What is the difference between standard dye-based ink and pigmented ink?

  1. Water Resistance
    • The dye in the dye-based ink dissolves in water like sugar does in water -- completely.
    • Pigment does not dissolve completely. It is more like a flour and water mixture.
    • Because of this, dye-based inks flow better and have been the standard in inkjet printers. But the dye will re-dissolve and the ink will flow across the paper if drops of water hit the paper.
    • Pigmented ink particles tend to settle into the tiny fibers that make up the paper. As the ink drys, the pigment particles get stuck in the fibers. Thus, the pigmented inks are more water resistent than the dye-based inks. Only about 5 to 10 percent of the ink will re-flow if the paper is hit by water.
  2. Fade Resistance
    • The molecules in dye-based inks are spread out. You might think of dye-based ink on paper as similar to a beach covered with sand. Because of this, dye-based ink tends to fade quicker, since all of the molecules are exposed to the chemical and sunlight-caused reactions that fade the ink. You may notice fading of dye-based inks exposed to direct sunlight commonly in 6 to 12 weeks, although when protected from air and sunlight, these inks can last several years.
    • Pigment particles are similar to large pebbles on a beach. It is much more difficult for sunlight and chemicals to react with all of the pigment molecules, since most of them are hidden inside the "pebbles". Pigmented inks will usually last for several months before fading becomes noticeable, and when protected from air and sunlight, these inks can last for many years.
    • Special Pigmented inks are those which are rated as "Archival Quality" Archival quality pigmented inks use special pigments to improve the fade performance beyond that of normal pigmented inks. Fading becomes noticeable when exposed to direct sunlight in 6-12 months, and when protected from air and sunlight these inks will last for decades.
  3. Print Quality
    • It is possible to get more "color" into dyes than into pigments. Therefore, dye-based colors tend to be more vibrant than pigment-based colors. And pigmented black inks tend to be slightly lighter than dye-based inks.
    • "Special Pigmented" inks have color vibrancy similar to that of dye-based inks.
  4. Price
    • You can't get something for nothing. Pigmented inks cost more to make than dye-based inks, so they cost more. Check our pricing for details.
    • "Special Pigmented" inks are significantly more expense than regular pigmented inks.
  5. Usability
    • Canon BC-23, BCI-3BK, BCI-3EBK, BCI-5BK, and BCI-6BK cartridges use pigmented ink. All other Canon cartridges normally use dye-based ink.
    • Compaq Black cartridges all use pigmented black ink.
    • HP Black cartridges 51629, C6614, C6615, and 51645 can be filled with either dye-based or pigmented ink. #56, #10, and #14 black cartridges use pigmented black inks.

HP Black cartridge 51626A and most other HP Black cartridges are only available with dye-based inks.

    • Most Epson cartridges only have a single ink available. The WJ-190 ink used in most newer Epson cartridges is a dye-based black ink.

Some of the new Epson printers use Special Pigmented black inks.

    • Lexmark cartridges of the xxxx620 part numbers use a dye-based ink. Lexmark cartridges of the 12A1970 part number or the xxxx400 part numbers use a pigmented ink.