Home Hardware Printers Think Ink: Buyer's Guide To Inkjet Inks
Thursday, January 25, 2007

Think Ink: Buyer's Guide To Inkjet Inks

Often overlooked, printer inks are a key component of the digital darkroom

Dye-based inks are pure liquid color and produce sharper, more vivid prints. They tend to have a wider color gamut, but are more sensitive to humidity and can fade faster than prints made with pigment-based inks. The traditionally shorter life span of dye prints has been improving rapidly, and many dye-based inks now come quite close to matching the longevity of pigment inks.

Both types of inks have come a long way in correcting their respective deficiencies and can be counted on for sharp details and brilliant colors that will last long enough to share with your great-grandchildren. That said, it's important to add that how long your prints last depends on more than just the type of ink you use. What paper you use, where the image is displayed (in or out of direct sunlight) and how it's mounted are additional factors.

A good way of comparing inkjet inks and papers is to look at the research done by impartial third parties. Wilhelm Imaging Research (www.wilhelm-research.com) is a well-known objective organization that tests ink and paper combinations for longevity and stability. Their published results are considered to be the most accurate and consistent in the industry.

The Innovations
Inks have been receiving a lot of attention lately as manufacturers work hard to improve the photo quality of prints, matching and even surpassing the look and feel we were used to getting at professional print labs.

One innovation that has made its way around the industry is the use of five, six or even eight different inks as opposed to the old standard of four. In some printers, red and green inks have been added to the original cyan, magenta, yellow and black to extend the color gamut and allow you to print richer, more varied shades of color. In others, there are blue inks, gray inks, different blacks (one for photos and one for text), and other variations of color that result in brilliant photographs.

Another trend has been individual ink cartridges for a more efficient and cost-effective system of replacing inks that have run out. Advances also have been made in durability and longevity. Nearly all inkjet inks, in combination with the right paper, are expected to last around 100 years without fading too much or shifting in color—which is actually much better than traditional color film prints!




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