Selecting the Perfect Ink Cartridge for Your Printer

Although more and more people are beginning to use mobile devices for sharing pictures and other files, there is still a need for printers in various industries, educational institutions, as well as for personal use. But of course, using a printer means having to constantly replace its ink cartridges. The same is true whether it’s for inkjet printers that use traditional inks or for laser printers, which use powdered inks called “toners”.

What You Need to Know about Purchasing an Ink Cartridge

Purchasing replacement ink cartridges can be as simple as going to an office supplies store or ordering from online shops. Typically, the best that you can buy are the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridges, which are basically the same as those that first came with the printer you bought. Unfortunately, these are very expensive, and buying a year’s supply can even amount to the expense of actually buying a brand new printer.

Here are more things you need to know about getting ink cartridge replacements:

  • Most cartridges have the cases for their three colors (cyan, magenta and yellow) physically connected. Thus, once one of the three inks has run out, you cannot just have that one empty case replaced. You have to buy a whole new cartridge if you need that certain color or all the shades that need it, whether the rest of the cases still have ink or not.
  • That an ink cartridge has the same brand as your printer does not mean that it is compatible with it. You have to take note of your printer’s model when shopping for replacement cartridges. This is so you don’t end up wasting money on something that won’t even fit exactly to the cartridge slot. Some stores have strict “no return” policies when the package has already been opened.

Fortunately, there are cheaper alternatives to buying specific and expensive OEM cartridges. There are third-party manufacturers that produce ink cartridges that are not only more affordable, but can also be compatible with a wide range of model printers.While these will generally be of lower quality than the branded ones (mainly because of the specific formulas that printer manufacturers create for their own units), they could still be a good deal.

How to Check for Ink Quality

There are ways to check for ink quality based on certain properties. Good inks display the following: bleed resistance, fade resistance and stability.

  1. Bleed Resistance

    The ability of inks to resist from bleeding (or having excess ink on areas where they shouldn’t be shows that the printer’s ink will dry separately. Nobody wants printers that produce messy prints. Also, you wouldn’t want inks that blend, making a mess of colors when an image is printed.To test for bleed resistance, get a small container and squeeze a few drops of the colored ink onto it. Next, squeeze one drop of the black ink onto the same container. After 30 minutes, check to see if the black ink is beginning to mix with the colored ink. If it holds together, then it is bleed resistant.
  2. Fade Resistance 

    Prints exposed to light, humidity and heat will inevitably fade, but poor inks fade much faster. An easy way to test if an ink is fade resistant or not is to print two pictures with different inks.Place both pictures under direct sunlight, covering half of both from exposure. Compare them and see which ink has better inks depending on how much the exposed parts of both have faded.

  3. Stability 

    Quality inks do not smudge easily because of their stable compositions that have them lasting a long while even if they are not used. To see if an ink is stable or not, you will have to get a thin layer chromatography (TLC) plate. This is something chemistry students use to separate mixtures, so you’d need to look up stores that sell lab equipment.Just squeeze a drop of the ink onto the TLC plate, and put the plate in a container with just enough water without submerging the ink. Check the plate every five minutes for half an hour. Poor quality black inks will have a more obvious separation effect, showing other colors like red, blue and yellow.It will also be apparent in poor quality color inks as well. Good inks will either hold completely or show only little separation effects.

Getting the right ink cartridge requires a bit of spending in the beginning, testing out each one to see if they can deliver the best quality. However, that little expense will be made up by the savings you will incur in the future, as well as the guarantee of good prints each time you use your printer.

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