Toner vs. Ink: What You Need to Know

Is toner really the same thing as ink and which is better for your printing needs?

Toner vs. ink? It’s one of the most common questions among printer owners. But, which is really better? Honestly, neither. We understand that’s a little anticlimactic, but both toner and ink ultimately do the same thing, they just do it in different ways.

Toner and ink are both used to print text and images, but they are made to function for different types of printers. Let’s explore them each a little more so you can make informed decisions for your printing needs.

What is Printer Toner?

what is printer toner?

Printer toner is designed exclusively for use in laser printers. Toner is most often stored in a single cartridge and is a powder-based printer medium made from granulated plastic and pigment. The pigment produces the color, and the plastic is designed to ensure the pigment sticks to the paper when the plastic is heated up and melted.

Toner powder provides greater accuracy and control during the printing process. It gives an even, vivid tone that helps text and graphics appear sharper on paper.

While laser printers can be used in almost any application, they are most commonly used in office settings. Why is that? It’s because laser printers often have cost advantages. While the initial investment into the printer is more expensive, toner cartridges last longer and can save you money in the long run. Especially if you mostly print monochromatic text, a laser printer could be a smart investment.

How Does Printer Toner Work?

With laser printers, you can also choose between color toner cartridges and monochrome cartridges. Both work in the same way, except for with colors the process is repeated to create more dynamic printed text or images.

Color toner cartridges are cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The black is needed because the primary colors can’t combine to create the color black but can otherwise create millions of different shades and hues.

Components of a Toner Cartridge

While not all toner cartridges are created equally, they all function in similar ways. Below is the anatomy of a toner cartridge to help you better understand how it operates in a printer:

  1. Toner hopper - Small container on the printer that holds the cartridge
  2. Seal - Removable strip that protects the cartridge before installation
  3. Doctor blade - Controls the amount of toner that is distributed during a print job
  4. Organic photo-conductor (OPC) drum - Holds electrostatic image and transfers the toner to the paper when printing
  5. Developer - Transfers toner to the OPC drum
  6. Waste bin and wiper blade - Wipes and captures any residual toner wiped from the OPC drum

What is Printer Ink?

what is printer ink?

Now that we understand how laser printers use toner, we can explore how inkjet printers use ink to achieve similar results. The technology used in inkjet printers is much more simplified and streamlined. For most inkjet printers, inkjet cartridges contain ink that is sealed in a foil-based compartment.

Cartridges are installed in the inkjet printer’s print head, which contains ink nozzles. These nozzles are designed to disperse the ink onto paper during a print job. The print head glides back and forth over the paper, while the microscopic ink nozzles dispense the liquid ink onto the paper to form the finished text or images.

How Does Printer Ink Work?

In most inkjet printers, the print cartridges contain a series of tiny chambers. Each chamber houses a heating element that produces an electrical current to cause the ink to bubble up within the chamber. The pressure propels the ink onto paper in whatever color is needed for the print job.

Ink cartridges come in color and monochrome. Similar to laser printers, the color ink cartridges contain cyan, magenta, and yellow. The main difference is that the ink is liquid and not powder.

Components of a Toner Cartridge

Printheads of ink cartridges consist of three main parts. While there are some unique inkjet printers out there that might have slightly different components, they all function similarly:

  1. Nozzle plate - This is where the ink travels from the ink cartridge to the paper
  2. Coverplate - This covers the plate to keep the ink fresh when the printer is not in use
  3. Ink chamber - The ink is housed in the ink chamber and is transferred from the body before printing

Toner vs. Ink: Pros and Cons

toner vs. ink pros and cons

While you might already know what kind of printer you want for your office or home-use, we thought it might help just to see the pros and cons listed out to make a fully informed decision. Remember, both types of printers will get the job done. It’s just a matter of deciding what is most important for you and what you need to print most often.

Printer toner pros:

  • Faster and more precise printing
  • Higher quality when printing images
  • Toner cartridges last longer than inkjet cartridges
  • Technology is newer

Printer toner cons:

  • The initial investment in a toner printer is higher
  • Toner is expensive to replace (and replacement drums must be purchased on occasion)

Printer ink pros:

  • Inkjet printers are inexpensive and feature simpler technology
  • Don’t smudge as easily as toner printers
  • Easy to replace and because of the simplified technology

Printer ink cons:

  • Much lower print yield and paper storage
  • Cartridges can clog if not used frequently enough

How Do You Know If You Need Toner or Ink?

If you already have a printer and are looking to buy replacement cartridges, it’s relatively simple to tell what type of printer you have. By reviewing your manual, you can quickly identify the type of ink or toner cartridges you need to buy as replacements.

If the manual is unavailable for some reason, you can fairly easily tell what kind of cartridges you need by the type of printer you have. Inkjet printers exclusively use ink cartridges in either color or monochrome. Laser printers exclusively use toner cartridges and are available in both color and monochrome.

It’s as simple as that!

Inkjet vs. Laser Printer: Which is Right for You?

Shopping for a new printer? Now that you know everything there is to know about whether or not toner is the same thing as ink, you might be wondering what makes the most sense for your needs? If you are in the market for a new printer, there are a few things you will want to consider before making your purchase.

In general, laser printers are better for printing primarily black and white documents in office settings and when you need documents printed faster. Since most laser printers can print up to 100 pages per minute, it makes sense to have a laser printer in instances where you will print large quantities or make multiple copies.

When it comes to inkjet printers, they are most often used for high-quality photos or anything that requires brilliant colors. When printing quantities are low, it won’t matter that most inkjet printers print more slowly than laser printers. We recommend inkjet printers for at-home use or small offices.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no correct answer to buying a printer. If you plan to print mostly in black and white and have the budget, then a laser printer might be the best option for you. If you know you will be printing photos or lots of color documents, it might make more sense to get an inkjet printer knowing that you will have to replace ink more often.

The goal is to choose a printer that works for your needs and your budget. By finding a trustworthy ink and toner supplier, you can save money when it comes time to replace your toner or ink cartridges.

Find High-Quality Ink and Toner Supplies at Ink Genie

Ink Genie® is one of the leading ink and toner suppliers to businesses, government institutions, schools, and homes in the country. We have thousands of customers that we consider part of our family and always offer them our best service, satisfaction, and savings! Shop for OEM ink and toner cartridges from top brands, including HP®, Epson®, Brother®, Canon®, and more. Learn more about Ink Genie and shop our selection of name-brand ink cartridges and toners.