Sublimation Ink Vs Pigment Ink | Key Distinctions | Pros & Cons

Sublimation vs pigment ink! Which one is better? Well, both sublimation and pigment inks are the two top-rated inks in the printing industry, having closely related rankings in every other factor. They have the most vibrant results in an impressive pixelated at a faster speed. While, both the inks have a hefty list of benefits, it’s hard to decide which one to choose for your upcoming printing projects. 

Sublimation Ink Vs Pigment Ink | Key Distinctions | Pros & Cons

Although, both the inks are manufactured differently and have completely different characteristics of how each of them works and results. Therefore, we’ll take you on a ride to the explanation of sublimation and pigment ink, their way of working, use of technologies, and pros and cons. We’ll additionally go through sublimation ink vs pigment ink head-to-head analysis to give you comprehensive details of each type in terms of their usage, application, quality, compatibility, price, and many other related factors to reach a conclusion. 

Sublimation Ink Vs Pigment Ink – Key Distinctions 

The key distinction between sublimation and pigment is the inking technologies. Pigment ink uses oil-based pigment that adheres to the material when printing while the sublimation ink vaporizes with heat and pressure and gets sprayed on the paper. 

What is sublimation ink?

Sublimation ink is a dye-based ink that uses heat and pressure to get printed out on paper. In simplified terms, when the sublimation ink is heated, it turns into a gas during the process and it can be directly sprayed onto the paper. This is why sublimation ink does not clog the printer’s nozzle and can be used on a wide variety of papers. In addition, sublimation ink does not fade over time and produces high-quality prints.

sublimation ink and its printout

Pros of sublimation ink: 

Sublimation ink has a number of benefits having the highest quality printouts results on the top. Since it uses the method of diffusion, the color schemes it provides range from 16.7 million colors. This means that you’ll have a massive color choice to print anything in any color. 

Not just is the color range vast but they are also Vibrant and attractive. Up till there’s no ink into the comparison that outdo the results sublimation ink provides. 

Durability is another characteristic that adds value to the ink. Once you have printed something with sublimation ink, this is immortal now. You can’t expect them to go in any case. This makes them perfect for garment printing that needs a huge range of colors, shades, and gradients. The use of color gradation is a worth-mentioning factor. It enables accuracy at the best level. The texts and lettered printing are therefore enjoyed high-pixelated outcomes. 

In addition, sublimation dries pretty quickly. You don’t have to wait for like minutes and be careful in that period as if you could smudge the design or get it ruined with the touch of any external object. 

  • The most common use of sublimation ink is to print fabrics and ceramics. The Mugs, T-Shirts, Bags, and hats are widely sublimated using sublimation ink. For each type of sublimation, the method varies. Therefore, by using different methods, you can create different effects that will really stand out.
  • Wood sublimation is the arena where sublimation ink holds high regard.  if you want to put a design on a piece of wood, you’ll just need a laminated wood and a sublimation sheet printer with sublimation ink and by heat pressing, you’ll get your wood sublimated finely in vibrant colors. We have further explained wood sublimation ideas and methods previously in one of our articles. (link has been given). 
  • Glass is another material that can be used with sublimation ink. You can either use a special printer designed for glass or print on acetate and then stick it to the glass. As with wood, make sure that the surface is clean before printing.
  • Metal is the most challenging material to work with but the results are definitely worth it. Any other type of ink is surely going to fade away but thanks to sublimation ink technology, you have permanently customized metals and metal-made objects that last forever. Besides, the most important thing is to test it out on a small surface before going all out.

In a nutshell: 

  • Sublimation ink has 16.7 million color schemes. 
  • It produces high-resolution images. 
  • The color gradation enables accuracy and non-smudged outcomes. 
  • Sublimated prints are incredibly durable and can last for many years.
  • The ink dries quickly. 
  • Printouts with sublimation ink never fade or crack. 
  • Sublimation inks produce brilliant colors that really pop out and grab attention. 
  • Fabric and ceramics can be a printer with immortal results using sublimation ink. 
  • You can use sublimation ink for materials such as wood, glass, or metal too. 

Cons of sublimation ink:  

Though, sublimation ink, despite being the highest quality ink existing in the printing arena, has some drawbacks too. First and foremost, it is expensive and as though, and you’ll have an entire cut down on your profits depending on this ink for your businesses and industries on a large scale. However, you can elevate the price tags of your products to manage the profits and expenses. 

Secondly, it is not a very good choice to go with print documents and magazines. Why? Well, the results are, no doubt, vibrant and durable, but ONLY when they are transferred and pressed onto something. Sublimation ink cannot result in as good as it does in the transfers, so using it on things and materials you aren’t intended to transfer will not give satisfactory outcomes. 

Sublimation ink, in addition, cannot be used with regular printers. It needs specialized printers that support ink vaporization. Examples include printers with piezo heat technology. If you use sublimation ink with a regular printer, it’ll instantly damage it. Therefore, these types of inks only gonna work for you when you have proper sublimation set up. 

Well, there’s more. Sublimation ink only works in lighter-color shirts that are too made of polymer. Cotton or alike fabrics can not be sublimated unless you treat them with a polymer spray or vinyl. 

In a nutshell:

  • Sublimation ink is expensive. 
  • It doesn’t work well with regular papers and document printing. 
  • It requires proper sublimation set up i.e sublimation printers and papers.
  • Only works with 100% polymer and white/light color fabrics. 

What is pigment ink?

