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The Ultimate Guide to HP® Ink Cartridges

The Ultimate Guide to HP® Ink Cartridges

HP® ink cartridges are a very popular printing option, but with so many cartridges to choose from, how do you know which ink is right for you?  In this guide we cover everything you ever wanted to know about HP ink so you can buy the best cartridges for your home or office.  We’ll review the types of cartridges HP sells, the best way to save money on HP ink and even show you some simple troubleshooting tips too.  Let’s jump right in!

Meet the ink cartridges

There are two common types of HP ink cartridges.  Some HP printers use just two ink cartridges, a black and tri-color, while others work with four individual ink cartridges that come in black, cyan, magenta and yellow.  Both types produce quality text, color and photo prints, but for most printer users, individual ink cartridges offer a better cost savings.

Black and tri-color ink cartridges

The black and tri-color ink cartridge combination is one of the oldest ink cartridge pairings in the book and HP has been selling printers that use these cartridges for years.  Their basic concept is simple, the black cartridge is filled with black ink and the tri-color cartridge includes three chambers inside that are filled with cyan, magenta and yellow ink.  Black and tri-color cartridges have an integrated printhead built into the cartridge, so every time you replace the cartridge you are replacing the printhead.  These cartridges are popular partly because they’ve been around for so long, but even more so because they are designed to work with inexpensive inkjet printers.  If you buy a cheap HP printer, it will likely use black and tri-color ink.  Black and tri-color cartridges are okay for those looking to save money upfront on a printer, but they are not a great option for printer users that print frequently.  Most HP black and tri-color cartridge pairings are filled with a nominal amount of ink compared to their individual ink cartridge counterparts and replacement costs can add up quickly if you are printing a lot of pages.

Some of the most popular black and tri-color ink cartridge series are the HP 60, HP 61, HP 62, HP 63, HP 64, HP 65 and HP 67.  Since all of these different cartridge series look the same, many people wonder if they are interchangeable.  The answer is no, even though they look similar and will likely fit inside your printer, they will not print if installed in the wrong printer.  HP 63 cartridges will not work in a printer that uses HP 64 cartridges.  Why?  It’s all because of the gold chip on the side the cartridge.  Each chip is uniquely coded to work with a particular series of printers.  If you use a cartridge that’s not on the chip’s approved printer list, the printer will reject the cartridge.

HP black and tri-color cartridges may look the same, but each series is filled with a slightly different amount of ink.  If you are considering a printer that uses these cartridges, pay close attention to the page yield of the cartridges that work with that printer.  We recommend going with a printer that uses HP 62 or HP 64 cartridges, since they offer the most amount of ink.

Cartridge Series Black Ink Page Yield Tri-Color Ink Page Yield
HP 60 Standard Yield 200 Pages 165 Pages
HP 60XL High Yield 600 Pages 440 Pages
HP 61 Standard Yield 190 Pages 165 Pages
HP 61XL High Yield 480 Pages 330 Pages
HP 62 Standard Yield 200 Pages 165 Pages
HP 62XL High Yield 600 Pages 415 Pages
HP 63 Standard Yield 190 Pages 165 Pages
HP 63XL High Yield 480 Pages 330 Pages
HP 64 Standard Yield 200 Pages 165 Pages
HP 64XL High Yield 600 Pages 415 Pages
HP 65 Standard Yield 120 Pages 100 Pages
HP 65XL High Yield 300 Pages 300 Pages
HP 67 Standard Yield 120 Pages 100 Pages
HP 67XL High Yield 240 Pages 120 Pages



Individual ink cartridges

A set of individual ink cartridges consists of four separate color ink tanks available in black, cyan magenta and yellow.  There are two big differences between these cartridges and the black and tri-color cartridges we just reviewed.  The first difference is the cost savings of replacing each cartridge color separately.   Many printer users prefer individual ink cartridges because each color can be replaced as needed.  This ends up being far more cost effective than replacing a tri-color cartridge that needs to be replaced when any color is low.  Another major difference is the location of the printhead.  We mentioned earlier that black and tri-color cartridges have an integrated printhead that is built into the cartridge.  Individual ink cartridges do not have a built-in printhead.  Instead, the printhead is built into the printer.  Both types of printheads work equally well, but it’s important to note, if you buy a printer with a built-in printhead, it may wear out over time and need to be replaced.  Often the cost of replacing a printhead is more expensive than buying a new printer, so keep that in mind when weighing your printer options.  Routine maintenance will keep your printer and printheads running smoothly.  For some simple cleaning and maintenance tips, check out the HP printhead cleaning section later in this article.


