When is generic ink ok?
Types of Epson ink explained.
Epson offers 4 different “ink formulas” or “brands” of ink and this reveals a lot about how Epson divides it’s customer base. There are basically 4 different Epson “brands” of inks – durabrite (pigment), Claria (dye based), UltraChrome (pigment), and UltraChrome K3 (pigment). It really comes down to pigment, or dye based inks, and which printer has the functions you need.
For 90% of us, generic inks are not only cheaper, but they do the job very nicely thank you. My grocery store list does not need to be printed on $4.00 a page paper, with $6000.00 a gallon ink. But if I did decide to print that occasional greeting card, or special photo-in-a-frame-instead-of-a-real-gift, “last minute” anniversary present – I want it to look good. And for 90% of us, generic inks are just fine. Find a good dealer, and stick with them – refilling-remanufacturing an inkjet or laser toner cartridge is more of an art form than a standardized process.
Now if you intend to sell your work, or want it to last 500 years you might want to keep reading.
Durabrite Ultra (pigment):
Durabrite Ultra, or as Epson parses it – DURABRite Ultra. This is a pigment ink which means it is resistant to water, prints will last longer, however colors will be dull in comparison to dye based inks. Pigment ink is “thicker” than dye based ink, so more clogging may occur. Pigment based inks are organically based and much of the ink is soaked into the paper. Good for archival purposes – when printed on the right paper, and kept behind glass (out of the sun), prints can last for decades. If you use crummy paper, the pigmented ink may have trouble bonding to the paper, and increase the chances of fading, flaking, or missing colors.
Printers that use this ink are normally the 4-color printers that are designed for home use, and maybe small office. If it’s a 4-color printer from Epson, most likely you are getting the “durable” durabrite “brand” inks. Nothing fancy here.
Claria Hi-Definition (dye):
Used mainly in the Epson Photo printers, as this dye based ink produces much brighter colors. However, dye based ink is almost all water, so fading can be an issue. As long at the materials are printed onto good paper – we cannot state that enough, paper makes all the difference – and kept from the sun and other elements, your prints should last decades as well, if not more. The Hi-Definition part is the “secret ingredient” – sounds like opportunistic marketing to us. This is nothing more than a common dye based ink.
As mentioned above, this ink is standard with an Epson entry level photo printer – like the RX680, Artisan 800, or Photo 1400. Most all generic inks we have run into are by default, “dye based” inks. There may be some exceptions, but we have not seen them.
UltraChrome Hi-Gloss (pigment):
If you are using this ink, you are a serious about what you are doing. Maybe not making money at it quite yet, but honing your craft and the occasional paying gig. Some really good printers use this “brand” of Epson ink. Epson tries to overcome some of the dullness of the pigment inks (folks at this level can tell the difference) by adding a “glossy” component to the ink. Designed for high end color photo printers. Included with the R1900, R1800.
UltraChrome K3 (pigment – blending focus):
Professional – printer – resale
Three levels of black in these cartridges, so the color tuning has to be perfect. Epson has engineered an incredible line of printers that will do professional work. Epson is so proud of this “brand” of ink, they claim it is “suitable for high quality prints worthy of resale or gallery exhibitions.”
You can find this ink in the Epson Stylus Photo R2400, R2880, 3800, or 3880. If you sell your work, and want it to last, this is the ink (and printers) for you.
There is a HUGE disclaimer for Epson ink on their website – this also applies to any other inks you might use. Sun will fade your pictures, and the elements will aid in their demise – from Epson’s own website:
“…displayed in a glass frame under indoor display conditions or in album storage. Actual print stability will vary according to media, printed image, display conditions, light intensity, temperature, humidity and atmospheric conditions. Epson does not guarantee the longevity of prints. For maximum print life, display all prints under glass or UV filter or properly store them.”
Well, most anything will last 100 years if you cover it up, or take care of it. Thanks Epson for the heads up. Think paper. Have to have good paper to start with.
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