This post was most recently updated on June 5th, 2020
What is an inkjet printer? In the past few years, inkjet printers have been dogged a lot online. They’ve been called unreliable, overpriced, and rip-offs. But inkjets are frequently misunderstood, and you can’t blame the product if you are using it wrong.
In this guide, we’re going to tell you what inkjet printers are, what is great about them, and what is bad about them. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to decide if an inkjet printer is right for you. Let’s get it.
What Are Inkjet Printers?
An inkjet printer is any printer which uses liquid ink to print your image or document. There are inkjet printers for documents, photos, home users, and large offices. The possibilities are endless! (Not really.)
How Do Inkjet Printers Work?
Inkjet printers work by putting tiny drops of liquid ink on paper arranged to print your image. It does this by forcing drops of ink through something called a print head. A print head breaks those drops into even smaller drops, before placing the drops on the paper. The smaller the drops, the more drops per inch, and the sharper the image.
Is My Printer an Inkjet Printer
Some of my customers don’t know if their printer is a laser printer or an inkjet printer. The best way I know to tell is to take the cartridge out and hold it in your hand. If it is palm sized or smaller and filled with ink, you have an inkjet. If the cartridge is as wide as a piece of paper and filled with powder, then you have a laser printer.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Inkjet Printers?
Great Print Quality
This is where inkjet printers really shine. Their print quality is simply unmatched.
Because of the variability of ink types and print resolutions, there is a wide range of print quality available. Everything from pocket photo printers to professional printers for art prints. Inkjet printers are known for quality over everything else.
Low Sticker Price
Because inkjet printers are built to be consumable, they also tend to be very cheap. You can sometimes find inkjet printers for as low as twenty bucks. While I always say you get what you pay for, inkjet printers are much cheaper than laser printers. They are an easy way to get printing fast without breaking the bank.
Small and Compact
Laser printers tend to be huge. Inkjet printers tend to be small.
For home users, this is actually a big deal. Not many people have a dedicated spot in their home for their printer. If you need a printer that can fit in the corner of a desk or on a shelf, inkjet printers have more options.
Simple to Operate
Printer manufacturers know that home users are used to inkjet printers. So, they tend to make these printers a bit more point-and-click than their laser printers. With most modern inkjets, you just jab your hand-sausages at whatever button has what you want written on it, then sit back and wait.
Higher Operating Costs
Inkjet printers may be cheaper up front, but they cost more money in the long run. This is because liquid ink is much less efficient than toner. The drop in efficiency causes your cost per page to increase, so your long-term costs will almost always be higher with an inkjet printer.
Ways to Save Money On Ink
Amazon Dash is Amazon’s automatic ink fulfillment service. It’s tied to your prime account, and your printer software. When your printer is running low on ink, it automatically orders new ink. In addition to the convenience, you also save a flat 10% on all your ink and toner.
HP Instant Ink is the OG ink fulfillment service. With eligible printers, you pay a monthly fee, based on how many pages you print. Then, when you are low on ink, more gets sent to you automatically at no extra cost. It can save you between 50% and 90% on your ink costs, depending on your print volume and usage type of printing.
Supertank printers are printers with ink reservoirs built into the machines. The most popular supertank printers are the Epson EcoTank line of printers. Instead of traditional ink cartridges, with these printers, you fill the ink tank with super cheap bottles of ink.
Slower Print Speeds
Inkjet printers are almost always much slower than laser printers. That’s because the ink cartridges ride in a carriage, that runs back and forth across the width of the page. That’s why inkjet printers are so loud.
An exception to this rule is HP’s PageWide series of printers. These are inkjet printers that print the entire width of the page at once, allowing them to print at crazy speeds. They are definitely an outlier when it comes to inkjet printing speeds.
Ink Runs When Wet
With the exception of some specialty photo papers, most ink runs when wet. Pages printed with a laser printer are a bit more resistant to water. While the paper will probably be rippled, the documents will probably be fine.
Inkjet printers are not built to stand the test of time. In fact, the manufacturers consider them to be consumable products. While that is a load of bull, it’s just a fact of the world we live in.
If you buy an inkjet printer, just be realistic with your expectations. It will probably last you three years or so. If you get five years from an inkjet, you’re lucky.
Types of Inkjet Printers
Monochrome Inkjet Printers
Monochrome inkjet printers are inkjet printers that only print in black and white. They are also becoming very rare and hard to find. It’s just easier for manufacturers to make inkjets that print in color.
Single-Function Inkjet Printers
Single-Function inkjet printers are printers that only print. They can be color or monochrome, and, like monochrome inkjet printers, they are becoming very rare. Inkjet customers tend to want scanners, and even if they don’t, these printers are so cheap it doesn’t matter.
Inkjet Photo Printers
This is the most popular type of inkjet printer. Because the biggest advantage of inkjet printing is the quality, they are the go to for photo hobbyists or professionals. The best photo printers for home users offer great quality for framing and scrapbooking. And, the best printers for art prints are able to print photos and artwork fit for a gallery setting.
All-In-One Inkjet Printers
All-in-one office style inkjet printers are the next most popular version behind photo printers. They are made to be more versatile than other printers. They offer servable document and photo printing, copy and faxing features, and work fine for small businesses. They are a jack-of-all-trades type of printer.
Inkjet Printer Uses
As I’ve hammered on in this guide, inkjet printers shine the most as photo printers. They are capable of super high resolution and high contrast printing, so the offer the best photo prints possible.
While laser printers are better for documents, that doesn’t mean inkjets can’t print documents. They work fine for small batches of documents. I just wouldn’t recommend self-publishing your novel on an inkjet printer.
Inkjet printers, especially photo printers, tend to have great scanners built in. While the best photo scanners are still separate, many inkjet printers have professional quality scanners built in. They’re convenient and economical.
Some crafts work better with laser printers, like iron transfers. However, inkjet printers are a favorite of hobby crafters. They work with a multitude of projects, such as:
Inkjets VS Laser Printers
On the internet, people tend to say that laser printers are always the better option. That’s true for some people, but not for everyone.
Inkjet printers are much better for photos and images. They also work fine for people who print a small amount, but frequently. If you print a couple pages every week, so you don’t need to worry about the ink drying out, you’ll probably be better off with an inkjet.
Laser printers are better for people with demanding printing needs, or very inconsistent printing needs. Also, people who only print in black and white, or who print a lot of documents. Laser printers are just a better option for business and office use.
If you want a further breakdown, check out our full inkjet vs laser printer guide.
Who Are Inkjet Printers Best For?
Low-use home users are usually better off with an inkjet. It’s just easier for families with high-schoolers or low-volume home offices. They are simple, and the ink is cheap, even if it is inefficient.
For the last time, inkjets are great for printing photos. Whether it’s for hobbyists or professionals, inkjets just offer the best photo quality.
Even if it’s not photos, inkjet printers offer the best photos for art prints. 3-D renders, digital printings, or just standard art prints look the best when printed from an inkjet printer.