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If you’re a bit confused by all the technical hype and are wondering what the differences are between ink jet and laser printers, this page is for you!

Firstly the basics.

The words ink jet and laser are used to identify the 2 different methods used to put your words or pictures onto a sheet of paper.

An ink jet printer squirts liquid ink onto the page, using tiny droplets. There are usually 4 different colours of ink in the machine and top quality results are possible, even to photographic standards. Often a suitable inkjet grade paper is needed to bring out the best quality.

A laser printer uses a beam of light, created by a laser, to develop an electrical ‘image’ of the page when a dry powder called toner is attracted to the image and then transferred to the paper and finally fixed to the page using heat and pressure.  Laser machines are widely available in just black print and colour models are now cheap and widespread.

How do you tell one from another?

Inkjet models are generally compact and lightweight and the replacement cartridges are small, often only the size of a pack of playing cards, sometimes smaller. Prices range from around £30 up to £300 and most models are ‘multi-functional’ in that they will copy, scan or fax in addition to printing.


Laser machines are rarely smaller in size than say a microwave oven but are often much larger, with free standing models equipped with towers of paper drawers  and the largest being the size and function of an office photocopier. Laser machines use toner and their replacement cartridges vary in size and shape from tubes the size of rolling pins to cuboids the size of a loaf of bread. There are 4 toners in every colour laser printer and the laser process requires other consumables from time to time, these are called drums ( also known as photoreceptor drums or imaging units).

What are the ink & toner colours?

Both colour laser and colour inkjet machines require 4 different colours of ink or toner, all installed at the same time and used in varying proportions to mix any colour of the rainbow. Apart from black and yellow, there is cyan (blue) and magenta (reddish). The abbreviations widely adopted for these 4 colours is CMYK or Cyan Magenta Yellow & Black.


Which is best?

Inkjets, the good points; Inkjet machines are cheap to buy, produce great results although you sometimes need premium papers to achieve the best for photos or graphics. They are compact, fitting easily onto a shelf or between two desks. Photos and artwork often have a softer appearance, well suited to skin tones in portraits or photos. Some inkjet models are marketed at more demanding roles, either where larger volumes are expected or where portability is essential. Inkjet print systems are used in wide-format (plan sized) printers.

The not-so-good-points; Inkjets use wet ink and this can produce unattractive wrinkled paper when lots of heavy ink is printed without the expensive premium paper. Inkjets are slower than their laser competitors with smaller paper capacity and big print runs can take literally hours to complete. Inkjets are primarily designed for light, home and personal use which is absolutely fine until they end up in higher volume use such as an office or school when their extraordinary high cost per printed page adds up to a fortune in replacement inks.

Lasers, the good points; laser printers offer great quality, fastest printing and are capable of great volumes. Secondary features such as multiple paper trays or double-sided printing and low page costs make them a good choice for offices and organisations where volumes are significant. Replacement cartridges may appear expensive at first but are almost always hugely cheaper in ‘cost per printed page’ terms than an inkjet.p

Lasers, the not so good points; lasers are more bulky and may cost much more to buy although there is a trend towards less expensive A4 personal models. It’s important to have sufficient printing for the page by page laser savings to eclipse the higher purchase cost.

Printright only supplies laser products

At Printright were are dedicated to laser products, from toner cartridges to drums and our selection of new machines are all laser based. We don't do inkjets!