Pigment vs dye for inkjet. Any opinions/advice?

Hi all,

I’ve been having fun creating profiles for the several papers I currently use with my Epson 1290. During the profiling process (at least, as it occurs when using PrintFix Pro) I was able to test out different media settings before printing the patch targets.

This in itself caused me to have conversations with several different people and receive differing opinions. Since the process of trying different media settings is configured to really test the printer’s gamut, I became aware of problems with the near blacks and the areas close to pure primaries (along with one or two other issues). I have to say that I’m not hugely dissatisfied with the profiling and what it does for the colour. It’s perfectly acceptable for ‘home use’ but since I became aware of the printer’s limitations, I’ve been trying to work out what can realistically be done assuming I don’t wish to spend an infinite amount of money.

It has been suggested (and denied) that it could be the fact that my printer has just a single black and five colours that it struggles to differentiate the darker tones (sorry about mixing terminology here), so maybe I should ditch the trusty 1290 and go buy a 2400. Then another experienced user suggested that wasn’t necessary. But now I’m wondering whether or not I’d be better off changing the Epson dye inks for the Pantone pigment inks they now sell for this model, and getting some top notch paper - recommendations welcome.

I’m also wondering how much of this is driven by my desire for a ‘technical’ level of performance that may not in fact be particularly noticeable in the ‘real world’ ie when reprinting photos from various sources.

So my questions are: Does anyone feel that pigment inks (apart from their improved lightfastness) would improve colour reproduction (printer gamut size)?

Is it a sensible or unecessary step to consider the extra outlay for a 2400 (subjective yes, but opinions welcome)?

Should I just leave it alone and accept that there are always limits?

Hi Alan. My experience with the 1290 is very old. I put mine (US 1280) to pasture about 4-5 years ago (replaced it with a 2200 and now a pair of 4800’s), so my memory is quite stale. I do remember that the printer was quite inconsistent as the ink cartridges ran from full toward empty. Perhaps that’s a result of the 6,000 foot elevation where I live here in New Mexico. I was really glad to see that printer go.

I primarily profile the Epson driver with the “(Off) No Color Adjustment” setting to get the largest gamut. Other settings may bring about some benefits, but realize that these settings reduce gamut compared to “(Off) No Color Adjustment.”

I am currently profiling a pair of HP DesignJet 5500 printers, one UV and the other Dye. I use ProofMaster 3 and MonacoPROFILER. So far the yellow on the UV printer prevents proofs from passing any proofing certifications. In a few days I will have gamut comparison to provide.

IMHO, if you are selling prints you should not be using dye ink. I wouldn’t be comfortable with selling prints that would face too quickly. I do remember the remarkable rate at which my 1280 prints faded.

I also believe you will be thrilled with the Epson 2400 (or a 3800).

Thanks, Gary. The thing I’m most interested in is the perceived difference in output of dye vs pigment. I’m not selling dye prints - I’m using the cheaper ink to iron out any wrinkles in the colour chain. Once I’m happy it’s all working as I’d like, I’ll go buy some expensive paper and, perhaps, these pigments. But as I said above - there is lots of technical information about this stuff but not a lot about ‘real world’ performance.

Since the photos often printed are not test images, designed to contain a full range of values and known problem areas, we have the freedom to tweak the image to optimise the final print. As such, it would be difficult to compare two different inks. However, if anyone were to say that they can always tell the difference, or that pigment inks do produce noticeably better prints, I’d be listening. Otherwise, I’d question why, at this stage where I am nevertheless striving for the best achievable, I’d spend the extra money on pigment inks.