When it comes to printing, ink or toner is the basic ingredient. You might buy a very expensive printer, but if you use the wrong type of ink with it, your printer will not work. Even if you somehow make it work, you will get a very bad print. An example is that of Epson printers which work well with only Epson ink cartridges.

What is the purpose of a print if the ink smudges or fades away with time? Companies today invest in various technologies in making the perfect ink to deliver sharp and professional prints. However, in some cases, you will need a toner rather than an ink cartridge.

We have brought this guide to help you differentiate easily between printer toner and printer ink and get the best results out of your printing job.

Printer Ink

When using inkjet printers, ink is the ingredient used for printing. It is a tinted liquid that is used to produce the desired images on a piece of paper. Ink is present in ink cartridges or ink bottles. Here ink bottles are more economical and last longer than cartridges. This is because ink cartridges dry out and clog while ink bottles last longer.

There are several ingredients in printer ink. Some of the basic ingredients include
  • Carbon black pigment
  • Binder
  • Solvent
  • Drying agents
  • Chelating agents
  • Opacifiers
  • Extenders

Types Of Printer Inks

Inkjet printers use ink. However, the type of ink you use also determines the quality of print you will get. Printer inks are widely divided into two categories as per their ingredients and print. These are as follows:

1. Dye-Based Ink

The dye-based ink has a colourant dissolved in a liquid carrier or a solvent. It is quite affordable and is recommended for printing photos and prints for regular use. Although it delivers a very vibrant print, it is not very long-lasting. The dye-based inks are highly susceptible to damage by water, heat, and other external agents because it disperses on the paper. These also smudge easily and last only a few years. Dye-based ink is the perfect choice for printing documents only.

2. Pigment-Based Ink

The pigment-based inks contain very fine solid particles suspended in the carrier fluid. Despite being expensive, these are worth investing in if you run a sublimation printing business. This type of ink delivers very crisp and professional prints that last longer. The pigment-based ink does not fade or scratch away with time. It is also waterproof and highly resistant to harsh environments.

These inks do not penetrate the paper and provide a seamless print. Furthermore, the pigment-based inks cover a wide range of colour spectrums.

Working Of An Inkjet Printer

The inkjet printer utilizes liquid ink and sprays it on the printing paper in the form of droplets. Your printer either works on the PiezoElectric technology or the thermal inkjet process.

A printer that uses PiezoElectric technology uses electric current in place of the heating element. By means of this electric current, a pressure pulse is created which forces the ink droplets onto the paper via a nozzle. It can accommodate a wider colour spectrum.

On the other hand, Thermal Inkjet printers come with a heating element in their cartridge area. The heat generates bubbles which increase the pressure and force the ink droplets to spread on printing paper. The thermal printers use only four basic printing colours namely; cyan, magenta, black, and yellow.

Pros And Cons Of Printer Ink

Despite being used widely, printer ink is not recommended when it comes to printing professional images. Below is a list of its pros and cons to help you make a better decision




Chances of drying out if printer not used for long 

Replacement of ink cartridges is easy and not heavy on the pocket

Tends to clog with time leading to less number of printed pages 


Has a lower page yield

Vibrant image 

Genuine ink cartridges might be hard to find 

Printer Toner

Printer toner is in the form of powder and is used in laser printers. A toner has totally different components than ink. To put it simply, it is a mixture of finely ground silica, plastic, iron, chromium, and zinc. Unlike ink cartridges, these do not dry out over time and print more pages making them cost-effective in the long run.

Working Of A Laser Printer

The laser printers come with a built-in drum which reads the image data provided. When you turn on the printer, there is a buildup of static electricity and the charges distribute on the drum as per the image. These then attract the printer toner which is then put on the paper. The printing paper is then moved through heat rollers to fuse the image perfectly.

Pros And Cons Of A Printer Toner

Printer toner is expensive but investing in it goes a long way. To help you decide whether you want to use toner or not, we have summarized its merits and demerits below.

Very fast, precision printingExpensive
Delivers high-quality and sharp prints
It is in powder form so there is no chance of drying out

How To Reduce Ink And Toner Waste?
Whether you use an inkjet printer or a laser printer, you need to save on the toner or ink. Buying toner or ink every now and then is not economical and will not last long if you don't use them carefully. Here are a few tips that you can follow to lessen ink and toner waste.
  • Run the printer every few days to prevent your ink from drying out
  • When you do not need a professional print, switch your printer’s settings to grayscale
  • Recycle your cartridges

To Wrap Up

When choosing a printer, be clear about the type of print you need. Make sure you choose the printer which has easily available toner or ink cartridges. This will make replacement easy and budget-friendly.

In case you just need to print documents, go for the inkjet printer. On the other hand, if you want to print sharp, professional prints, it is sensible to invest in a laser printer.