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What’s The Difference Between Ink and Toner Cartridges? [Simple Answer]

Ink and toner are two completely different things; each has a place of usage, advantages, as well as disadvantages. Without wasting your time, here’s exactly the difference between ink and toner cartridges.

Short Answer:

Choosing the ultimately better option depends on the context. Laser printers are better for high volume printing. On the other hand, the initial cost of a laser printer is much higher than that of inkjet printers.

However, that comparison is meaningless if you’re printing pictures. If your goal is high-quality pictures with vivid colors, the ink is your go-to option out of the two.

Moreover, inkjet printers require more maintenance than laser printers due to the ink clogging up the nozzles of the printer.

Where Are Ink Cartridges Used?

ink cartridges

You know what ink is. It is a liquid substance that has a color. Ink cartridges are mostly used in inkjet printers.

Okay, How Does Inkjet Printers Work?

Inkjet printers use tiny nozzles on the head of the printer to deposit ink into paper. Each drop has a diameter smaller than that of a single human hair. Hundreds or even thousands of these tiny dots work together so that from afar, you can see the full image.

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Where Are Toner Cartridges Used?

toner cartridge

So, you now know that ink cartridges are used in inkjet printers. Can you guess where toner cartridges are used? The answer is laser printers.

What Even Is Toner?

Well, to answer that question, you need to know how laser printers work.

Laser printers use a laser beam, of course, and static electricity. Static electricity is a difference or an imbalance in positive and negative charges. It’s when you take off fuzzy gloves, and you feel a tiny shock of electricity go through your hand.

Laser printers use static electricity to make the positively charged toner to stick to the negatively charged areas, which will later be printed as color.

Basically, toner is just fine plastic that is transferred into the paper by the effect of heat and pressure that the laser printer applies.

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Okay, So What Is The Difference Between Toner vs Ink?

Well, it is not just one difference, there are multiple differences between ink and toner that we’ll discuss each of them individually.

Initial Cost

When it comes to calculating the initial cost, inkjet printers are much more affordable than laser printers. The small initial cost of inkjet printers makes them more convenient for low volume printing. However, a low initial cost doesn’t always add up to a low total cost.

Total Cost

This is where you need to take a step back and look at costs from another perspective. Toner itself is more affordable than ink. However, laser printers are more expensive than inkjet printers.

To put it simply, when it comes to laser printers, you’re paying more for the printer but less for the toner itself. In opposition to inkjet printers where you’re paying more the ink but less for the printer itself.


Laser printers have a longer lifespan simply because toner is a powder while the ink is a liquid. The ink is deposited into paper using tiny nozzles. The place where issues may occur is those nozzles. Ink dries up and clogs these nozzles quite often.

On the other hand, the laser itself is long-lasting and requires minimal maintenance, and a powder cannot cause as much trouble as a liquid would.


Overall for average usage, you wouldn’t notice much difference. However, that depends on what you’re printing. If you’re printing images with vivid colors, inkjet printers are much better.

On the other hand, if you’re printing lots of text documents with small fonts, toner-based printers are better because toner provides higher accuracy.


If you know a thing or two about ink, you’d know that it’s messy. Because the ink is a liquid, it has a high probability of smudging and running.

Ink is not waterproof, meaning if your paper got exposed to any sort of liquid, the ink would probably run. On the other hand, toner is a powder which makes it less prone to damage. It will not run or smudge when exposed to water.

 However, the paper itself might not withstand water, but that is not an issue if you’re using high-quality paper. Also, that is not the printer’s fault.

Printing Volume

Laser printers are much quicker than inkjet printers, which makes them better for high volume printing. In addition, we’ve already discussed that the total cost of laser printers is lower than that of inkjet printers.

These two factors together make laser printers a better option when it comes to high volume printing.

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Final Words

Ink and toner are two different things. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that you’ll need to compare, and you’ll probably have to make some sacrifices if you have to choose one out of the two.

Ink is more prone to damage, but it is cheaper. Toner is more accurate for text documents, but it is not ideal for printing pictures with vibrant colors.

Generally, if you’re in a small office or at home, ink is more convenient for you. On the other side of the spectrum, if you’re planning to print in high volumes, like a big office, we’d suggest you look into toner-based printers as they will provide higher accuracy and save money in the long run.

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