Think Ink: Buyer's Guide To Inkjet Inks
Often overlooked, printer inks are a key component of the digital darkroom
When shopping for a photo printer, you'll probably consider physical dimensions, print speeds, resolution and droplet size, plus extra bells and whistles such as a built-in card reader and LCD, all of which are important. Some of these features enhance the usability of the printer, while others affect print quality.
Just as essential are the inks you use with your printer. Inks aren't particularly sexy or alluring like that sleek and shiny printer, but as with the paper you choose, they have a dramatic effect on the look and longevity of the prints you'll make.
While you'll see great results by using the recommended inks for your printer, there's also a selection of high-quality inks available from third-party ink manufacturers. In some cases, these alternatives may be cheaper, more advanced or have other benefits.
As you browse through the vast selection of inkjet inks, you'll notice that some are dye-based and others are pigment-based. The basic differences between the two are a result of their chemical make-up. Pigment-based inks are comprised of microscopic grains of color that can't be dissolved in liquid, so they just float around in a state of colloidal suspension. Pigment inks traditionally have had a subtler color palette with slightly lower contrast. The upside is that pigments are known for being resistant to damage and fading caused by exposure to light or humidity. They're estimated to last in the hundreds of years. For some subjects, especially when combined with archival artistic papers, the effect might be perfect.