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Difference Between Ink and Toner – 10 Points to Note

Printers have become an essential device in our offices and household. As technology is advancing, printers are becoming more advanced and come in a large variety.

There are special printers for photos, documents, or for commercial printing houses.

Both inkjet and laser printers have their market.

Where inkjet printers use ink, laser printers make use of toners for printing process.

In this article we will like to look at these printing mediums and see “the difference between ink toner”.

Basically, for a customer, the difference between the two boils down to their composition, speed, purpose, and cost.

Why the Difference Between Ink and Toner is Important

First, if you are in printing business, or use a printer at home or office for different work, knowing the tidbits of this printing know-hows will not only help you to make the maximum use of them, but it will also help you to decide which goes for what.

Both ink and toner have different properties and have plus points and downsides as well.

Knowing all about these little intricacies of printing will bring new finesse and quality in your work.

Secondly, if you need a printer for your business needs, you need to monitor the printing costs too.

Often the printing cost exceeds the price of printer. Ink or toner is the major expense adding to your printing cost.

So understanding the difference between ink and toner will help you choose a better option for your business.

What is Ink?

printer ink cartridges

Inkjet printers use Ink for printing.

It’s a dye-based liquid with pigments that lend it color. Different types of ink are used for printing depending on what you are printing, for what purpose, and on what material.

Ink comes from a combination of solvents, resins, dyes, and varnish.

Many other ingredients are added in ink manufacturing for different effects and for enhancing its quality.

Though having excellent quality, ink cartridges have their limitations. They can be used up sooner than you expect and won’t last long.

Even when your printer is lying idle in your cabinet, the ink in cartridges may dry out soon, and you need to replace them from time to time.

Replacing ink can be a nuisance especially if your printer stops in the middle of printing something important. Also, ink cartridges are expensive, especially if you want best quality for your photos and art pieces.

The ink comes in different colors. Most printers use 4 colored ink, but in photo or professional printers, more colors are added into it.

These printers may easily come with five and even six colored inks to offer a wider gamut of colors. While this gives vivid details, the added operating cost can be hefty.

What is Toner?



Laser printers are fast, more efficient than their inkjet counterparts, and often comes with the latest features to enhance your printing experience.

Unlike the inkjet printers that use ink, laser printers use toner. The purpose of toner is same as ink, but its composition is completely different.

Toner comes in a powdered form. It is grounded polyester that is used for printing. The grounded polyester has a static charge, and it sticks with anything that has an opposite charge.

Some toners come in a single color like black for monochrome laser printers that can print only in black.

The colored printer used 4 colored toners(black, magenta, yellow and cyan) and mixed them in different proportions for printing in all colors.

Differences Between Ink and Toner

Some of the key differences between ink and toner are as follows:

1. Composition

One of the main difference between ink and toner is their composition.

Both are opposite in their basic composition.

The ink comes as a liquid paste, while toner comes in a solid powdered form.

2. Operation

Ink is sprayed on the paper through tiny Ink nozzles while polyester toner is heated in a process and the melted polyester is used for printing sharp and smudge-free prints.

3. A Lot of Variety in Ink

The ink comes in a lot of variety. Each has a different composition, and different types of inks are used in different printing projects.

They can be oil-based, dye-based, plastisol ink that is plastic-based, and many others.

Toner does not come with that much variety, and the basic type of toner is used in printing.

4. Printing Effect

Ink has different printing effect than the toner. It is soaked in paper or any fabric and becomes more like a part of material.

On the other hand, toner is grounded polyester that sits on paper, like something is sticking on it. It does not become a part of material like ink.

Some inks like plastisol have the same effect toner as they contain plastic pigments, but it is when you specifically need that effect.

5. Toners are Pro for Fast Printing

Toners in laser printing are popular for their fast printing experience. They work much faster than inkjet printers using ink.

6. Toners are Efficient and Reliable

Like speed, laser printers using toners gives a new precision and efficiency to your printing process since the wastage is generally quite low.

Toners are also less prone to breakdown and can last much longer before they expire. Ink cartridges, on the other hand, can easily dry out if left unused or in an unfavorable environment.

7. Ink Has an Artistic Feel
artistic feel

Inkjets can have as many as 10 ink cartridges for professional print quality. Source: Hackworth

Toner may give speed and precision to your prints, but it lacks the artistic luster and grandeur of ink prints.

Ink gives an artistic touch to your prints and is more suitable for art pieces and canvas printing.

8. Toners are Costly

Toners have higher prices than ink cartridges. You will be spending more on refills especially when you take the color toners into consideration.

Ink needs replacements, too, but they are cost-effective than toners.

However, with ink it all depends upon the type of ink use. Conventional dye based inks are cheaper in comparison. However, other types of inks like pigment based can be quite expensive.

9. Ink Cartridges Need More Refills

Ink cartridges have a much smaller yield as compared to toners (unless if you get printers with super tanks).

There are ways to squeeze more ink from a cartridge, but they still have to be replaced or refilled much more often as compared to toners.

10. Ink Cartridges Can Clog Your Printer

If ink cartridges are left unused for a long time, they may clog the nozzles and in different printer’s parts if not sealed properly.

You need to clean your printer more often and take proper care of storing ink cartridges.


Basically the difference between ink and toner is more than just their composition. Their purpose, cost, and printing effects are all important differences.

Ink or toner both have their advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to printing, you need to consider what you are printing and for what purpose.

Ink can be a good choice for an artistic touch and toners are more effective in an office environment where you need fast and efficient document printing.