October 7


Different Inks Used in Wide Format Printing

By Hackworth

October 7, 2014

Aqueous Inks, Dry Sublimation Inks, Ink, latex inks, Solvent Inks, UV Cured Inks

When it comes to color printing, there are several different types of ink that are used. Each of these inks has their own characteristics which offer certain benefits in some areas while perhaps lacking in others. In wide format printing, the types of inks used are very important to get across the message and create the exact type of design that is desired.

What follows are five of the most common types of color printing ink that are used and the differences between them.

Aqueous Inks

These are water-based inks that have two varieties called Dye and UV. The dye inks are mixed with water when applied and then the water evaporates to leave the ink behind. The advantage is the bright colors that it can deliver. However, these types of inks will fade rather quickly under the ultraviolet rays of the sun, so they are best kept indoors. Also, the dye inks are not waterproof either, so they are best used for short terms promotional work.

UV inks are similar to chalk dust that is suspended in the water. When the water evaporates they leave behind the chalk like little dots which then forms the image. They are very resistant to UV rays and will last longer. However, they do not have the color brilliance of dye inks.

Dry Sublimation Inks

You can choose between the aqueous type which is used for desktop and wide format printing and the solvent type which is used from Spectra, XAAR and Konica wide format printing devices. It is not quite inkjet printing, but it is a type often confused with such.

Solvent Inks

These are generally pigment inks which contain dyes, but they do not use water. Instead, they use volatile organic compounds instead that are relatively inexpensive and quite flexible on certain types of surfaces. Solvent inks are waterproof, UV resistant and are very brilliant in terms of the color provided. However, their main benefit is the durability of the ink itself which holds up quite well in all types of conditions.

Of course, the main drawback is the toxic chemicals used in their creation. For consumers, it matters little but in terms of production special care must be taken.

UV Cured Inks

These are inks which are “cured” by being exposed to strong UV-light. They dry quickly which makes them quite appealing to printers and they can be used on a number of different surfaces. Unfortunately, they are also quite expensive as well which makes a costlier proposition for those who want to use such inks for their color printing.

Latex Inks

A new type of ink that can be used on many different surfaces including vinyl, this particular type offers many advantages in that it acts much like solvent inks but without the dangerous toxic chemicals. However, there are chemicals used which are not totally environmentally friendly as well. For many, these types of inks are still new, but offer a lot of promise.

Contact our Color Department for your wide format printing needs: 757-545-7675 or color@hackworth.co.


About the author

In 1991, Hackworth opened its doors as a blue printer. More than 20 years later under the direction of Dorothy and Charlie Hackworth and their son Charles, the business is a full fledged technology and document solutions company.

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  1. Hello
    I found this article while doing research on inks and was intrigued by it. I found it very informative also.
    You mention that wide format and desktop printers use aqueous dye sub ink and I was curious as if there was a true difference in the dye sub inks used in the wide format ones and desktop one ? Could a wide format sub printer use a dye sub ink made for a desktop and vice versa ? Or is that more dependent on the ink manuf and the quality of the ink ? Or is there a true difference in the composition of the inks for each printing format ?
    One more if you got time how are solvent print heads different than non solvent print heads ?
    Thanks for your time and look forward to the informative reply.

    1. Hey Mark!

      Thanks for dropping by our website. Our equipment technician, Lou, had this to say concerning your questions:

      “You always want to go with the manufacturer instructions because the equipment/printer is developed with those products, together at the manufacturers engineering facility. Most of the time using anything other than the manufacturers developed consumables (OEM) will void the printers warranty, if applicable. Also, there is a difference between the desktop printer and large format inks. According to HP, every time the model number on an ink or printheads changes it’s because the chemical composition of the ink changed. I never recommend using refilled ink cartridges for that reason, plus they can leak ink.”

    1. Eco solvent is the green alternative to traditional solvent based inks. One major benefit is that you are not required to have a huge ventilation system to recycle the air in and out of the department to diffuse the fumes. Using soy eco solvent inks can have valuable impacts not only on the environment but also upon human health. Not only do these inks print incredibly well onto recycled paper, but there is a greater ease of removal of these inks from wastepaper during de-inking in the recycling process of paper.

  2. I’m from South Africa and it’s been over six months since my chemical operations training, in ink production. I find the industry very interesting and would love to become a middle man in the industry of inks , sell inks. I just want to know how to get into that kind of business and to whom am I to sell it to?

  3. Hi,
    Nice overview. I only recently learned about Aqueous inks. I think there’s definitely overlap in use-cases between different ink types, and when you go to some retail shops, the sales people have no clue what they are talking about. I won’t name names 🙂
    But yea, cool, straight forward overview. Keep it up!

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