Eco Solvent Ink vs. Sublimation Ink

If you are looking to make it big as a sublimation or a DIY printing artist, it is the ink choice that you need to fix first. And while there are quite a few options available, including the likes of aqueous dye, UV-curable, and more, two of the most popular variants include the standard sublimation ink and the Eco-solvent ink.

While the former comes replete with choices, the latter makes a conscious decision to lower the environmental impact of its usage.

It is crucial to clearly understand the differences between sublimation ink and Eco-solvent ink, as it would then help you choose projects, plan printing setups, and even optimize print quality with the right type of paper.

Let us dive right into this piece by getting to know each ink type up close and personal.

Eco-solvent ink

Eco-solvent ink is what the name suggests. It comprises a solvent with infused pigments that lend color to the substrates.

Some of the more popular examples include the UltraChrome GS3 from Epson and the Eco-Sol Max from Roland. These ink variants are compatible with a wide range of printers from Epson, Mimaki, and also Roland.

It is important to note that eco-solvent ink variants work best with eco-solvent inkjet printers, where ink is applied directly onto the surface of the material. The role of the solvent is to soften the material, and it evaporates, letting the pigments bond with the substrate. They have temperature-specific needs and therefore come with built-in heating setups. 

Now that the concept is out of the way let us quickly look at the advantages and disadvantages of using eco-solvent ink:

  • You can expect eco-solvent ink variants to be compatible with vinyl, textiles, paper, and even can canvas.
  • These ink variants are resistant to water, scratches, UV light, and other outdoor concerns. 
  • They come with diverse environmental benefits, primarily known for the lower “Volatile Organic Compound” content. They are comparatively greener than other solvent ink variants.
  • Eco-solvent ink takes a longer time to dry. This might be a roadblock if you seek quick production.
  • The vibrancy of colors might not be as pronounced as offered by dye-sublimation variants.
  • They will not work with your existing printing setup, and the cost of overhauling the entire setup can be high.

If you have plans of designing and printing vehicle wraps, decals, wall graphics, and any kind of outdoor signage, eco-solvent makes quite a compelling case. And if you are still not sure as to which printers would fit, the likes of Epson SureColor S-Series, Mimaki JV150 Series, and even the SOLJET Pro 4 XR-640 from Rolan fit in quite well.

Sublimation ink

Sublimation ink is what works best with sublimation printers. These are water-based ink variants, perfect for dye-sublimation printing. Coming to usage, the lifecycle of sublimation ink starts at the printer, moves to the transfer paper, and eventually infuses with the substrate when you apply heat and pressure.

Now that you have a refresher as to how sublimation ink works, here are the pros and cons of using it:

  • Color reproduction is arguably the most vibrant compared to any other type of DIY printing activity.

  • The print permanence is exceptional. Factors like light, UV exposure, and abrasion hardly do anything to the prints. 

  • The printed surface doesn’t give out any kind of tactile feel, making the artwork look all-natural and a part of the substrate itself.
  • Sublimation ink is good, but it has a narrower range of compatible substrates compared to eco-solvent inks.

  • Setting up the entire sublimation printing realm is cost-intensive. Unlike the eco-solvent printers that have heat presses built-in, sublimation would require you to invest separately in heat presses and even transfer papers.
  • Sublimation, due to the number of steps and the need for accurate temperature control, feels tricker than other printing jobs.

Therefore, if you prefer print jobs where the substrate is more like a polyester-specific material like sportswear, home textile, or anything else, using sublimation ink makes sense. You can even use this printing approach for promotional items like mugs and mouse pads. 

Comparison between Eco-solvent and Sublimation ink types

By now, you should have a fair idea of how each ink variant works. Still, I have prepared a detailed list across different parameters to help you make an informed decision:

Eco-solvent ink solutions are compatible with more substrates or print surfaces as compared to sublimation ink variants. The former scores highly when it comes to printing on vinyl, paper, and even canvas. Sublimation ink works rather well or best with polyester-backed surfaces.

Both ink types show commendable durability, albeit in different capacities. For instance, eco-solvent prints are scratch, water, and UV resistant, whereas sublimation prints are crack, fade, and even peel resistant.

Color vibrancy

Sublimation ink solutions win this parameter, hands down. They bring in colors way better than their eco-solvent counterparts.

Production speed

Sublimation ink dries faster and therefore helps get your DIY project up and running in virtually no time. Eco-solvent printing can be time-intensive.

Environmental impact

It goes without saying that eco-solvent ink solutions are way greener compared to their sublimation counterparts. 

Market demand and popularity

Eco-solvent ink solutions are primarily used for outdoor prints and are more useful and popular commercially. However, if you are strictly going by the DIY capabilities, sublimation ink takes the cake.

Adjoining costs

Eco-solvent printing is more cost-effective as there is no need for lofty hardware. With sublimation ink and printing solutions, additional heat press and paper are needed, pushing the costs higher. 

Both sublimation and eco-solvent ink solutions have their own place in the printing world. The one you end up choosing depends on your personal expertise and professional needs.


Can I use eco-solvent ink in my sublimation printer?

It isn’t advisable to use eco-solvent ink in your sublimation printer. Even if you do, the printer head can get clogged, and the imprints will surely be subpar. 

Which is better, eco-solvent or dye sublimation?

There is no ink that can be deemed universally better. For better vibrancy and color reproduction, you can go with dye-sublimation ink solutions, whereas eco-solvent ink variants are greener and are compatible with a wider range of substrates.

Is sublimation ink a solvent ink?

No, sublimation ink uses water as the base and is loaded with specialized dyes for handling dye-sublimation. Solvent inks, like eco-solvent, have specialized formulations that carry substrate-bonding pigments. 

Can you use eco-solvent ink for regular printing?

You can use eco-solvent ink for regular printing, provided your requirements primarily concern paper, canvas, and vinyl printing. However, if you want ink solutions for daily workspace-specific printing, eco-solvent might not be the answer. 

How long does Eco solvent ink last?

The longevity of eco-solvent ink solutions depends on the quality of the ink, the type of substrate you plan on using, and even environmental factors. The best case scenario is three years to 5 years before the design starts to fade out. 

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