If you've ever struggled with the simple task of putting replacement cartridge in your printer, you're not alone. The world of printer ink isn't as straightforward as it seems, and many are lost when it comes to the technical details. Whether you want to know what the numbers printed on your ink cartridge mean or you're not entirely sure what the difference is between ink and toner, we've compiled commonly used terms and their definitions to help you along the way.
Adhesion: The bonding of ink to the paper or other material you are printing on. Some inks offer faster adhesion than others.
All-in-One: A type of printer that combines multiple functions such as a scanner, fax machine and copier. Sometimes referred to as "multifunction."
Black Ink: The most common color of printer ink. Often abbreviated as "K" when in combination with other colors.
Bleeding: When ink runs into other parts of the page or spreads to other pages. This can be caused by both paper type and ink type.
Calibration: Aligns the ink in your printer to provide optimal ink distribution on printed pages.
Capacity: The amount of ink or toner contained within an individual cartridge.
Cartridge: A plastic container filled with ink or toner that fits in your printer.
Cartridge Recycling: Repurposing materials from used cartridges to manufacture new products. Many ink brands offer free ink cartridge recycling programs.
CMY: Stands for "cyan, magenta, yellow." These three colors of ink can be combined to create most colors needed for printing. Some printers require a cartridge for each color, while others combine them into a multi-color cartridge.
CMYK: Stands for "cyan, magenta, yellow and black." These are the four most common colors used in ink cartridges. They can be found in separate cartridges as well as a single cartridge that combines all four colors.
Combo Pack: A package of ink or toner that contains more than one cartridge.
Compatible: Ink or toner cartridges made by a brand that is different than the printer brand they are designed to work with.
Cyan: A common printer ink color, abbreviated as "C." Produces blue and green colors.
DPI: Stands for "dots per inch." Used to describe image resolution. More DPI produces better image resolution.
Driver: A type of software used to connect the printer to the computer.
Drum: A component of laser printers. It captures an image through a series of electrical charges. Positively charged toner coats the negatively charged portions of the drum, then the drum is rolled over paper to produce the image.
Dye: A substance that produces color or changes the color of something.
Dye-Based Ink: Commonly used in inkjet printers. The dye is dissolved into a liquid and typically produces more vibrant colors than other ink types. However, dye-based ink is less resistant to water damage or fading than other types of ink.
Fading: The loss of color due to exposure to UV light.
Fuser: Rollers within a laser printer that are heated to adhere the toner to the paper.
Ghosting: Refers to the appearance of text or images on a printed document where they do not appear in the electronic form.
Ink: A colored liquid substance used for printing.
Ink Sponge: A small piece of sponge contained within an ink cartridge. They are primarily used to control the release of ink.
Inkjet: Sprays ink onto paper in an inkjet printer.
Inkjet Cartridge: A replaceable container within the printer that holds ink.
Inkjet Printer: A printer that uses inkjet cartridges.
ISO: Stands for "International Organization for Standardization." An organization that develops international standards for tech products such as printers to ensure quality and reliability.
Laser Printer: A printer that adheres toner to a drum through positive and negative charges to produce the printed image.
Laser Toner Cartridge: A replaceable container within the printer that holds toner powder.
Liquid Toner: A water or solvent-based toner. Primarily used in digital printing.
Magenta: A common printer ink color, abbreviated as "M." Produces red and purple colors.
MICR: Stands for "magnetic ink character recognition." Used primarily by banks to help computers process routing and account numbers found at the bottom of checks with magnetic ink.
Monochrome: Printing done only in black and white or with shades of gray. Often called "grayscale."
Multi-Color Cartridge: A single ink cartridge that contains all three of the primary ink colors, cyan, magenta and yellow.
Multifunction: A type of printer that combines multiple functions such as a scanner, fax machine and copier. Sometimes referred to as "all-in-one."
Nozzles: Small holes in the print head that ink travels through to be dispersed on the page.
OEM: Stands for "original equipment manufacturer." Typically refers to ink that's produced by the same manufacturer as your printer and is designed to work with a specific printer model.
Page Yield: The number of pages that can be printed from a cartridge under specific conditions.
Pigment-Based Ink: Ink that gets its color from tiny particles in a liquid carrier. Typically pigment-based ink is more resistant to water and UV light than dye-based ink.
Postage Meter: A printer that prints paid postage labels on envelopes and packages, eliminating the need for individual stamps.
PPI: Stands for "pixels per inch." Describes resolution based on how many pixels are contained within a specific size of space.
PPM: Stands for "pages per minute." How many pages a printer can produce in one minute.
Print Head: A part within a printer that uses tiny nozzles to distribute ink to specific points on the page.
Printer: A machine used to transfer images or text to paper and other materials.
Refill: An empty ink cartridge that was used previously and has been filled with ink again. Kits are available to help you complete this process at home, but the refill ink often comes from a third party, not the original manufacturer.
Refurbished: Previously used ink cartridges that have been filled and resold by a company other than the original manufacturer. While less expensive, refurbished cartridges are often of lesser quality than brand-new cartridges.
Remanufactured: A cartridge that has been assembled from recycled parts of old cartridges.
Resolution: The measurement of the sharpness of an image based on how many dots of ink are contained within a square inch.
Ribbon Cartridges: Used in dot matrix printers. Pins in the print head touch the paper through the inked ribbon to produce images or text.
STMC: Stands for "Standardized Test Methods Committee." They developed a standardized testing method for toner cartridges. A company said to be "STMC certified" has trained their employees in STMC methods and uses such methods and authorized equipment in manufacturing their cartridges.
Tank: A vessel for ink storage. They can be attached directly to the print head or separately outside the printer.
Thermal Printer: A printer that produces an image by heating paper coated in a chemical that turns black when heat is applied.
Toner: An electrically-charged dry powder that is used in laser printers. It adheres to a drum with the opposite charge to produce the printed image.
Yellow: A common printer ink color, abbreviated as "Y." Produces yellow and orange colors.
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