Best printer inks in 2024: inkjet printer cartridges explained

Best printer inks
(Image credit: Matthew Richards)

The best printer inks almost invariably come from the printer maker itself. Drop for drop, printer ink is notoriously expensive, with prices often being compared to the world’s finest perfumes and champagnes. In their defense, printer manufacturers spend billions in research and development, and often sell their printers at a loss, so they have to make their money somewhere. Even so, inkjet printers are generally sold with relatively low-capacity ‘setup’ or ‘installation’ cartridges, and it can come as a shock when a new set of higher-capacity cartridges costs more than the printer itself.

It’s naturally tempting to buy ‘compatible’ cartridges, manufactured by independent companies. But just how compatible are they? You might be lucky and get problem-free printing with very good results. But you could be unlucky. The printer might stop working reliably, throwing up random error messages. Impurities in the ink might block the print heads, the cartridges might leak, and print quality can suffer significantly. And whereas most genuine printer inks can produce photo prints that are guaranteed to last a lifetime, results from cheap inks and photo papers can lack color fidelity and start fading in weeks. Ultimately, some independent cartridges are  better than others, but you pay your money and take your choice. Sticking with own-brand cartridges is always the safest (if most expensive) option.

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Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 

His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 

In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.