We have all used printers at one point or another in our lives and we all know printers use inks and colors (obviously).
However, have your ever wondered where does printer ink come from? How is it made and where does color come from?
Knowing this is not just fun but can also give you a further insight upon how a printer works.
In this article, we will discuss where does printer ink come from and try to put it in very simple words.
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What is Printer’s Ink?
Inkjet printers use ink for printing.
Ink is the liquid paste that printer use for printing digital texts or graphics.
It contains pigments or dyes that give it different colors.
The keywords to remember here are pigment and dyes.
There are two most common types of inks that printers use.
Both of these inks have various advantages and disadvantages, but that is an other topic of a different time.
Where Does Printer Ink Come From?
Now that you have understood the basics of what ink is, let us look at where does printer ink come from in detail.
The first printing ink was developed by the Chinese around 500 BC.
It was made of soot, plant matter, and other colored agents. Gum and glue were used as binding agents.
Later soot based ink was mixed with varnish or linseed oil. Colored ink was made in 1772, but it was perfected in 1800 with the use of drying agents.
What is Printer’s Ink Made of?
To understand where does printer ink come from, you have to understand what it is made of.
Each material that makes up ink has its own origin. Ink isn’t something that is extracted from a tree or from the ground. It is manufactured by combining different and creative materials.
These days, printer’s ink is made of a combination of different solvents, resin, dyes, and varnish.
It has additives like waxes and lubricants.
Lets take the simplest black ink and white ink as examples.
The material that gives black ink its distinctive color is carbon pigment.
The material that gives white its pure color is titanium dioxide.
Companies use different ink recipes. Each printer’s manufacturers’ has its formula. These formula/recipes are trade secrets, and patented.
Here are few of general ingredients and their role in the ink composition.
Ink has varnish as its base and other solvents are added into it on high temperature for a homogeneous composition.
Resins are the binding agents that form the ink into a film and enables it to bind to the page.
Different resins such as alkyds, ketones, acrylics, and formaldehyde are used in printing to create different effects in ink such as making it glossy or resistant to heat, water, or other chemicals.
Pigments are used for adding color in ink. They are a vital part of the ink composition. They make ink abrasive or give it some gloss.
Pigments are mixed with opacifiers and extenders.
Opacifiers are white-colored and make it opaque. Extenders are clear, and they make these pigments less intense. Pigments are grounded evenly to remove any clumps and for achieving an even consistency.
Related: Top Pigment Ink Printers Reviewed
Dispersants give a running consistency to the ink.
They stabilize the particles of pigments and lower the mechanical energy of these particles.
Surfactants and polymers are used for this purpose. They absorb the pigments of particles and can increase or decrease its consistency. They also change the intensity of pigment colors.
5. Other Ingredients
Other ingredients are used in different chemical composition for different objectives.
For example, Humectants are for enhancing the shelf life of the ink, and Deformers are used to manage the bubbles.
Biocides and bacteriostats are also added nowadays for protecting ink against bacteria and fungi.
How Are Colors Formed?
The printer can print in different colors though most printers only come with 4 ink cartridges with a CMYK color scheme.
These colors are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. These colors are mixed in different proportions for creating different shades and hues. A range of colors can be gained by mixing these basic colors.
Besides these four colors, some dedicated photo printers may even include more ink cartridges with different shades of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.
Some printers come with 6 to even 8 colored ink cartridges. The have additional colors such as light cyan, yellow, orange, or grey.
Does Printing Ink Come in White Color?
Most printers can print in white but it's not always straight forward.
Printing ink is translucent, and even if it comes with an option of white color, it will fail to show through on paper.
Special opaque white inks are available that can be used for printing in white color, but these are expensive and can increase your printing cost.
Why Printer’s Ink is Expensive
One of the problems of printing at home is the care of ink cartridges and the expense of their replacements.
There are ways to get more ink out of the cartridge, but sooner or later they will run out, and even if you are not using the ink, it may dry out or may not retain its quality with time.
Printer’s ink is expensive because there is a lot of engineering that goes behind its composition.
Companies spend a lot of time for its right composition, managing the right consistency, and the accuracy of colors; each drop of ink should have the right consistency when it is transferred to the page.
Also, they keep coming up with latest options when it comes to the color composition or the variety.
All this research and care need the money that consumers have to pay.
Taking Care of Ink Cartridges
Several factors can affect the quality of the ink and its color.
1. Storage Temperature
Even if you buy a good quality ink, storing it to the right temperature is important for maintaining the quality and performance of your ink.
Too low or high temperature may change the viscosity of the ink.
Too high temperature may also cause the precipitation in ink cartridges that cause problems like ink mist that may reduce the quality of your prints.
2. Printer’s Maintenance
Despite the quality of ink, you need to clean the printer heads and other parts for the hassle-free printing experience.
The ink may dry out with time at the printing head or nozzles that can constrict the flow of ink.
3. Refilling Process
Some ink cartridges can be refilled. These are usually called "remanufactured ink cartridges" and are cheaper than buying new ones.
The refilling processed should be administered by professionals. If air goes in the tubes with the ink, it may cause it to decay with time.
As technology is advancing, so are the inks getting better. They have come a long way from where printer’s ink come from in the beginning.
They have better gloss, resistant to heat and water, and better shelf lives.
Companies like Epson or HP are coming up with their own ink compositions to enhance the user’s experience and printing quality.
Andrew White is the founder of TechGearoid, a leading technology review & information website that is designed to help consumers make better decisions when it comes to their IT purchases. As a specialist tech writer (nerd) with over 10 years of experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern technology & the newest market innovations. When he isn’t providing value for his readers, he’s usually drinking coffee or at the beach. Andrew lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and family.