What Type of Ink is Used in Digital Printing?

What type of ink is used in digital printing

Digital printing is a relatively new process that involves your artwork being sent to a specialised printer. The printer then uses inkjet technology to jet the prints onto your fabric.

This allows for much more detailed prints than screen printing and a lower minimum order quantity. But what type of ink is used?


CMYK is the color model used in digital printing, and it is preferred over RGB. It is the subtractive colour model, meaning that colors are subtracted from a white background and not added to it. This method of printing provides a more accurate representation of colors, and it is especially useful for large or commercial prints.

Using CMYK allows for the use of much more vibrant and rich colours. This is particularly beneficial when recreating photographs or bringing sketches to life on paper.

The K in CMYK stands for black, which is added to reduce the amount of colour ink needed and to provide a more opaque print. It is also used for darker tones that would otherwise be difficult to achieve with cyan, magenta and yellow alone.


Digital printing is a process that applies dots using a printer head or plotter in CMYK colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). The color palette can be expanded to include additional shades that widen the gamut. This type of printing is used to create a variety of materials, including posters, business cards, and postcards.

The traditional line-up for photo printers is a six-ink system that uses dye-based CMYK cartridges plus additional light cyan and light magenta inks to expand the color gamut. This produces excellent quality for document printing and good photo prints. However, these systems tend to produce lacklustre blacks and are not well suited for print jobs that require high-fidelity color reproduction. Historically, these inks have used petroleum-based solvent carriers and produce strong, toxic fumes when drying. They also require specialized ventilation in print shops.


In digital printing, ink is used to transfer patterns or designs onto textiles and other materials. This process is typically faster and more cost-effective than traditional printing methods.

Some digital printers use solid ink, which is similar to toner and is heated with a drum to adhere to the print surface. These inks can be dye-based or pigmented. They can also be solvent or water-based.

Lubrizol is a world class supplier of hyperdispersants and surface modifiers for digital inks. Our Solsperse products help disperse and stabilize pigments at a small particle size, providing better ink efficiency, quality and stability. They can also improve ink rub resistance and slip/blocking issues. They are also safe for the environment and meet OKEO-TEX Eco Passport and GREENGUARD standards.


Inks are formulated to work best with specific printing methods. While using third-party inks may seem like a good way to save money, they can damage hardware and eventually affect print quality. It’s important for printing professionals to understand all their options and make the right choice for both functional and sustainable reasons.

Liquid inks contain pigments and additives suspended in a solvent. Historically, these inks were petroleum-based and often released volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air during drying. Today, these inks are usually vegetable/soy based and emit far less VOCs.

Solvent-based inks are commonly used to create vehicle graphics, billboards and adhesive decals. They provide rich, vibrant colors and are easy to use. They are also fade resistant and waterproof, eliminating the need for over-coatings.


For those working in the print industry, CMYK and PMS are a part of everyday language. To a non-printer though, it can be confusing.

CMYK uses four colors – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – to produce a wide range of colors. This allows for high quality printing at an affordable price.

When you add a PMS color to a CMYK job it becomes a five or six color print. It’s more expensive because you are adding ANOTHER color to the mix.

Using PMS in your digital print projects can help ensure consistent branding/logos and colors that simply cannot be produced with CMYK. This is especially helpful when your project will be printed on a variety of materials and fabrics such as silk fabric, polyester and paper.


Digital textile printing uses UV to dry and cure the ink, adhesives or coatings as soon as they hit the printed surface. This process allows for higher crock fastness, more vivid colors, and faster print times than aqueous-based inks.

Dye-based inks are the inks found in most standard inkjet printers. They produce super sharp text, stunning colors, and high resolution. However, the colors tend to fade over time.

Solvent-based inks are cheap, durable and give good coverage on non-porous vinyl substrates. They are also environmentally unfriendly and release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as they dry.


Unlike traditional printing, digital printers use inkjet or laser printers to drop pigments and toners on a variety of print media. Typically, the toner or pigment only forms a slim layer on the surface of the substrate without permeating it – this is known as energy-curable printing.

This type of printing is perfect for indoor and outdoor displays as it’s resistant to fading, scratching and water, making it ideal for a range of applications. It also doesn’t require lamination, meaning you can produce high-quality graphics quickly and cost-effectively.

Unlike eco solvent inks, latex technologies don’t emit hazardous or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the drying process. This is good for the environment and means you don’t have to invest in costly ventilation equipment. However, it’s important to note that only approved inks should be used with your printer. Non-approved inks will damage your hardware and will not be covered by your manufacturer warranty.