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At the moment i have 4 total compatible ink cartridges of X manufacturer in my printer. 3 of them are depleted and one is half full which is black.

What happens if i replace 3 depleted cartridges with Y manufacturer's 3 compatible ink cartridges? Or what if i replace 3 depleted cartridges with 3 original ink cartridges?

I would hate to replace full set of ink cartridges with other manufacturer's full set ink cartridges only because 1st cartridge is depleted and other 3 are half full.

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Define compatible. As far as I have seen, they purposely make every printer need its own "unique" cartridge so that you have to use expensive, specialty parts. It is like how with cars, you cannot just use any old part; even tires are not universal and even the same model can vary from year to year. (It is all a scam to gouge consumers.) –  Bobson Sep 26 '11 at 2:03
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The printer will report no trouble at all, and I don't think you'll notice any difference. What will potentially happen when you mix ink from different manufacturers is that color reproduction will be wrong, because the different manufacturers tune their inks slightly differently. I do not think the effect will be noticeable, though, in anything less than a professional imaging environment.

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Are ink colors mixed when printing takes place? –  Boris_yo May 26 '11 at 12:08
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Right. you mentioned you have a four-cartridge system, so there are four print heads (cyan, magenta, yellow, key/black) to make up the CMYk system. It produces different colors by dropping differing amounts of each ink on the page. In inkjet printers, colors are actually produced by mixing rather than by dithering (which you'll see on color laser printouts if you look very close, you might need a dissecting microscope or similar tool), because as ink is dropped on the page it absorbs outwards and mixes with still wet nearby inks. –  jcrawfordor May 27 '11 at 18:38
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You should not have any issues printing in general. Keep in mind that the quality of the ink cartridge from brand Y might not be aa good as OEM; whether or not that is an issue is up to you.

Depending on the manufacturer of the printer you might lose a key piece of functionality though: the ink cartridge may no longer report its fill level. Some printers will just keep telling you that you are out of ink but still allow you to print while others may stop printing altogether, as it reads brand Y as being empty. This happens with smart print cartridges that report levels back to the printer. It can read your full ink as empty because the counter on the printer did not reset.

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Are ink colors mixed when printing takes place? –  Boris_yo May 26 '11 at 12:08
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