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Dye Ink and Pigment Ink: Which is Right for You?

Since the dawn of the first inkjet printers, ink cartridges have contained mostly dye-based ink. In recent years, however, more and more printer manufacturers have been designing their printers to print with a pigment-based ink formula. Unlike dye-inks that are water soluble, pigment-based inks are comprised of solid particles suspended in the ink itself. The result is a print with less potential for smearing, greater color stability and archival quality that will outlast dye ink, making this the preferred choice for those in the fields of graphic and fine art.

There is a downside, though. Pigment-based ink not only costs more, but it fails to capture the same kind of vibrancy as its dye-based counterpart. The superior brightness in a dye-based cartridge is the result of optical compounds that have been added to the dye as a means of intensifying its brightness. Of course these compounds, along with the dye, fade over time, especially when left in the sun.

So, the question comes down to this—why do you print? If you print professionally or print primarily for the sake of photos, pigment ink will provide you with a long-lasting image that won’t fade or shift over time. If you print mostly for utility or images that won’t matter to you years from now, dye-based is a cheaper and more colorful option.