origin of standard printer inkInks are one of those everyday items that you probably don’t give too much thought about.  However, they are also something that we can’t live without! 

Used for a variety of reasons, the ink has been around for centuries, yet how it is made and what it is made up of is very rarely known. 

Until now. 

As a leading printer ink manufacturer and specialists in pigment dispersion, we’ve provided you with our insight into the fascinating world of ink. 

Starting at the very beginning…. what is ink?! 

Used in printing, writing, and drawing, ink is a semi-liquid material, similar to paint. 

Inks are made up from organic or inorganic pigments that are then dissolved in a chemical solvent. 

And, inks have been around for centuries where the first known inks were actually made from natural materials such as vegetables and fruit juices, tannin from tree bark, even the blood of species of shellfish! 

Thank goodness things changed! 

With records in history showing that the first printing inks invented were made up of soot, coloured earth, and plant matter for the pigment, and gums and glue for the binder, we are led to believe that the Chinese established this method in roughly 500BCE. 

By 1440 the printing press was invented, and this is when ink development got really interesting. By then, soot-based ink was bound together with varnish or linseed oil – extremely similar to how black ink is manufactured today! 

However, coloured ink didn’t make its appearance until 1772, and in the 1800s drying agents began to be introduced into inks to perfect the process and the end result. 

Ink Today

Over 90% of ink manufactured today is printing inks. 

Available as conventional ink and digital non-impact printing ink, printer ink is ultimately used to show information or decorate particular objects and items. It can also be used on a variety of surfaces such as paper, plastic, aluminium cans, etc. 

Printer ink is made up of a pigment called carbon black (similar to the soot used in ancient times). The composition includes a solvent, a binder, and additives such as drying agents and chelating. 

Depending on the printer ink manufacturer i.e., Canon, HP, Epson, etc.will depend on the exact ink recipe they will use, as each one will vary, and each will be unique to them. 

Main Ingredients

Pigments – are what give ink its colour. Coming from a variety of sources containing nitrogen compounds, pigments are a vital component in how printer ink is manufactured. Bringing things such as gloss or abrasiveness to surfaces, and providing chemical resistance to light, heat, solvents, etc. 

Dispersants – are added to allow ink to flow easily. Dispersants can be transferred to a surface during printing, with the different size pigment particles influencing the intensity of any given colour. 

Resins – are added to the ink to bind it together as well as bind it to a printed surface. Several resins are often used in the manufacturing of ink to help create surfaces that are glossy, or chemical, heat, and water-resistant. 

These are the main ingredients added to printer inks to improve overall performance.  However, you will find that there are several others which also helps with the ageing process of ink, its surface properties, etc.  Working with a professional pigment dispersion company will help you develop the best inks for you and your customers. 

Base Composition and Additions

Printer ink compromises of a base of linseed or soybean oil or in some instances a solvent such as petroleum distillate. These ingredients are then combined with pigments to create the base, often referred to as a varnish. 

Varnishes are made for different inks and used with a host of different pigment variants to create the colour intended and to formulate coloured printer ink. 

Additives can also be added to printer ink to achieve different physical properties to suit a range of bespoke requirements. 

For example, wax can be added to provide a rub-off resistance or additional drying agents may be required. 

Ultimately, all inks are made by mixing resins, solvents, and additives together at high temperatures to form a homogenous mixture. 

Knowing your Inks

The production of printer ink is intricate and intense. It is a precisionengineered process to get colours and pigment dispersion just right. 

At Centre Colours, we are the pigment dispersion specialists for companies in the UK and worldwide. 

Offering bespoke and custom products make sure to speak to one of our colour experts about pigment dispersion and litho concentrates today. 

Reference Video: Insider