InkJet & LaserJet printers, what’s the difference?

InkJet vs LaserJet Printers

Printers. Also known as the hardest piece of technology to troubleshoot. Unfortunately, whether you like it or not, we all need printers. I’m here to tell you the main differences between the two types of printers, InkJet & LaserJet. This should hopefully help you understand how a printer works. It may also help you decide which printer to get, although I won’t be looking at specific models.

InkJet Printers

InkJet printer, taken from here


Firstly, we’re going to discuss the technology behind InkJet printers. The main components of an InkJet printer are these:

  • A print head, which has nozzles that spray ink
  • Ink cartridges
  • A stepper motor & belt, which move the printer head
  • A paper feed, which feeds the printer papers

The name “InkJet” comes from the methods used to print. Two methods are used for InkJet printing, but both of them, in the end, are firing tiny drops of ink onto the page. The way printers print pictures is comparable to how pixels make up images on your screen. Printers can produce ink in one of two ways, the thermal bubble method or the piezoelectric method.

Inkjet Printing Methods

The name for the first method, thermal bubble, comes from the fact it uses tiny resistors that create heat, thus, thermal. This heat vapourises the ink, which then forms into a tiny bubble which bushes out ink onto the paper as the bubble expands. Once the bubble collapses, a small vacuum forms, which allows fresh ink to go into the printer head. The printer then repeats this until completion, advancing the paper very slightly each time.

The piezoelectric method involves tiny crystals that are at the back of each ink reservoir, which are given small (piezo)electric charges. These charges result in vibration, that ejects ink onto the paper. More ink is drawn to repeat, and the printer advances the paper very slightly.

Of course, printers cannot magically make every image look 4K. The quality of the picture is dependant on the DPI (Dots Per Inch). Additionally, if the picture uses the RGB colour model, it might come out looking different as printers use CYMK.

CYMK stands for cyan, yellow, magenta, and key. Key stands for black toner/ink. The exact reasoning behind K being used is unknown, but there are many theories. One of which is that the other printing plates are keyed/aligned with the key of the black key plate. Another one is that it’s because K is the last letter of black, and we can’t use B as that would create confusion with blue. The colours cyan, yellow, magenta, and black can be combined to create virtually any colour possible.

Printing Steps

  • Data is sent to the printer driver
  • The printer driver converts the data into a format the printer can understand
  • The printer is then checked for its status, things such as whether it’s online, offline, has ink, etc.
  • Data is sent to the printer and stored in the printer buffer. This is similar to the RAM of a PC.
  • Paper feed feeds paper into the main body of the printer. The printer head moves side to side to print the document, slightly advancing the paper after each line of ink is printed
    • During and before this step, a sensor detects whether there is paper and whether it’s jammed. If so, an error message is sent to the PC.
  • If there is more data in the printer buffer, steps 5 and 6 repeat, else the printer sends a signal to the computer to request more data.

Later on, we will discuss the uses, along with the pros and cons, of each printer.

LaserJet Printers

LaserJet Printer
LaserJet printer, taken from here

These printers print in quite a different way than InkJet printers. However, unlike you’d expect, their main parts are widely the same as in InkJet printers. The main addition they have is a printing drum, and the fact they use toner cartridges instead of ink cartridges. LaserJet printers also only have one method of printing, so we’ll skip directly to the steps.

  • Data is sent to the printer driver
  • Printer driver converts data into a format the printer can understand
  • The printer is checked for its status, such as if it’s online, busy, has ink, etc
  • Data is sent to the printer buffer
  • The printing drum is positively charged. This drum rotates and is scanned via a laser beam which leaves negative charges over the certain areas it scans. These negatively charged areas match the text/images of the document that is to be printed.
  • The drum is coated with positively charged toner (powdered ink), which only sticks to the negatively charged areas
  • A negatively charged piece of paper is rolled over the drum
  • The toner on the drum sticks to the paper, then the electric charge on the paper is removed to prevent the paper sticking
  • A fuser heads up the paper, which melts the ink, to permanently fix the ink to the paper
  • A discharge lamp removes all electrical charges from the drum, to ready it up for the next page.

You might’ve noticed one key difference. While InkJet prints line by line, LaserJet prints the whole page at once. Also, LaserJets are typically monochrome, and a colour LaserJet costs more.

Which Is Better? Which Should I Get?

In the end, neither one can be better than the other. Each one is crafted for specific purposes and will be better at that. Here are the pros and cons of each one, and the best uses.

InkJet Pros
  • Blends colours well, good for images
  • InkJet printers + ink cartridges are less expensive than laser printers + laser toners
  • Smaller & Lightweight
  • No warm up time
  • Print on more than just regular paper
InkJet Cons
  • Ink is cheaper than toners but still expensive
  • Slower than LaserJet
  • Trays cannot hold a lot of paper
  • Possible water damage, as ink is water-based
LaserJet Pros
  • Much faster, more noticeable in higher volume printing
  • Better at printing out (small) text, and fine lines
  • Toner carts are less wasteful, and while expensive, have a better page per toner ratio than ink carts
LaserJet Cons
  • Take time to warm up
  • Bad for printing photos, not very smooth
  • High upfront costs for toner carts
  • Quite big and heavy
  • Cannot print on as many materials as InkJet
  • Typically monochrome, colour LaserJet costs more

In conclusion, InkJet printers are best for printing out photos, or a couple of good quality pages. They are not for high volume printing, due to smaller ink carts and small paper trays. InkJet printers are suitable for most consumers to have in their home.

LaserJet printers are best for printing high volumes, due to their high-quality text printing and high speed. Their large toner carts and paper tray also help with this. LaserJet printers are better for schools, businesses, etc. which need to print many copies of one handout, flyers, posters, or whatnot.


I hope this article helped you out! As always, if you found any mistakes, let me know in the comments. If this helped you out or taught you anything, I’d appreciate a share! Thanks for reading!

Author: Ahmed

Hey! I'm a young boy who's very into technology, gaming, reading, and more. I enjoy taking long walks, going to the gym, and of course, messing around on my laptop :p

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