The Difference Between Ink and Toner

Printer Toner vs Ink: What is the Difference Between Ink and Toner?

When deciding between printer toner vs ink, consider your printing needs, printer type, and personal preferences. Ink and toner offer distinct benefits for specific printing scenarios, so choosing the right one for your office will greatly improve your printing efficiency.

Ink and toner ultimately serve the same purpose: High-quality printing. But, what is the difference between ink and toner? Simple – ink and toner differ in how they print and which kinds of printers they require. 

Depending on your printing goals, one may be more beneficial to you than the other. We’ll compare and contrast printer ink vs toner in great detail below to help you understand the differences and choose one that aligns with your needs.

And should you have excess printer ink or toner on hand, you can sell unused cartridges to Sell Toner for cash today. Learn more about our toner reverse logistics – or, dive into the differences between ink and toner below.

Is Ink and Toner the Same Thing?

Let’s make one things clear – is ink and toner the same thing? No. Ink and toner are not the same thing. Ink is a liquid used in inkjet printers, ideal for high-quality color prints and images. Toner, however, is a fine powder used in laser printers, best suited for fast printing of large volumes of text documents. 

The key differences lie in their physical form (liquid vs. powder), the type of printers they are used in (inkjet vs. laser), and their specific printing applications (color intensity vs. volume and speed). We’ll dive deeper into the difference between ink and toner below.

What is the Difference Between Ink and Toner?

Before we compare and contrast printer ink vs toner side by side, let’s offer a bit of background information on each style. So, what is the difference between ink and toner?  We’ll start by explaining what printe rink is.

What is Printer Ink?

So, what is printer ink made of? Ink is a liquid made of carbon black and used in inkjet printers. 

Inkjet printers apply ink to paper by spraying it through tiny nozzles on a printhead as the paper moves through the printer. These printers can use a variety of types of printer ink, from black ink to color ink contained in several distinct cartridges within the printer (cyan, magenta, and yellow).

Inkjet printers are great for printing text documents, images, and graphics in small quantities. This makes them the printer type of choice for most people’s home offices. 

However, due to their compact size and their cartridges’ limited page yield (the number of text-filled pages a cartridge can print before running out of ink), printer ink cartridges need to be refilled or swapped out more frequently than toner cartridges in laser printers.

What is Printer Toner?

Let’s look at the other half of the printer toner vs ink debate. So, what is printer toner? Toner is a fine powder made of polyester and used in laser printers. 

Laser printers use static electricity and heat to stick the toner to paper. The static electricity is controlled by a laser, which designs a template based on a page’s layout and impresses it onto a metal drum within the printer. Once printing begins, the toner is released and sticks to the electrically-charged areas of the drum. The paper then passes over the drum and the toner adheres to its surface with the help of heated rollers. 

Laser printers are ideal for printing text documents in large quantities, because their page yield is high and their print speed is fast. They are most commonly used in office buildings wherein multiple people need to print text documents frequently and in rapid succession. For home offices, you can buy consumer-grade laser printers, but they usually only print in black (color costs extra). 

Printer Toner vs Ink: Which is Better?

You should have a more solid understanding of the difference between ink and toner, but let’s progress the conversation and compare and contrast these two side-by-side based on cost, quality, longevity, and other pertinent factors below. 


As we discussed in the previous section, inkjet and laser printers are designed for different usages. Inkjet printers are best for printing in small quantities (such as from your home office), whereas laser printers can print large quantities of documents quickly (which is great for businesses). 

An inkjet printer costs less upfront than a laser printer, but the cost of ink cartridges over time makes inkjet printers more expensive than laser printers, since you don’t need to buy toner cartridges as frequently. 

That’s the biggest difference between ink and toner – the cost over time. If you think you’ll be printing text documents a lot, then buying a laser printer and toner will save you money in the long run. If you’re like most people though, a standard inkjet printer will fulfill all of your printing needs.

The cost of ink and toner cartridges is determined by the difference in their page yields. Page yields are described as “standard,” “high,” and “super high” (or “ultra high”) based on the quantity of text-filled pages a single cartridge can print. The higher a cartridge’s page yield, the higher its cost.

Here are some common page yields for ink and toner cartridges:

  • Standard ink cartridge: 200-300 pages

  • Standard toner cartridge: 2,000-3,000 pages

  • High-yield ink cartridge: 600-1,000 pages

  • High-yield toner cartridge: 8,000-10,000 pages 

You can learn more about the printer ink cartridge cost in our blog. Otherwise, let’s compare printer toner vs ink through another lens: longevity.


The longevity of ink and toner cartridges is a critical factor to consider when choosing between them. Ink cartridges, typically used in inkjet printers, have a shorter lifespan due to their liquid-based ink, which tends to dry out faster. 

This is particularly true if the printer is not used regularly, leading to the ink drying and clogging the printheads. On average, standard ink cartridges can print around 200-300 pages before needing replacement, while high-yield cartridges can stretch to 600-1,000 pages. Does printer ink expire, though? Yes – but this is usually after a few years.

