Dye vs. Pigment: Do You Know the Difference

If you are buying ink cartridge or laser toner for the first time, there are several differences that may not be immediately clear cut. The difference between dye and pigment ink is one that many ink cartridge buyers ask about. What is the difference between dye-based ink and pigment based inks and when should you use one and not the other?

Dye based inks

These inks are used in the standard ink cartridges. This kind of ink contains dyes that are fully dissolved in liquid. The biggest advantage of dye-based inks is their vibrancy in color. The colors come out better because there are optical compounds that are in the dye.

Their biggest disadvantage is smearing. If the cartridge is leaking or releasing ink in the wrong quantities, the paper will smear. Dye based ink dissolves into the paper fibers, and spreads very thinly. This makes it susceptible to damage by UV rays. This leads to quicker fading if the paper is exposed to the sun or a lot of daylight. However, fade resistance has been improved in high-quality inks from companies such as Fuji and Hp.

Where to use

Dye based ink has long been used in the standard ink cartridge for home and office use. It can print standard text and also graphics in official documents for example color graphs. This has been the preferred ink by heavy duty printers.

Pigment inks

Pigment is a powdery substance that makes a suspension when mixed with liquid. Unlike dye-based ink, the pigment does not get dissolved in the paper’s fibers. Rather, it sits on the paper and bonds to the paper’s surface in a very thin film. This technology was debuted by Epson.

The biggest advantage of pigment ink is that it does not fade easily. Pigment does not break down easily under UV rays. This means it retains color vibrancy longer than dye-based ink.  Pigment inks do not smear easily. As such the ink is ideal for printing on glossy paper like photographic paper. This type of ink tends to be costlier than dye based ink. Poor quality pigment inks have the problem of metamerism. This is where the human eye sees different colors for the same graphics when it is subjected to different light sources.

Where to use

Pigment inks are used in printing on glossy paper, transparencies and stickers. Its longer archival life is preferred for graphics. Some printing experts have claimed that its archival life could be as long as 200 years.