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Generally, ink is a liquid or paste made from pigments and dyes that give it the specific colour. For printing ink, the colours are made using pigments instead of dyes. If you are using a printer, you have probably heard of the term toners too, and it is very easy to get them confused with inks. However, toners are different, as they are fine powder made from polyester and are used in laser printer using electrostatic metal drums. Inks, on the other hand, are simply liquid tinted with pigments and are used primarily in inkjet printers. Now that we got that bit sorted out, let’s look into how printer ink is actually made.

To create any ink base, a clear liquid called varnish is used, which is a mix of resins, solvents and additives. They are mixed at high temperatures and made into a homogeneous mixture that varies depending on the ink. The resins react to bind the ink ingredients together and helps to make the varnish more viscous.

After that, pigments are added into the varnish and the mixture is well grounded to get rid of clumps. Through the process, the colour is spread evenly through the ink. Now the pigments to be used varies depending on the colour of the ink. For black ink, carbon is used as the pigment while for white ink, white pigment with titanium oxide is used. Similarly, other pigments are used to bring out other colours such as cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. These colours are known as subtractive colours because they are produced by ‘subtracting’ one of the three primary colours from white light. When white light hits an object, some of the light is absorbed and the remainder reflected. The colour of the reflected light is the colour that we perceive as the colour of the object, thus a leaf appears green because it absorbs all colours except green.

Printing is usually done using these four colours. The subtractive colours are chosen because by ‘overprinting’ these inks, all other colours can be formed. For example, red is produced by overprinting yellow and magenta, as the yellow absorbs the blue light (because yellow is the emission of red and green light) and magenta absorbs the green light, leaving behind the pure red light. Black ink is used because although in theory cyan, magenta and yellow should add together to give black, in practice they usually give brown.

Now you know how printing ink is made and how it actually works. For all your printing ink solution and expert consultation, contact us at Ink On The Run.

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