When you select inkjet printers for your business, you can choose among models that use two, four or more cartridges. Multi-cartridge devices implement at least four separate consumables, and photo-oriented hardware uses even more. Although you may think more ink cartridges always equal better-quality pages, your selection among the range of printer models depends on the kind of documents in your workflow and what you expect from your output.

Cartridge Replacements

Two-cartridge inkjet printers use one consumable for black and a second for cyan, magenta and yellow, forcing you to replace the entire three-color cartridge if only one ink chamber runs dry. Depending on the types of materials you print and how much you expect to use your inkjet printer, you may prefer to choose a device that separates all three color inks into individual cartridges. Your overall consumables costs may rise, but the amount of wasted ink drops.

Photographic Reproduction

Although many two-cartridge devices can do justice to photographs and graphics, their typical user implements them in a workflow centered around word processing and other mainstream business or personal documents. Multi-cartridge inkjet devices include additional inks, usually lighter versions of the standard four. Light cyan, magenta and yellow, along with light black and even light light black, facilitate a broader range of shades in reproducing photographs, often for sale by professionals who specialize in weddings or portraits. Multiple shades of black ink also help produce better output of black-and-white photography.

Alternate Inks

Some multi-cartridge printers include two types of black ink to broaden the range of papers these devices can use effectively. Gloss, or photo, black ink produces good results on papers with various surfaces, including glossy sheets intended for photographic output. Matte black refers to inks designed for use on matte-surface paper, not to the appearance of the ink itself. By switching cartridges between the two types and setting output preferences accordingly, you can produce a broader range of document types on one piece of hardware.

Consumables Costs

More inks equal greater consumables costs. If you only print photographs occasionally as part of a regular business workflow, the increased cost of replacing six, eight, 10 or more inks on a frequent basis may represent an expense that doesn't contribute materially to your expected results. When you evaluate these devices on the basis of their operational price tags, you can divide the price of a full set of each type of inks by the page yield quoted by the manufacturer to determine whether a multi-cartridge device makes sense in your office.