Printing Supplies Buying Guide

How to choose printer, fax and copier supplies

What to look out for on the packaging

Printing supplies packaging information

Key for ordering printing consumables


Inkjet cartridges are for use on inkjet printers, MFD's and some fax machines.

Cartridges contain liquid ink, which is then fired in extremely small droplets onto paper to create an image.

Inkjet cartridges are available in a variety of colours depending on the type of the printer. Nearly all inkjet printers are able to print in colour and the cartridges to fit are usually one Black and either one 3 Colour cartridge (combined Cyan, Magenta and Yellow) or three single Colour cartridges, one each of these same colours.

The growth of Photo printing has bought a more sophisticated inkjet printer which is capable of printing not only normal text but also high quality photos. Photo printers can take up to 8 different colour cartridges, the extra colours such as light versions of the standard colours, allow the printed photos to have a higher degree of colour accuracy and a better quality finish.

Standard capacity ink cartridges typically produce a few hundred pages per cartridge. Inkjet cartridges are sometimes also available in Low or High yield capacities to suit individual users.


Toner cartridges are for use on Laser printers, Photocopiers and some Fax machines. Cartridges contain powdered ink (toner) which is then fixed on to the page by an electronic charge.

Smaller mono (black only) laser printers may take a Black cartridge that includes a drum and fuser unit. The drum and fuser are essential to the process of fixing the toner on the page.

Colour laser printers are now the more popular office choice. The cartridges to fit colour laser printers are usually one Black and three single colour cartridges, one each of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow.

Many larger laser printers will require other printing consumables such as a separate Drum and Fuser.

Standard capacity toner cartridges typically produce a few thousand pages per cartridge. Toner cartridges are sometimes also available with a High Yield capacity to offer cost savings.

Dye Sublimation

Some Photo printers use this method of printing. Cartridges contain the ink embedded in a roll of transparent film in the four basic colours Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. The print head heats up as it passes over the film, causing the dyes to vaporise and permeate the glossy surface of the paper before they return to solid form. This makes the colours less vulnerable to fading and distortion over time and is therefore ideal for photographs.

Thermal Transfer

Thermal Transfer Ribbons are widely used in Fax machines. Cartridges contain wax-based ink in a film ribbon usually the same width as the paper. Heat is applied to the ribbon using a thermal printhead that melts the ink, transferring it to the paper.