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What is an InkJet Printer and How Does it Work?

inkjet printer printing colored document

There are many types of printers for creating high-quality prints but inkjet printers are commonly chosen for their inexpensive price tag and high-quality colored prints.

Inkjet printers use inkjet technology by spraying ink on a medium. But are they any good? Before you consider looking at some of the best inkjet printers to buy you should understand how they work and weigh the pros and cons of using them.

In this article, we’ll discuss what an inkjet printer is, how it works, its advantages and disadvantages, and the different types of inkjet printers available.

What is an Inkjet Printer?

An inkjet printer is a device that sprays drops of ink onto a piece of paper. These tiny droplets of ink make up the entire image on the page.

It connects to a computer wirelessly or by cable and is operated from the computer to print on paper.

Although most printers use different types of printing paper, the best type of paper to use with an inkjet printer is inkjet paper.

Inkjet paper is a special type of printing paper specifically used for inkjet printing. It differs from traditional paper as it absorbs the ink better and prevents it from getting wet.

Regular paper was designed primarily for office use with typewriters and copy machines. It’s unsuitable for inkjet printing as the paper gets wet from the ink and dulls the edges of the print while reducing the color contrast as well.

Another kind of paper used with inkjet printers is photo paper which is used to produce high-resolution photos.

Popular inkjet printer brands include HP Officejet and Deskjet, Canon Pixma, Epson Ecotank, and Brother Inkjet Printer.

How Does an InkJet Printer Work?

how an inkjet printer works

An inkjet printer consists of a print head and ink cartridges. The print head has several nozzles called “jets” which spray microscopic ink droplets onto the paper as it moves through the printer. These tiny ink droplets form the entire image.

The ink cartridges used in an inkjet printer contain the primary CMYK pigments: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black.) Depending on your printer model, you may need a separate cartridge for each pigment or just one cartridge with all the colors.

Typically, an inkjet printer can print about 120-220 pages before the cartridge dries out.

You can increase the page yield by buying high-yield ink cartridges or lowering the resolution of your printer.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using an Inkjet Printer

Inkjet printers were the most commonly used printers around 2008. However, many other types of printers compete for the market, most notably, laser printers.

So, choosing an inkjet printer may come down to weighing the advantages and disadvantages of using an inkjet printer.

Advantages of Using an Inkjet Printer

  • They are inexpensive machines with many models including other peripherals such as a scanner, photocopier, or fax machine
  • Most inkjet printers are lightweight and portable making them a great addition to your home office
  • Inkjet printers are quiet, easy-to-use, and startup quickly not needing any time to warm-up
  • Produce high-quality prints with finer detail and resolution
  • Some commercial models of inkjet printers are easier to scale print production as they print large amounts of pages faster

Disadvantages of Using an Inkjet Printer

  • Most inkjet printers have a common annoyance of giving error messages due to a microchip in the ink cartridge which incorrectly estimates the ink level
  • The print head isn’t very durable as the tiny ink nozzles may get clogged overtime
  • Printer ink dries up quickly which increases the costs to replace it overtime compared to a laser printer
  • Most inkjet printers aren’t suitable for high-volume printing due to them being slower than other types of printers
  • Prints from inkjet printers may be wet after printing, needing some time to dry before use

What is an Inkjet Printer Used for?

Inkjet printers are used for producing high-quality color prints as they have a better tonal variety and blending capabilities than other types of printers. This makes them ideal for designers specializing in print design.

Also, inkjet printers are great for printing on any type of non-porous paper including glossy, matte, and fine art inkjet paper. On the other hand, a laser printer can’t print on any kind of heat-sensitive paper.

Types of Inkjet Printers

There are different types of inkjet printers for each use case. Inkjet printers vary from size to functionality to suit each kind of person.

Below are the types of inkjet printers you’d be able to find in the market:

Commercial Inkjet Printers

These printers are designed for high-volume printing or printing on huge sheets of paper like for signage.

In commercial inkjet printers, there are usually two formats of printing:

  • Page-width formatting – these print on pages ranging around 8.5-37 inches or 22-94 cm. They are most commonly used for high-volume printing of business copies in lower resolutions
  • Wide-format printing – these have a print width ranging around 27-197 inches or 60cm to 5m. They are most commonly used for print advertising such as printing large billboards

Commercial inkjet printers used for high-volume printing are manufactured by a range of companies with the dominant supplier being HP – supplying 24.5% of the global market.

Epson, Kodak, and Canon then follow with wide-format inkjet printers of their own.

Professional inkjet printers used for high-volume printing cost around US$35,000 – $1million+

Uses of Commercial Inkjet Printers

Commercial inkjet printers are commonly used for:

  • Billboards
  • Truck designs and sides
  • Large-scale graphics and banners
  • Museum graphics
  • Exhibition graphics
  • Backlit displays

SOHO Multifunction Inkjet Printers

SOHO stands for small office/home office and is the most common market for inkjet printers. A multifunction inkjet printer is an all-in-one printer that includes a printer, scanner, and fax machine.

It allows you to do everything from printing, copying, scanning and sending a print document from one place.

Uses of SOHO Multifunction Inkjet Printers

SOHO multifunction inkjet printers use 6 different inks for high-quality photo printing. They are most commonly used for most printing tasks of a small home office or business.

Professional Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers for professional photo printing use 12 different inks.

They can produce a 36-megapixel print on A3-sized borderless photo paper.

Uses of Professional Inkjet Printers

Professional inkjet printers are mostly used for high-quality, high-resolution colored prints and documents. They are also much more capable of scaling digital images while preserving the quality due to the number of inks.

Compact Inkjet Photo Printers

compact inkjet pocket photo printer

A compact photo printer is a small standalone printer that makes it possible to print photos taken from digital cameras.

They are designed for producing 4×6 inch or 2×3 inch prints and work without a computer.

However, these do not act as a replacement for regular inkjet printers. That’s because the majority of compact photo printers can’t produce an image bigger than 4×6 inches.

Uses of Compact Inkjet Photo Printers

Compact inkjet photo printers are usually used by photographers who want to print their photos without using a computer.

It’s fast, simple, and super easy to print photos with a photo printer. It’s also cost-effective as you don’t have to buy expensive inks and worry about replacing them.

These compact photo printers are portable, with some being pocket-sized, meaning you can take them with you for your photography journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Inkjet Printers Dry Up?

Yes, if you don’t often use your printer the ink cartridge may dry out after sitting idle for about 3-4 weeks. You can delay this from happening by using the printer more often or completely powering off the printer when it’s not in use.

Do Inkjet Printers Need Special Paper?

Although it’s possible to use regular paper it may not give you the finest print. Using inkjet paper is best for inkjet printing as it gives you finer detail and a richer color print.

How Long Do Inkjet Printers Last?

Inkjet printers typically last for 3-5 years on average with normal use. If you’re using it as a business printer you may want a professional SOHO inkjet printer.

Can You Refill Your Ink Cartridges?

Yes, it’s possible to refill your ink cartridges to save costs on buying ink.

You can refill the cartridge by visiting your local store or doing it yourself using a bottle of printer ink and pouring it into the cartridge with a syringe.

Can Inkjet Printer Print on Glossy Paper?

Yes, inkjet printers can print on glossy paper as they are a non-porous medium that absorbs ink well.

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