How Does Inkjet Printer Work Step By Step (With Pictures)

Back in the 20th century, we used to draw images with the quill that we were getting from a bird’s feather and ink bottle to create the image on parchment. But thanks to the modern technology of inkjet printing, we’re now able to create our own colorful images right in a couple of seconds.

However, many individuals are still wondering how does inkjet printer work. Well, the mechanism is simple, inkjet printers use the printhead to spray the tiny droplet of ink via nozzles from the cartridges, and when the paper passes through it, the image is transformed. Printhead contains small nozzles that are also called jets that spray the ink.

How Does Inkjet Printer Work

How Does Inkjet Printer Work Step By Step (From Printing Process To Droplet Formulation & Drying)

Basically, there are two types of printing mechanisms that are impact and non-impact printers. Impact printers do directly touch the paper in order to create the image. However, inkjet printer falls under the category of Non-Impact printers that don’t touch the paper.

step to step guide on how does inkjet printer work

1. Image Creation

First of all, an image is designed on your PC or laptop using a wire or wireless connection that your inkjet printer supports.

2.  Image Understanding

Once the printing command is received by the printer, the control board inside the inkjet printer begins to process the image data, and later on, it sends a signal to the printhead. For better understanding and processing for the printer, the digital image is converted to the specific format that the printer understands thoroughly.

The conversion of the digital image is done by special software that converts the image into the printer language.

3. Ink Ejection

Once the printhead receives a print command from the control board, the piezoelectric crystals or heaters according to the technology inside the ink cartridges start to form a small bubble of ink, the bubble is then ejected via the printhead that contains tiny jets or nozzles to spray the ink onto the paper and creating the tiny droplets of the ink.

While the printhead moves back and forth to the paper in order to create a precise and designed image.

image formation and ink ejection out of the printhead via nozzles

4. Droplet Formulation

In addition to droplet formulation, the number of droplets in one square inch is called resolution. The droplet size and shape often depend upon various factors including the number of jets on a cartridge printhead, ink ejaculation speed out of ink cartridge, surface tension that inks have, and environment. The droplets in one square per ink are usually measured in the DPI (Dots per inch).

Zoomed image of ink droplets

Read the best inkjet printer under $100.

5. Paper Handling

Now comes the paper handling, paper feeding system ensures that the printing paper has been fed correctly so when the printhead moves through it with the required speed, the image is precisely formed. However, from paper pulling, while printing to paper ejecting, there are various paper rollers that are designed to control the paper.

paper handling and printing during printing

6. Color Mixing

The printers usually utilize the CMYK colors, but these colors are mixed together correctly to form a different tone of color according to the requirement of the image colors. The printer works on a subtractive mixing basis by utilizing the CMYK colors.

To form the desired color according to the print data, the printer measures the specific ink percentage from each different color to combine them in order to form a new color. All this data and color correction is handled by the printer’s control board. Thus, the printhead ejaculates the specific amount of ink from each cartridge according to the signal sent by the control board.

Color mixing to form different colors

Read the best inkjet printer under $200.

7. Absorption & Drying Of The Ink

Once the image is printed and the droplets are formed, the ink starts drying up onto the paper thus the paper fibers start to absorb the ink. While the drying time can be a couple of seconds but the drying time depends on various factors including the type of paper and its coat and the ink itself.

Photo paper is famous for drying fastly than all inkjet paper types because it has a special glossy coating that absorbs the inks quickly after getting printed.

Read: Advantages and disadvantages of inkjet printer.

Components Of Inkjet Printer

Components Of Inkjet Printer
  • Printhead
  • Ink Cartridges
  • Printhead Motor
  • Paper Feed Mechanism
  • Control Board
  • Power supply chain
  • Belt assembly
  • Waste Ink Pad

Let’s Explain all of them in depth. You can learn what is MFP printer.

1. Printhead

A printhead is one of the most crucial components like a heart of a printer. The printhead has numerous tiny jets or nozzles which spray the ink onto the paper. The printhead type may vary according to the specific printer type. Some cartridges come with a built-in printhead and some lines of cartridges come without a printhead. But the ink cartridges are directly connected to the printhead.


