Sublimation Ink Vs. Pigment Ink – Which Ink is Better?

Sublimation ink vs pigment ink both are used in the printing industry, especially in textile printing. The difference between sublimation and pigment ink lies in their formation and how they work during the printing process. Sublimation and pigment ink have their own characteristics, making them suitable for different printing processes and substrates in different situations.

Sublimation Ink Vs. Pigment Ink – Which Ink is Better?

Also, both inks come with their upsides and downsides, and therefore you need to be wise enough while choosing the ink for your project. To help you understand the difference between sublimation and pigment ink, I have composed this guide, Sublimation Ink Vs. Pigment Ink.

Sublimation Ink Vs. Pigment Ink

What Is Sublimation Ink?

Sublimation ink is a unique dye formula that is compatible with the sublimation dye process. Sublimation inks are formed by combining pigment and dyes with special solvents. These solvents quickly evaporate when heat is applied and turn the ink into a gaseous state. The heat and pressure applied in the sublimation process help the ink adhere to the substrate.

Sublimation inks do not require the application of resins or hardeners before the process since they have everything integrated into their formula. They are best for fabrics with a high polymer count. They work best on 100% polyester shirts and other textile items like pillowcases, socks, blankets, towels, bibs, and flags. Also, the Sublimation inks are compatible with mugs, ornaments, PVC sheets, glass, canvas and slate decor, etc. Here are some pros and cons of sublimation Ink:

Pros

  • Sublimation inks are highly compatible with polymer and non-polymer fabrics.
  • Sublimation inks offer brighter color transitions, and the printed substrates give a sleek and superior look.
  • Sublimation inks are pretty easy to use when used with the right sublimation printer.
  • Sublimation inks are scratch-proof and highly resistant to fading, peeling off, and cracking when used in polyester-based substrates.
  • Sublimation-inks have a unique formula that eliminates the need for additives making the sublimation printing process smooth and fast.
  • With sublimation ink you can print complete colored images on any hard substrate.

Cons

  • Sublimation inks require a polymer-based coating on non-textile substrates.
  • They are highly prone to fading when used with low polymer count fabrics.
  • These inks work best for white and light-colored fabrics but require special treatment for dark-colored objects.
  • Sublimation inks are expensive.
  • Sub dyes are highly sensitive to pressure and temperature and do not deliver the best printing result if not provided with precise temperature and pressure.

What Is Pigment Ink?

In pigment inks, opaque and solid pigment particles are suspended in the solvent like water or oil. Pigment inks sometimes also contain additives like resins and waxes that help them adhere to the substrate. Pigments inks are widely used in the printing industry for professional use like magazine printing, photography, and fine arts applications.

Pigment inks are commonly used in different types of substrates like fabrics, different varieties of papers, and PVC sheets. These inks are known for their ability to resist UV and other damaging factors. It makes pigment inks best for banner printing and other advertising applications. Here are the pros and cons of Pigment Inks:

Pros

  • Pigment inks are waterproof and highly resistant to UV and scratch.
  • Pigment inks are inexpensive.
  • Pigment inks are compatible with a wide range of substrates, including paper, PVCs, and fabrics.
  • Advanced pigment ink is available in a wide variety of colors and prints rich in quality.

Cons

  • Pigment inks are not the perfect match for decorative printing like ornaments, cups, bags, etc.
  • Pigment inks lack rich detail and higher color transitions in textile printing.
  • Pigment inks are pretty challenging to handle, especially for beginners.

Which Is Better Sublimation Ink Or Pigment Ink?

Sublimation Ink vs. Pigment Ink, answering this question is pretty hard since both ink types have their own field of excellence. The above discussion reveals that sublimation inks are expensive and have a wider application in the modern print industry. On the other side pigment, ink’s ability to adhere to various substrates makes them suitable for commercial use.

Sublimation inks are more reliable and durable than pigment inks. But sublimation inks are more expensive than pigments inks. Plus, the sublimation printer and heat transfer element add extra cost to the process. Sublimation inks are ideal for textile items like shirts, pillowcases, and flags, while pigments inks are perfect for brochures, banners, and magazines.

