Pigment Ink vs Dye Ink : Which One Works Better?

Do you want to add color to your printed material? Ink solvents add permanent color to paper, fabrics, leather, wood, glass, and other items. The two types of ink used by printers are pigment ink and dye ink. Natural or synthetic dyes are mixtures of a combination of chemicals and fixatives. With this ink, you create beautiful, aesthetic prints. That is the trend of today’s printing.

The dyes used for printing are pigment ink or dye-based. Here, we wish to discuss the different dyes and find out the pros and cons of pigment ink vs dye ink.

What is Pigment Ink?

Pigments are a water-insoluble and oil-insoluble collection of inorganic materials. Pigments are substances used to color ink, paint, fabrics, plastics, cosmetics, and even food. Inks are solubilized forms of pigments or dyes applied in printing and writing. Therefore, pigmented inks comprised powdered colorant particles blended in solvents such as aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons, surfactants, fluorescent, fixatives, and other chemicals.

pigment ink vs dye ink

Pigment ink is lighter in intensity of color, and long-lasting.  The dye is waterproof and does not smudge. The color of the ink does not fade because of exposure to sunlight or UV radiation. The pigment-based dye creates ideal prints on transparent and glossy stickers. As a result, it is the perfect printing material for printing archived documents and photos. This pigment ink produces vibrant prints at the cost of a higher price than the other dyes.

What is Dye ink?

Dye ink is a solid particle-based ink solution. The dyes are organic compounds comprising chromophores, autochrome, or groups of atoms that impart color to a compound. The dye-based ink has a large color base and low cost of production. A disadvantage is that it is water-soluble and subject to smudging.

are pigment inks waterproof

Most dye-based ink is resistant to water and a common source of ink for printing from inkjet printers. This dye however can smear or run off when in contact with water. The ink-based dye also fades off faster under sunlight. The colors are bright and are the most standard ink for an inkjet printer.

Pigment Ink vs Dye Ink: An Insightful Comparison

When you preparing to print your labels and documents, you must wonder what would be the best ink to use. Printers vary in their performance to the type of ink that produces perfect printouts. Besides, the ink you will use is pigment-based or dye-ink depends on the effect these have on the short- and long-term quality output of your product. Let us see how these two kinds of inks vary in their unique characteristics.

1. Pigment Ink vs Dye Ink: Based on Water Resistance

If you are doing many printing jobs, you must have realized that both pigment and dye ink are resistant to water to some extent depending on the substrate. Pigment inks are naturally waterproof. However, the characteristic may vary and depend on the environment.

Pigment Ink vs Dye Ink: based on Water Resistance

The dye ink becomes resistant to water with the encapsulating of the LX900 dye with a water-resistant layer making it waterproof. As dye-based ink is less resistant to water, a spray of the printed page with acrylic acts as a coating and prevents exposure from moisture. Another way of protection from water is by laminating the printout.

For water-resistant printing, the use of pigment-based ink may be a better alternative.

2. Pigment Ink vs Dye Ink: Based on Print Fading

Printing with colors is an enjoyable job. However, you do not want your photographs to fade after some time. Technology in printing to keep brightness and shine has improved tremendously. The pigment and dye-based ink both fade over time and when exposed to sunlight and UV radiation.

Dye-ink is water-soluble similar to mixing sugar in water. As the ink produced has a wider color band, the prints are vibrant, will wash off with water or if rubbed, they apply unless a special coating of acrylic to the labels. Laminating the print and the photos helps in direct contact with light and reduces the rate of fading. Dye-based ink printed photos and pictures stay best indoors and start fading after 25 years.

pigment ink vs dye ink

Pigment dye has few color particles like sand-water mixture. This is more resistant to water and equally vibrant. However, the pigment dye is good for outdoor as the prints are resistant to sunlight and UV for along. Pigment dye resists fading until 200 years. Therefore, for the durability of color and life pigment-based dye printing is best for the preservation of documents and photographs in archives.

If you plan to switch the pigment colors, using a new printer head is necessary. The same printer head for mixed inks will clog the head and burn the nozzles.

