4 Types of Ink for Wide Format Printers

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Most Common Inks for Wide Format Printers


When choosing a wide format printer, the decision is partially made when you decide what type ink you need for the projects you work on. There are different types of ink used in wide format printing, but each ink comes with its own set of characteristics that may or may not be right for your industry. Here are the four most common types of wide format printer inks.

colorful print printed from a wide format printer

1. Aqueous Ink:

Aqueous ink is the most common and most popular type of ink used in wide format printers. It is a type of dye sublimation ink and is used for both desktop and large format printers. As its name implies, aqueous ink is water-based ink and is environmentally friendly. Since it does not emit harmful fumes and requires no special ventilation, the printers can be located anywhere.

colorful poster printed with wide format printer

Pros: easy to use; fast output with high resolution; bright colors on the printed page; quality color reproduction; printers relatively inexpensive.

Cons: special, laminated, paper needed; colors fade quickly if exposed to sunlight; paper and ink more expensive.

Uses: technical documents, digital graphics, professional photography, fine art, indoor signage, short-term outdoor signage and banners, trade show printing, pre-press proofing.



2. Solvent Ink:

Solvent inks contain dyes and are often referred to as pigment inks. The dye is ‘etched’ onto the media’s surface creating a strong bond.

Pros: durable, scratch resistant, cost effective, versatile, waterproof. Can print on uncoated (unlaminated) media. Less expensive than aqueous ink.

Cons: hazardous due to noxious fumes; requires special venting; not suitable for office use; lengthy dry time.

vehicle wrap

Uses: Typically used for outdoor applications like banners, auto graphics, billboards, banners, and adhesive decals.


3. UV Cured Inks

An emerging category of ink. After printing, ink is cured by UV light exposure. UV light hits curable ink transforming it from a liquid to a solid on the substrate.

Pros: dries quickly, less expensive than aqueous ink; durable outdoor images (laminate paper not needed). Can print directly on a variety of materials—wood, metal, ceramic, glass.

Cons: performance not yet reliable on all substrates; expensive, ink can crack if applied to a flexible substrate; ink does not dry flat and gives a matte finish; expensive machines.

Uses: graphic arts, decorating metal, glass, and plastic; automotive and telecommunications industries.


4. Latex Inks and Resin-based Inks

The newest type of ink used on vinyl, paper, fabrics, and polyester. Water-based with a polymer that bonds by heat to the substrate. Similar to solvent inks but no toxic chemicals. Both ink systems use water as the main ingredient with the pigment carrier being either latex or resin-based.

Pros: no extra ventilation needed; durable printing; good for indoor and outdoor applications; quick drying; long-lasting laminate prints.

Cons: printer needs a pre-print and post-print heater; higher energy consumption than other inkjets; some media may buckle under the high heat.

Uses: banners, posters, general display signage and vehicle graphics.


print color circles

The print industry not only relies on the innovation of the wide format printer but also the various types of ink that are used. Each type of ink can offer specific benefits to a certain industry. Do your homework to discover which ink best suits your business market.


Want to learn more?

Would you like to learn more about wide format printers? Check out our Wide Format Pinter Buyer’s Guide.

Are you interested in purchasing a wide format printer? Check out our articles on Leasing vs. Buying a Wide Format Printer or The 5 Factors to Consider Before Buying a Wide Format Printer.

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