Understanding Large Format Plotter Ink Types: Aqueous Dye And Aqueous Pigment

In the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, large format printing is an everyday task. Blueprints, technical drawings, and renderings need to be reproduced accurately and reliably using the right type of printing.


The most common printer in the AEC office is the aqueous inkjet printer: A larger, commercial version of the home desktop printer. Aqueous ink refers to any ink that uses water as a carrier fluid, which evaporates as the ink dries. Only a small amount of nontoxic passive components are added to the ink, so this allows for safe, nontoxic, and environmentally friendly printing in the office. Aqueous inkjet printing can be further differentiated by the ink types used: aqueous dye ink and aqueous pigment ink. Which to use simply depends on what you will be printing.

The golden rule is to never waste any time. The faster the print job, more time can be spent on core activities. Two areas to look out for, whatever architectural printer you choose, are:


  • The time the printer takes to warm up from standby mode to begin printing.
  • The time it takes to complete the first and subsequent prints, known as “throughput time”.

Speed is often listed in terms of images per minute (IPM) and pages per minute (PPM). For large format printers, PPM is typically given in terms of A1 sheets, as opposed to A4/letter sheets in standard printers.

Aqueous dye ink: the standard for plotters

In aqueous dye based ink, the dye acts as a colourant that is soluble in water. The ink is then absorbed by the print media (usually paper) during printing. Dye inkjet printers are able to produce extremely fine lines—akin to 0.2mm pencil lines in drafting—and can output detailed technical drawings with high precision. Hence, the typical plotter printer in the AEC office uses dye ink.

Advantages of a dye ink printer

Imagine making several rounds of changes to the 3D model in preparation for a tender submission. When reviewing the prints, you discover that several layers were not printed as intended, because the printer driver, or the printer, is not compatible with your 3D application. With the number of CAD platforms used, this scenario is very plausible.


While some CAD platforms are widely used within the AEC industry, there is none that can meet every requirement or purpose. Accordingly, not all of these will be compatible with your chosen large format printer.

Makes work much easier

Aqueous pigment ink: ideal for presentations

In aqueous pigment based ink, coloured pigment particles are suspended in water much like chalk paint. While the print dries during and after printing, the water evaporates and leaves the pigments adhered to the paper surface.

Advantages of a pigment ink printer

No project is safe from delays. There are multiple reasons for downtime, from remoteness or inaccessibility of field sites, or sudden bad weather. Connectivity in such places may be fair at the best of times, but it can disappear in a second. In such situations, hard copy is always reliable and dependable.


Today, large format printers are more cost-effective than ever, producing documents with higher resolution and colour fidelity. The right ones can help you do more than you can imagine.

Unfortunately, dye and pigment inks are not interchangeable with their respective printers. You cannot use pigment ink in a dye ink printer or vice versa, as the print head is optimised differently for each ink type – and you may damage your print head by doing so.

How aqueous-dye and aqueous-pigment printers complement each other

It’s common to find both aqueous-dye and aqueous-pigment inkjet printers in the AEC office, as they each have their unique and complementary applications.


The dye-based plotter printer is an essential piece of equipment for AECs, which rely on plans and drawings with highly accurate detail. On the other hand, a pigment-based printer can be invaluable if you need larger format and higher-resolution outputs, from GIS maps to gallery-quality renderings.


If you have the budget and the space, invest in both to help grow your business. By getting a reliable dye-based plotter printer with strong print management capabilities on site, teams can work more efficiently and reduce ambiguity while delivering projects. Additionally, by using a pigment-based printer to present maps and renderings to clients, you can further enhance your brand’s reputation for quality.

Considering a printer for your large format printing needs?

Speak to an HP representative


  1. Wilhelm Imaging Research, HP DesignJet Z9+ Printer – Preliminary WIR Print Permanence Ratings, 8 February 2020

  2. 88% of prints are for review and collaboration on plain media, based on a survey conducted by HP and HP customer interviews.

Book a demo

While we can’t meet in person, why not to attend a live product demo or join live presentation from our experts.


To schedule it in advance, simply click the corresponding button below.

Request your sample kit

Are you interested in seeing for yourself our print samples? Request your sample kit from our selected range.
Let us help you unlock your customers’ imagination and grow.

Contact an HP sales expert

Our sales representatives are here to help. Submit the following form and an HP-authorized representative will contact you by phone or email. Our experts can advise you on the best printer to suit your needs and inform you about our latest trade-in program.

Virtual Booth
Switch to another region