We investigate one approach to assess the quantitative variability in two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DE) separations based on gel-to-gel variability, sample preparation variability, sample load differences, and the effect of automation on image analysis. We observe that 95% of spots present in three out of four replicate gels exhibit less than a 0.52 coefficient of variation (CV) in fluorescent stain intensity (% volume) for a single sample run on multiple gels. When four parallel sample preparations are performed, this value increases to 0.57. We do not observe any significant change in quantitative value for an increase or decrease in sample load of 30% when using appropriate image analysis variables. Increasing use of automation, while necessary in modern 2-DE experiments, does change the observed level of quantitative and qualitative variability among replicate gels. The number of spots that change qualitatively for a single sample run in parallel varies from a CV = 0.03 for fully manual analysis to CV = 0.20 for a fully automated analysis. We present a systematic method by which a single laboratory can measure gel-to-gel variability using only three gel runs.