How Printer Ink Works

You might not have thought about the functions of the printers as we use them on a regular basis. Printer ink is basically a polymer that just gets attached to the paper surface like dust particles. Have you ever wondered how printer ink works?

Printer ink is first filled in the cartridge chamber. A chip inside the cartridge decides the colors of ongoing ink. The printer head collects the ink of different colors and spray them through a nozzle over the paper surface. It uses both thermal and piezoelectric technology to spread the ink and achieve higher efficiency with less clogging.

Specialized computer software controls the whole process. That way, the ink droplets spread evenly onto the substrate.

How Printer Ink Works

What Is Ink?

Ink is also known as gel, dye, liquid solution, or pigments that can permanently attach to the paper surface to produce text, images, and several other designs.

The chemical formulation of ink is made by several complex components like waxes, dye, resins, oils, and many other solvents. When ink was first invented, black was the only color. But there are many options of ink colors now because of revolutions in chemistry.

Some unique pigments can even give unnatural shading to the printing area because of several chemical proportions. So, there’s no color left in the earth that can’t be an option to be the color of ink.

How Does Printer Ink Work?     

Mainly the inkjet printer is the most cost-effective variant because it uses the ink in liquid form to print on the substrate. To know how a printer’s ink works, you need to go through the following questions:

What Is Printer Ink Made Up Of?

The composition of ink is a bit complex. All types of ink have these common ingredients: resins, pigments, various solvents, lubricants, waxes, and so on.

Black ink is the most versatile and least costly because it uses black carbon pigments, which are cheaper than other ingredients. But white ink is more expensive because it has titanium oxide in its composition.

If you try to categorize the printer ink, you will find two varieties: pigment-based and dye-based.

Dye-based ink:

It is considered the most standard ink for an inkjet printer in indoor usage. The components of the dye easily get dissolved and suspended in the liquid.

Water or glycol is the ideal solvent to dissolve those colorants. But that’s the disadvantage of dye ink because they fade quickly over time. And they highly likely won’t last longer than five years.

So, it’s better to use it indoors or on those products that will be used within a year.

Pigment-based ink:

This type of ink is more durable than dye ink. That’s because of their compositions.

The ink contains fine pigment particles in powder form, which is suspended into some liquid carrier. As the suspension is effective in the long term, the ink won’t fade away over time.

Where Is Printer Ink Stored?

The ink of the printer is stored initially in the ink cartridge. However, even the ink cartridge has different types.

Every ink cartridge has a unique cartridge number. But according to ink storage, you will see two types of ink cartridges: high yield and standard yield.

The high yield ink cartridge is cost-efficient for you if you are a frequent user of the printer. That’s because it contains a relatively massive amount of ink if you compare it to others. Typically, Canon and Epson printers use high-yield ink cartridges.

But inkjet printers are professionals’ favorite. It’s because this printer has a standard three-colored ink system with the black one attached.

All these four-color combinations can produce any possible combinations of colors existing in the world. That’s why designers, photographers choose this printer so that they print their high-resolution pictures.

An ink cartridge can also be customized if necessary. Suppose you want some variations in printing colors. So, you add a separate ink store, like five stores or more, or you can just add a single cartridge with all the colors.

The Print Head

The print head is one of the most important ink-related parts of a printer. Most of the printers come with an integrated print head, but some don’t. So, you will see two types of print heads in a printer.

Integrated print head:

This type of print comes with the print as a built-in component. Most renowned companies prefer to provide integrated print heads. So, nothing to worry about any loose ends of the print head.

The fixed ones will provide stability at work. But there’s no chance of replacing the print head if it malfunctions or proves faulty during usage.

Non-integrated print head:

This type of print head may sound okay to you, but you won’t get such extreme grip as the fixed head one. It is primarily used in inkjet printers.

If the print head gets faulty somehow, you can immediately change it and get a new one.

How Does The Print Head Work?

The print head has a nozzle inside that is used to spray the ink over the paper surface.A set of microscopic nozzles inside the printer head does most of the job. The nozzle sprays the ink over the substrates like papers, canvas, or film according to command.

It is called drop-on-demand technology which is also two types.

Piezoelectric technology:

This type of injection technology is broadly used in industries. That’s because they don’t use any heating element to reduce the printing cost.

In the print head,  special crystals such as lead zirconium titanate are used, which are also known as piezoelectric material. The crystal can change its shape when it gets in contact with high voltage.

So, it stays behind the nozzle and pushes the ink droplets with their changed shape. Then the ink goes from the cartridge to the ink chamber and gradually falls on the surface.

Due to this advanced technology and upgraded software, the piezoelectric printers are pretty expensive.

Thermal technology:

It’s a pretty simple technology for a printer. That’s why thermal printers are more versatile than others.

This type of printer has a small electric heater behind every cartridge chamber. So, when you start the printer, the ink melts, and the nozzle sprays it over the substrate.

Thermal ink is cheaper and available in nearby stores. And you won’t have to buy any separate components or heating elements to melt your ink.

However, there will be some clogs and smudges as direct heat is applied over the ink. So, some residues may be stored inside the print head.

How Do Printers Put Ink On Paper?

The mechanism of an inkjet printer is pretty simple. It mainly uses heat to melt the ink inside the cartridge. All the separate ink cartridges have a small device to pass the electric voltage to the chamber.

So, when the chamber receives the heat, the ink vaporizes. The vapor creates a bubble of ink and pushes the ink at the edge of the nozzle. Ultimately the ink goes through the nozzle and sprays over the substrate’s surface.

When the bubbles pop, vacuum pressure is created, and it pulls more ink to its position. Then the empty space is filled by another bubble. This process is pretty fast – the ink speed ejecting from the nozzle is 22 miles per hour!

The Technical Process Of Ink Production

Ink has several varieties, and the ink color is responsible for this wide range of variations. The primary colors for ink are black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.

At first, all the process ingredients are put into a large mixing vessel with exact proportions. Then it is heated to get a much thinner solution and cooled down to room temperature.

After that, several pigments are added based on which color and type of ink willbe produced.When the pigment gets mixed enough, they go to the bread mill to increase the reflecting surface. It breaks the large particles into small ones.

Then the batch goes into the quality control section, where color, consistency, brightness, adhesive strengths, stickiness are checked and modified.After ensuring every ability at its best stage, the batch is considered as completed.


The ink quality is a matter of concern if you are using a printer. Some documents or images need to be preserved for a long time.

So, if you know how printer ink works, and not just the ink price, you will fully understand a printer’s capability and its complexity. We tried to show those complex terms in easy words. Wish you good luck! 

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