Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, 71% of American workers have started doing their jobs from home at least part of the time.
If you’re included in that statistic, you may rely on your printer to help you accomplish work-related tasks. Or perhaps you have a casual home office setup, and you only need to print on occasion.
Either way, you know that color toner is essential to helping this machine operate. If you’ve ever browsed the toner aisle at your local computer store, you know that the number of buying options can be mind-boggling. Today, we’re here to help you sort through the choices and pick the right product for your needs.
What Is Color Toner?
Before we dive into the different types of toner on the market, let’s cover the basics. What is color toner and why do you need it?
Unlike liquid printer ink, toner is a dry and powdery substance. If you own an inkjet printer, you’ll only need to worry about purchasing ink for your printer. Ink is fine for low-volume print jobs and is also ideal when you need to achieve a photo-like print quality.
However, if you have a laser printer, then toner is a product you need to know. Laser printers are usually larger and more heavy-duty than their inkjet counterparts. They’re capable of handling bigger print volumes and are found most often in commercial offices.
Yet, not all toners are created equal. The specific kind you need will depend on the type of printer you have. Let’s take a closer look.
Monochrome Laser Printers
Monochrome laser printers only print in black and white. If you print mostly text-based documents, this type of printer is usually all you need. While these models are usually economical, keep in mind that they’ll be unable to produce any type of colored document.
A monochrome laser printer can print using only a black toner cartridge.
Color Laser Printers
If you routinely need to print documents that contain multiple colors, then you’ll need to invest in a color laser printer. While these usually come at a higher price point, they offer a greater degree of user flexibility.
These types of printers require four different toner cartridges. These cartridges will contain the following pigments:
You can choose to purchase black toner separately. Or, you may find it more convenient to purchase a multi-pack that contains all four colors in individual cartridges. If one color is running low, it’s usually easiest to purchase a multi-pack so you can replace everything at once.
When you’re ready to print, your printer’s drum unit will engage the toner cartridge required to produce the image. The drum allows the toner powder to fuse to the paper.
While you can purchase toner cartridges that do not contain a built-in drum unit, it’s easier to purchase all-in-one, integrated units. That way, you don’t have to worry about purchasing and replacing a separate drum. Instead, you’ll get a new one each time you buy new toner.
Ink or Toner: Which Do You Need?
It sounds straightforward enough, but it isn’t always easy to tell whether you have an inkjet or laser printer. Before you head to the store, take the time to understand the type of printer you have.
Start by opening the Printer app on your desktop. Navigate to the Properties tab. There, you should be able to see the name of your printer, as well as the steps required to maintain it. If you see any of the following prompts, then you’re using an inkjet printer:
- Check the nozzle
- Clean the print head
- Align the print head
If you don’t see those prompts, then you may need to open up your printer. Take a look at the different cartridges inside. Do you see multiple lightweight cartridges that have different colored dots on them?
If so, then you likely have an inkjet printer. On the other hand, if you only have one cartridge, then it’s a laser printer. If all else fails, you can also look around the exterior of your printer for a label.
Most machines will have some sort of sticker attached near the bottom that reveals their exact make and model. If you don’t see the words “inkjet” or “laser”, then search for the model number online for more information.
Selecting the Right Printer Toner
Once you’ve ascertained that you do have a laser printer, it’s time to start shopping for color printer toner! However, the next step isn’t exactly that simple. From here, you’ll need to determine the specific size toner that you need.
Start by looking at the cartridge that’s already installed in your printer. Remove it and look at the number printed on the label. You can use that number as a reference when you start shopping for a replacement.
If you’d rather not open up the printer yourself, then you should also be able to find the cartridge size in your printer’s manual or user guide. Most manufacturers will also make this type of information available online.
Manufacturer Cartridges vs. Third-Party Cartridges
Once you know the size of the toner cartridge you need, you have two options. First, you can head straight to the source and buy the replacement cartridge directly from the manufacturer. Or, you can go through a third party.
Third-party compatible cartridges are designed to work just as well as the name-brand ones but can be a little less expensive. Yet, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the exact one you need. With these, it isn’t as easy as simply referencing the model number.
If you have any questions about matching the parts up, make sure to reach out to a representative. It’s easy to purchase these cartridges on sites like https://premiumtoners.com/. Here, you can also learn more about each product before buying.
Standard-Yield vs. High-Yield Toner Cartridges
As their name implies, standard-yield toner cartridges contain a normal, or standard, amount of ink. If you only use your printer for basic work tasks or simple at-home printing, then this is usually all you need.
However, offices that frequently print large, batch jobs may need to upgrade to a high-yield cartridge. You may also see these called XL or XXL cartridges. Keep in mind that while they contain more toner and will last longer, most high-yield cartridges are the same size as standard ones.
Not sure if it’s worth the upgrade? If you find that you have to frequently replace your standard toner cartridge, then it’s best to go ahead and get an XL one. While you’ll pay more upfront, you should be able to use your toner for a longer period of time.
How Do I Know If I Need More?
For most people, the first sign that they need new toner is low print quality. You may notice that your documents aren’t as sharp or as boldly colored as they used to be. If your levels are super low, you may barely see anything on the paper at all!
To check your toner levels, head back to the Printer Settings app on your computer. You should be able to see exactly how much you have left. If you have a color laser printer, you’ll usually notice that one color will run out before others.
Most modern printers are designed to notify users when their toner levels are running low. That way, you can purchase replacement cartridges before it’s too late!
Either way, avoid over-buying toner. While it may seem smart to stock up when you see a good price, remember that toner quality can degrade over time. This can lower your print quality and could even affect your printer operation, so only buy what you need.
Once you purchase toner cartridges, either use them right away or only store them for a short period of time. Keep them in their packaging and store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to use them.
The Right Color Toner Matters
Color toner is something that you might not think much about on a daily basis. However, you’ll definitely know when you need it.
Once you’ve determined the type of printer you have, you’ll need to know the size of the toner cartridge you need. You’ll also need to know whether you just need black toner or if you require replacements for multiple colors.
Now that you know a little more about this process, you can be confident that you’re choosing the right toner for your needs. Looking for more business advice? Check out our Business and Tech sections!