Pigment Ink vs Sublimation Ink – All That You Need To Know!

Ever since sublimation has taken over the printing industry by storm, there is a great variety of printing staples including the very important component – the inks!

If you have ever wondered about the difference between numerous types of inks, sublimation ink and pigment inks being the popular ones – this article is for you! Sublimation ink employs a photographic medium that gets heat pressed into the fabric or other substrates forming a chemical bond whereas pigment ink serves as a concentrated coating of colored powder particles.

Not only have we covered the basic difference in the debate of pigment ink vs sublimation ink but also explained their benefits, drawbacks, and applications in the world of printing. So, what are you waiting for? Let us dive into the article to learn more about it!

What is Pigment Ink?

Pigment ink finds myriad applications in the industry of printing because of the vibrant colors it provides. 

Pigment ink is basically an accumulation of powder particles that together formulate a rich color. Such inks get embedded in the top-most layer of the substrate including fabric, PVC, ceramics, and much more.

These inks have time and again proven their longevity and durability on a variety of substrates as well as their waterproof nature and resistance to ultraviolet light.

Uses: Pigment inks majorly find their application in printing on paper and fabric that requires brighter colors and is not subject to multiple washes to avoid the superficial pigment ink to become dull or even fade away.

Difference Between Sublimation Ink and Pigment Ink:

pigment ink vs sublimation ink

Now that we know the basic definitions of both types of inks, let us elaborately explain to you what makes them distinct from each other!

Type of Bonding!

As you already know, sublimation inks tend to convert to a gaseous state from the solid phase when getting transferred to the substrate via heat press using sublimation paper as an intermediary medium. These inks form a strong chemical bond deep down.

On the other hand, pigment inks are accumulations of particles of powder that give off color and tend to form the topmost layer on the substrate, fabric being an exception. This makes the bond quite superficial as compared to sublimation inks.


Since the sublimation ink is embedded deep down into the substrate, the colors tend to be less vibrant as compared to richly pigmented inks.

However pigment inks comprising strongly colored particles of powder that too lying on the top of the substrate tend to give a vibrant final result of printing!

Color accuracy!

Sublimation inks tend to be less accurate in terms of hues when compared with pigment inks – again because of the deeper settlement of the inks whereas pigment inks exhibit greater accuracy and color stability because of the superficial setting of pigmented particles.

Cost and Affordability!

Pigment inks have been in use earlier than sublimation inks and are economical to use. Sublimation inks, on the other hand, are generally costly as compared to the pigment inks since they exhibit newer technology and use modern equipment.

Durability and Longevity!

Sublimation inks are more durable and long lasting than pigment inks because of stable chemical bonds with the substrate which is not the case with pigment inks. The latter offers simply sticking to the substrate and hence is less durable than sublimation inks.

Environment friendly!

Sublimation inks are eco-friendly ink options that do not employ harmful toxins whereas pigmented inks are a less safe, conventional ink choice.

Clogging issues!

While both sublimation and pigment inks tend to clog the printer over time, the risk is greater with pigment inks because of the larger particle size and density. The printers tend to get clogged quite frequently and need to be cleaned more often than what is required with sublimation inks on hand.

Now that we have discussed the basic differences between sublimation ink and pigment inks, let us summarise the merits and demerits of both for you to make an informed decision when going for the best choice for printing!

Sublimation Ink Merits And Demerits

  • It is new technology and uses lesser equipment and resources as compared to conventional methods.
  • It is durable and long lasting because of strong chemical bonds.
  • The availability is convenient.
  • The inks are environmentally friendly.
  • The inks exhibit resistance against ultraviolet radiation and water for even hundreds of years.The printing process is not time consuming.
  • Sublimation inks are expensive options compared to traditional cartridges and pigment inks.
  • The colors are less vibrant as compared to pigment inks except for in fabrics.
  • The results are not that great on dark colors.

Pigment Ink Merits and Demerits

  • The colours are quite vibrant on different substrates as compared to sublimation inks except for on fabrics.
  • These are an economical option for printing.
  • Pigment inks are ultraviolet resistant and waterproof.
  • The final results are great on both dark and light colours.
  • Pigment inks are not environment friendly.
  • The printing process takes a longer time as compared to newer technologies and equipment.
  • The bonds are less durable and long lasting because of superficial bonding.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is pigment ink and sublimation ink the same?

No, they are not. Pigment ink is an accumulation of particles of colored powder that form a superficial bond with the substrate whereas sublimation ink forms chemical bonds with the substrate and gets converted into a gas from solid during the heat pressing.

2. Can pigment ink be used on sublimation paper?

Pigment Ink can be used on sublimation paper but the results are not promising because of inadequate ink transfer during the heat press. 

3. Which ink out of sublimation and pigment ink is best for sublimation?

Sublimation Ink is definitely the better option out of the two if the process of sublimation is in question because of its better bonding with the sublimation paper using a sublimation printer and then later, with the substrate.

4. Is sublimation ink a dye or a pigment?

Sublimation ink is actually a dye and not a pigment. It gets transferred to sublimation paper which helps in transmitting it into the substrate via heat press.


Both sublimation ink and pigment ink are used in the process of dye and sublimation printing but come with their share of merits and demerits.

Pigment inks are more of a conventional method of printing and are based on particle technology whereas sublimation inks are the results of modern, innovative and more environment friendly printing methods. Both find their applications in various printing techniques.

Now that you are aware of the basic differences between the two, we hope it will be easier for you to decide which one to select for your printing ventures!

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