Look on any site selling prints and you may come across people saying that their prints are made with archival ink (including me). But does it really make a difference? I did a lot of research before I bought a printer which was specifically dedicated for making prints and about a year and a half ago I decided to invest in a printer that used archival pigment ink (Canon 9500 MkII in case you were wondering). It was quite an investment and every time I switch it on I feel like weeping as I hear it merrily going through a cleaning cycle and washing away £££s of ink, a set of genuine ink cartridges costs around £90 so not cheap.
So last year I decided to conduct a little experiment to see if it really was worth the money. You can see the results below:
I printed two similar pictures, the one on the left was printed on my office printer which I only use to print invoices and documents on. I use cheap but good quality non brand dye based ink cartridges on this printer which is perfectly fine for office documents. The one on the right is printed on the big daddy printer using Canon Lucia archival pigment ink. They were printed in April 2012 and have been tacked on a wall in a sunny location. The picture was taken last week. They started off pretty much the same colour but within about 3 months the dye based ink had faded dramatically and continues to do so.
Now I am not a chemist or an ink expert but I know what my eyes are telling me. Prints really should never been kept in direct sunlight but even so I can’t really detect any significant fading with the archival print. So this is why I choose to use archival pigment ink. According to the manufacturer a print should last a lifetime if kept in the right conditions (unlike these poor prints!). There are archival dye inks available but I have not tried those, and I have not tried any other brands so I can only comment on my experience.
So, in conclusion, it may seem tempting to save money and use cheaper inks for your prints but in the long term, apart from the obvious differences in quality when first printed (trust me they look really different), if you want your print to last it is worth using archival ink. In my humble opinion if you are selling prints, you really owe it your customers to use it.