A History Guide: Where Does Printer Ink Come From?

Refilling ink into a ink tank printer at office

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Printer ink is one of the most critical supplies for workplaces around the world. While many companies are transitioning to paperless offices, ink remains an essential facet in most administrative settings. For anyone who’s ever worked in a role where printing is part of their job, it’s normal to wonder “Where does printer ink come from?” 

In short, ink is a partially liquid substance that contains a colorant and is used to create images, drawings or text. It comes in several thicknesses suited to various uses. Light or thin inks are used to draw or write using pens, pencils or brushes. Thicker inks can take the form of a paste and are often used in letterpresses and lithographic printing. 

Modern inks are generally placed into two main categories: printer ink and writing ink. The type of ink you find in Canon ink cartridges differs significantly from the ink found in a ballpoint pen. 

Where Did Ink Originate?

Many ancient civilizations used natural ingredients to create ink and paint for writing and drawing. The very first ink used by humans is believed to have come from China. It was made using carbon black, which is a common black pigment produced by charring or burning. This was readily available from fires. 

The Egyptian and Chinese cultures created more advanced variations of ink. In Ancient Egypt (26th century BC), they used red and black inks for writing and drawing on papyrus. These inks were made using iron- or ocher-based pigments, various salt-based ions and lead. 

The inks developed by Egyptian and Chinese civilizations were the earliest versions of the ink used in modern society. The manufacturing process involved mixing materials using a pestle and mortar, and then pouring the mixture into a ceramic dish for drying. A wet brush liquefied the ink for use. 

Technicians are install setup the ink cartridge of a inkjet printer the device of office automate for printing

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Modern Printer Ink

The most common types of printers today are laser and inkjet printers. If you’ve ever been tasked with the responsibility of finding out how to put ink in a printer, you’ll quickly realize these printers need certain types of ink to operate. Since they function differently, you can’t substitute ink varieties. 

Laser printers use a powdered laser printer toner instead of an ink cartridge. The cartridge dispenses toner onto a printer drum. The laser within these printers changes the drum’s electric charge and essentially melts the toner powder onto a material to make a print. They are more expensive than inkjet printers, and the toner cartridges are pricier as well. However, they are cheaper to run (per page) and print faster. 

Inkjet printers operate using regular ink cartridges. They spray microscopic droplets of ink onto print materials to create text documents, images or photos. Inkjet printers are mostly found in households. 

How Is Modern Printer Ink Made?

Depending on the brand, modern printer ink is made using a variety of substances. The exact ingredients can vary if the ink is intended for a specific use, such as photo printing.

However, most printer inks have a foundation of the pigment carbon black. This is the same core ingredient used in the first inks from ancient China. This substance is added to using colorants, solvents and vehicles or binders. 

For functionality, printer ink uses dispersants and resins. Dispersants enable the ink to flow effectively, allowing for an easy transfer during printing. Resins are added to the mix to give the ink binding properties, and multiple resins are often used to give specific textures to a print. 

CMYK Toner mixed on white background

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Colored Printer Ink

Printer ink is colored predominantly using pigment or dye. Pigment inks are more common than dye-based inks; however, they are more expensive and lack consistency and range of color. Pigments must be ground to ensure a smooth spread across a surface. They also add chemical resistance to temperature, light and other solvents. 

Dye-based inks are more capable of producing color due to the density per unit of mass. They dissolve during the liquid phase, meaning they often soak into paper, distorting an image. To counteract this, dye-based inks made with solvents speed up the drying process. 

Taking Care of Your Ink and Printing Needs

As a leading supplier of ink for personal or large-scale business projects, InkJetSuperStore is your go-to for printing supplies. We stock a wide range of printer ink and toners from the top brands, ensuring you have exactly what you need for any upcoming tasks.

We cater to every budget. If you’re buying in bulk, we offer excellent discounts, helping you and your business save money.