Inkjet Desktop Cartridges Explained

The printer cartridges and inks we all use for our desktop printers on a daily basis contain sophisticated technology behind them and not as simple as some water with colour. When developing the inks, the printer cartridges manufacturers have to consider the printer technology i.e. nozzle, print heads etc, that these will function well and will be able to drop this tiny drop of ink with a maximum precision and without clogging the print head with deposits.

The other factor they have to consider is the way it copes and prints the various media available for the printer. As we know, desktop printers these days are little printing factories and on top of printing simple letter as our old typewriter used to, they print amazing looking photographs with various finishes (satin, gloss, matt), T shirts (Transfer Paper), vinyl stickers and even candles (tattoo paper).

So, now the ink manufacturers have to consider the following:

Longevity – print that won’t fade after few sunny days.

Colour gamut– to be able to deliver a large range of sub colours to provide true colour and especially skin tone.

Compatibility– that the inks will lay well on the paper and won’t smudge.

In short, there are 2 main type of inks used by the large desktop printers, such as HP, Epson, Canon, Lexmark etc.

1st one is the dye based inks – this type of ink is basically water that contained dye to provide the colour and some glycols and other additives to make sure the nozzle remains clear and unclogged.

Pros: this type of ink normally may provide a higher sub colours and tones together with a smoother looking image.

Cons: normally will provide less longevity to the print and may fade faster
if printed on media that suppose to be waterproof, it may not hold very well.

2nd one is the pigment based inks – this ink contains tiny particles in a fluid which are being ejected with the fluid on the media. Again, it contains water and some cleaning agents to keep the printhead clear.

Pros: Longevity, UV resistance & good waterproof.

Cons: Colour definition and sub tones can be reduced. May smudge when of loaded on photo papers such as very dark colours etc.

Now, how this helps us?

The 1st ordinary desktop printer using pigment inks was Epson. Epson printer cartridges have indicate on their printers the name ‘DuraBrite’ or ‘UltraChrome’ these are pigment mixed inks and they combine pigments and dye to get the best of both worlds. Canon is using normally dye based inks, but in some cases they have improved the fading and increase longevity by adding some chemicals, the waterproofness couldn’t be improved. Last, HP and Lexmark have had a pigment black inks to improve the letter typing and the colour where dye based. Recently, HP introduced the Vivera inks which contain pigments as well.


If you are printing a photograph, all of the above will do, but the Canon may provide a better image. For more creative products such as T-shirt iron on paper, stickers for outdoor etc you may want to use pigment based inks such as the Epson DuraBrite.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

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