What cartridge sizes are available?

Replacement HP ink cartridges are commonly offered in two sizes, standard yield and high yield or XL.  Extra high yield cartridges are an option for some printer series as well but they aren’t as widely available.  No matter which size you go with, the cartridge will install the exact same way in your printer.  In fact, the physical cartridge size is the same regardless of the yield – the only difference is the amount of ink inside the cartridge.  The higher the yield, the more ink you get, which translates to more prints!  Higher yield ink cartridges can be more expensive than standard yield cartridges but most offer a lower cost per page, which saves you more money in the long run.  To illustrate this, we’ll compare the page yield and price of the HP 962 ink cartridge series.  HP printers that work with this series can use HP 962 standard yield, 962XL high yield and 966XL extra high yield ink cartridges.  As you can see in the chart below, the HP 962 standard yield is the cheapest cartridge but has the highest cost per page, or highest operating costs.  For frequent printer users, it makes sense to pay more for a higher yield cartridge because they offer a better overall value.  If you print occasionally, you are fine spending a little less and going with standard yield cartridges.

Cartridge Series OEM Price* Page Yield Cost Per Page
HP 962 Standard Yield Black $32.99 1,000 Pages 3.2 cents
HP 962XL High Yield Black $44.99 2,000 Pages 2.2 cents
HP 966XXL Extra High Yield Black $53.99 3,000 Pages 1.7 cents


What kind of ink does HP use?

HP fills their ink cartridges with either pigment-based ink or dye-based ink.  Pigment-based ink is commonly used in their black ink cartridges because it is better at printing text.  Dye-based ink is often used in their color cartridges because it is better at creating the vibrant colors required for photo printing.  For example, the HP 63 black cartridge is filled with pigment ink and the 63 tri-color cartridge is filled with dye-based ink.  If you want to know what type of ink your HP cartridges use, you can check the specs table of your specific cartridge series on HP’s website.

HP Ink Cartridge Alternatives

HP SmartTank Ink Bottles

HP SmartTank printers were introduced in 2019 and are one of the newest ink tank printing options on the market.  If you aren’t familiar with this kind of printer, an ink tank printer uses a refillable ink tank system and ink bottles to power your printer instead of ink cartridges. Many people like them because the ink bottles are filled with a lot of ink and they don’t dry out as easily as a standard ink cartridge, so you can print longer for less.  The idea of filling up your own printer with ink is a little scary for some folks, but the process is actually very easy and a lot like filling up the gas tank of your car.  SmartTank printers are expensive but the savings you get with the ink bottles are substantial when compared to any of the previously mentioned ink cartridges.  The HP 32XL black ink bottle, for example prints 6,000 pages for just $16.99, at a cost per page of just .28 cents.  Such low operating costs make these printers and their ink bottles undeniably enticing, but with the expensive upfront costs of the printer, they aren’t for everyone.

HP Instant Ink

HP Instant Ink is a monthly ink subscription service that automatically sends you new ink when your printer detects you are running low.  Instead of paying to print whenever you want with regular HP printer cartridges, you are paying to print a predetermined number of pages every month.  Any page that comes out of your printer counts as one print towards your monthly total, but there is some roll over flexibility for the months where you don’t max out your pages.   The service is offered in four different price points based on how much you expect to print and HP has some compelling offers to get first-timers to sign up.  However, the reviews are mixed when it comes to the actual service and usability of the program.  We put together a complete guide to HP Instant Ink that includes great feedback from actual Instant Ink customers, so you can decide for yourself whether it makes sense for your needs.

Low cost compatible ink cartridges

If you are looking for a way to save on ink and don’t want to deal with the potential headache of a subscription program, LD-brand compatible HP ink cartridges from LD Products are a great low cost option.  LD Products has been selling affordable compatible alternatives to the HP brand for over twenty years and we offer a huge selection of compatible ink cartridges, ink bottles and even toner cartridges, all priced with your budget in mind.  Check out our ink and toner finder to search for your preferred cartridge series and snag a great deal on the ink you need.


How long does HP ink last?

