What Is Pigment Ink

pigment ink image

What Is Pigment Ink

Inkjet printers use a variety of ink types, and if you’re reading this you probably what to know just what is pigment ink, and why should we care.  If there was a simple explanation it would be pigment ink is the preferred ink for professionals such as photographers and fine art dealers/printers.  If you are looking for a more scientific answer, pigments are solid, opaque particles suspended in ink to provide color.

Since there is more to this topic than a simple, one-sentence definition, this blog is going to tell you more about pigment ink printers, how they are used, and who uses them.  We will spare you a history lesson on ink and leave that up to the folks at Wikipedia.

Pigment and Dye-based inks are both part of the aqueous family of printers.  Aqueous simply means water-based.  These types of inks differ from solvent, latex, and UV style prints, they use different printers and different media.  Each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses.  One should also be mindful of the desired type of printing to be done.  For example, a print shop that does vehicle wraps needs the right kind of printer, ink, and media combination or it could be a costly mistake.

Who Uses Pigment Ink Printers

photographer checking photosThese printers aren’t your ordinary home or dorm use inkjet printer (most of those are dye-based, in case you were wondering).  Many users are in professional settings and need high-quality images to be used in personal or professional settings.  Just a few examples are Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Photographers, Graphic Artists, Sign/Banner Print Shops, Marketing/Advertising Departments, Museums, and Retail Spaces just to name a few.

No matter what industry you are in, be sure to consider the type of printing you will be doing before purchasing a printer.  If you aren’t sure which type of printer is best for you, please check out our printer selection tools to see which type of printer best suits your needs and budget.

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Pigment inks are known to be scratch resistant, stand up to UV rays better/longer, have water-resistant properties (even more so when paired with water-resistant media or coating/laminate) and last for a long time (known as archival prints).

Canon’s Lucia ink formulation has overcome the limitations of pigment technology and is able to produce high-end images for professionals with exacting standards.  There are multiple versions of the Lucia ink: EX, PRO, and TD, and each is carefully designed to exceed the user’s expectations.


Early versions of pigment inks struggled to produce consistent color and achieve a color gamut previously found with dye-based inks.  Some ink manufacturers still have problems with bronzing and metamerism, affecting qualities such as hue, saturation, and lightness depending on the type of pigment and the source from which it’s purchased.

Though pigment inks are awesome for indoor use, their outdoor life expectancy isn’t as strong.  Prints that are laminated or treated/sealed can last longer outdoors, but if the lions share of your print jobs are outdoor banners, a solvent or latex type ink may be a better match.

Canon pigment ink printers are being used in many professional settings, some of which are outdoor applications that can last up to 6 months!


Opportunities are everywhere for prints made with pigment-based inkjet printers.  The protective properties of the ink itself can be paired with specially designed media for an even longer-lasting, eye-catching image.  Specialty media includes canvas, vinyl, adhesive-backed, photographic, metallic, polypropylene, bond, and many more.

The same printer can handle a variety of jobs, everything from photographs, to signs, banners, displays, and technical drawings like architectural plans and renderings, all without changing ink or print heads.  The biggest opportunities are the low cost to purchase a pigment-based ink printer and the low cost to operate.

Have we mentioned how easy all this is to use?


Threat sounds aggressive, and it may not be the best word to describe the situation, but that’s what we are rolling with.  The biggest negative factor about pigment inks is they typically cost more than dye-based inks.  Granted, the cost is usually just a few pennies per milliliter, but it is higher none the less.  Learning more about how print is used in your industry will help you decide if pigment ink or dye ink works best for you.

It’s common practice for someone to refill ink cartridges in a home printer.  That same mentality should not be used in reference to a professional printer.  Generics, refills, and counterfeits are easily available online but are known to cause less than stellar image quality, can damage printers and components, and may not have the same archival properties as genuine inks.   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

Though it may not be ink related, it would be irresponsible of me to ignore the threat known as local competition.  Because of the low cost, many people now have a printer in-house.  That fact may impact your business and production, especially if you are still outsourcing.

If you are interested in learning more about the print industry or how print relates to your industry, please subscribe to our blog.

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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. I use a hp designjet 500ps
    The black is hp10 pigment
    The colour is hp82 dye based
    What would be the best paper for photo/prints

    • Ron Rodgers on at

      Richard, that printer is capable of printing photographs, but it was designed for line drawings like blueprints for architects. You can load a photographic media (paper) that is compatible with aqueous inks/printers into that printer and it will print your photograph. The problem you will have is dye inks fade quickly and your color matching will not be strong. You are only combining 4 colors as opposed to a printer that was designed for printing photos using 8, 10, or 12 colors. Also, that printer is quite aged meaning it may not be compatible with new computer operating systems in the near future.

  2. Jeremy Reynolds on at

    Looking for the guide and I see this where I think a link to the guide is supposed to be. [activecampaign form=54]

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