dyes and pigmentsWhen it comes to dyes and pigments, ultimately both are used to colour different materials; however, both do it in entirely different ways. 

Dyes and pigments come in every hue imaginable; and pigment dispersion is especially important to achieve even greater lengths of customised products. 

Both dyes and pigments are coloured because they absorb wavelengths of light – some more than others and the imparting of colour onto materials is what dyes and pigments do best. 

In this post, we highlight some of the key differences between dye and pigment processes and uses. 

Dye definition 

coloured substance which chemically binds with materials that it is applied to. 

Dyes are typically applied through a water-based solution and may require, at times, a  

mordant, to help increase the speed of the properties of the dye attaching to the materials. 

There are different types of dyes used with the textile wet process industries, such as: – 

  • Sulphur Dyes 
  • Acid Dyes 
  • Basic Dyes 
  • Reactive Dyes 
  • Direct Dyes 
  • Mordant Dyes 

Dyes are typically used within the textile and paper industries, as well as on leather, wood, waxes, lubricating oils, polishes, and even gasoline. 

Pigment definition 

A substance which imparts colour to coating materials, things such as paints, inks, plastics, or rubber.  Pigments are painted onto the surface of materials so physically bind. 

Pigments are mixed with the dispersing agent and are applied to the base to form a coating on top.  This dispersing agent is what ultimately helps it to “stick” to the surface of the material. 

In the textile industry, the pigment is a material which changes the colour of transmitted or reflected light due to wavelengthselective absorption. 

Pigments are typically used to colour rubber, plastics, and even resin-based products. 

Dyes vs. pigments 

One of the first differences between dyes and pigments is their particle size. 

Dyes are much finer than pigments making them much more soluble in many liquids (whereas pigments have no affinity for the substrate as they are insoluble), however what this also means is that they are UV unstable, unlike pigments which are UV stable and also contain ground colouring matter which is suspended into liquid forming a paint film. 

The difference this creates for materials is that dyes will be easily absorbed into the materials allowing the colour to take hold, whereas the paint film which has been created with pigments will bond to the surface of the material it is being applied to. 

You will also find dyes available in large numbers in comparison to pigments; however, a dyes product resistance is much lower compared to pigments. 

It is also found that pigments are much more lightfast than dyes.  Light does play havoc with materials that are dyed as it breaks open electronic bonding within the molecule; hence, fading begins to occur. 

Dyes are combustible but don’t last that long compared to pigments which have a high level of resistance, making them last much longer. 

Dye particles also have electrostatic charges that serve as a method for attaching the dye to materials, whereas pigments require the help of a binder for gluing. 

A pigment must have a high tinting strength relative to the materials it colours, and it must be stable, in solid form, and all at ambient temperatures. 

Most dyes consist of organic compounds (contains some form of carbon) and the remaining elements consist of metallic compounds.  Most pigments use inorganic compounds to form a bonding structure. 

Within the textile industry, dyes will diffuse in fabrics, whereas pigments diffuse on fabrics. 

However, dyes can’t be used on every type of fabric available yet pigments most certainly can. 

When it comes to the cost, dyes are more expensive as they’re prepared chemically; pigments, on the other hand, work out much more costeffective as they’re found by mineral origin. 

Dye and pigment impact factor 

The impact factor of dyes and pigments is once again beginning to rise (from 3.473 in 2016 to 3.767 in 18/19) due to the emphasis placed on the properties of the colour matters themselves rather than the applications to which they are applied. 

Both carrying out the same “job” but in different ways and offering completely different levels of results in terms of quality and substance, make sure you speak to the professionals at  

Centre Colours to find out more when it comes to dyes, pigments, and pigment dispersion. 

As one of the leading pigment manufacturers in the UK, call us today on 01977 685458 and find out how we can provide the perfect solution for you.