The printhead mechanism works by receiving the signals from the control board. The signals include the work of activating the piezo crystals located at the backside of the ink cartridges or tanks. Other than piezoelectric printing, the technology can be thermal inkjet printing. But both are utilized to form a bubble of ink which is then fired from the ink cartridges to form a droplet.

While the printhead may get clogged often when you don’t clean it frequently that directly affects the print quality. You may get faded prints and documents when the printhead is clogged. Printhead is often needed to be cleaned or some high-end printers have a self-cleaning cycle to clean and adjust.

2. Ink Cartridges

Ink cartridges or ink tanks are the ink are small plastic reservoirs that hold the ink. Ink tanks are built-in in the printers while the ink cartridges are removable and replaceable. Usually, the inkjet printers come in CMYK cartridges, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and BK black. However, some high-end inkjet printers may even support more than 4 up to 6 or 8 cartridges.

Ink cartridges may have built-in microchips that determine the ink levels and they send an alert to your connected device and a notification pops up on the printer screen to replace or refill them. 

ink cartridges

Read: ink tank vs ink cartridges.

3. Printhead Motor

The printhead stepper motor is a brushless DC motor that handles the movement of the printhead. This motor rotates the printhead back and forth to form the print. It also controls the speed of rotation to ensure precise prints. Further, the movement of the printhead is controlled via the gears that are connected to the printhead. Once the signals are received from the control board, it activates itself and starts rotation.

Stepper motor

4. Paper Feed Mechanism

The paper feed mechanism is responsible for the correct feeding of the paper in the printer. It has several rollers that control the movement of the paper in the printer and correct the paper to print precisely.

When a print job is commanded to the printer, first of all, the printer ensures whether the paper is fed into the sheet or not along with correction of the paper load. Once it ensures the paper is fed correctly then several combined rollers pull the paper from the paper tray throughout the printer.

Besides that, all these rollers are designed to support the various types of paper according to thickness and size that include small-sized photo paper to super tabloid-size sheets.

The adjustment of rollers and correction of the paper is determined by the sensors that how the rollers are performing throughout the printing process while handling the precision of the paper.

5. Control Board

The control board is the brain of the printer also referred to as the CPU that sends various signals to the printer in order to perform the initiated tasks. When the printer is connected to your device and you send a signal to the printer, the control board is activated it translates your command into the printer language that it can understand precisely.

control board

Later on, the command is then assigned to the printer component that handles the specific task. This includes rotation of the printhead, the amount of ink to be sprayed on the paper, the percentage of ink that is utilized to create a wide range of different colors, and software management.

This control board also contains various components including the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) which consist microprocessor, memory chips, and some other electrical components.

Besides that, the control board is responsible to detect various notifications that include paper jamming and printer ink levels too. It also shows you the user interface and LCD display system and setting adjustments.

6. Power Supply Chain

The electricity is needed to operate the printer,  while the power supply chain consists of various components that play a crucial role to operate the printer.

Once the printer is operated, then comes the work of the PSU(Power Supply Chain). The PSU converts the AC volts from the electrical outlet to DC volts that require a printer to operate.

When the printer receives the DC volts then they are distributed to operate the various connectors and components that include the printhead that is operated by the ribbon cable, paper feed, and overall control board. The printer also utilizes software including over-current protection that ensures reliable and safe operation.

7. Belt Assembly

This belt attaches the printhead to the stepper motor in order to rotate the printhead precisely. While this assembly utilizes the stabilizer bar to make sure that how the rotation is controlled.

8. Waste Ink Pad

The waste ink pads collect excessive ink that is not used during the printing process. While these ink pads may get dirty or over-saturated after some time. So they may need replacement or a thorough cleaning to avoid the ink spilling out of the printer. 


Inkjet printers may bring charm to your printing journey, but how they work was still a mystery for you that is solved now. The inkjet technology consists of various components including cartridges, printheads, stepper motors, CPU control board, and much more. They all are combined to produce vibrant and detailed prints according to your needs.


  • Ryan

    Hi, this is Ryan 27 years old. An experienced enthusiast in printing and crafting. My crafting journey started in my childhood when I and my sister Jessica used to go to school and learned crafting there. Since then, we were passionate about printing and crafting therefore, we are now here to serve our experience. We test each and everything on our own and provide authentic information. If you're concerned about any of the information on our site, you can contact us or research on your own. Warner Ryan

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