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Picking The Best Ink And Paper For Your Inkjet Printer

Test Your Ink: Stability

Ink stability is another important aspect of performance. When ink sits idle in the cartridge, there's a chance its components could separate over time. The result is like an oil and vinegar salad dressing you need to shake before each use.

You can test the stability of ink using thin layer chromatography (TLC). Chemistry students often use this technique to separate mixtures, and it's an easy way to make sure that ink exists as a stable mixture. Unfortunately, you'll need some special equipment: namely, a silica TLC plate. You can find that by shopping online science supply shops or rummaging around in your local university's chemistry lab.

The test itself is pretty simple.

  1. Place a small drop of ink on the TLC plate.
  2. Drop the plate into a dish with a small amount of water. The water level shouldn't be above the dot of ink.
  3. Check the results every five minutes until 30 minutes pass.

If the ink is stable, you'll see little to no separation on the TLC plate as the water is drawn through capillary action. The animation above shows an extreme example of ink separation from a black permanent marker.

We did own our TLC test to show you what a good ink should look like. The ink on the right is resisting separation, which is an indicator of stable ink.

  • mayankleoboy1
    the most interesting thing in this article was the B&W sunlight photo on the third page. awesome photo. can we have some more?
    Reply
  • cmcghee358
    I'm not gonna lie, I didn't read this. I read probably 90% of Toms articles because even though they are technical, they are still interesting. The title of this simply turned me off.
    Reply
  • kalidasa
    Thanks for telling me how I can find my own quality inks and paper for printing. Now I can spend hundreds of dollars testing out the "thousands", as you put it, of third-party suppliers of printing materials.

    paraphrase of this article: We don't endorse buying first party, brand-name inks and paper; we're just here to tell you the extremes you can go through to find an alternative! p.s. HP is great!
    Reply
  • bennaye
    clearly someone was bored at Tom's...
    Reply
  • iam2thecrowe
    there is only one simple answer to "what is the best ink/paper for my printer". The answer is only the manufacturer of the printer makes the correct ink that and paper suitable for the printer that will yield consistantly good results for photos and prevent the head from getting clogged. The manufacturer pre-sets settings in the driver to deliver the right amount of a particular ink to a particular weight/absorbancy of paper. Use those presets with other paper/ink and you will get varied results. When you work fixing printers for a few years you will understand this is fact, not just manufacturers trying to sell overpriced ink. And you also have to remember that overpriced ink is there to make up for the losses they make on low end $50 printers.
    Reply
  • TonyJ
    No mention of Ilford paper and Hobbicolor ink. Very basic overview... Try the photo printing forums for better advice.
    Reply
  • I switched from using vendor inks a long time ago due to the massive cost of a full set of 8 cartridges (approx £25 each) and as most of my printing is general documentation the extra cost cannot be justified. When the printer isn't used for a few weeks/months the heads do clog but this also happened with the vendor inks and wasting the expensive ink to run the cleaning program and the test page is just painful to watch, this is a fraction of the cost with the non-vendor inks.
    Fade can be an issue on the photos that are left in direct sunlight (conservatory) but there is always the option to take the image to a kiosk for a better quality print, or simply print a different picture for the frame.
    I don't keep large collections of printed photos in albums so I guess I might think differently if I did.





    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    i feel this article was just to fill the gap between something big thats coming up tomorrow or by monday.
    could it be BD? you guys probably have a sample but it must be under NDA
    Reply
  • Arbie
    More than print quality, my biggest problem is that the cartidges go dry = empty all by themselves, just sitting there for a few weeks. This is in a Canon ip-4000 printer. Leakage of so much ink would be obvious, so it isn't that. It just disappears. I live in a dry climate, but all of the ink including pigment is gone so it doesn't seem to be evaporation. It's as if the cartridges had simply been used up, which I know hasn't been done since only I have access to the printer.

    ==> Does anyone else have this problem? Put in all new cartridges, print two or three pages, let it sit for several weeks and then find one or two cartridges almost empty? BTW I'm using cheap ebay cartridges, and don't plan to spend the money it would take to install a set of Canon units unless that's known to be the cure. I can't remember how the first set of (Canon) cartridges fared.

    Thx - Arbie
    Reply
  • TonyJ
    Arbie...my biggest problem is that the cartidges go dry = empty all by themselves... - Arbie
    Make sure to turn your printer off when you aren't using it. If it cycles on and off with your computer, it will cycle through its cleaning process each time. That could be your problem...
    Reply