How do Inkjet Printers Work?



The methods that revolve around inkjet printing originate from an older form of dot-matrix printers, in which several dozen needles are used to transfer ink onto paper and create letters and numbers using a series of dots.

Modern inkjets differ than the traditional dot printing in that rather than utilizing needles, hundreds of small guns are incorporated into the inkjet printer to shoot out dots of ink rather than pricking with needles. Unlike with dot-matrix printers, the dots of inkjet printers are so minuscule they cannot be easily noticed and blend seamlessly to the naked

Dot Matrix Print (

eye. Depending on the type of printer, the ink is fired using various methods. With a Canon printer, the ink is heated to a temperature that causes the ink to fire in the shape of bubbles that adhere to the paper as opposed to the Epson printer, which uses electronic circuits. Electric currents inside the printer make tiny nearly microscopic crystals fire out ink by moving side to side. Although these both sound like fairly slow processes, shooting out millions of ink dots takes more than a few seconds at a time, which is why printers are known for shelling out our printed papers at a reasonably fast rate.

How does a printer know how to create the shapes of the letters and numbers you need?

image: Brother MFCJ6919DW (

Your own computer is the brain behind how your papers get printed out – which is why if you disconnect your computer from your printer, it will immediately stop working.

Your computer sends signals to your printer telling it which specific shapes it needs to print out, and the printer subsequently moves its nozzles in a position that will allow it to create the necessary shapes. An inkjet printer is comprised of hundreds of thousands of nozzles with roughly one hundred being needed to create a single letter, number ect. Once the printer receives command from the computer, it activates the tiny nozzles which are being heated up by the printer resistor, which warms up the ink to a boil – the boiled ink is the key to creating both text and images with an inkjet printer; as the ink boils it bubbles and undergoes multiple mini explosions which then transfers the required ink to a specific dot on your printer paper. This entire process occurs at an astronomically fast rate as the ink cartridge, guided by the computer scans back and forth between the sheet of paper depositing ink as it goes.


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How Do I Tell if My Printer is Laser or Inkjet?

Cartridges of color laser multifunction printer

There are a number of reasons for you to know whether the printer you are using is a laser printer or an inkjet printer. Inkjet printers use different kind of supplies such as ink and paper as compared to supplies needed for laser printers. Knowing the type of printer is also important for deciding the kind of label to use. Here are a few tips to help you figure out the kind of printer you may have.

Toner vs Inkjet – Printing Software Difference

The easiest way to find out the type of printer you have is to open the dialogue box of your printer. To open the dialogue box of a printer, you need to open a document and give a print command. In the print window, you need to click on the properties button or the preferences button and it should open a new window that should have various options for your printer.

In this window, there should be an options or maintenance tab. If there are buttons labeled as printhead cleaning, nozzle check or printhead alignment, it means that you have an inkjet printer. These buttons are not available for laser printers.

Inkjet Cartridge

Toner vs Inkjet – Printing Physical Difference

You can also check the type of your printer physically by looking at the ink cartridges. You need to open the cover of your printer and take a look at the cartridges. If the insides of the printer contain multiple cartridges with black, yellow, red and blue circles, it means that you have an inkjet printer. The cartridges for inkjet printers are box shaped and can be easily removed.

On the other hand, if you see a single long cartridge, it means that it is a laser printer. You need to be cautious when you open the cover of your printer. If anything falls into the printer, it can damage the gears and other small parts inside the printer.

Almost all the printers come with basic label. This label contains the make and model of the printer and it should also have the word laser or inkjet printed onto it. This will give you an idea whether the printer is a laser printer or an inkjet printer. In case the type of the printer is not mention on the label, you can search for the model number and make of the printer online and you’ll be able to figure out whether it’s a laser printer or an inkjet printer..

Toner Cartridge

Toner vs Inkjet – Printing Technique Difference

There are a number of differences between laser printer and an inkjet printer. Other than the technique used for printing, the major difference in the ink is that inkjet printers use liquid ink whereas laser printers use powdered form of ink which is stored in the toner cartridge. So, you can figure out whether your printer is inkjet or laser by checking the type of ink on the cartridge.

You need to take out the cartridge from the printer and place it over a paper after giving it a gentle shake. If you see some liquid droplets of ink come out from the cartridges, it means that you have an inkjet printer. Keep in mind that the cartridges should be shaken gently as vigorous shaking of laser printer cartridge can release micro particles of ink into the air and that is not good for your health.

Another way to find out about the type of printer is to print out a few papers. Since laser printers use laser for producing an electrically charged image on the drum, the printed paper from a laser printer is a bit warm to the touch.

On the other hand, inkjet printer works by dropping small droplets of ink on to the printing paper and this thing takes some time to dry. So, if you rub the print right after it comes out of the printer and the print smears or bleeds, it is likely that you have an inkjet printer.

There is a lot of difference in the size of cartridges used by inkjet at laser printers. The cartridges for an inkjet are smaller than the size of a standard cell phone whereas the cartridges for a laser printer are much bigger.

These are some of the things that you can use to figure out the type of printer you have. Keep in mind that it is important to determine the type of printer before selecting and ordering various printing supplies. Transfer papers are made specifically by the manufacturers for both inkjet and laser printers. So, identify the printer first and only then order the print supplies.

Here is a video from TechQuickie’ Youtube Channel comparing Laser Printer and Inkjet Printer,