Plotter printers

Which Ink Reigns Supreme? Inkjet vs. Dye-Sublimation for Large Format Printing

Professionals and firms can now produce high-quality prints in various sizes thanks to the advancements in large format printing. However, the ink used in this process plays a vital role in achieving desirable results. Dye-sublimation vs. inkjet are two of the most commonly used ink types in large format printing.

While they have unique advantages and disadvantages, it can still be challenging to determine which ink is better for a specific print job, even for professionals. To make the best decision, it’s important to understand dye-sublimation vs. inkjet inks.

Understanding the Role of Inkjet in Large Format Printing

In large format printing, inkjet technology produces large-scale prints, like banners and posters. The technology has made it possible to create high-resolution images with exceptional detail and colour vibrancy. Inkjet printers can handle various printing materials, including vinyl, fabric, and paper.

The Composition of Inkjet Ink

The inkjet ink's composition can vary depending on the ink type and the manufacturer. However, most inkjet inks have the following key components:

  • Colourants: These are the pigments or dyes that colour the ink. Colourants can be organic or inorganic compounds chosen for their brightness, hue, and lightfastness.
  • Solvents: These liquid components dissolve the colourants and help the ink flow through the printer's nozzles. They can be water-based, oil-based, or a combination of both.
  • Binders: These help the ink adhere to the printing material and form a durable image. Binders can be natural or synthetic. Manufacturers select different options for their adhesion properties.
  • Additives: These modify the ink's properties and improve its performance. Examples of additives include surfactants, which help the ink spread evenly on the printing material, and humectants, which prevent the ink from drying out.

Manufacturers formulate the inkjet ink to ensure optimal printing performance and image quality. In addition, the composition can vary depending on the printer's intended use.

For example, inks used for printing on glossy paper may contain more solvent to prevent the ink from smudging. On the other hand, inks used for printing on fabric may have more binder to improve the ink's washability.

When Is It Best to Use Inkjet in Large Format Printing?

The decision to use inkjet technology in large format printing will depend on your specific printing needs, budget, and the printer available. However, some of the situations where using inkjet may be suitable include:

  • When you require high-quality prints with excellent colour accuracy and detail
  • If you are printing a wide range of printing materials like canvas, vinyl, fabric, and paper
  • Businesses or individuals with a lower printing volume as they are more affordable
  • If you are producing small to medium print sizes like banners

It's best to consult a printing expert to determine your project's best printing technology and ink type.

Dye-Sublimation vs. Inkjet: How Is Inkjet Better Than Dye-Sublimation?

Inkjet printers can print on a wider variety of materials than dye-sublimation printers, including fabrics, paper, and rigid materials, by using a printer like the HP Latex R1000 Printer. They can also handle larger print sizes than dye-sublimation printers. Some inkjet printers can print up to 100 inches wide, while most dye-sublimation printers have a limit of around 44 inches wide.

Additionally, the startup cost of using an inkjet printer is lower than dye-sublimation. Inkjet printers are also suitable for small quantities of prints, making them ideal for large-volume printing than dye-sublimation.

Understanding the Role of Dye-Sublimation Ink in Large Format Printing

Dye-sublimation ink transfers dyes onto a substrate, such as a polyester-based material. The process involves printing the image onto transfer paper using dye-sublimation ink and then transferring the image onto the substrate using heat and pressure.

The Composition of Dye-Sublimation Ink

The composition of dye-sublimation ink varies depending on the manufacturer. But most dye-sublimation contains the following components:

  • Dyes: They create the vibrant and durable colours in the ink. Usually, these dyes are water-soluble and can penetrate the substrate's surface when heated.
  • Solvents: Dye-sublimation ink also contains solvents, which dissolve and disperse the dyes. The solvents are water-based and have a low viscosity, allowing them to flow through the inkjet print head.
  • Humectants: These help prevent the ink from drying out, clogging the print head, and adhering to the substrate during the transfer process.
  • Stabilisers: These compounds protect the ink from exposure to light, heat, and other environmental factors that can degrade the quality of the image.
  • Surfactants: These help the ink spread evenly across the surface of the substrate. These compounds reduce the surface tension of the ink, allowing it to flow more smoothly and evenly.

For dye-sublimation printers, this ink produces vibrant, durable prints resistant to fading and environmental factors.

When Is It Best to Use Dye-Sublimation Ink in Large Format Printing?

Dye-sublimation ink bonds with polyester-based materials, and the HP STITCH S500 Printer is an efficient printer for highly demanding dye sub-users. It can also produce high-quality photographic prints with rich, vibrant colours resistant to fading and environmental factors. This characteristic makes it ideal for printing images requiring great detail and colour accuracy.

Finally, dye-sublimation ink is more cost-effective for high-volume printing than other inks, such as UV-curable or solvent-based inks. This quality makes it an ideal choice for printing large quantities of high-quality prints.

Dye-Sublimation vs. Inkjet: How Else Is Dye-Sublimation Ink Better Than Inkjet?

Consider your organisation's needs to determine the benefits of a dye-sublimation printer vs. inkjet printers. Dye-sublimation ink produces prints that are more durable and resistant to fading than inkjet. The dye-sublimation process transfers the dye into the substrate rather than depositing it on the surface, resulting in a more permanent image.

In addition, because the dye-sublimation process uses heat to vaporise the ink, dye-sublimation ink can produce higher-resolution prints than inkjet. Also, the dye-sublimation process allows the ink to fully saturate the substrate, resulting in more dynamic and accurate colours.

Dye-Sublimation vs. Inkjet: The Final Consensus

There is no one-size-fits-all answer when choosing between dye-sublimation printer ink and inkjet printing, as each has different advantages and disadvantages. However, there are two points to consider:

1. Your Print Output Requirements

Dye-sublimation ink is better for printing on polyester-based materials, like fabrics and banners. It produces high-quality prints that resist fading and offers greater durability than inkjet printing. However, inkjet printing may be more suitable if you need to print on a wider range of materials, such as paper or vinyl.

2. Cost and Maintenance

Dye-sublimation printers and ink cartridges are more expensive than inkjet products. Additionally, dye-sublimation printers require specific substrates compatible with the dye-sublimation process, which can add to the overall cost of the printing project.

In terms of maintenance, dye-sublimation printers require periodic cleaning and calibration to ensure consistent print quality, while inkjet printers may require more frequent ink cartridge replacements. For instance, DesignJet printers like HP DesignJet T250 Printer—used for printing blueprints and posters—can ensure optimal performance and print quality with regular maintenance.

Reach Out to HP to Discuss Your Printing Needs for Dye-Sublimation vs. Inkjet Capabilities

HP is a large format printing division offering various printing solutions for businesses of all sizes. From banners and posters to vehicle graphics and outdoor signage, HP's large format printers can handle different print jobs with exceptional quality and speed.

If you're interested in learning more about our large format printing solutions, contact an HP sales expert. Explore all the possibilities of large format printing.

Download our eBook now and discover how innovation is streamlining workflows, producing prints of unmatched quality and increasing IT efficiency like never before.

Recommended reads

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.

Virtual Booth
Switch to another region