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A Fresh Look At HP's Paper, Ink Technology Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

1 September 2015

Since we last looked at HP's paper and chemistry a lot has changed. Inkologist Thom Brown filled us in during our briefing this week.


In the old days (which persist for other companies), dye-based inks last longest on swellable gel papers which, when wetted by the ink, swelled up and encapsulated the dye into the surface of the paper.

This arrangement makes for some brilliant colors that last a long time but the sheets can't be handled immediately. And it's best to wait 24 hours for the swelling to go down completely.

The Canon Pro-100 is probably the preeminent dye-based printer that uses this approach. But it was also the technology built into the home color printer.


When Kodak introduced its EasyShare printers, it rode a different house into town. Like Epson's fine art printers, the EasyShare system relied on pigments not dyes. But Kodak's pigments had the benefit of the company's patents on milling unusually small pigment sizes and consequently smaller dot sizes where placement could be engineered to rival dye's brilliance.

Kodak's pigment inks were not designed for swellable gel papers but for porous sheets it called instant dry because the paper actually sucked moisture into it. It would suck in the oils from your fingers, in fact.

Printing dyes on the Kodak papers (which were generally available and could be used in other, dye-based printers) would result in terrible longevity because the dyes were not protected by encapsulation in a swellable gel.

HP IN 2015

HP's inks are dyes but they are a new generation of dye, Brown told us. He compared the current pigment-dye chemistry to diesel-gasoline engines. Just as diesel engines have become higher performing and gasoline engines more efficient, so pigments have become more brilliant (and even glossy) while dyes have become harder, more stable.

Consequently, HP dyes can survive on a porous paper. Their current glossy photo paper is a porous optimized chromophore, Brown called it, on which the dyes will last about 60 years. And they are instant dry papers, too.


Ink chemistry is fabulously complex and papers are a close second, rivaling the complexity of lasagne, as Brown jokes in one of two videos he recommended to us. We had in fact tried to explain to someone what makes up inkjet ink and gave up, telling them, "You wouldn't believe it."

So we asked Brown for a reference and he suggested his videos. The two here address both ink and paper and overlap a bit while selling the product, but they do give you the sense that, as Brown said, it isn't just colored water.

The first covers the ink:

The second discusses the paper:

The real question, of course, is how they perform. We'll be looking at that in the weeks ahead, comparing the output of HP's matching ink and papers to prints made on Canon, Epson and DNS printers. Stay tuned.

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