Sublimation Ink VS Pigment Ink | Which Ink is Better for Printer?

When it comes to printing processes, there is much to discuss regarding sublimation ink vs pigment ink used in the different printers. Print patterns on T-shirts and other textile apparel with pigment inks and sublimation inks, since both kinds of inks, offer various colors.

Both the inks have extreme excellence, so you must be more careful in choosing the right type of ink to deal with. Opting for the correct type of ink can take your printing tasks to the next level and improve. On the flip side, going for the wrong can ruin your all jobs and cause a bad reputation in the business.

So in this post, we will discuss all sublimation ink vs pigment ink in detail, so if you want to make yourself literate, keep reading this article.

Sublimation ink

The ink most commonly used in textile products is sublimation ink, which transfers ink from paper onto the surface of fabrics. Sublimation ink is a water-soluble compound and contains raw and organic materials like some kinds of synthetic materials and plant extracts. When the colour is mixed in the water, it gives the ink colours.

Compared to other ink options in dye-based inks, sublimation inks offer long-lasting results. It gives vivid, saturated, vibrant and photo-quality prints. The prints with this ink can easily hold peeling and cracking and are washable with the water with ease. Also, Read this: Sublimation VS Heat Transfer

Unlike sublimation inks, which come with the clear overcoating ink, sublimation ink comes with a Cyan Magenta yellow overcoating. Due to this reason, the printed substrate is saved from the air, moisture, and UV rays.

Since the molecules in sublimation inks are so tiny, they produce brilliant and well-saturated ink patterns and colours. The ink is the best option for the ink jet printers because the dye does well work with these printers. For the printing of regular documents, dye ink is suitable for ink jet printing to print paper photo colours and PVC cards and is a more economical option than pigment ink.

Use of sublimation ink

The sublimation inks are used in the heat transfer prints that offer to print a design or pattern on the textile substrate from paper. In the press machine, heat and pressure cause the dye to change into a gas. Once the fabric’s synthetic fibres open, the gas can enter; the colour then sticks to the fabric when it cools.

Aside from the printing purposes in textiles, the sublimation inks can be well used to print ceramics, metals, fiberboard and many other materials. However, there is a particular need for coating on the other type of material to hold the ink firmly to avoid cracks and fading down.

To get the best results from sublimation inks, layout design on polyester-rich apparel. In addition, carper fabrics, sportswear and sailing materials can work perfectly with this ink. Check this Best Sticker Printer

Pros of sublimation ink

  • A small amount of light is diffused
  • Offer vibrant and bright colours
  • Economical in use
  • Variety of colour options
  • Waterproof
  • Long-lasting
  • Colours do not fade and crack, peel off and wash off

Cons of sublimation

  • Ink is very sensitive to oxidation and humidity

Pigment Ink

Pigment ink comes with minuscule particles of coloured material that offer colour on the surfaces. The particles are made with many molecules bound together to produce very stable chemical bonds. So the pigment ink is less sensitive to oxidation and humidity than sublimation.

Instead of completely dissolving on the surface, the particles remain at the top of printed substrates and objects. The pigment ink has waterproof properties, so it is best to use dark and light cotton materials with transfer paper. In the pigment ink printer, the prints are available in eight colors: dark gray, light grey, black, cyan, and light cyan. Check this Best Sublimation Printer for T-Shirts

Compared to the dye inks, the sublimation inks are much longer-lasting. One of the drawbacks of pigment ink is that it does not have the same appearance if you see it from different angles. You can have greenish and bronze colour casts from different sides and under lighting conditions.

Pigment inks are susceptible to metamerism, which can shift colours in different lighting conditions. Due to the large size of pigment particles, they cannot sit on the surface. So the inkjet receptor offers the ink to attach to the substrate surface that comes in the high price range.

Use of Pigment Ink

As mentioned above, the pigment ink stays on the top of the surface where it is applied and does not absorb into the characters, so other natural fabrics and cotton are the best for this ink. Polyester fabrics do not give better results with this ink.

You will need an inkjet printer or a binder-like heat press machine for bonding on the surfaces with this ink, as when it comes to printing documents, nothing is compatible with the pigment inks.

Pros of pigment ink

  • More resistant to humidity and light
  • More stable than sublimation and other dye options
  • Looks vibrant on cotton and natural fabrics

Cons of Pigment Ink

  • Offer less bright colours
  • Reflects the light due to bigger size particles
  • Changes the look if used on glossy paper and polyester fabric
  • Higher cost

Sublimation Ink VS Pigment Ink Which is the best for T-Shirt Printing

When it is a matter of printing on the T-shirts, there is no correct answer which one to choose for. Because it all depends on the fabric, you are using for the printing.

So if you want to print on blended fabrics, polyester use of sublimation ink is an excellent option because it sticks on the material well and gives better results.

While for cotton and natural fabrics, using pigment ink is excellent enough to maintain the quality results in printing, thus giving you bright colours.

Tips and Precautions for Better Prints

For Documents

  • Do not change the ink during the task
  • Print with suggested ICC profiles to have a consistent image quality for sublimation and pigmented inks
  • Use the recommended inks only. The printer will clog up if you use the pigment ink in a printer that is good for dye inks
  • Do not opt for high-resolution prints.
  • Test for the print quality that you need
  • While doing barcodes and data matrix, keep the resolution high
  • Do not leave the cartridges of ink open; they will catch dust and debris very easy
  • Continue to use the cartridge until you get the notification for the running out of inks
  • Clean the nozzles of the ink after every few weeks to offer the printer for avoiding clogging and free spray outs

For Garments

  • To ensure the ink-saving purpose, switch to ink-saving mode as is the demand for less expensive printing
  • Use high-quality transfer paper to absorb the proper amount of ink during printing. Low-quality transfer papers try to absorb inks unnecessarily
  • Do not switch off the printer between the two batches of T-shirt printing. Because if you turn off and turn on the device again, it will waste the amount of a significant amount of ink
  • Make sure the repair and periodic repair and maintenance of the printer to ensure the working of the printer well

Frequently Asked Questions

Dye sublimation or thermal transfer produces a superior image over pigment ink or colour resin printing.

It is not a good option to use the sublimation ink for regular printing because most models of printers do not use the sublimation ink.

The ink used for the sublimation is very special, known as disperse dyes, commonly known as dye-sub inks because it is a chemical process.


So it is clear from the facts mentioned above that both the links are at the higher end in terms of performance depending upon the requirements and purpose. It would help if you planned whether to go for the sublimation or pigment inks. Sublimation ink is the best option if you own a T-shirt business on polyester fabric. However, if you deal with pigmented ink suits and cotton fabrics, the pigment ink would be the best deal, as the same goes for printing documents. 

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