Toner Vs. Ink: Which One to Choose? Our Buying Guide

Knowing the difference between toner vs. ink can help you make a better-informed decision about which type of printer to buy. In this article, we’ll explore both options in depth.

It is extremely important to determine the type of cartridge compatible with your laser or inkjet wide format printer. An improper cartridge type might cost your company a lot of money one way or another. There is a huge difference between printer toner vs ink cartridges. Each comes with its own set of distinct advantages and disadvantages, especially the difference in the cost of toner vs ink. The choice between ink and toner is based on your specific printing needs and economical possibilities.

If you’re looking to learn more about your printer cartridges, keep reading to become an ink vs toner expert.

Printer toner cartridges containing fine powders of different colors

What is Ink?

To start our printer toner vs ink comparison, let’s first take a look at printer ink's definition. Ink is a liquid containing a chemical composition of pigments or dyes. These pigments are used to transfer an image, text, or design onto a desirable surface.

The liquid in an ink cartridge is made up of chemicals, colorants, and water. In the printing process, an inkjet printer sprays tiny droplets of ink onto the paper. The process results in a clear, high-resolution image.

Industrial inks comprise a colorant, solvent (or vehicle), and numerous additives. They are commonly used for printing on a variety of materials, like rubber, cardboard, paper, and metal. Industrial inks can also be used for printing on plastic cards, films, porous and non-porous substrates.

What is Toner for Printer?

Toner is made of finely ground plastic powder. Other ingredients are also used that can assist the printing procedure. Silica in the composition can keep the toner particles loose and free-flowing inside the cartridge. 

Instead of being sprayed onto a page, toner is released onto paper and fused using heat and an electrostatic charge. In a laser printer model, a laser beam scans back and forth across a drum inside the printer, creating agitation and building up a pattern of static electricity. 

The laser inside a laser printer dissolves the plastic factors in the toner powder before sticking it to paper. Charge control agents, like ground iron, chromium, and zinc, help maintain the charge of the particles.

What is the Difference Between Ink and Toner?

Is toner the same as ink? Most people might presume yes, but let's investigate first. It is a general misconception that ink and toner are the same. Toner and ink cartridges differ in composition and functionality. The printer ink is liquid while toner is available in powder form.

Ink Vs Toner Composition 

The first difference between ink and toner lies in the composition; ink inside an ink cartridge can be both dye-based or pigment-based, depending on the type of cartridge used, whereas toner is a dry powdery substance that won't stain like ink cartridges, but it can get messy if not dealt with properly. 

Ink Vs Toner Printing Process

The main difference between laser printers and inkjet printers is the method of printing.

Inkjet printers squirt ink onto the desired surface to form an image or text. 

Laser printers use an electrostatic charge to pull positively charged toner particles onto a negatively charged photostatic drum. Heated fuser units melt those particles onto the paper.

Ink Vs Toner Cost

There are several factors to consider when comparing the costs of toner and ink. Inkjet printers cost less upfront, but you may have to spend additional money to refill ink cartridges in the long run. The cost of toner is more individual, but it doesn’t need to be replaced as frequently as ink cartridges. Also, you must determine the cost per page for your business.

Toner Vs Ink Longevity

Overall, toner lasts longer than ink. Because toner generates more images than ink before running out, you won’t need to replace the cartridges as frequently. Toner also lasts longer on the shelf, as opposed to ink, which can dry out quickly.

 Industrial ink cartridge containing liquid ink of different colors

Pros and Cons of Printer Ink and Toner

Printer ink and toner have their own distinctive characteristics; to choose one or the other, you need to know the main advantages and disadvantages of ink vs toner.

Printer Toner Pros

First, let’s dive into the reasons to choose toner over ink.

Quick Printing

Laser printers and toner cartridges offer the main advantage, as they are capable of producing prints much faster than inkjet printers because they are incredibly accurate. You can get a lot more precision while using a toner cartridge instead of ink.

Decent Picture Quality

This is because of the natural precision of the laser printer. With that kind of precision, the images are a lot brighter and clearer than what is generated with an inkjet printer.

Lasts Longer

While comparing a laser printer to a similar model inkjet printer, the laser printer can print out more pages in the long run than the inkjet printer. It is quicker and functions in a fundamentally different way from an inkjet printer.

Printer Toner Cons

And here’s why some are hesitant to buy toner cartridges. 

Messy To Refill

When working with toner cartridges, you have to deal with microscopic powder. It can get quite dirty if you don’t handle it properly. It can smear very easily on you and can be very tough to remove.

Expensive To Replace

Toner cartridges are commonly far more expensive than their ink counterparts, which means you will inevitably spend more on refills.

Printer Ink Pros

Now onto the main advantages of ink.


Inkjet printers are cheaper than laser printers. However, you should note that the smaller upfront cost will be balanced by the frequency of replacement for the ink cartridges. 

Don't Smear Easily

It might seem counterintuitive because one is a powder, and the other is a liquid, but ink-passed prints suppress smudging more than toner prints.

Printer Ink Cons

Here are some popular reasons not to buy ink.

Lower Print Yield

Sure, you’ll save money upfront when you buy the inkjet printer and the ink cartridges that it uses. However, this is only a short-term saving.

Clogs Easily

This is one of the biggest differences between toner and ink. If the ink cartridge remains unused for too long, then the ink stands the risk of going dry.

Toner or Ink? Metro Repro Has Both!

Metro Repro is one of the prime providers of wide-format printers, copiers, large document scanners, and large document multi-function systems in:

  • Texas
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana
  • Oklahoma

With all said, which one will it be for you - toner or ink? Get in touch and let’s discuss your needs and how Metro Repro can help.

Author: Metro Repro