What’s The Difference Between Ink and Toner Cartridges?

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If buying a printer that works with your desktop, laptop, or tablet operating system is a chore, then dealing with the ink or the toner is a nightmare. One of the most difficult aspects of dealing with ink or toner is their availability. When ink or toner is out of stock, some people think that toner cannot be switched out for ink, and ink cannot be switched out for toner. And others believe that it can be done.

There are a lot of misconceptions that center around ink and toner.

What exactly is ink, and what is toner? How are they different?  Can they be used interchangeably? Which one’s more expensive? We’ll answer all these questions and a few more. So if you’re interested in the differences between ink and toner cartridges, keep on reading.

What are the main differences between ink and toner cartridges?

The first thing you should know about ink and toner is that they’re not the same. An ink cartridge contains plant-based liquid ink and is a liquid. But toner is actually a powder that is pressed onto paper; it is not a liquid.

When an inkjet printer prints ink onto paper, it does so by squeezing extremely small drops of ink onto the paper. Since inkjet printers use liquid ink, when the print is finished,  the user must set the paper aside for a minute or so that it can dry. Since it is wet, the print can smudge and smear.

Since laser printers use powdered dye, the paper containing the print is not wet, so it does not need to dry. Documents that are printed from laser printers can be placed inside a book bag, backpack, or briefcase the moment they come out of the printer.

One of the biggest advantages of using toner-based ink is that it will last a very long time. If a person were to print the same design with Liquid Ink and powder toner, the color produced by the tower toner would not fade for at least a hundred years, while the Liquid Ink base design only lasts about 20 years.

See also: Which printer has the cheapest ink cartridges?

Can ink and toner be used interchangeably?

As stated above, ink and toner are not the same types of substance, so they cannot be used interchangeably. Toner cannot go in a printer made for ink and vice versa. However, many people use ink and toner interchangeably when they’re talking about in their speech when they are talking about printers.

So when you go shopping for a printer, ask the salesperson who is assisting you in buying a printer if the specific printers you are both looking at use ink or toner. This question will make the salesperson more aware of their language.

It is also important for the average computer or Mac User to know the difference between ink and toner in case you need a specific type of printer. If you ask a salesperson, “Show me printers that only use ink.”, you will save yourself and the salesperson a lot of time because they won’t show you any printers that use toner.

On average, which is more expensive, ink or toner?

Laser Printers and inkjet printers come in a variety of standards and qualities, so their construction and features will change their costs. The different types of laser and inkjet printers mean that ink and toner will come in a range of different costs as well.

In general, toner is cheaper than Liquid Ink. But it does depend on its science and where it is used. If a home printer requires either ink or toner, the liquid ink will be more expensive.

But for a business that has to print thousands of documents a month, the toner will be more expensive since the business has to buy larger ink cartridges in order to print enough papers.

 =This is also true of inkjet and laser printers. On average, an inkjet printer will be more expensive than a laser printer, even if they are the same quality.

Those looking for a budget-friendly option will want to choose laser printers and toners, and those looking for high-quality designs will choose inkjet printers and ink cartridges.

If you work at a shop where a lot of documents are printed, most of the printers will be laser printers. But if you work at a place where graphics, color, and design are valued, they will use inkjet printers more often than not.

But that is a general rule as well, some artists prefer to use toner, and there are some who would rather print their text documents with inkjet printers that use liquid ink. It all depends on what the user is looking for.


So here is a quick recap of the differences between ink and toner cartridges: toner is powder-based, and ink is liquid-based. Toner is used for laser printers, while liquid ink is used for inkjet printers. When an inkjet printer prints a document or picture, the paper must be set aside to allow the ink to dry, while the design made from a laser printer does not. On average, the ink will be more expensive than toner.

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