Dye-based vs pigment-based printer inks: Which is best for your application?

Getting the right printing equipment for commercial marking and coding applications requires businesses to carefully consider all of the specifications of the printer technology, and ensure that it meets the needs of their application. This does not only apply to the printers themselves, but also the inks and consumables involved.

One of the most important questions to consider involves what type of ink would work best for your purposes. There are numerous dye inks and pigment inks available, with different pros and cons depending on how they will be used, and what kind of surfaces are being used in the printing process.

Here, we will explore the comparative performance of dye-based inks vs pigment-based inks, in order to help you determine which option will work best for you.

What are the differences between dye-based and pigment-based inks?

Dyes and pigments are two different approaches to creating rich, lasting colour in ink production. Dye-based inks take a soluble colourant or dye and dissolve it in the liquid to create their colouration, whereas pigment ink works via microscopic solid colorant particles suspended evenly in the liquid carrier as a very fine powder, without ever becoming part of it.

Because each approach uses a different method of formulation, the mechanisms involved in pigment vs dye ink printers also need to be distinct. Specifically, pigment inks need to be circulated continuously, otherwise the colour particles will settle and accumulate - as such, users need to be careful not to use the wrong type of ink with their chosen printer, otherwise they run the risk of damaging it.

Dye-based inks have typically been more commonly used, especially in lower-end or consumer-focused printers, whereas pigmented inks are more typically used by the professional market. However, both ink types have applications in both commercial and consumer contexts, with a wide variety of printer solutions available to make the best of their unique qualities.

What are the pros and cons of dye-based vs pigment-based inks?

Because of the differing principles behind each type of ink, each has its own unique qualities that will mean it is better suited for some applications over others. The advantages of dye-based inks are as follows:

  • Softer, subtler and more vivid colours
  • Typically cheaper to produce and purchase
  • Easier to store and manage, as this ink does not require constant circulation to prevent settling
  • Simpler to achieve high quality printing on specific surfaces, especially paper and glossy media

Pigment-based inks, on the other hand, offer a number of unique performance benefits for commercial applications:

  • Deeper blacks, lighter colours and better opacity, making the results more visible on dark surfaces
  • Better resistance against fading in the long term, with pigment-based markings lasting for months or years even under exposure to direct sunlight and higher temperatures, whereas dye-based inks will fade after a few days
  • More water-resistant, with no risk of smudging or running when exposed to moisture
  • Consistently reliable printing performance on a wide range of substrates, including challenging surfaces such as plastic

As a result of these advantages, pigment-based printers such as the Hitachi UX-P Pigment-Based Inkjet Printer are typically seen as a go-to option for many high-end commercial marking and coding applications, because the results are seen as more durable and versatile. However, some organisations may opt for the lower-cost entry point offered by dye-based printers in certain circumstances.

Choosing the right printer for your application

In order to find the right printer for your needs, it will be important to weigh up the various pros and cons of pigment vs dye-based printer inks, as there is no clear winner suitable for all applications. As such, you should consider which attributes are most important for your specific needs, asking the following questions:

  • What kind of price range are you looking for?
  • What substrate will you be printing on?
  • How durable do your markings need to be? What will be the typical usage environment of the products you are creating? Will water resistance be an issue?
  • Are the aesthetic qualities of the marking a priority? Which option will produce the most legible results?
  • Is smudging a potential risk in your production process? Will quick-drying ink be a priority?

Both dye and pigment inks can offer a commercially viable printing solution for you. By considering all of these factors, you will be able to obtain a printing solution that delivers everything you need.

If you require further information and guidance on the benefits of pigmented vs dye-based inks, contact Newcode Partnership. You can browse our full range of coding solutions today, or receive tailored advice on which product would work best for your specific application by calling 01942 228882. You can also fill out our online contact form to request a call back.