Toner vs Ink: Everything You Need To Know


It’s a battle that’s raged for vs toner! Who will emerge victorious from the printer/copier wars?

Uh, well, neither really. 

Toner and ink are similar to gasoline and diesel. Both are types of fuel, but they’re used in different engines

Toner cartridges and ink cartridges are both used to print text and images, but they’re made for different types of machines.

The Difference Between Toner and Ink

Toner Cartridge
Ink Cartridge
 Used in laser printers         ➜ Used in inkjet printers     
 Contains fine powder         ➜ Contains liquid ink     
 Higher page yield         ➜ Lower page yield     
 Does not dry out or clog          ➜ Can dry out and clog     
➜ Long/unlimited shelf life         ➜ Short/limited shelf life     
➜ Low cost per page         ➜ Higher cost per page     
➜ Higher initial cost       ➜ Lower initial cost     

Printing Process

Printing processes differ between laser printers and inkjet printers.

Inkjet printers operate by ejecting droplets of liquid ink onto paper, forming an image. 

On the other hand, laser printers use a different method.

They use laser to etch an image onto a rotating drum, which attracts charged particles of dry toner. The image on the drum is then transferred onto the paper, and the toner is fused to the paper using heat and pressure rollers.

This fusion process is why prints that emerge from laser printers often feel warm to the touch.

Let’s break it down this way:

  • Laser printers use toner cartridges
  • Inkjet printers use ink cartridges
  • Toner cartridges contain dry powder
  • Ink cartridges contain liquid ink
  • Toner cartridges are bigger than ink cartridges
  • Toner cartridges typically have page yields ranging from 2,000- 20,000 pages
  • Ink cartridges typically have page yields of about 500 pages
  • Toner cartridges don’t expire
  • Ink cartridges expire
  • Toner doesn’t dry out due to infrequent use
  • Ink can dry out and clog due to infrequent use

➜ Related: How To Clean Clogged Printer Heads and Ink Cartridges

trio of tiny inkjet cartridges alongside a much larger toner cartridge

A trio of tiny inkjet cartridges alongside a much larger toner cartridge.

Comparison: Toner vs. Ink

Let's quickly compare ink and toner based on two (probably most important overall) factors below:

Longevity - How Long Does Toner Last vs. Ink?

We believe  toner longevity and lower overall print costs make laser printers the way to go.

Ink cartridges carry the risk of malfunctioning if the heads dry out or become clogged. This risk increases the longer that inkjet printers are not used so it is important to use inkjet printers weekly.

In contrast, toner cartridges don't expire and don't get clogged if not used.

Cost - Toner vs. Ink 

Toner cartridges have a higher initial cost than ink cartridges.

Toner cartridges are physically bigger, meaning they hold more supplies and print more pages. If you do a lot of printing, toner cartridges are more cost-effective.

However, if you don’t print too often, you may find low-output, low-cost ink cartridges more cost-effective.

➜ Related: Inkjet vs Laser Printers

Choosing Between Toner and Ink

High-end commercial inkjet printers are used for product packaging, posters, marketing materials, advertisements and more.

Laser printers and color copiers used to be too big and expensive for home and small business use, but that’s all changed due to compact printer designs and cheaper laser technology.

Now laser printers and inkjet printers are priced nearly the same. It will cost more for new toner cartridges than for new ink cartridges, but, by comparison, you’ll get a much higher page count.


How Do I Know if My Printer Needs Toner vs Ink?

You can check your printer manual for this, but as a general rule, you need toner for laser printers and ink cartridges for inkjet printers.

How Often Do You Have To Replace Ink vs Toner?

Toner usually has a higher page yield which means that you'll need to change it less frequently compared to ink.

Plus, as already mentioned above, ink cartridges may expire, dry up, and get clogged if not used enough or in time. This means that sometimes you will need to replace your ink cartridges even if it has not been used for 100%.

Toner cartridges, at the same time, don't dry or expire.

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