Ink for Printers

Ink for Printers

The home office printers have two major ink types:  pigment based and dye based ink. For dye-based ink, colorants are fully dissolved in a liquid solution .  A crude analogy is that dye inks resemble salty water. For pigment ink, colorants appear as insoluble particles suspended in a liquid solution. A crude analogy is that pigment inks resemble sandy water.  

We may reason that pigment ink is more prone to clogging and harder to unclog, and thus we should use dye ink as much as possible.  However, the answer is not a clear-cut. Dye-based ink is more affordable.  Also, it has a more extensive color range and color accuracy.  Printers that utilize dye-based inks will produce more vibrant prints than pigment printers.  Pictures tend to look more realistic when using dye ink

Pigment-based inks are made by grounding down pigment particles and then suspending them inside a liquid.  The colors are stored inside the pigments, acting as a barrier to external forces such as evaporation or oxidation.  Pigment ink is more resistant to moisture and UV light. In the past, printer companies only used pigment ink in black text printing.  We may find a printer that has two black cartridges. The bigger black cartridge is pigment ink for text, while the smaller black cartridge is called a “photo cartridge,” which holds dye ink.  The recent development of ink technology improved pigment ink's photo performance. Therefore, many office printers have started using pigment inks in all colors, such as Epson's Durabrite series and HP's new OfficeJets.

Consequently, we may have a printer that is designed for one ink type, but we may want to use the other one.  Also, dye and pigment inks are not the only two inks. If we want to print on non-conventional papers, such as hand bands, postcards and surface-treated papers such as art papers, we will want to use art paper ink.  If we want to print on vinyl, plastic, glass, wood,... then we want to use Eco-Solvent ink.

Can we use dye ink in a pigment printer? 

Yes, we can use dye ink in any pigment printer.  The pigment ink printers need vigorous self-cleaning, while dye ink printers don't need to be cleaned as much.  Therefore, we won't have a problem using dye ink in a pigment printer. On the contrary, if we use pigment ink in a dye printer, we may find it clogs easily due to insufficient self-cleaning.  If you have a question about this, please refer to the reference to a professional article that we will post below.

However, pigment ink has a different chemical composition than dye ink.  Pigments will not suspend in a dye solution. Therefore, we need to reduce the leftover pigments as much as possible before switching to dye ink.  For spongeless cartridges, it is not a problem. We can use up the ink and then switch. For sponged cartridges, there will be a fair amount of pigments trapped inside sponges.  It is recommended to flush out the pigments before switching. We will show how to do that in this video.

Can we use pigment ink in dye printers? 

It depends on what type of printer and our unclogging skills.  First, it is better if the printer doesn't have a sponge cartridge.  Secondly, the chance of success is better if the printer is designed for office use or casual home use, not for art printing.   For example, HP's OfficeJet and Deskjet and Epson's WorkForce are designed for home or office document printing and can be converted to  dye printers. HP's PhotoSmart is a low-cost photo printer, which can be converted too. Canon's Pixma is also a low-cost photo printer. The cheaper the printer, the better the chance of success.  We wouldn't want to convert any of Canon's Pro series printers, such as Pro9000 Mark II or Pro 100. However, BCH likes to push everything to the limit. We did convert the black and yellow cartridge of Pro9000 successfully, but not for the cyan and magenta cartridge.

Finally, if we are sufficiently self-disciplined to clean the printer and understand unclogging techniques, we can use pigment ink even if the printer is not supposed to use pigment ink.  One example is the Epson 1430, which is a dye ink printer for high-quality photo printing. Many professional shops convert it into a pigment printer and use it for direct garment printing.  Because the owners of these shops are professionals, they will clean and maintain the printhead after every work batch.

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