Laser versus inkjet. Whats the difference?

What is the difference between laser or inkjet printers?


Laser versus inkjet. Whats the difference?

Two of the most common types of printer you can buy are Laser printers and Inkjet printers. These two types of printers use very different technology to produce prints on paper and other media. Each type has its strengths and weaknesses. This is meant to be a very short overview to give you and idea of the difference and what it means.


A laser printer uses a laser to create a static impression on a cylinder known as a drum. This impression attracts and holds powdered ink called toner. Sheets of paper pick up the toner as they are fed over the drum. The paper is then heated until the toner permanently fuses to the paper.

Laser printers are good at efficiently producing prints. They are also good for producing high quality text and graphic prints. They are not so good at producing high quality photos and/or fine art style prints.

For a more in depth look at laser printers - read the wikipedia page.

Wikipedia on laser printing


An inkjet printer uses a jet to spray ink onto paper or other medias. There are a couple of different specific methods they do this by. You can read the wikipedia for Inkjet printing to find out more about the specifics of the technology. Inkjet printers are the most common type of printer used around the world.

Inkjets are often less efficient than laser printers and are often slower - due to the print head having to pass over each printed area multiple times. There is also more wastage of ink - as it is deposited in a slightly less accurate way. They tend to be cheaper than laser printers though, which offsets some of these inefficiencies.

Inkjet printers are much better than laser printers at producing high quality output, with smoother details and brighter colours. Most printers capable of photographic printing are inkjet printers.

Which printer should I buy?

A simple rule of thumb for deciding between laser printers and inkjet printers is:

If you want high quality, graphic output - such as printing fine art pictures or photographs - you should be looking at inkjet models.

If you want to print at speed with reliability of output quality and legibility, you should be looking at laser printers.

If you want to save money / print cost effectively - you will need to balance both options. Inkjet systems can often be acquired more cheaply - but laser printers will work out cheaper over large volumes.