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What's the difference between dye and pigment based inks?

When it comes to creating a perfect print of your work, there are so many variables to consider, and these can take a lot of time and testing to get just right. What paper should I print on? Which finish? At what size? How do I decide which print process?

While all these questions will eventually need an answer, we’ve made one decision easy for you here at Genesis by choosing only to use pigment inks instead of dye-based inks in our Giclée-based printing services. 

Here’s why…

Pigment or Dye Based Inks: The Basics

The critical difference between dye-based and pigment inks is how the colour is suspended within a liquid. The dye-based inks completely dissolve to form a solute (like salt does in water) to create the colour. With pigment inks, microscopic pigments are only suspended in the liquid and don’t fully dissolve (like very tiny grains of sand in water).

With pigment inks, the tiny particles fall and cling to the paper’s surface immediately after printing. This means there’s far less likelihood your print will bleed and smudge than with the waterier dye-based inks. Your print will also be much less susceptible to water damage overall because the tiny ink particles are water-resistant.

So why bother with dye-based inks at all, you ask? Usually, this choice would come down to cost, as dye-based inks tend to be much cheaper than their pigmented counterparts. And, once upon a time, dye-based inks produced more vivid colours when freshly printed. However, with today’s technological advancements, the difference in colour saturation between dye or pigment inks is negligible.

Pigment Inks for Black and White Images

If you’re a black and white photographer, it’s especially beneficial to print with pigment inks because of the better shade gradations they offer (you’ll see much smoother gradients between your grey tones).

Archival Stability

Pigment inks are professional artists’ and photographers’ preferred choice due primarily to their archival purposes. Pigmented inks are much more resistant to UV light, which is vital for the longevity of printed images. To give you a rough idea, you can expect dye-based inks to fade after about 50 years, whereas most pigment inks (if used on their intended paper and kept in a suitable archive condition) can boast to last 200+ years. Easy choice, right?

Services Which Use Pigment Inks