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What Is Involved in the Inkjet Printing Process?

Alex Newth
Alex Newth

The inkjet printing process is considerably less intensive and technologically advanced when compared to the laser printing process, but the printing itself is done very precisely according to digital instructions. To start the inkjet printing process, instructions must be fed into the printer as digital signals. This often comes from a connected computer, but some inkjets may accept instructions from memory cards or digital cameras connected to the inkjet printer. After pulling in the paper, the inkjet begins spraying a line of ink on the paper based on color and size instructions from the computer or device. Inkjet printers only have four main ink colors — cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) — so the colors often must be mixed to get the right color for most prints.

Before printing begins, the inkjet printing process starts when someone feeds instructions from a computer or device into an inkjet printer. This takes an image or text and turns it into digital signals and instructions. For example, a sheet of text to be printed will have instructions on where the inkjet printer should print and what areas should be left clean, and there also will be instructions regarding the text’s color. The file, whether it is electronic or from a scanner, is converted into instructions the printer can understand.

An inkjet printer.
An inkjet printer.

When the instructions are obtained, the inkjet printing process continues as the inkjet printer pulls in a piece of paper. The paper is pulled in until it comes in contact with the inkjet printing nozzle, and the nozzle prints a line of ink on the paper. This nozzle, which is held very close to the sheet, moves back and forth. Each pass causes ink to spray from the nozzle onto the paper; the spraying is done over a very small area, and the line typically is from 5 to 10 pixels high.

Along with spraying ink onto a sheet of paper, the inkjet printing process has another element that most people do not notice. The majority of inkjet printers have only four inks and, while each ink can do much on its own, they must be mixed to enable other colors to be printed. When the instructions are sent for the image to be printed, they tell the inkjet what colors are needed for each pixel and the printer mixes the inks as needed. Different colors often have to be sprayed right next to one another, so the inkjet printer also must keep the colors from mingling.

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    • An inkjet printer.
      An inkjet printer.