Ink Vs Toner: What’s the Difference between Ink and Toner?

Ink Vs Toner

Ink and toner, although similar and utilized for the same purpose, are nearly total opposites. Before you make up your mind on what’s better for you, it’s a good idea to first understand what makes the two choices different.

What Are Ink Cartridges?

Ink cartridges comprise of tiny nozzles that spray dye/pigmented ink (a liquid) onto the substrate (paper, plastic film, cardboard, etc.) in the form of microscopic droplets. The nozzles turn on and off hundreds of times in a fraction of a second in order to produce the desired shape on a sheet of paper.

Along with various elements such as glycols, glycerin, dye/pigmented resin, alcohol, etc. the printer ink comprises of around 98% water. The printer ink manufacturers never share the exact composition of their inks – a highly valuable trade secret but you don’t need that to find the right cartridge for your printer.

What Is Toner?

Toner mostly comprises of finely ground polyester, which holds a static charge and sticks onto the substrate with an opposite charge. Polyester is a type of plastic.

The printing device produces an electrostatic pattern of the required image on the rotating metal drum. This drum contains the electrical charge and the toner is dispensed onto it from the cartridge.

The device also charges the paper passing through it. When the paper curls past the drum, it breaks the charges off the toner in the exact shapes that make up the document being printed.

Ink Vs Toner: Which Devices Use Them

Ink cartridges are used by inkjet printers and toner cartridges are used by laser printers. Compared to laser printing, inkjet printing technology is relatively less complex. Therefore, inkjet printers are less expensive.

Toners can deliver better picture quality as the underlying printing technology is more precise. However, inkjets are more suitable for graphic designers as well as those who need to print on materials other than plain paper such as photo paper, cardboard, etc.

Ink doesn’t smudge as easily as a toner. Therefore, ink prints are more resilient.

Ink Vs Toner: Page Yield Consideration

‘Page Yield’ is the total number of prints that an ink cartridge or toner can produce before it runs empty; it is based upon the ISO standard. For page yield calculation, a standard 5% page coverage is considered.

In the long run, printer toner offers higher page yield or lower cost-per-print as compared to printer ink. But, the choice of buying an inkjet or laser printer shouldn’t be guided by this one fact alone.

A laser printer running on toners can save you more money in the long run only if you print a large number of pages each week. Also, you should take into account the availability of high-yield ink cartridges or toners for specific printer models.

Ink Vs Toner: Clogging

Ink cartridges are more prone to clogging, especially if they are left unused for too long. This is why inkjet printer users are advised to print at least one document every week. Toners do not have a liquid component. Therefore, laser printers are not susceptible to such problems. Regular printer maintenance, however, is important regardless of the type of underlying technology.

Ink Vs Toner: Which One Is Ideal For You 

The choice ultimately boils down to the type of printing device.

A laser printer that uses a toner is better when:

  • You need to print monochrome documents
  • You print a large number of documents on a daily basis
  • Printing speed is really important; laser printers can print around 100 pages per minute
  • Paper size/type variety is not important

An inkjet printer that uses ink is better when:

  • You need to print colorful documents or impactful graphics with vibrant colors. While buying an inkjet printer you have the luxury to buy a pack of multiple colored inks. For example – checkout 4 Pack – Epson 124 Ink Cartridge Value Pack.
  • You print only a few documents daily or weekly
  • Printing speed is not much of a concern; inkjets can print around 15 pages per minute
  • Paper size/type variety is important

Many business establishments use both inks and toners. Such organizations leverage laser printers for volume and monochrome documents while switching to inkjet printers for photos and colorful documents.

Final Words

Your first consideration, when comparing ink and toner, should be the printer that you will be using for a particular set of printing jobs at hand. If the upfront budget is a consideration, you may want to consider inkjet printers for home or office use as they are comparatively cheaper. While both ink and toner are expensive, make sure to find out the approximate number of pages a cartridge can print. Do keep in mind that all ink and toner cartridges do not offer XL or high-yield options. Lastly, you may want to consider compatible ink and toner cartridges. They are far less expensive than their OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) counterparts. Just make sure that you shop with a credible seller.

Author Bio

My name is George Mendelson. I am the PR Media Manager at InkjetsClub, a nationwide leading ink and toner retailer. One of my passions is educating and helping people through all the issues related to Printers, Ink Cartridges and Toners.



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