There are three popular types of dye sublimation ink: solvent-based ink, oil-based ink and water-based
ink. The transfer applications for each of these ink types are roughly the same, using coated transfer
paper to release the ink effectively. The main difference with these inks is the medium in which they
Water-based ink is the most common formulation of ink for dye sublimation and by far the most
eco-friendly. With green printing growing in popularity, water-based ink offers outstanding attributes.
Printers that print with water-based ink range from in-home consumer converted printers to grand-format industrial inkjet printers. Solvent-based and oil-based units are primarily seen in the grand-format space.
Historically, oil-based and solvent-based inks were used because of difficulties with water-based inks,
availability of water-based compatible print heads and a compatible transfer paper. As paper gets wider
(10 feet or 3 meters) it can become unstable during print, in terms of wrinkles (or cockles), which can
cause print artifacts or head strikes. Additionally, when the first grand-format dye sublimation printers were designed, there were not many print head choices that were able to
run water-based inks. Responding to demand, paper manufacturers have created papers that run smoothly
through a printer, even with high ink loads at industrial level print speeds. Also, there are many more
print head choices that are aqueous compatible.
Coatings vary depending on the manufacturer and ink. Different papers all have their own characteristics
to hold and release inks. Clay coated paper seems to work best with water-based inks.
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