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Battle Of The Pigments – Ink Vs Toner

If you’ve been with us a while, dear reader, you may have noticed that we often refer to both ‘ink’ and ‘toner’ when we talk about printing. Now depending on your life experiences, this difference might mean a lot to you, it might mean something completely different, or it might mean nothing at all. For example, if you’re a hairdresser, the ‘toner’ is a product that remove unwanted pigments from hair, so you might think that in printing it’s a type of ink that balances colour. You’d be wrong though. So what is toner, and how is it different from ink?

The Differences 

If you’ve read our previous blog, you might be aware that inkjet and laser printers take different types of ink. The biggest different between the two is that toner is a powder, while ink is a liquid. Inks are dye-based liquids, while toner is made up of finely ground polyester, which is a common type of plastic. Ink is squirted through tiny nozzles onto the page, while toner is transferred onto the page using static charges and lasers (which is just as cool as it sounds). If you take these 3 differences into account, it’s really clear why you need to know what type of ink your printer takes before you order it. But if you’re buying a new machine, you need to know which you want going forward. So, which is better?


We’ve already waxed lyrical on the cost of inkjet printers, so to find out the ins and outs of how much inkjet printers really cost, click here. If not, the general idea of that article is that while inkjet might seem like the more cost effective option, it often ends up being more expensive in the long term. Toner refills are generally more expensive than their ink counterparts, but you will need to replace them much less often.



Laser printers using toner cartridges generally print much, much quicker than inkjet printers, so if you need to print large volumes of documents quickly, toner is the way to go. Because toner is microscopic plastic particles sprayed over a pre-prepared page, the process is quicker to do and quicker to dry, and much more accurate than spraying dots of ink at speeds. This is actually the main reason laser printers are so much quicker than inkjet in general.



This is where the cost balanced comes back into play again. Ink cartridges are less expensive to buy, but they are much smaller and used up very quickly in a standard office environment. Think of it like liquid in a jug – the level just keeps going down with every document you print. But with toner, you get a much longer lifespan per drum. Not only are they physically bigger, but laser printers are able to siphon off the waste particle spray from each page and reuse it, so that jug keeps getting topped up and they last much longer.



Ahh, the bit no one really talks about. You would think that ink cartridges would be much messier to change and dispose of, given that they are, well, liquid. But actually, inkjet cartridges are self-contained pieces of plastic, with nothing but a small hole the size of a pin to allow the ink through. So unless you purposefully press your fingers on the jet outlet, it’s actually quite a clean process. Toner though, that’s a different story. These big drums contain microscopic, highly pigmented powder, and if you don’t know how to change a toner cartridge, It. Is. Messy. That’s why so many of our customers ask us to change their toner when it’s empty!

As we’ve said before, there really is no answer to which printer is better, because it all depends on what you’re using it for. But there are some definite advantages and disadvantages to each ink type to take into account when choosing your new printer. If you’re not sure what would work best for you, get in touch with the Archway team for some free advice over tea and biscuits.

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