What is the difference between inkjet and laser printers?

It can be difficult to determine which labels to use in what kind of printer. Many people don’t know the difference between inkjet printers and laser printers. We cover the basics of each printer, and then compare them for you.

Inkjet Printers 101

In a nutshell, the term “inkjet” is an apt description of the process these printers go through. An inkjet printer uses ink, which it sprays onto a piece of paper (or label) in a series of tiny dots.

If low-quality paper is used in an inkjet printer, the paper may absorb too much of the ink and cause it to feather out, making images appear blurry. Smoother paper coated in a waxy film produces sharper images, because just enough ink soaks in to dry while some still remains on the surface.

The brighter the paper, the better the image an inkjet printer will produce. Bright paper is a result of smooth paper. While rough paper scatters light, smooth paper reflects the light back in the same direction, making it appear brighter.

In addition to preventing feathering, coated paper sometimes allows two layers of ink to be applied, creating a much higher resolution image.

So for best results in inkjet printing, use bright, waxy, smooth paper.

So what kinds of labels work with an inkjet printer?

All but three kinds of Meyers Direct™; gold and silver metallic labels, white and color polyester labels, and clear polyester labels, can be used in an inkjet printer.

These labels are made of a material that does not allow the ink to soak in, and causes the ink to smear.

Laser Printers 101

The most obvious difference between inkjet and laser printers is that while inkjets use ink, laser printers use toner to produce an image.

Toner is an electrically charged powder that is fused to paper fibers using heat during the printing process. How the toner gets to the paper, however, is a little involved.

Imagine you have a paint roller with an embossed pattern. If you rolled that roller through paint, and then rolled it on a wall, the raised pattern would be transferred onto the wall. That is essentially what happens in laser printers, but with static electricity and a “drum.”

A printer drum looks like a thick rolling pin. A laser uses electric charges to draw an image on the drum, which is then coated in toner. The toner sticks to the charges, and as paper passes through below, the image is transferred. The paper then passes through heated rollers called “fusers,” which fuse the toner to the paper fibers.

The fusing process is what makes laser printing so advantageous; the image will not smudge or blur and does not need to dry.

So what kinds of labels work in a laser printer?

All types of Meyers Direct™ can be used with laser printers.

Inkjet vs. Laser: A Quick Comparison

  • Inkjets “see” the images they print as a series of tiny points, and lasers “see” these images as a geometric shape through mathematical values.
  • Depending on the paper used, inkjet images have a possibility of appearing blurry due to absorption into the paper. Laser images do not have this risk, because the toner is fused with heat into the fibers of the paper.
  • Inkjet printers are more economical to purchase, but the ink can be costly. Laser printers generally require a larger investment upfront, but the toner cartridges need replacing less often and have a more rapid print speed.