What is the difference between dye ink and pigment ink?
Dye and Pigment Ink
Here at GDS we are frequently asked the question ‘What is the difference between Dye and Pigment Inks?’ We aim to help inform you what those differences are.
So what is the difference between dye ink and pigment ink?
In order to fully understand the differences between dye and pigment inks, it is important to know how they structurally differ from one another. Dye inks can be thought of as a sugar solution dissolved in water. The biggest advantage of dye-based inks is their vibrancy in colour; however they are prone to UV fading and if a drop of water hits the paper, the ink will re-dissolve (water soluble). The molecules in dye inks are tiny (think Nano particles) and are usually spread more thinly and laid in a predominantly flat fashion. This creates a higher surface area than pigment inks, which accounts for their lack of UV resistance. Dye inks also have a tendency to soak into the paper and have the potential to allow the ink to bleed at the edges of an image. However, they are fantastic at producing fine line drawings, with crystal clear and dense fine lines.
Pigment inks on the other hand, are more like flour suspended in a liquid. The molecules in a pigment ink are much larger than that when compared to a dye ink and are more robust against moisture and UV fade. This means it retains its colour vibrancy for longer and has greater colour stability. If it is important that an image will last a long time, pigment ink is the way to go - pigment inks have an archival life of 200 years on some paper types under ideal conditions. Unlike dye-based ink, the pigment does not get dissolved into the paper’s fibre, but it sits on the paper and bonds to the papers surface in a very thin film. Pigment inks are able to more precisely reproduce colour, shades and graduations. Pigment inks do not smear easily and are ideal for printing on glossy photo papers.
These fundamental differences in the structural qualities of dye and pigment inks lead to marked differences in resistance, quality and price.
In conclusion Dye inks are the perfect choice for those producing Line Drawings, Plans, Maps and GIS and renders for Architects and Engineers for example. These print outs are not expected to have longevity.
Pigment inks are the perfect choice for those producing photographs and fine art, graphics and posters. Under ideal conditions, prints can last for up to 200 years it is claimed, not that we can test that out for ourselves! So if you are a photographer, for instance, selling your prints – the stability and longevity of pigment inks means you won’t have to worry about your clients returning with faded images down the line. Whilst pigment inks may initially be more expensive, for applications such as this, the cost savings over time can really add up.
Here is a list of current models and their ink type and applications (by model size/brand)
Dye models - General Rule - Canon machines with 3 digits in the name and HP T-series models. In these Dye models, the Matte Black is usually a pigment based ink, whilst the BK is usually a dye based ink (glossy black).
- Canon iPF510 – 5 colour CAD/Poster
- Canon iPF670 – 5 colour CAD/Poster
- Canon iPF680 – 5 colour CAD/Poster
- Canon iPF685 – 5 colour CAD/Poster
- Canon iPF770 – 5 colour CAD/Poster
- Canon iPF780 – 5 colour CAD/Poster
- Canon iPF785 – 5 colour CAD/Poster
- HP DesignJet T120 – 4 Colour CAD
- HP DesignJet T520 – 4 Colour CAD
- HP DesignJet T730 – 4 Colour CAD
- HP DesignJet T830 – 4 Colour CAD MFP
- HP DesignJet T930 – 6 Colour CAD/Poster
- HP DesignJet T1300 - 6 Colour CAD/Poster
- HP DesignJet T1530 – 6 Colour CAD/Poster
- HP DesignJet T1700 – 6 Colour Production CAD
- HP DesignJet T2530 – 6 Colour CAD/Poster
Pigment models – General Rule – Canon models with 4 digits in the name and HP Z-series machines.
- Canon TX-2000 – 5 colour CAD/Poster Hybrid
- Canon TX-3000 – 5 colour CAD/Poster Hybrid
- Canon TX-4000 – 5 colour CAD/Poster Hybrid
- Canon iPF6400SE – 6 colour graphics (no canvas setting)
- Canon iPF6400S – 8 colour graphics
- Canon iPF8400SE – 6 colour graphics (no canvas setting)
- Canon PRO-2000 – 12 colour photographic
- Canon PRO-4000S – 8 colour graphics
- Canon PRO-4000 – 12 colour photographic
- Canon PRO-6000S – 8 colour graphics
- Canon PRO-6000 – 12 colour photographic
- HP Z2600 - 6 colour graphics (no canvas setting)
- HP Z2100 - 8 colour graphics
- HP Z3200 - 12 colour photographic
- HP Z5600 - 6 colour graphic (no canvas setting)
- HP Z5200 - 8 colour graphics
At GDS | Graphic Design Supplies, we stock the full range of hardware and the full complement of genuine inks for Canon, HP and also for Epson Printers. We only recommend using genuine inks, to ensure the best possible results from your prints and also to protect your printer warranty and the printheads from damage from using inferior inks.
We also stock a huge range of compatible media for use with dye and pigment inks. It is important to note that the paper is just as significant as the ink in determining the print life and print quality.