Everything You Should Know About Printer Ink

A commonly used peripheral that usually sends loads of troubleshooting messages regarding its ink is the printer. After long hours of typing, when error messages pop out and prevent you from accomplishing your goal, you have nothing to do but bear with it. In a situation like this, knowing how printer ink works might save you a lot of time and effort.

So how does printer ink really work? How do printers put ink on paper? What is printer ink made up of? Where is it stored?

If you wish to get acquainted with your printer’s printing process, then stick with us till the end and we will bestow all the needed knowledge upon you!

How Printer Ink Works

What Is Ink?

Ink is a fluid that can be used to write or draw on paper. It is a necessary component for printing and can be used in both powdered and liquid forms depending on the printing technology.

Printer inks are stored in toners or cartridges and are usually available in black, cyan, magenta, and yellow colors; these colors can then be combined by the printer to form all the shades we see in printouts.

How Does Printer Ink Work?

Printer ink consists of four of the primary colors – cyan, magenta, yellow and black which is shortly referred to as CMYK. Mixing these colors up in the right proportion will give you all the necessary shades that you require to print images and documents.

Inkjet printers have mini compartments consisting of heating elements that warm up when electricity passes through them. This, in turn, heats the aqueous ink present in the ink cartridges causing the particles to be set into motion and create pressure. Droplets of ink are launched onto the paper in different amounts and as they mix, different shades are formed which add up to create your desired output.

Laser printers operate differently; a drum is present which can build up static electricity with its movement. Certain areas become negatively charged due to the laser and then the positively charged powdered ink from the toner is attracted to it, generating a pattern on the paper that ends up as your printed output.

The Print Head

For inkjet and dot matrix printers a vitally important part is the print head; they perform differently based on the type of printing technology but have the same task. Print heads are made of electrical circuits and nozzles which spray the ink onto paper and allow the printer to write or draw on it. They are commonly found within the printer cartridge or ink cartridge and are capable of printing on different media.

Often enough, print heads tend to get clogged causing the problem in the printer’s operation but thankfully, they can be cleaned with water and vinegar or replaced with new ones. All print heads have at least one print head but those which offer colored printers have two – one dedicated for black ink and the other dedicated for cyan, magenta, and yellow ink.

How Does The Print Head Work?

For dot-matrix printers, the print head is shaped like a pin that hits on the ink ribbon to create dots; the dots add up to form and output. Constant hitting of the ink ribbon is what contributes to the awfully noisy process of printing using a dot matrix printer.

Print heads in inkjet printers also vary; two types of print heads are available – piezo print heads and thermal print heads.

Piezo print heads have a thin film-like layer that is subject to vibration due to electric charge; the vibration creates pressure as the film bends, causing the ink to be sprayed out of the nozzle and creating prints. Not using heat makes the printers using Piezo print heads much preferred as different types of ink – like a solvent, ink-based, and eco-solvent ink – can be used. Such printheads however are expensive making them hard to replace.

Thermal printer hands on the other hand use heat to boil the aqueous ink and create pressure; eventually, the ink is forced out of the nozzle, spraying the paper and creating prints. These print heads wear more quickly but as they are on the cheaper side and the replacement process is relatively easy, users are less likely to feel burdened.

In the olden days, print heads used to be in direct contact with the media however, that has changed; modern-day printers don’t let the print head touch the media making the printing process neater and cheaper. Less ink is used and the outcome is not smudged.

What Is The Printer Ink Made Of?

Printer inks are made using various types of ingredients. Black ink is produced using carbon black pigments while white ink is prepared using titanium dioxide. White ink can be added with other colors to decrease their brightness.

30% of colored inks are composed of pigments, dyes, and resins while the remaining 70% is made of binders, solvents, and excipients. Binders dampen pigments while solvent allows a common liquid for everything to dissolve in. Excipients are used to stabilize dyes and the amount and type used determines the property of your ink.

Where Is Printer Ink Stored?

Printer ink is stored in cartridges which can be stored in a properly ventilated room if not within the printer. Placing the ink cartridges in a room that has a temperature equal to or below the room temperature will make sure they don’t dry out.

Sometimes, when fitted into a printer, it can harden when left idle for a long time; this is why experts will tell you to use your printer at least once every week.

How Does A Printer Put Ink On Paper?

The process of putting ink in paper varies depending on the type of printing technology you use. For laser printers, the drum produces static electricity by forward and backward movement causing some parts of the page to become negatively charged; the ink itself is positively charged and is thus, attracted to those parts of the paper. Once the positively charged ink is attracted to the negatively charged part of the paper, a print is formed.

In inkjet printers, the print head consisting of nozzles is pressured so that the ink in it is sprayed out onto the page; this pressure is applied either using heat or bending certain parts. The ink sprayed onto the page ends up creating the printed image that you were seeking.

The Technical Process Of Ink Production

Ink production requires raw materials like pigments, solvents, additives, and binders. As you could have guessed, pigments help in getting the colors you require your ink to have. Besides that, it can be used to provide glossiness and certain properties like resistance to fading, light, and heat. Resins like acrylics, ketones, rubber resins, maleic, formaldehyde, etc. are used to hold the particles together; they are binders and thus, are also responsible for binding the ink to the paper.

Pigments are broken down using a machine that has a saw tooth blade, cutter blade, or conn blade attached to it; the size of your pigment particles will affect the overall brightness of your ink. In this machine, the pigments are also mixed with oils (petroleum oil and soyabean oil) and resins to make them more viscous and binding.

After the ink is mixed with the necessary amounts of extenders and opacifiers (white pigment) to achieve the needed shade, it goes through chambers where it has to pass through systems designed to make the pigment particles smaller in size. This helps in reaching the goals for dispersion.

Once the primary particle size of 0.5 microns is achieved, the pigment is completely dampened in the dispersion process. As soon as the pigment is fully dispersed, it is concentrated further and filtered to get the ink we use to make prints.


Knowledge is power and thus, learning how printer ink works will help you get through the printing process without having to deal with too much hassle. You can fully understand the complications your printer faces and have them sorted out accordingly. Being educated on print heads also assist people to identify exactly what type of printer they wish to purchase.

We hope our little lesson will only do you good. Have a fun time getting flamboyant prints with all your colorful inks!