Back when the medium of film was more widespread, serious photographers would take the time to develop their own photos. Shutting themselves into a darkroom, they would go through the series of processes necessary to turn an image exposed onto the filmstrip into a physical print. It could be a time consuming process but if done right, would result in gorgeous photos that could be shared with the world.
Now that digital technology has taken over and many photographers have abandoned film stock forever, you may think that the process of creating prints is a carefree process – a matter of simply uploading images to a computer and clicking the print icon. Any true photographer, however, knows that it takes a little more thought than that, at least if you want to make sure your photos come out exactly the way you intended.
When buying a personal printer for the purpose of photography printing, chances are you’re going to get an inkjet model, as it has the ability to recreate imagery as vibrantly as possible. But what could make all the difference is the kind of ink you settle upon. This usually comes down to two main options – dye-based inks and pigment-based inks.
You’ll probably encounter dye-based inks more frequently when you first start shopping, as they are pretty commonly used in most home printers. This is generally due to the fact that the process is fairly simple, quick, and more cost-effective than anything else. Dye-based inks work by dissolving colouration in either water or glycol so that the ink can transfer easily onto the paper and dry in a relatively short amount of time. Since these inks utilize a wide colour gamut and can print on to a variety of different photo papers, it’s easy to see why they’re the go-to for most home printing. They do have their drawbacks, however – mainly the fact that they are not waterproof and are prone to fading, which is obviously a huge issue for photographers looking to create prints that will last a lifetime.
This is why many professional photographers turn to pigment-based inks. In this process, the ink starts as powder pigments and instead of dissolving, they suspend in a liquid before transferring on to the page. This ensures the ink is much more stable and fade-resistant. It’s estimated that pigment-based prints can last up to 150 years or more without breaking down, meaning your artwork could easily survive a couple of lifetimes. Pigment-based inks are only improving as well, becoming more vibrant by the year and potentially outshining dye-based inks.
So is there any downside to pigment-based inks? The only reason they’re not more widespread is that they do tend to be significantly pricier, turning off some more moderate users. If you can afford it, though, pigment-based inks are going to turn out prints that will make people immediately take notice.
Image source: Fun Times Guide