Using Pigment Inks in Dye-Based Printers
Open up a whole new world of possibilities in your old printer.
that old Epson printer thatās stored somewhere? The one gathering
dust in the attic or basement because you couldnāt bear to part
with it after you bought that new super-duper model? Well, check
the sidebar to this article and if itās on the list, give it shake
and wake it up÷itās about to spin out longer-lasting images than
it ever thought it could.
with new dye-based inks formulated to extend print life, pigment-based
inks will give you longevity that lasts for generations. Pigments
withstand light, humidity, ozone and temperature variations much
better than dyes, which is why most printer manufacturers are gradually
moving over to them. Dye based inks will gradually fade away (yes,
thatās a pun ) and hundreds of thousands of printers will be left
high and dry.
MediaStreet (www.mediastreet. com), a third-party ink and paper
manufacturer, offers a pigment-based ink just for those older (and
even some newer) printers. They claim their specially-formulated
Generations G-Chrome Ink virtually matches (and in some cases exceeds)
the rich color gamut of Epsonās own pigment-based inks and that
its miniscule particle sizes ranging from .12 to .18 microns wonāt
clog up printer nozzles designed to spray small dye droplets. Since
the smallest nozzle opening on an Epson printhead is 25 microns
(thatās twenty-five, not dot 25)÷itās as easy for MediaStreetās
pigment particles to pass through the printhead as it is for a flock
of chickens to strut through an open barn door.
MediaStreet says they have patented a technique that keeps their
pigment ink particles from agglomerating (sticking together) which
some other pigmented inks are prone to do, and that results in continually
clogged printheads. This, obviously, is not a good thing because
at best it requires multiple cleaning cycles that waste ink and
at worst can totally incapacitate your printer if you donāt use
several older Epson inkjets hanging around, I decided to test the
process on a StylusPhoto 870 that had been used on one of our digital
photography workshop cruises and then stored. The first step was
to clean its nozzles thoroughly with a special cleaner called Jet
Jrano (try pronouncing that, though if youāre from Sarajevo it should
be easy). I downloaded MediaStreetās 7-color-purge pattern image,
snapped in the two cleaning cartridges and ran about a dozen cleaning
cycles until the paper showed no ink. Because the printer had been
in storage for about four years, it required more cleaning cycles
than if it had been in use, but thereās more than enough cleaner
to do the job and plenty left over to flush out the printhead again
should you decide to revert to dye-based inks. By the way, nothing
drastic will happen if you still have a few drops of the old ink
in the printerās system; it will quickly be overpowered by the new
the moment of truth. I popped out the cleaning cartridges and inserted
MediaStreetās pigment ink cartridges. Setting my printer to 720
dpi and its speed to high (the combination I had always used with
good results) I knocked out my first print. Bummer! I had faint
white lines running through sky and other solid-colored areas. OK,
letās read the instructions. Aha! ćUse the highest dpi setting on
your printer and turn high speed off.ä At 1440 dpi, that produced
a much better result÷there were still some faint white lines in
the sky areas but you really had to make an effort to see them.
Other areas of the print were fine. (If my printer had been capable
of 2880 dpi, MediaStreet assured me that every print would be perfect.
As it turned out, about 95% of them were fine at 1440 dpi.)
the big deal about using the highest printer resolution (which lays
down smaller dots of ink)? You need smaller droplets of ink with
pigment-based inks because the dots do not spread out and blend
together as they do with dye-based inks; therefore many smaller
dots must be placed closer together to give the appearance of a
smooth, continuous tone. Most people avoid using higher dpi settings
because they think each higher multiple uses twice as much ink.
Not so, says MediaStreet. What the printer does at higher dpi settings
is simply break up larger dots of ink (that would normally be laid
down at lower resolutions) into smaller ones÷the volume of ink used
essentially stays the same.
I found to be a killer, though, is that the printer has to think
a lot more about where to place the increased number of dots. So
what used to take me 2:20 to output a 6 x 8-inch print, now took
8:05, quite a bit longer. Another down side is that I had to be
careful not to run my hand over the surface of a glossy print until
it dried thoroughly or the ink would smear. Overnight usually did
the trick. Lustre and matte surfaces, though, dried quickly.
from longer print life, thereās a modest saving by using MediaStreetās
pigment inks; theyāre about 10-15% less expensive than using the
manufacturerās inks. I ran 26, 8 x10-inch prints before the color
cartridge was depleted (black was only a third gone). Figuring a
3:1 ratio of color to black, the cost of ink for each print would
be about $2.10 (a cartridge set costs about $68.00 and paper prices
vary according to their surfaces). I found the color quality to
be just fine, though if you want the best results you should use
MediaStreetās color profiles, available at their site. That puts
your output in the more capable hands of your imaging program rather
than at the mercy of the printer driver. Profiles also optimize
the output of the ink so you can get better results at lower dpi
if profiles for the paper and dpi settings you might want to use
arenāt available? No problem. MediaStreet will custom-make as many
profiles for you as you want÷at no charge! While other firms might
slam you for $40 to over $100 each for custom profiles, you can
download a color target at MediaStreetās site, print it out, send
it to them, and theyāll email you the profile in just a few days.
This allows you a perfect match between your printer using their
inks and papersö or any manufacturerās paper that you want them
to profile. Now thatās a deal!
was good to hear my old printer humming along again. I was able
to justify being a pack rat÷itās hell for me to throw anything out,
I mean, you never know when it might come in handy, right? Now,
at least, one of the hundreds of obsolete and useless items I have
stashed away finally has proved my point, thanks to MediaStreet.
MediaStreet Compatible Epson Printers, and Cleaning Tips
Here are the Epson printers that will accept MediaStreetās G-Chrome
š 780 š 785EPX š 825 š 870 š 875DC š 890 š 900 š 925
š 1270 š 1280 š 3000 š 7000 š 9000 š R200 š R300 š R320
your printer has been sitting around awhile, you should make sure
itās functioning properly before switching to pigment-based inks.
It may need several cleaning cycles to clear the nozzles so they
lay down a proper pattern. If you still have dye-based ink cartridges
in the printer, start by running a nozzle check to see if the printer
printers go through progressively stronger cleaning cycles so if
the first doesnāt do the trick (as determined by printing out a
nozzle check pattern), keep going. After three cleaning cycles (checking
the nozzle pattern after each one), print an image (or the MediaStreet
color pattern) and run a nozzle check again. If it still shows an
irregular pattern, run some more cleaning cycles in groups of three.
overdo the cleaning cycles. If the nozzle pattern continues to show
gaps in the same places, let the printer sit overnight, which will
usually help dissolve clogged ink, and then run some cleaning cycles
(in threes) again. If that still doesnāt do it, you can try an easy
ćindustrial strengthä cleaning method (http://tinyurl.com/5motv).
not just clean your printhead with Jet Jrano from the beginning?
Because youāll have no way of seeing the whole nozzle pattern since
Jrano is a clear liquid. Jrano works best when used to flush dye-based
ink from a printer that is printing up to specs, with all nozzles
firing cleanly. If you must use Jrano as the first step (because
you may not have a set of functional cartridges in your printer),
be sure to run a nozzle check with the G-Chrome ink after itās been
always leave ink cartridges in Epson printers when they are idle
or in storage because the cartridges create a seal against air entering
the ink feeding system which can interfere with the nozzles firing
correctly. If this happens, a few cleaning cycles will usually take
care of it.