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What’s the Difference Between Printer Ink and Toner?

What’s the Difference Between Printer Ink and Toner?

Posted By: John Published: 30/12/2015 Times Read: 137 Comments: 0

Ask someone the difference between printer ink and toner and you’ll likely be met with a puzzled look. Many people use ink and toner interchangeably, but the reality is, each of these products are used for fundamentally different reasons. To help you get to grips with ink and toner, we’ve put together a handy guide on their main differences and how each can be used to improve printer quality.

Ink and Toner– What’s the Difference?

The most obvious difference between ink and toner is that ink is a liquid and toner is a powder. To further explain the key differences between the two requires at least a basic knowledge of printer technology – so let’s get to it.

Inkjet Printers Use Ink Cartridges

Inkjet printers are fitted with microscopic nozzles that spray ink on to the page according to the image sent from a computer. These jets are found on the print head, which moves back and forth across the page to apply the ink droplets in the appropriate areas. How the print head knows to do this varies from printer to printer; some use heat to control ink flow, whilst others rely on electrically charged vibrations to determine when and where to spray the ink.

Laser Printers Use Toner Cartridges

As laser printers use xerographic technology, they require a dry product – like toner. Toner is made of a blend of iron oxide and plastic resin, so it’s ideal for use with xerographic technologies. In laser printing, an electrostatic template of the print job is applied to a rotating metal drum inside the printer. A second, precise laser is then used to alter the electric charge in certain areas of the drum.

Magnetically charged toner is then applied; this only sticks to those areas predefined by the laser – thus creating an image. Apiece of paper is then passed close to the drum, drawing the toner away. To set the page, a fuser is used to melt the plastic particles in the toner.

The Pros and Cons of Ink and Toner

Now we know the physical attributes of ink and toner, and how each is used in inkjet and laser printing, we can move on to their pros and cons. Below, we’ve outlined the differences in cost, performance and efficiency to give you an idea of what to expect from an ink or toner cartridge.


On paper, ink cartridges are the cheaper of the two. However, if you print regularly, the cost of replacing ink cartridges can begin to add up. Ink cartridges are incapable of producing the same volume of prints as toner cartridges, thus offsetting the cost. Toner cartridges may seem pricey initially, but in the long run they could save you money.

Image Quality

Thanks to the precise nature of xerographic printing, laser printers tend to produce much sharper, higher quality images than their inkjet counterparts. Though range topping inkjet printers can produce outstanding results, ink jets are cumbersome, and will never reproduce the same impeccable results as a laser. In short, if you require professional quality prints, opt for a laser printer.


The process of laser printing may sound convoluted in our explanation above, but in reality, it offers a much speedier and efficient print time than inkjet printers. Thanks to high-speed laser technology, toner is applied in seconds, making these machines a great solution for those requiring a high-volume of prints quickly.

Buy Compatible Ink and Toner Cartridges

Now you’re aware of the key differences between ink and toner cartridges, choosing the correct cartridge for your printer ought to be a doddle.
At Printhead, we stock a huge range of compatible ink and toner cartridges for a number of printer manufacturers, so you can enjoy the benefits of laser and inkjet printing for a fraction of the cost. To find a compatible ink and toner cartridge for your machine, visit our homepage and use the search bar at the top of the page to select your printer’s manufacturer and model.


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