Till recently, I was under the pretext that ink and toner are more or less similar kinds of products. But no, there are considerably large differences between the two. To begin with, an ink cartridge is a single-unit container that contains the liquid ink, whereas a toner cartridge uses the powdered toner dust.

When the ink cartridge runs out of ink (similar to that of an ink pen) it needs to be refilled. If you choose to discard the entire cartridge, it can be recycled too!

Toner cartridges, on the other hand, utilizes laser technology to melt the dust onto a page to create the required impression. You may find toner cartridges in both forms – refillable as well as the use-and-throw ones. 

A detailed comparison

A vivid and elaborate differentiation between ink and toner printing reveals the following –



They may dry out

They do not run the risk of drying out

They are used in Inkjet printers

They are used in Laser printers

A lower number of pages are yielded. Thus, the cost per page goes up.

The page yield is higher and hence, the cost per page, lower.

Print speed is slightly slower but great for photo reproduction.

Faster print speed but not ideal for photo printing purposes.

Low start-up cost

Higher start-up cost


Why do you think is it necessary to understand the difference?

Knowing why you are making a certain choice not only saves time and money but also ranks your efficacy a mark higher! Consider a simple case – you have been asked to order a carton of cartridges for your office and you don’t know which printer the office uses (inkjet or laser) and which cartridge would fit in!

Would you ever want something of this sort to happen? Certainly not! Therefore, besides the variations between an ink and toner cartridge, one needs to know the technique that is used in  modern printers, or let’s say, the ‘non-impact printers’ (ones that are much quieter as they do not hammer against the paper)

The laser & the inkjet printer

Inkjet Printers  

Inkjet printers work by shooting the ink from tiny nozzles onto the paper. The ink is arranged by an electrical field in the specific pattern that is required to reproduce the characters or images, whichever the case may be. The ink that is sprayed, at the rate of 250 characters per second, is absorbed by the paper and dries instantly.

For color printing, three extra nozzles are present in addition to the one that emits black, namely – cyan, magenta, and yellow. If a certain color is not needed, it is recycled back to the input nozzle. Speed printing coupled with less noise is the prime virtue of modern inkjet printing.

Laser Printers

The laser printer uses a laser beam that is directed at a mirror. That latter bounces the beam back onto a drum which is coated with the toner. When information from a system (your laptop or PC) is conveyed to the positively charged drum, the latter neutralizes. Consequently, the toner detaches and as the paper rolls by the drum, the toner gets transmitted to the paper thus printing the letter and/or other graphics onto it.

There you go – by now it's crystal clear as to where and when an ink cartridge or a toner cartridge is used!

Hence, your decision-taking job becomes much easier now!