What is the difference between ink and toner? Most people can’t tell. Others believe ink and toner are the same thing. So, let’s take a few minutes to clear things up with ‘need to know’ details about ink vs. toner.

The Main Difference Between Ink & Toner

Ink and toner are NOT the same thing. 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. If you have a laser printer, you’ll need the compatible toner cartridges for your printer. The main differences between the two are:

  • primary ingredients
  • how they actually print on the page.

The type of printing you do determines whether you’ll need and inkjet printer or a laser printer.

Solids vs. Liquids

Ink is a liquid tinted with dyes or pigments. The ink cartridges squirt very small droplets of ink through tiny nozzles and out onto paper. Inkjet printers typicallyrequire  four separate ink cartridges to print: black, cyan, magenta, and yellow. Each ink cartridge  can be replaced when the supply of ink is depleted.

Toner is not a liquid, but a very fine powdery substance. The actual composition and ingredients vary from one manufacturer to the next, but typically toner is made up mostly of finely ground polyester, which is a type of plastic. Toner powder has chemical properties that enable it to hold a static charge that grabs onto anything with an opposite charge. 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. Inkjet printers may be the more popular choice in home and other offices because of their lower price points. But the cost of inkjet cartridges is costly. Depending on the volume of printing you do, it turns out the cost per page of most laser printers is much less. If you install a higher-capacity cartridge, the price can even drop to just a couple of cents per page. Or less! Although the prices of brand name toner cartridges are higher 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.