What Is Dye Ink

dye ink image

What Is Dye Ink

When looking into printers, one question that comes up often is what is dye ink.  As a matter of fact, you may have found this blog by typing that exact question into your search bar.  Inkjet printers (sometimes referred to as aqueous printers) typically have either pigment ink or dye ink, and in this article, we will be talking about the dye-based inks.

For a complete history lesson on the evolution of ink and its many varieties, Wikipedia is a great resource, but for our purposes, we are going to skip all that and get right to the details that are important to you.  To answer the question of what is dye ink, it’s a type of ink that is commonly found in small, personal use printers which also includes home office printers and dorm room style printers, and some professional large format printers.

Dye-based ink has limited uses in professional settings.  That is not to say it can’t serve a purpose in a business environment, we’re just saying other types, like pigment ink may be better suited to specific industries.  Always be mindful of the desired type of printing and the end use of the printed image.

Who Uses Dye Ink Printers

books and tablet imageAs previously mentioned, dye printers are typically found in the home, dorm room, or small office settings like a home office.  Large format dye ink printers have found a home in the Architecture, Engineering, and Contractor offices.  The reason these printers are attractive in those fields is because of their low cost to purchase, and the supplies are low cost as well.

If you aren’t sure which type of printer best fits your personal or business needs, please use our printer selection tools to learn more about the type of printer best fits your use application and budget.

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What You Need To Know About Dye-Based Inks


For general office documents or school assignments, these printers are perfect.  Dye ink has been known to produce a wider color gamut than other types of ink, so color matching is strong.  That being said, dye-based inks are affected by variable conditions as you will read in the sections to come, so to consider this a strength may be inaccurate based on the industry and usage.

When paired with the proper type of media (paper/substrate) dye ink can produce prints that are of high quality.  Additionally, dye is typically lower cost per milliliter than other forms of ink, the cost savings may only be a few pennies per ml, and keep in mind you may be losing more than you are getting by saving a few pennies/dollars.  Buyer beware, you get what you pay for!


Despite being lower cost, dye inks have some limitations.  First, they are susceptible to influence from water, UV rays, and scratching to name a few.  Images that are vulnerable to fading, scratching, or discolored are harder to sell to customers that are looking for long life prints.  Types of images that may need a long life are technical drawings that will be kept on file in a city’s hall of records, photographs with the intent of being passed down for generations, fine art replicas, or museum pieces.

Inkjet printers are known to be “media-dependent” meaning an image printed on the wrong type of media (paper/substrate) won’t look professional or high resolution.  Additionally, dye inks have a tendency to soak into papers leaving edges that are not sharp and can bleed into other spaces or colors.

Lastly, the archival properties of dye inks are not that great, so in settings where a long-life print is desired, dye-based inkjet printers are not a good choice.


For settings where prints don’t need to last long, dye inks are adequate.  Examples include home/home office, dorm room printers, technical/CAD drawings (formerly known as blueprints), and short-term indoor signage (just a few days or weeks).  In those settings, a dye-based inkjet printer can produce fast, low-cost prints that will serve their purpose well.


Using dye inks may work for the short term, but anyone who tries to pass off a dye-based print as an archival image can damage their industry reputation.  Photographers and print shops specifically may choose to avoid dye ink printed images because a print is their reputation on paper.  An image that fades, scratches, or is discolored or blurred can certainly hamper the quality of the captured/created image and lead people to do business with your competitors.

Many discount substitutes for ink tanks are available online, and it can be tempting to purchase cheap refills or generic dye ink tanks.  Before making those purchases, understand the printed image depends on 4 factors: original image, printer, ink, and media.  Because ink plays a vital role in the process, genuine ink produced by the manufacturer is the safest bet.  Using counterfeit ink can lead to more than just poor image quality, you may damage your printer or printhead.

It’s understandable to try and save a few dollars where you can, but is it worth the risk?  Look at the cost of a new printhead or even a new printer.  If a bad ink cartridge gets put into your printer, how much will it cost to repair or replace?  Buyer beware… you get what you pay for!   For more information on the threats associated with using cheap, generic, compatible, or refill inks, please see our article on why it’s important to use genuine Canon ink in your printer.

Closing Thoughts

There is nothing wrong with a dye ink printer or a dye-based printed image, but if one of your customers are involved, think about their use of the printed image as well as their expectation.  Professional environments like photographers, museums, print shops, and graphic designers should avoid dye-based printers and inks and consider a pigment-based printer model.

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About Ron Rodgers

Ron Rodgers is an Imaging Ace & Print Industry Hotshot with a passion for helping people turn print into profit! Aside from being the founder of ProPrinting Systems, he is a marketing machine, funtrepreneur (like entrepreneur but more fun), blogger, YouTuber, podcaster, musician, husband, father, sales expert, and all-around nice guy.


  1. printableplanner183695 on at

    I have a “home grade” printer that uses dye ink for colour, and pigment based ink for black print. I print some of my textbokk pages, many of my note pages, and planner pages as well. All used kind of efemer (no need for storing them for decades), and I take notes on all of them. Once I hit the paper either with a “classic” eraser or with a friction pen eraser, the black pigment smudges very badly, it looks disgusting, but colour prints remain untouchd and crisp. I tried different quality papers to no avail. What printer shoud I buy to get the non-smuge quality from both colour and black ink?

    • Ron Rodgers on at

      Thanks for the question. It may be difficult to answer though. The best approach may be to upgrade to a professional printer model.

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