Dye-based Ink & Pigmented Ink: What is the Difference?

By: James Kara Murat

When we are on the market for a new printer, there are times that we have to base our decision as to what printer we should buy on the kind of printer ink that the printer uses. After all, we use printers for producing various kinds of documents, be it text, graphics, photos and others.

Choices for printer inks often come up as either dye-based inks or pigmented inks. Just what makes these two different from each other? Which type of printer ink cartridges is better?

The first thing we need to look at in differentiating dye-based ink from pigmented ink is the substances that go into them. Pigmented inks are made with resin or binders that make them more resistance. Dye-based inks, on the other hand, are made with optical brighteners to make their colors more vivid.

Given these characteristics, let us look at the desirable qualities of printer inks and how these two types do for each quality.

1.Resistance to water. Dye-based inks need to be dissolved in order to work. They are often used as inkjet printer inks because they easily dissolve in water and thus flow easily with it. However, if a print made from dried dye-based ink gets wet, the print will run. Pigmented inks, on the other hand, absorb water but does not dissolve with it. Thus, they are more water-resistant.

2.Resistance to light. Dye-based inks have optical brighteners that make for vivid colors. These optical brighteners, however, are vulnerable to light and other chemicals, and thus fade more quickly. Pigmented ink is the ink of choice for archiving jobs because it can last for years even under light or chemical exposure.

3.Sharpness of color. Dye-based inks are desired for the brightness and vivacity of the colors they produce. Thus, they are more used for printing photos and graphics. The same thing cannot be said of pigmented inks, so they are more limited to grayscale prints and text documents.

Now that we know the difference between dye-based inks and pigmented inks, the next question would be: Which printer ink brands are dye-based and which ones are pigmented? Here is a brief guideline:

&bullExcept for a few models, Canon ink cartridges typically uses dye-based ink.
&bullFor Compaq printers, all color inks are dye-based while all black inks are pigmented.
&bullThe same goes for Dell printer inks.
&bullExcept for the printer inks used for their Designjet printers and some black inks, Hewlett-Packard uses mostly dye-based inks for colors.
&bullEpson sells mostly dye-based inks, though they also have special pigmented black inks.
&bullLexmark's printer inks are pigmented for the black ones and dye-based for the colored ones.

And there we have it, the difference between dye-based inks and pigmented inks. Always consider what you will be using your printer for before you choose the machine and the printer ink.

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