That being said, you can learn how to make printer ink last longer in some cases to extend longevity as much as possible. But what about the other half of the printer toner vs ink comparison?

In contrast, toner cartridges, used in laser printers, have a significantly longer life. Toner, being a fine powder, does not dry out in the same way as ink. So, how long does printer toner last?

Standard toner cartridges can yield 2,000-3,000 pages, with high-yield toner cartridges printing anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 pages.

This extended lifespan not only means fewer replacements but also less frequent maintenance interruptions, making toner cartridges particularly beneficial for environments with heavy printing demands.

Print Quality

When it comes to print quality, both ink and toner have their unique strengths. Inkjet printers, using liquid ink, excel in producing vibrant color prints with deep blacks and a wide range of shades. 

This makes them ideal for printing high-quality photos, detailed graphics, and documents where color accuracy is paramount. The ink blends seamlessly on various types of paper, including glossy and textured finishes, providing flexibility for creative projects.

On the other hand, laser printers using toner are the champions of sharp, crisp text output. They are unparalleled in printing clean, smudge-free documents quickly and efficiently. 

While color laser printers are available, they may not achieve the same level of color vibrancy as inkjets but are excellent for producing professional-looking documents with color elements, such as graphs and charts.

Speed and Efficiency

The speed and efficiency of a printer can greatly impact productivity, especially in office settings. Inkjet printers, while adept at producing high-quality prints, generally operate at a slower pace. This makes them more suitable for home use or small businesses where printing volumes are lower, and the demand for detailed, color-intensive prints is occasional.

Conversely, laser printers, known for their use of toner, are built for speed and efficiency. They warm up quickly and can churn out pages at a rate that inkjets can’t match, making them ideal for environments where time is of the essence, and high-volume printing is common. 

This rapid output does not compromise the quality of text documents, ensuring that each page is consistently sharp and clear.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of printing consumables is an important consideration in today’s eco-conscious world. 

Ink cartridges, although smaller in size, often contribute more waste due to their need for frequent replacement. However, many manufacturers have introduced recycling programs, and some offer cartridges made from recycled materials to mitigate this impact.

Toner cartridges, while larger, generally have a lesser environmental footprint per page printed, thanks to their longevity. 

Many laser printers also come with eco-friendly features, such as energy-saving modes and duplex printing, further reducing their overall environmental impact. 

Additionally, toner cartridges are often part of robust recycling programs, with some brands even offering options for refilling, further extending their lifespan and reducing waste.

Maintenance and Upkeep

There’s not much difference between ink and toner cartridge maintenance. There are, however, many ways to ensure your ink or toner lasts longer, and there are many internal components to repair or replace. 

Maintaining the health of certain essential printing components in either your inkjet or laser printer, will improve the longevity of your ink or toner. 

The printhead is the part of an inkjet printer responsible for distributing the ink onto each page. It contains tiny nozzles from which ink sprays onto the paper as it rolls through the printer. Keeping those nozzles clean will ensure that your inkjet printer’s printhead continues functioning efficiently. If ink spills out of the nozzles, it can dry and build up, covering the nozzle opening and potentially clogging the printhead. Maintaining a clean printhead is the best way to improve the longevity of your inkjet printer.

The drum of a laser printer transfers toner to paper inside the machine. Because of this, the cleanliness of your printer’s drum has a direct impact on print quality. If the drum is scratched or dented, it’s best to repair it right away, so that your print quality is not affected. 

Unfortunately for laser printer owners, the drum becomes scratched and dented naturally over time due to continual usage, so it will eventually need to be replaced.

A laser printer’s transfer rolls, along with the drum, help transfer toner onto paper. They also prevent unused toner powder (from the print process) from collecting inside the machine. If too much unused toner collects inside your printer, the transfer rolls will need to be thoroughly cleaned or replaced.

A fuser unit uses heat to help toner transfer to paper, in addition to the static electricity from the drum. And like the drum, the fuser unit gets scratched and dented over time. Occasional cleaning of the fuser unit will ensure that print quality remains satisfactory.

Closing Thoughts on the Differences Between Printer Toner vs Ink

There you have it – everything you need to know about the difference between printer toner vs ink. Both ink and toner will provide excellent print quality, so long as you maintain your printer and cartridges. The differences between ink and toner come from how they print and which benefits their respective printing processes offer. 

For most people, who occasionally print text documents or color images from their home office, an inkjet printer will suffice. But for someone who prints text documents more frequently and in bulk, a laser printer will better suit their printing needs. 

For additional printing advice, visit our blog. We have resources on how to get ink off skin, how to put ink in a printer, how to fix a dry ink cartridge, resetting printer cartridge, how to tell if an ink cartridge is empty, and more.

Or, if you have extra ink or toner cartridges lying around, consider partnering with Sell Toner for cash for toners! We buy back unused cartridges from the major brands like HP, Canon, and Epson for much more than our competitors. We’ve also streamlined the process to make it as seamless as possible, saving you time and stress while helping you earn more.

So, learn more about how it works today whether you want to sell unused printer toner vs ink and make money while decrowding your shelves!

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