Pigment inks use pigment-based colors that reflect light, while sublimation inks contain dye-based colors that focus light. The larger pigment particles in the pigment ink scatter the light, making them lighter. Sublimation inks offer better color transition and are more vibrant and saturated than pigment inks. It makes them perfect for overall printing, while pigment inks are more successful in gradient designs.

Heat Transfer- Sublimation Ink Vs. Pigment Ink

Heat transfer is the process of transferring the digitally printed image to another substrate by applying heat. The image is initially printed on a heat transfer paper that has the ability to after inks to another substrate when heat is applied. Both sublimation inks and pigment inks use different types of heat transfers.

Best Pigment Ink for Heat Transfers

You need high-quality pigment inks for the heat transfer process. The limited flow and ability to stay on top make them perfect for the heat transfer process.
These are some best heat transfer pigment ink.

  • Aomya Ink Refill Kit for its impressive surface tension, specific viscosity, and limited flow formula.
  • DURABrite Ultra Ink High Capacity for ist affordable price, fast-drying formula, and ease of use.
  • E-Z Ink (TM) Compatible Ink for its rich formula, ability to stay on the surface, and competitive price.

Best Heat Transfer Sublimation Inks

Heat transfer is an integral part of the sublimation process, so choosing quality sublimation inks is not very difficult. All sublimation inks are formulated with the requirements of the heat transfer process in mind.
There are some best sublimation inks you can find on the market:

  • Hippo Sublimation Inks are highly compatible with EcoTank Sublimation printers and are named the best sublimation inks.
  • WOKOK Sublimation Ink is ideal for Epson WorkForce sublimation-ready printers and delivers the richest detail and impressively durable prints.
  • A-SUB Sublimation Ink is among the top-quality inks used in industrial-grade sublimation printing.

Best Heat Transfer Papers for Pigment Inks

Heat transfer for pigment inks should be compatible with inkjet printers since pigment inks are used only in inkjet printers. Also, you must look for the temperature and pressure requirement of the heat transfer before buying. You can print on a wide range of substrates like shirts, brochures, PVCs, and pacers using heat transfer paper. These are some best heat transfer papers for pigment ink heat transfer.

  • Jet-PRO SS JETPRO SOFSTRETCH Heat Transfer Paper
  • FABRIC TRANSFERS DARK
  • Iron ON Heat Transfer Paper 3G Jet Opaque

Best Heat Transfer Paper for Sublimation Inks

To make your sublimation rewarding, it is critical to find a high quality sublimation paper. Sublimation papers are available in different sizes and shapes, making them compatible with different printers.
These are some of the best sublimation papers:

  • A-SUB Sublimation Paper
  • Koala Sublimation Paper
  • MECOLOUR Sublimation paper

FAQs

Using pigment inks on sublimation paper is not a good idea. Sublimation inks have a dye-based formula, while pigment inks have solid pigment particles suspended in the solvent. Sublimation papers are made according to the requirement of sublimation dyes, and therefore, they won’t work with pigment inks.

Pigment inks cannot be used for sublimation since they have solid pigment particles suspended in the solvent. In the sublimation process, dyes are converted into a gaseous state, so pigment inks are not compatible with the sublimation process. In heat transfer printing, pigment inks change to liquid form and directly stick onto the substrate surface.

No pigment ink is not the same as sublimation ink. Pigment inks have a different formation than sublimation inks. Sublimation inks use dyes that turn into gaseous form when subjected to heat and pressure. On the other hand, pigment inks have solid pigment particles suspended in the solvent. Sublimation inks are brighter and more saturated than pigment inks since they focus light.

Sublimation inks are used for dye sublimation printing on a wide range of substrates. It is used to sublimate polymer-rich fabrics like shirts, socks, and pillowcases. Also, sublimation ink is used for printing mugs, ornaments, slate decor items, and bags.

Wrapping Up

I’m hopeful that sublimation Ink vs. Pigment Ink guide will help you understand the difference between these two ink types. Both ink types have unique qualities, making them suitable for certain applications, so it is worth researching both types before making a purchase. In general, sublimation inks are more durable and offer better quality prints than sublimation inks. Therefore if you are interested in heat transfer printing, I would highly recommend you choose sublimation inks.

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