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Best cheap printer ink

Best cheap ink cartridges: UK printer ink brands reviewed

By Andrew Laughlin

Article 1 of 3

Switching to cheap printer-ink cartridges can slash how much you spend on your printing. See the best ink brands, and the ones to avoid.

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

Printer manufacturers, such as Canon and HP, would much rather you use their printer ink in their printers. But in our survey of almost 8,000 Which? members, the top five printer-ink brands were all third-party inks.

Below you can see our table of the top five highest-rated brands based on quality, value for money and more. You can also see the overall top 20 best and worst printer-ink brands based on our survey, with scores ranging from the top-rated 85% to the lowest 51%.

Top five best printer-ink brands

Only logged-in Which? members can see the brands behind the scores. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.
Printer-ink brand Text quality Photo quality Value for money Customer score
M 85%

This brand is both a maker and a seller of ink - and it does a very good job of both. Its printer ink is as good as original ink alternatives, and it's much cheaper, too. 

Find out which brand we're talking about by logging in or joining Which?.

M 83%

When it comes to value, this ink brand is a class act. It covers a wide range of inkjet printers, and customers we surveyed rated it highly for text and photo print quality.

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M 80%

You may not have heard of this printer-ink brand, but its customers absolutely rave about it. It scores five stars almost across the board for print quality.

See which brand it is by logging in or joining Which?.

M 79%

This popular brand offers fantastic value for money, as well as a 'no quibble' guarantee if you do have any problems with the cartridges.

Discover the ink brand that's worth your business by logging in or joining Which?.

M 74%

Another brand that both makes ink and sells it. You told us that it offers good value for money, and that the quality is also good considering the price. 

Join Which? to find out which ink brand we're talking about.

Table notes: Survey conducted in April 2018. Ink brands sample 7,986, ink store sample 2,310. We needed at least 30 responses for a brand to be included. Individual sample sizes in brackets. Black text refers to letters and documents. Office graphics refers to spreadsheets, charts etc. Ease of use Installing and compatibility of the ink. Customer score Based on satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending each retailer. n/a means we had too few responses to give a rating. All ink prices correct at June 2018.
Only logged-in Which? members can see the ratings for each brand. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.
Brand Text print quality Photo print quality Value for money Customer score
Brother (199)
Canon (1,976)
Cartridge World (362)
Colour Direct (58)
Currys PC World Essentials (40)
Epson (1,131)
First Call Inks (267)
Go Inks (48)
HP (2,454)
InkOnline (38)
JetTec (137)
Kodak (43)
MoreInks (129)
Office World (94)
Picture Expert (158)
Premier Cartridges (32)
Refresh (144)
Tesco Value (216)
Think (210)
Wilko (72)


Member Content

In you’re in the market for a new printer with affordable print costs, take a look at our best cheap printers to run.

Third-party ink vs original ink

We know that you can maker huge savings by choosing third-party inks rather than original inks. However, many people are put off by potential complications with using them. 

While it is possible that even supposedly compatible ink won’t work in your printer, major problems are rarer than you might think, and there are often things you can try to make the ink work.

1. Cartridge not recognised: This is the most common issue you’ll face when using third-party ink. The printer brands aren't keen for you to use anything but their own ink. Try re-inserting the third-party cartridge again, as this may solve the problem. Resetting the printer and trying again also often works.

2. Clogged print head: As the consistency of third-party ink is different from original ink, it can clog up the print head. You’ll notice this as you’ll have dots in your prints or missing colours. Run the printer’s cleaning cycle, as this may clear the blockage.

3. Leaking cartridge: This can be an issue for third-party cartridges, but it can be down to how the cartridge was inserted. Try to get a tight seal, but don’t press too hard when you do this as it could damage your printer.

4. Update your printer drivers: If your printer isn’t printing, or has other problems, make sure you update the printer driver on your computer and on the printer itself. This can often solve any printing problems you’re having.

Additional troubleshooting advice is available on the Which? Computing website