Ink and Toner Buying Guide

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What is Printer Toner and How is it Different to Printer Ink?

Each day offices around the world print off reams of documents and other paperwork. Having a good printer and plenty of paper is important, but none of this can work without ink or toner. Printer cartridges are an essential part of any well-functioning office, so it’s important to choose the right ones to meet your needs. Our guide to printer toner and printer ink should help you make the right choice.

What is a Printer Toner Cartridge?

A printer toner cartridge is designed to fit in a laser printer. The cartridge contains toner powder, which is used to create text and graphics on a page through a heated printing process. This toner powder is made from ground polyester which can hold a static charge and connect to anything with the opposite charge, this is how the laser printing process works. Toner printers can only generally print in black and white.

Toner cartridges only have a finite life and must be replaced periodically, once they’ve run out of toner. One common complaint about laser printers and the toner cartridges required to use them is cost. Printer toner cartridges are known to be generally more expensive than other options but can offer a higher yield of pages per cartridge.

What is an Ink Toner Cartridge?

An ink toner cartridge is designed to work with an inkjet printer. These types of printer are more common than laser printers and can prove to be less expensive, both for the actual printer and the cartridges. Inkjet comes in two different types of ink; dye-based and pigment based.  Dye-based inks are colorants dissolved in liquid, whereas pigmented inks use fine powder suspended within liquid.

Inkjet cartridges usually come in four different colours; cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Each of these can be replaced separately, for instance if you use black more often to print of large volumes of text, you may find yourself replacing this more often.


What Does Toner do in a Printer?

The printing process in a laser printer is very different to that of an inkjet printer. There are numerous processes that take place within the printer in order to create your document.

  1. A laser creates an electrostatic template of your desired printing on a rotating metal drum. This drum also has an electrical charge.
  2. The printer cartridge dispenses toner onto the drum, this toner only sticks to certain parts of the drum where the laser has altered the electrical charge.
  3. The printer also adds an electrical charge to each piece of paper as it comes through the machine and, as the sheet comes past the drum, it pulls off the charged toner to make up the desired printing pattern.
  4. Finally, a hot fuser melts the polyester powder into place, leaving the finished printing behind.


Which Printer has the Cheapest Ink?

Picking the right type of printer with the right type of printer cartridges depends entirely on your own personal needs and how much you intend to use the device. Inkjet printers are generally much cheaper to purchase upfront, however they can be more expensive to operate and you’ll need to replace the ink cartridges more frequently. For someone who doesn’t print very often, an inkjet printer could be a good option.

When it comes to cost-per-page, laser printers are much cheaper than inkjet. Laser printers make a better option for busy offices, where numerous people are frequently printing off black and white documents. On top of that, laser printers tend to be much larger than inkjet printers, meaning they’re better suited to an office setting.


Should I Buy Compatible Ink Cartridges?

The debate between using original cartridges or compatible printer cartridges is a common one, with compatibles often available for much cheaper than those provided by the manufacturer. But is it a good idea to use them?

Original ink cartridges, sometimes known as genuine, are made by the manufacturer of the printer and are designed specifically for that device. Many people believe that original cartridges offer better quality printing as printer manufacturers tend to use oil-based inks. They are also safer to use and pose less risk to your printer, again this is down to the fact they were designed specifically for that printer. A genuine cartridge can be identified by the letters OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) printed on them.

Compatible ink cartridges are made by a third-party, sometimes this could be a high street or online retailer and are designed to work in place of genuine ink cartridges. Compatible cartridges often provide more ink than originals, however this ink is mainly water-based, making it of lower quality. It’s also important to remember that many printer manufacturers will invalidate a warranty for not using genuine, original cartridges.


Choosing the right printer cartridges might seem like a relatively trivial decision, however it could have a big effect on the quality of your printing and overall costs. Whatever type of printer you own, or are considering, make sure you have the best possible toner and ink cartridges.