3. Pigment Ink vs Dye Ink: Based on Printing Quality

The quality of the print matters most in creating your designs and labels. You want your print bright and beautiful to create an impression on what you want to convey. Both pigment and dye-based prints are shiny and radiant at the beginning. In dye-based ink, the darker shades are sharp and dark compared to pigmented ink.

Pigment Ink vs Dye Ink: based on Printing Quality

However, the technology has improved printing quality over the years. Photographers and designers have research ways to take advantage of the sources and printers that would give them the best results. The ink formulae have improved in quality and longevity. Concepts of the type of dye appropriate to convey the right message have grown for the better.

Photographers and professionals who work with black and white love to use pigment-based ink. However, the costs of pigment-ink are higher. The dye-based ink is for enthusiasts, which is available at a lower cost.

4. Pigment Ink vs Dye Ink: Based on Cost Differences

The driving force in printing is the cost of the ink. The dye-based ink costs fewer prints but produces beautiful prints in an array of colors. However, they are susceptible to smearing and fading. Therefore, printing papers and documents that need temporary promotion would be cost-effective with dye ink.

Difference Between Dye-Based and Pigment Ink

Pigment-based inks are costlier because of the cost of processing in formulating the ink. The cost is not only for the pigment but also for time and labor. The immersive nature of the pigment-based ink is in demand although it is expensive.

Also Check: Difference Between Sublimation and Pigment Ink

Pigment Ink vs Dye Ink: What Would You Like

When you look at a printout, you will hardly find any difference between the two in the vibrancy of color and shine. Technological improvements in both the dyes have narrowed down the differences and the flaws of the two sources of ink.

However, we all like some of our work to be perfect. A sudden spill of water or coffee to your fresh printed material would be a matter of embarrassment and the time and money spent on it. The pigment-based prints are stable, dry out quickly, and fade-resistant. So you can rest assure that the printouts are long-lasting. In terms of exposure to light, dye-ink absorbs light while pigment-ink reflects light contributing to the susceptibility or resistance in light is discoloration.

The kind of ink you want depends on the printing media. Are you going to print documents, envelopes, labels, or photographs and images? The dye-based ink does a perfect job on document printing. As the pigment-based does well in glossy or matte paper, printing is best when you are working on photographs and images.

The type of printer you use may be important. The UltraChrome Hi-Gloss, used in its high-end Stylus Photo R1800 printer has been in the market for over 250 years as a high rated printer for pigment-based prints. However, Canon, Epson, and HP offer both pigment and dye-based ink.

Let us summarize the characteristic to compare the dye-based and pigment-based inks to get a clearer picture.

CharacteristicsDye-based inkPigment-based ink
SolventWater soluble, homogenized mixtureCarrier liquid, tiny particles
Resistance to waterSusceptible to smear and runoff, vinyl stickers are waterproofWaterproof
FadingNot resistant to sunlight and UVResistant to UV radiation
Fades after 25 yearsFading after 200 years
Print qualityWider color tones, smoother image and printsLess colors, lower quality than dye-based
Printer compatibilityAll inkjet coated papers more compatibleLess compatible
Paper typeNormal printing paperGlossy paper
Place of useIndoorIndoor and outdoor
PriceLess costlyCostly

Final Verdict

We hope with all this background information printing jobs for DIY or your business will become easy. There are alternatives to what you choose. It all depends on the purpose of your work. However, printing the best may not vary the use of pigment-based ink or dye-based ink. From our analysis, both are of excellent quality. The dye-ink is excellent for its vibrant color. However, the pigment-dye is good for its long-lasting effect.

A good idea is your printer in good shape. Both the inks are compatible with several brands of printers. Care is however need in not using a mixture of colors alternatively. If you want inks, clean the head and change the nozzle. The leftover inks also need special preservation for use next time without creating clogs in the nozzle and harming the printer. To give a frank decision, if your project is worth the cost, pigment-based ink is a preferred colored printing agent over dye-based ink. We wish you happy printing!


Alice covers platforms, policy and big tech at Printer Reviews. Prior to rejoining here, Alice was Senior Technology Editor of the TechDen. Alice first joined PrinterReviews in 2021. Before joining, he was the Tech Editor of the Daily Dot and a reporter and deputy editor at ReadWeb.

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