Image Permanence: Inks

Make sure your paper is compatible with your inks.
Dyes can interact chemically with coatings on papers. You should always make sure a paper is compatible with your inks. Many dye-based inkjet prints are susceptible to rapid, unpredictable chemical fading caused by oxidations from air pollution, especially in standard glossy or semigloss papers.

Dye-based inks are less lightfast and chemically stable.
Dye-based inks are less expensive than pigment inks and tend to have larger color gamuts, but they are less stable. Early dye-based inkjet prints faded very rapidly—in months, but newer dye-based inks have much greater fade resistance—25 years or more when displayed under glass. Archival dye-based inks are more stable than ordinary dye inks, except when used on coated papers.

Pigment inks are much more lightfast and chemically stable.
They are made with tiny, undissolved particles suspended in a solvent. Although they are more expensive, pigment inks have lifetime estimates of 80 to 200 or more years.

  • Pigmented inks are more resistant to fading and are not affected adversely by inkjet coatings.
  • Epson is currently the only supplier of pigment-based inkjet printers, but several independent ink manufacturers supply pigment inks: Luminous, Lyson, Media Street and MIS.
  • Pure pigment inks have a difficult time achieving high Dmax (deep blacks). Consequently, dyes are often added to pigmented inksets. Fortunately, black dyes tend to be more stable than colored dyes. Pigment inks that have zero dye components offer the most stability.
  • Cheap third party inks should be avoided completely. According to Henry Wilhelm, who wrote the book on print longevity (Permanence and Care of Color Photographs), none of the cheap third party inks have decent longevity and often clog print heads.

Not all third party inks fall into the “cheap” class. Several have been formulated for high quality, longevity, and/ or excellent B&W performance.

In the past several years Epson developed a unique micro-encapsulated technology for pigmentbased inks in which each pigment particle is coated in resin, yielding an increased color gamut while retaining the excellent longevity characteristics of pigment inks.

This technology has resulted in an inkset called UltraChrome™, which has become the de-facto standard for the most discerning professional photographers who seek the highest image quality combined with the greatest print permanence.

UltraChrome™ inks deliver outstanding image quality and print permanence on a wide variety of papers, allowing end-users more flexibility and greater creative expression.