Printing your work: Dye vs. Pigment

Many of you are aware … and many of you are not, but ChobeSafari and team had a serious electrical fire at out house last week.  This is why articles are a little slow at the moment.  No one was hurt.  The big issue is serious smoke damage to the house.   For this reason, articles will be a little stretched out for the next few weeks.  In the meantime, I ran across this article by the folks at Red River Paper (they have really good paper for the money) and decided to re-post as many wonder about dye versus pigment ink when selecting an inkjet system.  By the way, my printer and primary computer were destroyed in the fire, so I will be buying knew ‘stuff’ and will report back on my printer selection.

Buddy (the editor)

Many articles have been written about ink and paper, especially now that inkjet printing is becoming a dominant technology from the pro level down to the basic consumer. It seems that the articles we read are good, but usually leave out some important details. What follows is our knowledge on the differences between dye and pigment ink beyond the tehnical details – into what you need to know when deciding on a printer platform.

Decades

The first question to ask is do you need the prints to last decades? Put another way, do you want the prints to last as long as a lab print? If the answer is yes, then you need pigment inks. They are designed to resist fading and will work on a wide variety of inkjet papers. Important note: The big secret in the paper business is that print life from pigment inks is more dependent on the ink than the paper! Despite what you may have heard, pigment inks have fade resistance as a base line characteristic. They don’t magically become fade resistance by being sprayed on the right paper. We would be remiss if we dismissed paper completely. You certainly need to use a high quality sheet of coated inkjet paper for maximum print quality and detail. This paper should be certified to work with pigments and hopefully has an acid free base stock. Examples of pigment printers are the Epson R2880 and Canon Pro9500 MkII.

Seeking for Functionality and Good Looks?

Don’t need fade resistant prints? How about simply great color and detail? Dye inks are for you. They are designed for maximum brightness and color saturation. They will fade much faster than pigment inks. You might use dye inks to print portfolios, graphic design work, greeting cards, and business materials. Generally, you will pay less for a printer that uses dye inks. Some examples are the Canon Pro9000 MkII and the Epson 1400.

A Twist

So that would be the end of the story but for some recent marketing efforts by HP and Canon. HP’s Vivera ink dye system has been evaluated by Wilhelm Imaging Research and these tests indicate print life of over 100 years! Keep in mind that these are dye inks. So what is going on here? Its the paper. Forget what we said about paper in the pigment ink paragraph above. Paper is intimately tied to print life when using dye inks.

The performance of the HP system is anchored to swellable polymer papers such as HP Premium Photo Gloss Plus. This media actually traps and swells around dye inks, insulating them from harmful atmospheric gasses – hence the protection against fade. If you use an HP with Vivera ink and choose not to use their very specific papers you should expect fade in a rather short period of time.

The Canon ChromaPLUS system is the same basic story. You will have to actively seek out and use swellable polymer paper in order to resist fading if you require more than 20 years fade resistance.

To conclude, Red River Paper still recommends pigment inks if you need prints that last decades. Our independent fade testing, and the testing done by manufacturers, shows pigment inks to resist fade on many different types of media.

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