Ink Types used in Inkjet Cartridges

Inkjet cartridges is big business. Printer manufacturers often sell their printers heavily discounted and expect to earn back money and make a nice profit from selling their costly ink to the printer owners. To save money, try our inkjet cartridge price comparison service by choosing your printer brand below.


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Brother LC01LC02LC04LC21LC25LC31LC41LC51LC61LC65
Dell 7Y7437Y745JF333M4640M4646T0529T0530
Epson T032120T040120T044120T048120T060120T069120T069220T078120T007201
HP CB338WNHP 21HP 45HP 51HP 56HP 57HP 70HP 74HP 78HP Vivera Inks
Lexmark 10N001610N002612A197012A198015M012017G005018C003118C0034

Dye Ink and Pigment Ink are two types of ink that are used in Inkjet Printers. This article discuss the differences between the ink types. If you are more interested in the Ink Cartridge alternatives, go to our Ink Cartridges article.

Printer Ink FAQ:
1. Dye and Pigment Ink characteristics
2. Recommendations on what Ink Type to use
3. Ink and Printout Durability 

Dye and Pigment Ink characteristics

Pigment inks are not absorbed by the paper but sit on top as small encapsulated particles while dye based inks are absorbed into the paper’s fibers. This basic difference creates differences in areas such as ink stability, color intensity and contrast. The choice of ink type depends on what result you expect and which characteristics you favor.

Pigment based inks are generally stronger in the following areas compared to dye based ones:

  • water fast on most paper media (dye based inks start to run when wetted if not printed on specially coated paper)
  • fast drying (up to 100 times faster compared to dye based inks)
  • non fading colors
  • long life cycle
  • low bleeding in the edges of the printed color

Dye based inks are generally stronger in the following areas compared to pigment based ones:

  • high brilliance and contrast
  • wide color gamut (i.e. the range of colors that can be produced)
  • less expensive

A note on above comparison: Intensive research and development is continuously done in printer inks which mean that both dye and pigment inks are steadily becoming better in their weak areas.

The larger printer manufacturers develop and produce their own inks. EpsonCanon and HPall have their own ink series which they promote and invest heavily into (read more about HP Vivera Inks).

Recommendations on what ink type to use

Dye based inks are more often used in monochrome printers and pigment inks in color printers. The main reason for this is that four up to ten different colors (depending on the cartridge system) may be used in a color printer. All colors needs to dry fast so that they don’t bleed into each other.

Pigment inks should be the choice for printer owners who favor long time archival and color stability in their printouts. Please note that the longevity of dye based inks are constantly pushed forward and dye based printouts can currently be expected to last at least 20-30 years if stored under the right conditions.

All in all, remember that ink is just one of three important factors for getting good print results. It’s of equal importance that the quality of the printer hardware and the printer paper also holds a good standard. To learn more about this subject, read our Ink Printing Quality Guide.

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