HP ink cartridges can last for up to two years in their sealed packaging.  Even after two years you may still get some use out of the cartridge, so it may be worth trying even after the fact. Your printer will display a “low cartridge” message when a specific cartridge needs to be replaced.  However, you may not need to replace the cartridge right away.  To try and extend the life of your ink cartridge, you can run the cleaning function on your printer.  This cleans the printhead nozzles in your printer and usually primes the cartridge for a few more prints.  You can find the cleaning option under the “settings” or “maintenance” section of your printer’s display.  Check your printer manual for specific instructions for your machine.  After the cleaning is complete, you can print a test page to see if the print quality has improved.  If there is no improvement, run the cleaning a second time.  If you still have trouble after the second cleaning, you may need to buy new cartridges.  We don’t recommend running the cleaning function more than a couple of times since it does use up some of the ink during the cleaning process and can quickly deplete your cartridges if it’s run over and over again.

Do HP inkjet printers come with ink?

Yes, most new HP inkjet printers include starter ink cartridges.  Starter cartridges are meant to get you up and running but they won’t print very many pages.  HP fills starter cartridges with less ink than a standard yield cartridge, so don’t be surprised if your ink runs out sooner than expected.

How to install an HP ink cartridge

Installing an HP ink cartridge is slightly different from printer to printer but the basic process is similar for most models.  When you open up an HP ink cartridge for the first time, a plastic clip may be cradling the cartridge.  Make sure to remove this clip, otherwise the cartridge will not fit in the printer.  Not all HP ink cartridges have a plastic clip, but if you own a printer that uses cartridges with a built-in printhead, like the HP 63 series, you’ll definitely see this clip.  Some newer printers, like the HP OfficeJet Pro 9015 that we feature in the installation video below, do not use cartridges with a plastic clip, so it all depends on what printer model you have.  To remove it, hold the cartridge with one hand and gently pull up on the plastic clip.

A piece of yellow sealing tape can also be found on most new HP ink cartridges that must be removed before installation.  This sealing tape covers the vent hole on and the cartridge will not print if it is left on.  To remove, just peel the tape away from the end of the cartridge.

If you don’t see a piece of tape on the end of the cartridge, do not worry about it.  Some HP ink cartridges no longer have a piece of tape.

In the instructions below, we show you how to install an HP 962 ink cartridge in the HP OfficeJet Pro 9015 printer.  Consult your printer manual or the HP website for installation instructions for your specific printer.

How to Install an HP 962 Cartridge in the HP OfficeJet Pro 9015

  • Open up the front cover of the printer and wait for the cartridge carriage to center.
  • To remove an empty cartridge, gently press on the cartridge and pull it out of the printer.
  • Install your new cartridge in the same slot and press on it to secure, you should hear a click after pressing on the cartridge.
  • Close up the front cover and wait a few moments for the printer to initialize, then you can start printing!

How to troubleshoot HP ink cartridges

How to fix streaky or light prints

The best way to troubleshoot streaky prints is to run the cleaning function on your printer (see the “how long does HP ink last?” section above.)  This is by far the easiest and fastest way to clear up a print quality issue.  If you own a printer with a built-in printhead, like an HP 63, you can also try priming the cartridge with the “paper towel method”.To start the paper towel method, grab a warm, damp paper towel and a dry paper towel.  Take the warm, damp paper towel and blot the cartridge with the printhead side down onto the towel.  You should see ink appearing on the paper towel after blotting a couple of times.  Be careful not to confuse the printhead with the gold and copper contacts or dots.  After blotting onto the damp paper towel, hold the cartridge against the dry paper towel for 30 seconds to a minute.  This process wicks out any dried ink that may be preventing you from a quality print.  Once complete, insert the cartridge back in the machine and run a test print.  Repeat the process a couple of times for best results.  If the second time doesn’t improve you can try the printhead cleaning option again, or throw in the towel and buy new cartridges.

How to troubleshoot an HP ink cartridge error message

If you are getting an error message on your HP printer’s display that prevents your ink from working, a simple cleaning of the cartridge contacts usually solves the problem right away.  To clean the contacts, remove the ink cartridge from the printer.  On the end of the cartridge, you’ll see gold / copper dots.  These gold contact points are what allows cartridge to communicate with the printer.  Sometimes fingerprint oil or dust can get on these contact points and cause a faulty reading in the machine.  You can clean the contacts by gently wiping them with a dry, lint-free cloth, then reinstall the cartridge and try printing again.  If you still have trouble after cleaning, you can also try doing a hard reset on the printer.  With the cartridges still installed, power down the printer and unplug it from the wall for about a minute, then plug it back in, power it back on and try printing again.

