If you conducted a random survey whether people know the difference is between ink and toner, you would likely get a handful of vague replies, along with a few who would tell you there’s no difference, they are 2 different names for the same thing. So, let’s take a few minutes to clear things up with the basic ‘need to know’ details about ink vs. toner.

The Main Difference Between Ink & Toner

Ink and toner are NOT the same thing, and they cannot be used interchangeably. Each one is a specific print consumable for a specific, compatible printer or series of printers. If you have an inkjet printer, you cannot use toner, and if you have a laser printer, you’ll need the compatible toner cartridges for your printer. The 2 main differences between the two are:

1) their primary ingredients

2) how they actually print on the page.

The type of printing you will be doing will help determine whether you want an inkjet printer or a laser printer, and then you know whether you are purchasing inkjet or toner cartridges for your printers.

Solids vs. Liquids

Ink is a liquid that’s tinted with dyes or pigments. The ink cartridges squirt very small droplets of ink through tiny nozzles and out onto paper. Inkjet printers typically require 4 separate ink cartridges to print: black, cyan, magenta, and yellow, and each one can be replaced when the supply of ink in that cartridge is depleted.

Toner is actually not a liquid, but a very fine powdery substance. The actual composition and ingredients does vary from one manufacturer to the next, but typically toner is made up mostly of finely ground polyester, which is a type of plastic. The toner powder has chemical properties that enable it to hold a static charge that grabs onto anything with an opposite charge, so when printing with toner, it is actually a heat transfer and the pressure from the fuser that adheres the toner to the paper.

Should I Get A Toner Printer or an Ink Printer?

Now, here’s a somewhat surprising detail to note. While inkjet printers are the more popular choice in home and other offices, largely because of their lower price points, the cost of inkjet printer consumables are quite costly and depending on the volume of printing you do, it turns out that the cost per page of most laser printers is significantly less. If you install a higher-capacity cartridge, the price can even drop to just a couple of cents or less per page.  Although the ticket prices of toner cartridges may be much more than inkjet cartridges, toner does last much longer, so over time, the overall value is greater in laser jet printing.

A large majority of laser printers used in homes and small to medium size offices only print black, however, the more expensive, sophisticated laser printers do print color as well, with separate toner cartridges.

The price per cartridge and the actual page yield you get from a specific cartridge varies widely across printer models. The type of printer you choose can certainly impact your printing budget, so it pays to do the homework up front, and determine your long-term needs, factoring in the costs of printer consumables. This type of due-diligence should help you choose wisely for your specific office printing needs.