Difference Between Sublimation Ink and Pigment Ink

Last Updated on April 23, 2024 by Fredrick Miller

Difference Between Sublimation Ink and Pigment Ink?

When printing t-shirts and other textile garments, consumers like to use either dye sublimation ink or pigment ink to get their results.

Both inks have their unique manner of imparting color to fabrics and other items. There are certain places where one takes precedence over the other.

Because each of them excels in a particular area, you must be careful in selecting which one to use depending on the sort of printing job you do.

The use of the right kind of ink will substantially enhance the overall quality of the items.

On the other hand, selecting the incorrect ink might ruin your work and cause your company to get a negative reputation.

We will talk about the difference between sublimation ink and pigment ink and the factors that influence one is preferred over the other.

Also Read: Best Epson Sublimation Printer 2024

Is Pigment Ink the Same as Sublimation Ink?

No, pigment ink and sublimation ink are not the same.

Pigment ink is a type of ink that uses pigments to create the colors on the printed surface, while sublimation ink uses heat-activated dyes that turn into a gas and bond with a polyester or polymer-coated surface.

Pigment inks are more lightfast and water-resistant than sublimation inks. Sublimation inks are commonly used on polyester fabrics and polymer-coated materials.

Pigment Ink vs Sublimation Ink – Which One is Best?

Sublimation ink:

This is the most often encountered ink for sublimating textile materials that you will come across. It is used to transfer ink from paper to textiles.

Sublimation ink is a water-soluble ink manufactured from raw and natural elements such as plants and certain synthetic ingredients, such as dyes and pigments.

The ink takes on several hues when the colorant is combined with the water.

Difference Between Sublimation Ink and Pigment Ink

Compared to most other dye-based inks, you will discover that this one lasts far longer.

The ink can generate vibrant, bright, saturated, and spectacular colors in picture quality. Prints made with this ink are resistant to breaking, peeling, and washing away when exposed to water.

Also Read: 9 Best Sublimation Ink

Is Sublimation Ink Water Based?

No, sublimation ink is not water-based. It is a type of ink that uses heat and pressure to transfer dye into a material.

It is specially formulated to vaporize at a low temperature and pressure, allowing it to penetrate the fibers of a substrate such as polyester or polymer-coated items.


It is mainly used for heat transfer printing, enabling a pattern to be imprinted on textiles from a piece of paper using dye-sublimation ink.

The heat press machine applies heat and pressure to the dye, causing it to transform into a gas.

The synthetic fibers of the textile then open to allow the gas to pass through. When the colorant is allowed to cool, it becomes encapsulated and adheres to the clothing securely.

In addition to printing fabrics, you may use ink to print on various other materials such as metal, ceramic, fiberboard, and many more.

However, a special coating on the surface is necessary to keep the dye ink adequately and prevent the print from becoming faded and damaged easily over time.

The ink is intended to print on polyester-rich clothing to the greatest extent possible. You can also use sublimation ink for printing photos.

Sportswear, carper textiles, flags, and sailing materials are all excellent complements to this.

Pigmentation ink:

Within pigment ink, there are tiny particles of a colorful substance that contribute to the color of the ink.

These particles are composed of many molecules that form chemical connections with one another that are very stable.

A consequence of this is that the ink is less susceptible to moisture and oxidation.

The enclosed particles do not get entirely absorbed into the printed items but rather stay on top of them.

Because pigment ink has waterproof qualities, it is perfect for printing on dark and light cotton textiles using transfer sheets when utilizing pigment inks.

Most printers with pigment ink give eight ink colors: black, light grey, medium grey, yellow, magenta, light magenta, cyan, and light cyan.

Some printers with pigment ink provide more colors, such as blue and green. When compared to dye inks, pigments have a longer shelf life.

Pigmentation ink
Pigment Ink


Given that pigment inks remain on top of the surface rather than being entirely absorbed or soaked into the surface, cotton and natural textiles are the ideal materials to pair with them.

Polyester materials are not suitable for the application of this kind of ink.

You would require an inkjet printer, a binder, or a heat press machine to fuse the surfaces. When it comes to printing any paper, pigment inks are unbeatable.

Related Articles:

Taking into Account Longevity

Both inks are long-lasting in their respective domains. They both have a long life expectancy of up to 100 years when kept in the dark environment.

In contrast, if bright and outdoor lighting conditions are what you are looking for, sublimation inks are the clear winner in this category.

Pigment Vs Dye Ink: Which Should You Choose?

Even only a few years ago, dye-based inks were the favored printing method because of the wide variety of colors available and the fact that they were less costly.

However, since dye inks are water-soluble, one drop of water may completely undo your hard work.

Because of this, even when dye inks were used, consumers always anticipated something greater.

Then there were colored inks, which were water-resistant and long shelf life. On the other hand, pigment inks have limited color possibilities and do not penetrate deeply into the surface.

Recent advancements in ink compositions have mostly eliminated the drawbacks of both inks’ original formulations.

Dye and pigment ink producers say that their inks are water-resistant, which is not valid.

Even though they promise to last a lifetime, you should only use them on approved papers, textiles, and other hard surfaces.

Pigmented inks are intended for professional users who are unwilling to compromise on quality. Black and white photographers usually prefer such links.

On the other hand, Dye-based inks are intended for enthusiasts who desire a low-cost ink. On the other hand, many professional printers still prefer and are pleased with dye prints.

T-shirt printing using sublimation vs. pigmented inks: which should you choose?

The solution to the issue of how to print t-shirts is not straightforward when it comes to t-shirt printing. Whichever one you choose will be determined by the sort of garment you are working with.

To retain the quality of the items when printing on cotton and natural materials, colored inks will suffice.

However, plan to print on predominantly polyester or hybrid textiles.

Sublimation inks may be a better option than pigmented inks since they adhere to such materials better than pigmented ones.

Also Read: Best Sublimation Printer for Beginners 2024

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best pigment ink printers for fabric?

Epson SureColor P800, Canon PIXMA Pro-100, and Epson SureColor P600 are some of the best pigment ink printers for fabric printing because they produce high-quality and accurate colors on fabric, have a wide color gamut and are specially designed for printing on fabrics.

Can i use pigment ink on sublimation paper?

No, pigment ink is not compatible with sublimation paper and will not produce the desired results.

Can you sublimate with pigment ink?

No, pigment ink is not suitable for sublimation as it does not convert into a gas and cannot penetrate the fibers of the substrate. Sublimation ink is specially formulated for sublimation printing.

Is sublimation ink different to normal ink?

Yes, sublimation ink is different from regular ink as it is specifically designed to turn into a gas and bond with polyester fibers or certain coated surfaces, while regular ink is designed to stay in a liquid form and bond with paper fibers.

How is sublimation ink different?

Sublimation ink uses heat to turn from a solid to a gas, allowing it to bond with the fibers of the material. It is specially formulated to work with specific types of materials and printers.


Dye sublimation ink is becoming more popular in today’s culture.

Dye-based inks are water-soluble substances that are smooth to the touch and have brilliant colors, but they have poor lightfastness.

Lightfastness is the capacity to withstand the fading that occurs due to prolonged exposure to light. This kind of ink can be absorbed by almost all types of paper medium.

 Because they dissolve in water, accidental spills, rain, or simply dampness may quickly destroy prints.

So they are incompatible with outdoor displays or labels that will be exposed to water or other liquids.

Some dye-based inks are combined with solvents to speed up the drying process. Others cover the inks with a layer of varnish to keep them from fading.

Because dye-based inks are very inexpensive, they may help reduce the manufacturing cost.

Leave a Comment