The Complete Guide to Buying Ink Cartridges

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The Complete Guide to Buying Ink Cartridges

Ink cartridges are self-contained reservoirs of ink that are installed in a printer and can be replaced or refilled once they run out of ink. Advancements in computer technology have created the ability to print out exactly what consumers see on their computer screens, which can be anything from simple text to intricate multidimensional images in a variety of colours. Initially, printers were capable of only rudimentary printing tasks. As computer equipment evolved and users became more sophisticated, the demand for higher resolution printing capabilities led to printers that are able to create true-to-life photographs and imagery that consumers can enjoy.

Buyers who are looking to upgrade their printers or find ink cartridges to replace the empty ones in their current printers have a myriad of options available to them. Today's ink cartridges have advantages over the cartridges of just a few years ago. There are different types of ink cartridges available with various colours for specialised purposes, and all of these cartridges can easily be located using the shopping tools available on eBay.

Designs of Ink Cartridges

Ink cartridges differ from toner cartridges in the manner that they deliver ink to the paper. Toner cartridges fuse the ink material onto paper by applying a heated roller to the process after the ink has been transferred. An ink cartridge utilises an internal element to change the composition of the ink and force it from the reservoir onto paper. Toner cartridges are typically used in large, office level printers that print large volumes of copies on a continual basis. Ink cartridges encompass the majority of consumer level printers that are used for personal computing. Two different types of ink cartridges utilise distinct methods to deliver ink to paper.

Thermal Ink Cartridges

The majority of consumer-based printers utilise the thermal inkjet cartridge system. The thermal inkjet cartridge features separate partitions within the reservoir of the ink cartridge. Inside each of these partitions is a heating element with a tiny metal plate that warms up when electrical current is introduced to it in the form of a signal from the printer. The ink cartridge also features a nozzle through which the heated ink is forced as it vapourises from the heat. The nozzle directs the ink onto paper in the proper configuration to create a printed image. Thermal inkjet cartridges are used in Canon, HP, and Lexmark printers.

Piezoelectric Ink Cartridges

Piezoelectric cartridges differ from thermal inkjet cartridges in that the former type utilises a piezoelectric crystal held within each cartridge nozzle to force the ink from the reservoir. The piezoelectric crystal changes its shape and size, depending on a current that is applied to it as a signal from the printer. The movement of the crystal in the nozzle forces a droplet of ink out of the cartridge in the desired pattern onto paper. Piezoelectric cartridges are used in Epson printers.

Types of Ink Cartridges

There are different varieties of ink cartridges due to the fact that every printer manufacturer produces its own proprietary ink cartridges to match its printers. While each brand utilises its own style of ink cartridge, there are various types of cartridges that are available for each printer variation. 

Original Equipment Manufacturer Cartridges

Original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, ink cartridges are original products designed and produced by the manufacturer of the printer. These cartridges are specifically designed and manufactured to operate correctly in the specific printer. These cartridges are usually more expensive, but they are virtually guaranteed to operate properly at high levels of performance.

Generic Cartridges

Generic ink cartridges are manufactured by companies other than the original manufacturers. Generic cartridges are patterned off the same specifications as the original cartridge, but they are constructed with different materials using a different manufacturing process. Generic ink cartridges are less expensive than OEM units because they do not carry the brand name of the company that designed the printer and their quality standards do not have to meet the same expectations. Generic ink cartridges are a solid option for many people due to the cost savings involved.

Refurbished Cartridges

Refurbished ink cartridges take empty OEM units and refill them with ink and repair any damage to the cartridge if necessary. Since refurbished units utilise the same OEM cartridges, they feature the same quality as the original units but at lower prices due to the reuse of the cartridge assembly. Refurbished cartridges are an excellent choice for those who want OEM quality with the price savings of a generic product.

Do-It-Yourself Kits

Do-it-yourself ink cartridge refill kits have become increasingly popular for people who go through a high volume of ink cartridges. Do-it-yourself ink refill kits provide the user with ink and a method to inject that ink back into the original cartridge so it can be reused over and over again without the need of replacement. The refill kit usually costs an amount similar to a generic ink cartridge but comes with enough ink to refill a cartridge up to three times. The drawback to ink refill kits is that certain cartridges can only be refilled a certain number of times before they wear out, and some can only be refilled once. However, if the user is comfortable utilising a refill kit, the savings over the long run can be dramatic.

Ink Cartridge Colours

There are basically four different types of inkjet cartridge colours that users can purchase for printers, depending on their specific printing needs. The different variations in printer cartridge colours allow users to print anything from simple text on paper to colour photographs on specialised photo paper.

Black Ink Cartridges

Black ink cartridges are the more common type of ink cartridge and are used primarily for all types of printing and copying of text material and black-and-white imagery. Black ink cartridges are less expensive cartridges and therefore are the more frequently purchased type. Black ink cartridges are easy to refill as well.

Tri-Colour Ink Cartridges

Tri- colour ink cartridges contain three separate reservoirs, each filled with cyan ink, magenta ink, and yellow ink. The combination of these three colours, along with a black ink cartridge, allow the printer to make the other colours necessary for printing. Many printers utilise tri-colour cartridges along with a black ink cartridge for this reason. Tri-colour cartridges are more expensive than black ink versions because they are larger and more difficult to manufacture and contain three types of ink as opposed to only one. They are more difficult to refill because of the necessity to purchase kits that contain the three different colours.

Photo Black Ink Cartridges

Photo black ink cartridges are specialised units that differ from normal black ink cartridges because they use an ink that reacts in a stable and long-lasting fashion with photo-specific paper. Photo black ink cartridges are more expensive than standard black units and are not usually refillable.


Buying replacement ink cartridges is a necessary expense for operating a computer printer. Because there are so many brands and styles of printers available in the market, the search for the proper ink cartridge can be a confusing task for many people. It can also be challenging to find good deals on ink cartridges due to the variety available. Consumers have many options when it comes to selecting ink cartridges for their printers. They can select from OEM units designed by a printer's manufacturer, or they can choose to save money and select generic or refurbished cartridges or ink cartridge refill kits.

The large and confusing variety of cartridges available should not prevent a consumer from searching for and finding the exact cartridge he or she needs at a reasonable price. Consumers can take advantage of the advanced search capabilities and wide range of products available to them on eBay, and utilise the website's networks of sellers to their advantage. Shopping for an ink cartridge on eBay can save a consumer a great deal of time and money as well.

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