The importance of choosing the right ink for your EPSON Stylus Pro Printer

Epson Stylus Pro printers are intended for the serious professional who requires high quality printing results. When considering the high cost of ink supplies for these printers, professionals are highly motivated to either refill or use compatible cartridges. This guide will attempt to clarify the important ink characteristics to consider in order to enable you to choose the best ink for your professional application. If you have tried refilling or have used cheap compatible cartridges in the past but have been disappointed with the results, then you really should read this guide. Understanding the type of product you need and the differences between the various products on the market will enable you to save a great deal of money on ink supplies without compromising on the quality of your work.

How this guide is organized

This guide first includes a chart of different ink characteristics with different printing solutions. It then includes detailed information about each of the characteristics detailed in the chart.

Comparison of typical ink solutions for EPSON Stylus Pro printers:

The following ink types have been chosen for comparison:

OEM Cartridges: These are genuine branded EPSON cartridges designed for your printer. This is by far the most expensive printing solution but it is the safest in terms of meeting expectations and quality.

3rd-Party Compatible Cartridges: There are many different manufacturers of compatible cartridges using many different types of inks. Often these cartridges are manufactured in Asia using inks with uncertain specifications. It is very difficult to obtain technical data from these foreign manufacturers. Furthermore, there is no way of knowing if or when a manufacturer changes the ink formulation used to build their cartridges.

InkOwl Epson-Compatible Pigment Ink or InkOwl Compatible Cartridges: This ink set is designed for maximum fidelity to the original EPSON ink set. No ICC profiling is required to achieve excellent color reproduction and the range of colors that can be printer is equivalent to that of the original inks. This ink formulation is proven and consistent. You will receive the same exact ink with each order. The inks are engineered to have the same viscosity and surface tension as the original inks which allows them to flow through your printer just like the originals. There is never a need to purge the lines of old ink when switching to this type of ink.

  OEM Cartridges 3rd-Party Compatible Cartridges InkOwl Epson-Compatible Ink /
InkOwl Compatible Cartridges
Color Gamut Normal Unknown Normal
Drying and Adhesion Normal Poor-Normal Normal
Black Density Normal Unknown Normal
Clog-Free Operation Very Good Risky Very Good
Light Fastness Excellent Risky Excellent
Suitable for Archival Work Yes Maybe Yes
Cost per Liter $500 $225 $105 (ink)
$225 (cartridges)
Percent Savings 0% 55% 80% (ink)
55% (cartridges)

Important ink characteristics and how they affect the quality of your work:

Color Gamut: This is the entire range of colors that can be reproduced with an ink set. It is important to note that your printer needs proper ICC color profiling in order to achieve the full gamut potential of the ink being used. InkOwl's inks are color-matched to the original colors. What this means is that on most papers, especially Epson-brand paper, the ink's color match will be more than adequate to achieve, for all intents and purposes, an instinguishable result. With a custom ICC profile for your printer, ink, and paper, it is possible to acheive perfection, if your application requires absolute color match (proofing, for instance). One advantage with InkOwl is that since the ink you receive with each order will always be identical, you can achieve the same results with each use.

Drying and Adhesion: Many factors in the formulation of inks contribute to how fast they can dry. It is quite obvious that an ink that can dry faster can have many advantages. A faster drying ink can increase productivity (less time wasted drying), reduce risk of smudging and can be used with wider variety of substrates (media). How well an ink can adhere to various media (substrates) greatly depends on the ink's resin formulation. The resin is basically the ink less the colorant. InkOwl's compatible inks, like the originals, are based on polymeric acrylic resins.

Black Density: Epson Ultrachrome K2 and K3 inks have been formulated to increase resolution of the black in order to achieve a wide range of grey colors while also achieving deep black color. InkOwl's Epson-Compatible inks enable an equivalent black density and resolution.

Bronzing: This effect, also known as gloss differential, occurs when an ink does not absorb very well within a substrate, typically glossy photo paper. For this reason, EPSON recommends a specific "photo black" cartridge for use on glossy papers and "matte black" for non-glossy media. It is possible to use photo black ink on matte papers if you'd rather not switch, but the black will be slightly less dark. InkOwl has both formulations of black available depending on your needs. Our photo black ink is designed to minimize bronzing on glossy papers just like the original from EPSON.

Clog-Free Operation: EPSON printers often get clogged print-heads more often than most users would want. Cleaning cycles waste both time and ink. Productivity is reduced and costs quickly go up. If not careful, the savings from using lower quality ink can very quickly be reduced or even eliminated by higher operating costs, down time, repairs, etc. InkOwl's inks have consistent, stable formulations that minimize or eliminate pigment sedimentation, thus reducing clog risk. InkOwl inks also undergo a very slow filtering process that eliminates potential clogs caused by larger than 1 micron particles.

Light Fastness:  Also known as Fade Resistance, Fade Proof, UV Resistance, etc. This is a measure of how well an ink performs under the influence of light. When ink is exposed to light, especially the higher energy and frequency of Ultra-Violet (UV) light, all colorants in the inks exhibit color changes. These changes take the form of color shift and loss of intensity. Eventually, given sufficient time, all inks will fade away completely. The ONLY difference is whether this process will take many years under very intense UV light or just a few days under normal lighting conditions. Obviously, most inks being sold for use in EPSON Professional printers are formulated to have some form of fade resistance. However, one should be careful not to be misled by meaningless marketing advertising such as: "Good for 100 years" or "200 years" as can often be seen. This type of specification is meaningless. Since the inks and the printers didn't exist 100 or 200 years ago, how can anyone know if they will resist 100 or 200 years of UV light? Ink manufacturers often submit their inks to accelerated fading tests under extreme UV light for several months. They then classify their inks in terms of being suitable for a particular use or meeting a specific maximum amount of fading in some number of years.

Which type of ink is best for your application?

OEM Cartridges:  OEM Cartridges reliably provide the specified printer performance for most applications. However, using OEM cartridges is by far the most expensive option at roughly $500 per liter or $14 per oz. OEM cartridges are the most recommended and the easiest solution as long as you do not mind the high price. However, if you are interested in reducing your ink costs, then you may want to consider using a refillable cartridge system with an ink that meets your requirements.

InkOwl Epson-Compatible Ink: Manufactured in the USA, this ink is intended to be a perfect replacement of the original Epson Ultrachrome ink set. It is suitable for those wishing to save money by refilling, all while maintaining the same Epson quality and exact performance characteristics. This ink does not require reprofiling. Along with our refillable cartridges, you can have a true plug-and-play solution. Furthermore, our compatible cartridges are filled with this exact ink.

InkOwl Compatible Cartridges: Our compatible cartridges are filled with the same Epson-Compatible ink sold for use with our refillable cartridges. This is the ultimate solution for those seeking a simple option with no profiling and no refilling needed. It is also great if you want to simply try our inks without investing in a full refillable cartridge system.

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