How to clean an HP printhead

The printhead is a component of the printing process that helps transfer the printer ink onto the page.  If you are getting poor print results, cleaning the printhead usually gets your printer going again.  There are a couple ways to clean an HP printhead, depending on what type of HP printer you own.  HP uses two types of printheads in their printers, an integrated printhead and a printhead that is built into the printer.

An integrated printhead is a printhead that is built into the ink cartridge itself.  These printheads are considered disposable as they are disposed along with the empty ink cartridge when the ink cartridge is replaced.  The HP 63 series or HP 65 series are two examples of cartridges with an integrated printhead.  They are more expensive than the individual ink cartridges that work in a printer with a built-in printhead since you are replacing the printhead every time you install a new cartridge.

Printheads that are built into the printer may be permanently installed into the printer itself or can be a replaceable maintenance item.  The nozzle plate (printhead) for these types of printers is included in the printer and the cartridges install into that printhead to create a print.  This type of printer uses four single color ink cartridges, sold individually in black, cyan, magenta and yellow.  The HP 910 and HP 962 are two popular individual ink cartridge series.Check out our How to Clean an HP Printhead article for a complete guide on cleaning your printhead.

Can HP ink cartridges be refilled?

Yes, some HP ink cartridges with a built-in printhead can be refilled.  Refill kits are available for a number of popular HP ink cartridges, like the HP 60 and 61 series.  The refill process is relatively easy but can be a bit messy (luckily gloves are included in the kit!).  Most kits contain enough refill ink to fill 2-3 cartridges, making them are a great cost saving alternative to higher priced name brand ink.  We recommend refilling an original HP ink cartridge that has only been used once to get the best print results.  If you refill a cartridge that’s been used multiple times your print quality will deteoritate and may cause damage to your printer.Unfortunately you cannot refill Individual ink cartridges like the HP 910 or 962 series and you won’t find refill kits for this type of cartridge.For step-by-step instructions on how to use an HP 61XL refill kit, watch our tutorial video below!

How to recycle HP ink cartridges

We recommend recycling your used HP ink cartridges locally if you can.  Office supply stores like Office Depot, Best Buy, Target, Staples or Walmart  are all equipped to accept recycled cartridges.  Visit to find the closest office supply store or recycling facility in your area, just search by material type (ink or toner) and your zipcode! If you purchased an original HP printer cartridge, you can print out a return label and ship it back to HP for free through their Planet Partner Program.

Now that you’re an HP ink cartridge pro you can find the best printing option for your needs.  When you are shopping around, remember to pay attention to cartridge price and page yield to get the most value.   If ink cartridges weren’t enough and you are interested in learning about toner cartridges too, check out our comprehensive HP toner buying guide. Or, if you are ready to start shopping for a new printer, check out our Best HP Printers of 2020 buying guide!

Savings based on price comparison between remanufactured/compatible cartridge prices on and OEM cartridge and printer prices from the listed retailers: Amazon and Staples. All products are reviewed independently. As an Amazon associate, LD Products earns from qualifying purchases through links on this page.  All prices effective as of July 10, 2020.  OEM names are registered trademarks of their respective owners and are not affiliated with, and do not endorse LD Products.


  • HP Office Jet Pro 6968. Okay, I did the cleaning as instructed. Still, the cyan cartridge will not function so everything prints mostly yellow. The test pages did not show cyan of any shade. I have installed new HP 902 cartridges twice, new does not remedy. Does this mean I need to buy another new printer? I like HP as it seems to have fewer headaches until it needs to be replaced. If I need a new printer then perhaps you could suggest which one. I’m a Realtor. I Print & I Scan. Has to take cartridges. Even though I do not fax do I still need a Printer that also faxes? It’s okay if I do I’m just trying to get a printer that is smaller if that exists.
    Thank you,

    • Hi Sheila,

      If you’ve tried the cleaning multiple times and tried new cartridges, it is likely an issue with the printer. If the printer is relatively new, you could see if it is still under HP’s warranty by typing in the printer serial number here: You can find the printer serial number on the back of your printer. If you are interested in buying a new HP printer, the HP OfficeJet Pro 8025 is basically an updated version of your 6968. Instead of 902 cartridges it uses 910 cartridges, but it has a lot of the same features as your printer, including scanning. Size-wise, it is slightly smaller than your printer but not by much. The 6968 is 18.26 x 15.35 x 9.0 and the 8025 is 18.11 x 13.43 x 9.21. Hope this helps!

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