As we explained in Output Equipment, buying a printer locks you into a particular type of ink so it’s important to understand the features and benefits of each ink type.
As we explained in Output Equipment, buying a printer locks you into a particular type of ink so it’s important to understand the features and benefits of each ink type. Dye inks are cheaper to manufacture and, being liquid, can be forced through finer nozzles than pigment inks so they should be capable of reproducing finer detail than pigment-based printers. (Although whether you would actually notice much difference is debatable.)
Pigment inks contain millions of tiny solid particles of coloured pigment suspended in a liquid carrier medium. In the early days, ink formulators had a limited range of colours to choose from but recent developments have almost eliminated the differences in colour gamut (the range of colours that can be produced) between the two ink types. Dye and pigment inks behave differently when placed on printing paper. Dye inks are designed to soak into the surface of the paper.
If the surface of the paper is too absorbent, the droplets of dye may spread, causing a loss of precision in edges. However, because the inks are absorbed, prints made with dye inks are usually scratch-resistant.
Pigment inks remain on the surface of the paper, where they are vulnerable to physical abrasion and scuffing. Some papers have porous surfaces that provide a degree of protection for the pigment particles. In a few printers, the pigment particles are resin coated and the printer applies a layer of resin (‘gloss overcoat’) over the surface of prints on glossy papers to provide a scuff-resistant surface.
The table below shows the strengths and weaknesses of dye and pigment inks. Use it to help you to decide which type of printer to purchase.
For prints that will be framed behind glass, it doesn’t really matter which type of ink/paper combination you choose because the glass will largely eliminate the differences between the two ink types. However, prints made with pigment inks will have greater lightfastness as a rule.
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