There are two major printing options that are available for individuals and companies to use. First, we have the more common and less expensive inkjet printer that uses ink. Secondly, there is the more precise, more expensive option of a laser printer that makes use of toner. Both ink and toner have their individual strengths and weaknesses. Understanding these differences can help individuals or companies find the ideal printing option for them!

What is the ink used in InkJet printers?

Most people are familiar with ink, it is commonly found in ball point pens, tattoos and used in art. However, not all ink is the same. In inkjet printers, there are two categories of ink that are used: dye-based ink and pigment-based ink.

Dye based ink consists of colorants dissolved in liquid whereas pigment-based ink consists of ultra-fine powder suspended in liquid. Pigment based ink has a crisper finish, dries much faster and is resistant to water and UV light which means it lasts much longer.

The majority of inkjet printers are designed for compatibility with only one type of ink. The most commonly used type of ink is dye-based ink as it is less expensive that pigment ink and has a higher capability of producing vibrant colors and true to life colors in photos and prints. However, it is not waterproof and fades faster.

Inkjet printers produce text and images with the use of four separate ink cartridges for each of the colors; cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The colors are mixed in specific amounts to produce the printed graphics and images. As the colors deplete, they must be replaced to keep up the true to life appearance as well as the vibrancy. The cartridges can easily be found, bought and replaced by anyone without the need for specialist knowledge.

During the printing process, ink from each of the cartridges is pushed through tiny nozzles and onto the paper to create the desired image or text. The colors used and the amounts they are used in is decided by the printing software.

How does a Toner cartridge work?

Toner is completely different to ink and therefore prints onto paper in a different way, creating a different finish. Toner cartridges are filled with fine polyester powder that can only be used in laser printers. Most laser printers are exclusively monochrome and as the single black cartridge runs out, a new one should be bought to replace it. There are newer models of laser printer that provide the option of printing in color, but they are much more expensive and require four separate cartridges; black, magenta, cyan and yellow.

The laser in a laser printer creates an electrostatic template of the desired images on a rotating metal drum. Toner powder is able to hold a static charge that can bind with anything of an opposite charge. As the toner is dispensed, it is fused into place onto the sheet of paper which is also charged when it passes through the printer. It fuses exclusively in the areas that the laser outlined, creating images and text with high precision.

Toner printers are typically used for offices but are gradually increasing in popularity for home use. However, they are typically larger than an inkjet printer and refilling toner cartridges can be very messy. Potential buyers should check they have both the available space and the ability to replace cartridges.