Comparison Of Dye Inks Vs. Pigment Inks

Dye versus Pigment or The difference between Dye and Pigment inks.

Dye inks – Made up of water and water-soluble dye.  The combination creates homogenised inks without any particles, not dissimilar to the way sugar dissolves in water.

Pigment inks – Made up of the carrier liquid and tiny pigment particles. These miniscule particles are not totally dissolved in the carrier liquid, creating a mixture similar to coloured powder mixed in water.

Comparing Fade Resistance:

Pigment inks are resistant to UV light and fade much slower than dye ink (Similar to the way toner has a better colour durability than liquid ink). The little pigment particles keeps the colours clear and sharp for longer

So Pigment vs. Dye – 1:0

Comparing Water Resistance:

Here we the comparison above is somewhat repeated.  As the dye is totally liquid, it tends to wash off much quicker when it comes into contact with water.  There are however, many good inkjet coatings these days, such as the premium microporous photo papers or vinyl stickers. These have to work harder to keep the dye on the paper when comes in touch with water.

This comes into particular relevance with T Shirt Transfer paper.  T Shirts printed with pigment inks have much better washability than the one printed with dye based inks.

So Pigment vs. Dye – 2:0

Comparing Print Quality:

This is where dye inks become superior and is the reason why there is such an abundance of dye ink printers. Because the dye inks are totally liquid, they have the ability to create a smoother image with much wider colour sub tones. It is in a way the difference between inkjet and toner (laser) printing. When printing with toner, where colours are dense, the result can appear blotched and the sub tones are not well defined. The old forecast that laser toner printers will overtake inkjet technology, has not materialised as the market realised that for a good photo print, toner, using a powder cannot create a smooth and well sub toned image.

The professionals refer to this as a colour gamut.

So in the same way inkjet images are better than the toner one, the dye inks are better than the pigmented ones when image quality is being measured.

On this comparison, I feel that the dye based inks score much higher than the dye and deserve more than one point

Pigment vs. Dye – 2:1.5

Comparing Compatibility:

The dye-based inks have the easier job to find its best matched inkjet paper.  All inkjet-coated papers will work well with the dye based inks.

The pigment ink may come across some coatings that cannot easily absorb the little pigment particles, causing them to remain on the surface after drying and susceptible to being easily rubbed off.

At Photo Paper Direct, most of our media is compatible with pigment and dye based inks.  The microporous coatings especially, can absorb the pigment particles in the micro pores in the paper coating.

In this instance again, the dye inks have the upper hand in their user friendliness so will score another point

Pigment vs. Dye – 2:2.5


These days, printer manufacturers tend to look for a compromise solution that can have the best of both worlds and mix dye with pigment.  They are trying to achieve a better fade and water resistance and still provide a good colour gamut and sub tones for a perfect looking image.

Well-known desktop pigment inks are the Epson DuraBrite, UltraChrome, HP Vivera,

Some more examples can be found below:

•    Canon BC-23, BCI-3BK, BCI-3EBK, BCI-5BK, and PGI-5BK cartridges use pigmented ink. All other Canon cartridges normally use dye-based ink.

•    Compaq Black cartridges all use pigmented black ink. Colour cartridges use dye-based ink.
•    Dell Black cartridges all use pigmented black ink. Colour cartridges use dye-based ink.

•    HP Black cartridges #21, #27, #56, #92, #94, #96, 51629, C6614, C6615, and 51645 can be filled with either dye-based or pigmented ink, although they originally use pigmented inks.

#88, #10, #11, #12, #13, and #14 black cartridges use only pigmented black inks.
HP Black cartridge 51626A and some other older HP Black cartridges are only available with dye-based inks.

Generally speaking, HP desktop printers use dye-based colours. Only a limited number of Designjet machines use pigmented (UV) colours.

•    Most older Epson cartridges only have a single ink available. The WJ-190 ink we suggest using in most 6-color Epson cartridges is a dye-based black ink, like the original.
Most of the new Epson 4-ink printers originally use Special Pigmented black inks, but can also use the cheaper WJ-190 dye-based black ink.

•    Old Lexmark cartridges of the xxxx620 part numbers use a dye-based ink. All newer Lexmark cartridges use pigmented black ink and dye-based colours.

Let us know in the comments if you found this information useful.

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10 Responses to Comparison Of Dye Inks Vs. Pigment Inks

  1. Ronnie says:

    Very useful comparison thanks. As a t shirt printer I use all the different inks. Dye, toner, sublimation. I have however been a little dissapointed with the regular dye based inks in relation to transfers-wash-fastness and have therefore invested in yet another wide carriage epson which will specifically carry pigment ink only for use with transfers. Nice to see your comments confirming my suspicions that pigment inks are far better in the t shirt industry for regular transfers. Thanks

  2. Joseph says:

    Hi Ronnie,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes pigment inks are better for transfer. Of course there are other parameters that can effect the print quality, such as the application of the transfer, using enough heat , pressure and time, not using bleach in the washing etc.


  3. Sublimation Ink says:

    Thanks for this post.I was going through this post and found it very informative.However i would go with sublime ink as they use heat transfer technology hence the color is prominent also the whole process takes very less time .Any way the post is good.

  4. Pingback: Understanding Giclee Printing | Solopress

  5. James Bell says:


    I know this topic is a few years old but I would like to ask, what type of ink would you recommend for general household printing, letters photos etc, Dye or Pigment. I have a Epson XP-205 all in one printer.


    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi James,

      Most cases it is really down to the ink which works with your printer best i.e. the manufacturer recommended ink. Have you a choice of both? It is quite rare for home printers to have the choice of either.

  6. Julie says:

    Thank you for this.

    For the past few years I’ve used Epson durabrite ink but my printer packed up a few months ago & I got an HP printer for Christmas. I have found the Durabrite ink really expensive & this is one of the reasons I chose an hp printer.

    The hp printer has black pigment ink which isn’t waterproof (I tested it) & the coloured ones are dye based.

    I don’t print photos but I do print emails etc which I don’t want damaged by water.

    Do you have any tips please on how I can protect the emails etc from water damage & also will the items last as long as those printed on a pigment printer?

    I hope you can help me with this as it’s really stressing me out!

    Thanks from the UK.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Protecting the emails from water can occur if you use a water resistant paper which is the 280g photo paper range and in conjunction with the fixative spray. It is not possible to do when printing emails on ordinary paper as the back of the paper is not water proof and any spillage will affect the print. You could always laminate each email you print off but that is something we do not deal with. Thank you.

  7. Nitheesh kumar M says:


    I’m new to the process.I’m looking to print on 100% cotton t-shirts using heat press machine. I’m having Epson L130 printer. Which ink would be suitable for the Cotton shirts. I’ve heard that we can’t use sublimation ink in 100% cotton t-shirts. Please suggest the appropriate ink and transfer paper.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      hi, the ppd range of transfer papers suits any inkjet ink (Dye and pigment based inks). Either will work the same. Thank you.

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