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I'm looking to get a new printer, and I don't know whether there's any advantage in using pigment inks for my photos. I currently have an Epson Stylus R300 using Epson "seahorse" inks (which I believe are dye inks).

I've read the question "Paper for Pigment vs Dye Inks?", so I know that I may need different paper.


If I use pigment inks, can I expect my prints to look better? Or to be more durable?

Are there any drawbacks associated with using pigment inks? For instance, are they any more or less prone to clogging than dye inks if I don't use the printer for a couple of months?

And will I be able to switch between dye and pigment inks in the same printer?


If it matters, I'm currently considering an Epson 1500W, with third-party refillable inks. And I'll drive it via CUPS, on Linux.

  • The Epson 1500W is designed for dye-based inks. I would be very wary of putting pigment-based inks through it. They may clog the print head. – Mick Nov 4 '16 at 12:21
  • Even when they are sold together? – Toby Speight Nov 4 '16 at 14:03
  • Epson do not mention pigment inks on their website. The Claria ink-set is dyed based. I wouldn't trust Amazon to get it right, and I'm not sure that those are OEM inks being sold with the printer. – Mick Nov 4 '16 at 14:10
  • No, I'm pretty sure those are not OEM inks. Even with Sale of Goods Act guarantees, I'll assume caveat emptor and give this a miss! – Toby Speight Nov 4 '16 at 14:14
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Pigment-based inks are supposed to be more fade resistant than dye-based inks. However, they can have drawbacks. I used to have an Epson Stylus Photo 2100 printer, which used pigment inks. I was delighted with the image quality, but not so delighted when I found out that it wouldn't print well on semi-gloss stock, and not at all on gloss. Prints only looked really good on matte stock, but Epson's advertising blurb coyly omitted that fact. Make sure that the printer will print on all the paper types that you intend to use, including third-party papers. I have given up on pigment-based inks for that reason.

Ask to see sample prints for all different types of print stock and check for bronzing, especially with black ink.

The Epson 1500W is designed for dye-based inks. I would be very wary of putting pigment-based inks through it. They may clog the print head. In fact, I would be very wary of using third-party pigment inks at all, since they can be extremely substandard. I did this with my Epson 2100 and the yellow channel clogged immediately. The printer is now sitting, useless, in my garage.

Pigment inks are very difficult to manufacture. The particle sizes have to be small enough to pass through a printhead without clogging it. Unfortunately, as the particle sizes are made smaller, the ink becomes less intense (and more transparent). Pigments need to be extremely brilliant to overcome this effect and third-party manufacturers may be tempted to not grind substandard pigments finely enough to pass through printheads reliably.

Good quality pigment inks with extremely fine particle sizes will appear to be almost transparent when viewed in a transparent container. If they appear to be opaque, don't use them. If they come in opaque containers, decant them before using them. I ignored the fact that my third-party yellow ink was not transparent and immediately had cause to regret it. Caveat Lector.

P.S. Pigment-based inks used to have a smaller colour gamut than dye-based inks, but with modern ink technology, that may no longer be the case. In the end, it's a trade-off between permanence and other desirable qualities.

  • *matte (not matt) - third sentence. – Cullub Nov 4 '16 at 14:04
  • Looks like I'll stick with dye ink, and continue using a local or mail-order print shop for "permanent" works. Thanks for the advice. – Toby Speight Nov 4 '16 at 14:08
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If I use pigment inks, can I expect my prints to look better? Or to be more durable?

Original pigment inks from major manufacturers give more archival prints.

Are there any drawbacks associated with using pigment inks? For instance, are they any more or less prone to clogging than dye inks if I don't use the printer for a couple of months?

Pigment prints on ultra high gloss paper (foil) do not look as good as dye based prints, Ilfochromes or Fujiflex RA4 prints. Clogging may be a bigger issue, but it strongly depends on the printer and ink set. For example my Epson 3880 is jus fine.

And will I be able to switch between dye and pigment inks in the same printer?

No, but there is no reason.

  • Would you say that Epson have fixed the problems that I described with my 2100 (with OEM inks)? – Mick Nov 4 '16 at 16:08
  • @Mick No problem printing on semi gloss (e.g. Hahnemuhle baryta papers, Epson Exhibition Fiber etc.) with the glossy black ink. Bronzing is visible on glossy papers, pearl is fine, IIRC. I have a plenty of Ilford Galerie Smooth Gloss and I use it for previews and less important prints. It is not terribly bad, just not exhibition quality. I suppose if you take the time and inspect the prints very, very closely, you will find some signs of bronzing everywhere, but I don't see it as a practical problem except glossy and high gloss surfaces. – MirekE Nov 4 '16 at 16:42

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