What is an inkjet printer?

The inkjet printer and the laser printer are currently the two most common printing devices on the market and are used all over the world. Inkjet printers are available from very cheap consumer or home models to very expensive business-grade models.

If you need to print high-quality colour prints frequently or print on a variety of different media sources then an inkjet printer is what you need. Some are capable of printing on fabric, canvas, DVDs, CDs and of course paper; including high-quality photographic paper with fantastic results.

what is an inkjet printer

Inkjet printers – How do they print?

The inkjet printer uses a ‘print head’ which is either built into the ink cartridge or the printer itself. The print head sits in a carriage and moves back and forth across the page. It uses nozzles or jets to spray the ink onto the page. It actually drops many small bubbles of ink which combined make up the text or image.

Due to this style of printing the finished print is often still a little wet when it first leaves the printer and doesn’t have the warm feeling you get from a laser printer.

Inkjet printers and ink cartridges

There are different types of ink cartridge set-ups for inkjet printers but for the best quality images go for dedicated colour cartridge printers. These can produce amazing photographic quality photos. The lower quality tri-colour cartridges containing three colours in one are still good, it’s just that dedicated (single) colour cartridges are better.

Remember Tri-Colour cartridges might be cheaper to buy but the downside is when one of the three colours runs out the other two become useless and need to be replaced at the same time.

Inkjet printers – the biggest cost

The biggest cost with inkjet printers is ink cartridges, as they use wet ink. This wet ink is not only expensive but if you are not printing regularly then it will dry up and need replacing. You really need to be printing every couple of days – otherwise, your printer will become a useless box on your desk.

As an inkjet printer uses jets or nozzles these will need to be cleaned.  Some inkjet printers will have an onboard cleaning mechanism which uses your ink to flush through the nozzles to clean them, which wastes further ink.

Beware of extra cheap printers as they will likely recoup the lost money in expensive ink cartridges.

Optional extras

Inkjet printers are capable of printing larger prints and some are network ready by either wireless or ethernet connection enabling you to also print from your phone or tablet. The inkjet printer is sometimes are bundled with other features such as scanners, fax, copying or duplex printing (double sided) facilities.

Inkjet printer – Advantages

  • Quieter printing.
  • Compact
  • High-resolution printing and photo capable.
  • Some have a duplex feature (double-sided printing).
  • Auto-calibration feature for colour.
  • Handles different print media including glossy paper.

Inkjet printer – Disadvantages

  • Prints will fade over time.
  • Ink clogs.
  • Wastes ink cleaning.
  • Onboard chips often report low ink before you need to worry.
  • Expensive ink.
  • Printing can be slow.
  • Not always crisp text printing.
  • Paper handling: Low paper capacity paper trays.
  • Not as quick printing as laser printers due to one line printing.

Should you buy an inkjet printer?

In conclusion, inkjet printers are popular and rightly so; they are energy efficient, quiet and produce a great image and ok text results. However, if you are not printing regularly and don’t have a big sack of cash to waste on ink. Or if you need your prints (hardcopies) not to fade over time and mostly print text. Then a cheaper option might be the laser printer.

More information

Please see our what is a printer page for more information or check out our what is a laser printer guide.

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