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

16-07-2014 by

Share this:

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 ink.

Nic Venter

About the author

Nic Venter+

 is the founder and director of He started the business in 2009 with the idea to sell ink and toner cartridges online and to provide you with a quality product, value for money and convenience. He regularly blogs on about printing and technology. Part of his philosophy is having fun and making sure that he and his team think everything ink, so you don't have to.

comments powered by Disqus
visa-logo mastercard-logo eft-logo

© Inksaver CC 2012
Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Kyocera, Lexmark, Oki, Samsung, Xerox and other manufacturer brand names and logos are registered trademarks of their respective owners who have no association with or make any endorsement of the products or services provided by InkSaver.