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Inkjet vs. Laser vs. Thermal – What is the Right Printer for You?

Updated: Jun 10

printer on a desk printing man in the background working

Finding a printer that meets your specific needs can be overwhelming. There are many choices out there, each with its own advantages. It helps to have a basic understanding of each type of printer and how they work before making a decision.

There are three main types of printers in the market today, inkjet, laser, and thermal. Among these types, there are many models in each category. So, as we go through the different types of printers, here are some things to keep in mind as you search for your perfect printer…

  1. Do you need to print in color?

  2. What size stock do you need to be printing on?

  3. What kind of environment will the printer be in?

  4. What kind of information do you need to print? Will you be printing images?

  5. What do you prioritize more, print quality or speed? All printers use the term DPI (Dots Per Inch) when referring to print quality. Printers with a higher DPI will produce better quality prints. Lowering your DPI will usually result in better print speeds, but lower quality prints.


Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers are one of the most commonly owned printers because they provide high-quality color prints without breaking the bank.

Inkjet printing works by depositing tiny drops of liquid ink from the printhead to the paper, where the colors are combined to form an image or text. The color and size of these droplets can be modified to produce sharp, photorealistic images. Making inkjet printers perfect for full-color printing

Advantages to Inkjet Printing

- Printer consumables, such as ink and maintenance boxes, are more widely available, thus lowering costs.

- Inkjet printers produce some of the best image quality in the market.

Disadvantages to Inkjet Printing


Laser Printers

Like inkjet printers, some laser models can print in color. However, check the printer model before buying because many laser models only print using black ink. These monochromatic printers tend to be more affordable, and are excellent for document printing.

What makes laser printers different from inkjet is that instead of using liquid ink, laser printers use toner, which is made of tiny plastic particles or powders. The basic principle behind laser printing is static electricity. A laser will project a negative charge on the print drum where the ink will go, then the positively charged toner will get fused to the paper during the printing process.

Advantages to Laser Printing

- Because laser printers don’t use liquid ink, there are no nozzles that will get clogged over time, making a laser printer perfect for irregular use.

- Laser printers have large media capacities. Some models can come with multiple types of paper trays to allow the option to print onto different sized media within the same printer.

Disadvantages to Laser Printers


Thermal Printers

Unlike inkjet or laser printers, thermal printers do not use any form of ink/toner to print. As the name suggests, thermal printers use a roller to feed the paper through a heated printhead to either activate or transfer pigment to the paper.

Direct thermal printers use heat-sensitive paper that darkens when heated by the printhead. Since these printers do not need printer consumables such as ink, toner, or ribbon, these printers tend to be very compact and portable, making them excellent for receipts and shipping labels.

Thermal transfer printers use the thermal print head to transfer a solid color coating from an ink ribbon onto the paper to make a permanent image. Ribbons come in various colors, giving some options for prints that require the use of color. This durable print is ideal for media that needs to endure extreme environments.

Advantages to Thermal Printers

- Prints made with thermal printers last longer and can withstand a wider variety of environments better than the other print methods.

- Thermal printers have fewer moving parts, making them last longer and easier to maintain. They also print the fastest out of all the types of printers.

Disadvantages to Thermal Printers


Here at Trebnick, we carry a comprehensive line of printers that cater to site-specific needs and help business owners meet industry requirements for labeling and signage.

Need help finding the right printer? We can help! Contact us today to talk to our knowledgeable customer service team!

215 S. Pioneer Blvd.

Springboro, OH 45066


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