There are two main kinds of ink cartridges available for printers today – dye-based ink and pigmented ink. The type that you choose will ultimately depend on the type of printer that you own, however if you are currently looking to buy a printer, these differences may make your mind up as to which model is best for you.
Dye Based Ink
Dye based ink consists of a fully dissolved colorant that is suspended in a liquid cartridge. As the dye is made up of single molecules, this enables it to lay much more flat on the surface of the paper which enables it to appear even more vivid whilst reflecting light much more evenly. However due to the structure of the molecules in this type of ink it is much easier for it to be damaged by UV light than a pigmented ink.
Dye based inks do tend to be better when it comes to how they look overall on a page and their compatibility with ink-jet paper, although they are not as compatible with other things such as premium photo paper and t-shirt transfers. Dye based inks are also substantially cheaper.
Pigmented Ink consists of solid colorant particles that are in powder form and suspended in fluid in a carrier. This type of ink is insoluble and due to it being composed of large molecules (especially when compared to the dye based ink), the reflection of light does not seem as vibrant as it does when dye based ink is used. However the size of the molecules in pigmented ink do enable the print to last for a substantially longer amount of time.
In recent years, pigment based inks have far surpassed dye based inks on terms of fade resistance, water resistance and other factors. It also takes less time for pigmented ink to dry (over 100 times faster than the dye based varieties) and it can be printed on almost all types of paper including premium photo paper and photo transfers. However, pigmented ink does cost a lot more than dye based ink.
Which to Choose?
Whilst most companies will claim that their ink is far superior to that of their competitors, the truth is that they are all pretty much the same. The only differences you may find are a slight change in the amount of additives used in each type of ink which slightly change the final outcome. Each printer you buy will be able to hold a specific type of ink and so it is important that you do not use pigmented inks in dye based ink printers and vice versa. You should only use printer cartridges that contain the ink type that is specified in your printer document.
If longevity is the most important factor that you look for, pigment based inks are the better option for you. However if you need printouts that display brilliant colors, dye based inks are the better option (and the option that you will find in most color inkjet printers today). If you are only printing in black and white, you may find that the other benefits offered by pigment based inks make them the best choice, and so you should make sure that your black ink cartridge contains pigment based ink when purchasing.
The type that you ultimately choose will depend on the type of printer that you own and the type of printing that you plan on doing.