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Types of inkjet inks

Ink comprises of a base carrier (water, oil or solvent), a colourant (dye or pigment) and small amounts of chemical additives to provide some unique characteristics.

  • Water Based Dye Ink – known for the exceptional colour gamut, but quick fading
  • Water Based Pigmented Ink – known for high resistance to fading, but produce a smaller colour gamut
  • Oil Based Pigmented Ink – Combines a high resistance to fading and doesn’t need to be laminated
  • Solvent Based Pigmented Ink – Combines a high resistance to fading with the ability to print directly on to uncoated media.

Depending on the application of the print, selecting the correct ink type will ensure the best results.

Dye-Based Inks

Dye-based inks were the first to be developed for use with inkjet printers. These inks offer vibrant deep colours which are absorbed well into top-coatings and have a wide colour gamut. They are most commonly used for indoor applications. The main drawback of dye-based inks, however, is that they have a minimum to moderate UV life and will quickly fade in sunlight. In addition, dye-based inks are not water-resistant so cannot be used outside without lamination.

Pigmented Inks

Pigmented inks have been developed to meet the demand for outdoor printing applications. Pigmented inks feature a greater level of fade resistance and are water-resistant. The drawback of these inks generally is that they do not have the colour range available with dye-based inks and over time the pigments in the ink will cause wear and tear on the inkjet nozzles.

Most manufacturers are entering the arena of providing one inkset – take for example the EPSON range of UltraChrome inks which are essentially pigmented inks but through a clever manufacturing process, also have virtually the colour gamut of traditional dye inks.

Most inks are branded by the manufacturer and are not called ‘dye’ or ‘pigmented’ so check first before purchasing.



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