Pigment ink, as the name suggests, uses pigments to print the paper. Now, what are pigments? They are small particles that use liquid or air medium to color the surface. Pigment ink, in this case, uses an oil-based medium that is further treated with wax and resins making them highly insoluble in water. 

Pigment ink
Pigment ink

Pros of pigment ink: 

Pigment inks produce high-quality outputs on a budget. The biggest benefit you can enjoy with pigment is, print anything, whether it is cotton, natural fabrics, or polymer linen. Unlike sublimation ink, the compatibility is not limited to polymer only which opens the door for you to print a wider variety of fabrics in excellent colors and contrast. 

They are environment-friendly which means you can use any paper for printing purpose and then recycle it. The opposite is the case with sublimation ink, they require sublimation paper to carry the design, which is non-recyclable. 

In addition, pigment ink is insoluble in water and so printouts are waterproof ensuring durability and quality in the longer run. Not just waterproof, but they are also UV-resistant and scratch-resistant which maintains the quality for a lifetime. 

Lastly, pigment inks are extremely affordable. You can buy a set for under 40$ and a few coatings and that is everything you’ll need to carry out your work. 

In a nutshell:

  • Pigment inks are environmental-friendly. 
  • Compatible with any inkjet printer. 
  • Produces waterproof prints. 
  • Comes at an affordable price. 
  • Uv resistant and scratch-resistant. 

Cons of pigment ink: 

Well, let’s get to the darker side. 

Pigment ink uses encapsulated particles which is why it can clog the printer often. That is why printers with pigment ink usually get jammed. This results in a delay in work as well as extreme frustration. 

Another major drawback of pigment ink is that these inks are at a risk of metamerism which is why they change colors in different lighting conditions. You can also test it by viewing a magazine printed out from pigment ink changing its color when you slightly turn the page and see it at an acute angle. You’ll see white grainy effects all over instead of the pictures. 

While we could sublimate mugs with sublimation, here we have to face the restriction. Pigment ink does not support ceramics and metals and thus, the only option you will have with ink is using PVCs, papers, or fabrics. 

In addition, the prints will fade put after a while therefore a polymer or resin-coated is applied on the paper first to secure the longevity. They also need an acrylic overcoat after printing which adds to the efforts as well as the cost of printing. 

In a nutshell:

  • The prints fade away after a while if not coated. 
  • Pigment ink often clogs the printer. 
  • Printouts treated with pigment ink have a problem with metamerism. 
  • Only supports PVCs, papers, and fabrics. 

Sublimation ink vs pigment ink Head-to-head comparison: 

As we explained above, we are going to break down all these pros and cons in order to evaluate both the types of sublimation and pigment ink for their relevant use of technologies, compatibility and comparative benefits. 

  • Speed:

Sublimation ink will hardly take 5 seconds to print a single paper on average. In contrast, pigment ink takes longer (10-15 seconds, usually). Therefore, more projects can be done with sublimation as compared to the pigment ink.  

  • Compatibility with paper: 

Pigment-based ink can cause streaks on the paper and it is not compatible with some types of paper. This is where sublimation ink comes in to solve these problems. Sublimation ink is compatible with all types of paper. However, the best carrier is still the sublimation paper that gives the best results. 

  • Compatibility with materials: 

Both sublimation and pigment inks are widely used in fabric printing, such as in T-shirts. Though, sublimation requires the shirt to be 100% polymer plus the color must white or in a lighter shade. For the other fragment type and darker colors, it needs additional coating or materials such as vinyl in between to carry out printing. In addition, the mix of fabric in a certain shirt will either not sublimate or result in fade out.  

On the other hand, pigment ink prints on any color and fabric. It doesn’t matter whether you use 100% cotton, polymer, or a combination of both, the results will be great every time on any apparel.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

  • Color schemes: 

Sublimation ink can produces 16.7 million colors whereas 3.7 million is the maximum limit of colors pigment ink can produce. 

  • Risk of metamerism: 

Prints from Sublimation ink look the same under any lighting condition. While pigmented prints will have a color-changing effect when you see them at different angles and lighting systems.  

  • Coatings: 

Sublimation ink is manufactured with all the substances so you don’t need to require any other before or after printing. Comparatively, pigment ink requires resin coating to secure the result otherwise it will fade away or not come out as good as you have expected. 

  • Price: 

Sublimation inks are pricier than pigment inks. In addition, sublimation ink also requires specialized sublimation printers and tools so it completely costs way more than the pigment ink, which on the other hand can be used with any inkjet printer. 


Yes, pigment ink is waterproof and possesses highly water-resistant abilities that make the pigmented prints insoluble in water. 

No, pigment ink cannot be used for sublimation. The reason is, that it cannot be vaporized and thus will have no results when pressed. The insoluble characteristics of pigment ink also make it incapable to do sublimation. 

No, Epson does not have a sublimation ink lineup. The cartridges provided by the Epson consist of pigment ink. This is why Epson printers need to be converted to be used for sublimation. 

Wrapping up: 

The ink has a dominant effect on the printing outcomes though. To make it the best we had two ink types at our end. Sublimation and pigment. By comparing both the inks on the basis of quality use and compatibilities, we can finally conclude that sublimation ink, really has an edge over pigment ink. Its durability, quality, and usage definitely worth the extra price it comes with. 

Although, pigment ink has some standing out features too, especially if you precisely deal in magazine printing or on material that you longer intend to transfer. Plus, it is too cost-effective, making it attractive for budget-minded artists. 


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