Most consumers couldn’t care less what type of ink is used in their printer, but there are a few choices, and users who want their prints to last longer, for archival purposes, might want to pay attention to the ink type when choosing a new printer. The majority of inkjet printers use dye-based ink, which is designed to be absorbed into the paper to create text or images. A newer type of ink known as pigment-based ink sits on top of the paper, rather than being absorbed, which offers a few advantages over the typical dye-based variety.
Here are a few of the major benefits of pigment-based ink:
Pigment-based inks can retain their color longer, and are much more resistant to fading, even when subjected to sunlight and other harsh lights. Of course, it is still recommended that users protect their prints from sunlight for the longest life possible. Dye-based inks tend to show some color shifting within a few days after being printed, even under the best conditions, while some pigment-based inks have been rated to hold their color for up to 200 years in “museum conditions” which include museum-quality lighting and framing.
Water can be the enemy of a printed document or image. Since dye-based inks are somewhat water soluble, they will begin to break down and dilute when exposed to water. Pigment-based inks produce a protective surface that is much more resistant to water, and will tend to hold up to a small amount of moisture without breaking down. Of course, it is still recommended that you avoid exposing your prints to water to keep them in the best shape possible.
While it ties in with the other aspects, the fact that many pigment-based inks are rated for archival quality printing can be a big selling point. As a photographer or digital artist selling your work, you can point to resources such as Epson’s UltraChrome K3 page, and ensure buyers that their print will last for a very long time with less fading or running.
Pigment-based inks are not without their drawbacks, however. In some cases, pigment-based inks offer a more narrow color gamut than dye-based inks. The other major downside is the higher cost of pigment-based inks, as well as the piezoelectric printers that use them.
Overall, both types of ink have perks and downfalls. If a consumer is in need of a printer for simple, standard text documents, or even non-essential photos, a unit using dye-based ink may be the best match. On the other hand, if the user needs to print color documents or documents that will last for years to come, a machine with a pigment-based ink system might be worth the extra cost.