the top menu on your window. This will open-up a drop-down menu, which you will use to select “Charging Type.”
  3. You will find six options to select from: simple, standard, by paper size category, by paper sizes, by paper length, and by paper area.
  4. To charge by the square-foot or square-meter, select “paper area.” Once selected, you can enter the cost you’d like to charge per square-foot or meter. Don’t forget to press “Apply” once you have set your charge rate.

After setting up your rate, your large format printer will now automatically send the data you need to start billing back your clients for print costs.

If you have any questions about how to set up, maintain, or measure your large format printers, reach out to us here.

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