What Is Toner? | The Difference Between Printer Toner & Ink

We have all had that phone call at the office or at our home. “Hello there Sir, would you be interested in saving money today? We have some great savings to be made on your ink and toner supplies!” Usually followed by an assault of information about office supply subscriptions where you try tell them you are not interested but fail…miserably and end up on the phone for another 10 minutes. If you have always used an inkjet printer, you may have been thinking (like many others), well what is toner? We invited printer ink and toner experts, Cartridge Link, to explain the difference between the two.



The Difference in Characteristics between Printer Toner and Ink

The physical characteristics that separate toner and ink is that toner is a powder and ink is a liquid. This is the main reason why toner is used in a laser printer whereas ink is used in an ink jet printer. It is impossible to interchange the two so when making your printer purchase consider this. Here is a closer analysis of how inkjet and laser printer functionality differs.

Toner Cartridges – Used By a Laser Printer

Toner is used in laser printers only. The process it goes through is called the xerographic printing process and ink would not work in this process. The two major ingredients of toner printer cartridges are iron oxide and a mix of plastic resin. Unlike ink jet printers, laser printers do not simply put the toner down directly onto the printer paper. Instead, the laser scopes out an electrostatic template of the text or image onto itsturning metal drum. This drum is covered in photosensitive material and begins with a positive or negative charge.


An ultra-precise laser then changes this electrical charge in pinpointed areas according to which data it receives from your computer. The drum is then plastered in magnetically charged toner. However the sheer, fine particles only stick to where the laser previously delegated. A fuser thensets the text or image by heating and melting up these plastic particles and fusing them with the paper.

Ink Cartridges – Used by an Ink Jet Printer

Ink jet printer cartridges are easier to understand. The liquid ink inside the cartridge is stored in an air sealed oil tank. The ink cartridges are loaded into the moving print head of the printer. This moves rapidly back and forth across the paper. The nozzle creates the image with numerous microscopic ink droplets.


There are different types of ink jet technology. This really is very dependent on both the brand and model. Thermal bubble printers use temperature to control their ink flow, whereas piezoelectric printers use electrically charged vibrations.

Hopefully this has given you an insight on the differences between ink jets and toner ink cartridges. You can view whole toner range at Cartridge Link. Our extremely handy printer search tool means you can put in your printer make, family and model to see all of the compatible cartridges available in our range.

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