by Izzy Goodman
Genuine Epson ink cartridges use pigment while all the compatibles we have seen use dye. What exactly is the difference?
Pigment inks contain tiny, encapsulated particles which are not absorbed into the paper but sit on top of it. Dye particles are soluble in the liquid and absorbed into the paper. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. Because pigment is composed of larger particles, large blocks of color may look better while with dye ink, tiny imperfections and spots may be visible. The flip side of this is that very fine detail may render better with dye than with pigment. Dye also tends to yield brighter images. In fact, epson's claria inks and Canon's Chromalife, which are designed for photography, are dye based. Many photographers have e-mailed to say their photos are much better with our dye ink than with epson's pigment ink. You can read these in our Testimonials and also in comments posted on the UglyHedgeHog.com Photography Site. Trusted Reviews ink testing concludes: "Our panel preferred prints produced with ink from a third-party provider over those produced with manufacturer's own products. This is for Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark."
Because pigment sits on top of the paper, it is not subject to the deterioration of dye inks and can last for many years - over 100 according to Epson. However, most dye inks tested will last 25-30 years, which is more than enough for most people's needs. Some newer ones appear to last even longer. The lab subjected the photos to conditions which simulated strong sunlight and other factors which would cause documents and photos to fade. We have photos in our album printed with dye ink on plain paper almost 20 years ago which still look great.
The paper used is also a very important factor. Many people use glossy photo paper. Pigment ink doesn't sit as well on this type of paper and this shortens the print life drastically. So for brighter photos which will last longer, dye ink may actually be better - unless you want to spend a small fortune for genuine Epson ink and their specialty semi-glossy photo paper.
Because pigment inks contain solid particles, they are more prone to cause heads clogs in inkjet printers.
For transfer printing on t-shirts the conclusions are mixed. Dye inks will produce brighter colors. Will pigment inks laster longer on t-shirts? The results are still being debated. For transfer to surfaces such as mugs, pigment ink will not work at all. You need special ink called dye sublimation which is not the same as the standard dye ink in compatible cartridges.