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The ABCs of Ink: A Comprehensive Guide to Ink Types

Whether you’re jotting down notes, inking a tattoo, or printing graphics on vinyl, the type of ink you choose plays a crucial role. The ink’s foundation—be it water, solvent, latex, and so forth—impacts its drying time, compatibility with materials, and longevity. Moreover, your choice of printer can also influence the type of ink that’s suitable for your project.

Determining the Right Ink

The initial step in selecting the appropriate ink involves determining your printing objectives. Are you creating static signs, venturing into elaborate vehicle wraps, or simply printing from your home? Knowing your requirements helps you zero in on the suitable ink type and corresponding printer. If you already own a printer, it will, of course, dictate your ink options.

Water-based Inks

Also known as aqueous inks, water-based inks are generally less versatile for printing on vinyl; you’ll need specially coated vinyl to make it stick. These inks tend to fade more quickly because they sit atop the vinyl’s coating. If you’re using a standard home printer, you’re probably using water-based ink. We offer an aqueous-compatible vinyl, Orajet 1917, perfect for those starting with a home inkjet printer.

Solvent-based Inks

Solvent inks offer a good value for your money. They are widely compatible with printable vinyls and are robust for both indoor and outdoor use. Solvent inks penetrate the vinyl, contributing to their durability. You have the choice between traditional solvent and eco-solvent inks, which are less toxic and require less ventilation.

Latex Inks

Although latex inks are water-based, their composition varies substantially from aqueous inks. They are compatible with an array of vinyl types and dry instantly. Despite their higher scratch resistance compared to solvent inks, it’s essential to note that certain vinyl types are heat-sensitive and may require adjustment in heat settings.

UV-Curable Inks

These inks are exposed to UV light during printing, making them dry instantaneously and resistant to scratching and fading. However, they can be less flexible, limiting their use in projects requiring curvature. Some variants are available for more flexible applications but always consult the manufacturer.

Other Types of Inks

Apart from the four primary categories discussed, other inks like dye sublimation, screen printing, and alcohol inks are also available, along with alternative printing systems like toner and thermal transfer foils.


Q: How do I choose the right ink for my project?

A: Consider your project requirements and consult your printer specifications to determine the most suitable ink type.

Q: Are water-based inks suitable for vinyl printing?

A: Generally, they require a special coating on the vinyl for adhesion and are not as durable as other types.

Q: Is it necessary to have a well-ventilated area for using solvent inks?

A: Yes, particularly for traditional solvent inks. Eco-solvent inks require less ventilation but it’s still advisable to have good air circulation.

Q: Can latex inks be used on heat-sensitive vinyl?

A: Yes, but adjustments to heat settings may be required to prevent warping or wrinkling of the material.

Q: Are UV-curable inks good for curved surfaces?

A: Typically, they are better suited for flat applications, although flexible variants are available.

By taking the time to understand your project needs, you don’t have to invest in the perfect setup right away. Experimenting with what you have can reveal your existing capabilities, setting you on the right path toward achieving your goals.