What Is The Difference Between Pigment And Dye-Based Ink Cartridges?


When you’re shopping for printer ink, there are many options to choose from. Should you take the high yield ink cartridge, or stick to the standard yield? Is it better to buy a tri-colour ink cartridge or should I get a printer that takes all four colours separately?
While some of these questions are easy to answer, others, such as what is the difference between pigment and dye ink, are more difficult. Printer ink usually falls into one of two categories: pigment ink and dye ink. We take a look at the differences between the two to help you choose.

What is pigment-based ink?

A pigment-based ink uses solid particles of pigment powder suspended in the ink itself to transfer colour. This type of ink is more durable than dye-based inks because it resists fading for longer and doesn’t smudge as much when drying.
This makes it the perfect type of ink to use for documents (especially photos) that need to be kept in an archive. Pigment-based inks are perfect for printing on slicker surfaces like transparencies and stickers. However, they are more expensive than their dye-based counterparts and not as vibrant either.

What is a dye-based ink?

Dye-based inks have been around since the dawn of the inkjet printer. Using a dye dissolved in water, along with various optical compounds, these inks create a brighter, more vibrant colour on the page.

They are more likely to smear and tend to fade rather quickly if exposed to too much sunlight. They also take longer to dry than pigment-based inks and will run if they come into contact with water. However, recent advances in technology have meant that certain dye-based inks (such as those found in HP ink cartridges and Epson ink cartridges) have improved fade resistance.

So which should I use in my printer?

The answer to this depends on what you want to print. For brighter, more vibrant photos, dye-based inks are the best option. For text-based documents that need to last, a pigment ink is better. If you know that your document or photo is going to be exposed to sunlight, using a pigment-based ink is also the better choice.

Most printers use a combination of the two. Canon ink cartridges work in sets of both pigment and dye-based inks, which is why most Canon printers take two black cartridges. For example the Canon PGI-450XL high yield black ink cartridge is pigment-based, while the Canon CLI-451XL high yield black ink cartridge is dye-based.

If you’re still not sure which type of ink cartridge to use, don’t worry. Most printer ink manufacturers have already decided which inks work best in their printers and have made the choice for you. A general rule is that a black ink cartridge contains pigment ink, while colour ink cartridges contain dye-based in.
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