Buyer’s Guide: What Are the Different Types of Printer Ink?

row of used laser toner ink cartridges

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When it comes to purchasing printer ink, there are several options. While some ink cartridges are manufactured for use in specific printer brands, they are primarily designed for a purpose. For example, some inks print vibrant colors on vinyl textures, while others are waterproof or UV-resistant, making them more durable for signage. 

Although many printer inks are interchangeable, some are not. Laser printers use a powder called toner to print. The printing process is entirely different from inkjet printers, meaning toner and ink are not substitutes for each other. 

Our buyer’s guide goes through the different types of printer ink, explaining the benefits of each and the crucial distinctions between them. 

Dye-Based Ink

Dye-based ink was the only choice for inkjet printers for a long time, and they are still used frequently in homes and offices because of their reliability. Dye-based inks, such as certain varieties of HP printer ink, deliver bright colors and clear images. They dry quickly, decreasing the chances of smudging when handled. 

Due to the handleability and vibrancy of color, dye-based ink is also used frequently to print photographs. It reacts well to most photo paper, particularly high gloss.

The reason for the fast drying and rich color is because of the molecular makeup of dye-based ink. It is made from coloration dissolved in a liquid, such as water. The ink can be absorbed quickly, and it reflects little light. While this is beneficial in the short-term, it makes the ink vulnerable over long periods. 

Dye inks are soluble, meaning they run when they come into contact with water or are exposed to a humid environment. These inks are also known to oxidate and fade over time. 

Pigment-Based Ink

Pigment ink increased in popularity because of its durability. Although it’s usually a little more expensive than dye-based ink, it can maintain its condition for much longer. In the right circumstances, pigment-based ink keeps its original look for several years. It is often used to develop professional photographs. 

Pigment-based ink is versatile and was developed to use on various types of paper. Photographers often combine different paper and ink to create better-looking images in terms of color, depth and sharpness. Brother printer ink comes in dye and pigment-based options, allowing people to choose either. 

One advantage of using pigment ink is that it’s resistant to moisture and UV rays. The color particles aren’t dissolved in water, giving them duller but more absorbent qualities. However, it requires more drying time and can smudge if not dried thoroughly enough. 

Technicians Refill ink cartridges

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Solvent Ink

Solvent ink is a type of pigment ink that contains dyes. It is oil-based and holds both the pigment and the resin, making it fade-resistant, water-resistant and abrasion-resistant. Solvent inks use volatile organic compounds (VOCs), meaning there should be adequate ventilation wherever they are in use. 

Solvent inks can print on a variety of materials. The pigment bonds with the surface, and the solvent then evaporates due to the printer’s heat, depositing the pigment. 

Because of its durability and use of volatile compounds, solvents inks are used mostly for outdoor advertising on banners or vinyl. It retains vibrancy for many years, even if exposed to sunlight and adverse conditions. 

Latex Ink

Latex inks are water-based and use an aqueous polymer. They don’t use potentially volatile components, making them safe to print in areas without ventilation. They dry quickly and need little waiting time before laminating, making them an excellent ink to use for the high-speed production of prints. 

Latex inks are versatile and are used in printing marketing materials, such as pop-up signs or point-of-sale graphics. They also work well printing on paper or films. 

Large printer format inkjet working

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Solid Ink

Solid inks are a more recent phenomenon. They are made from vegetable oil and come in block form before being melted down and printed on paper. Similar to pigment inks, solid inks aren’t absorbed by the paper. Instead, they are printed onto its surface, meaning they fade after a while. 

For anyone who is environmentally conscious, solid inks are a great choice. They don’t come in plastic cartridges that contribute to significant waste around the world. 

Unfortunately, solid inks can be hard to source. While you will have no problems finding Dell printer ink, some reputable, solid inks can be scarce. 

Choose Ink for Your Purpose

Dye and pigment-based inks are most popular because they are designed for regular use, such as home or office printing. Others have more industrial applications and are used to create large outdoor banners and advertisements. 

The most important aspect as a buyer is to choose an ink that best suits your needs. Consider the purpose of use, the sharpness of imagery, the vibrancy of color and durability and your printing device.