“Replacement ink cartridges of the same brand as my photo printer seem very expensive, especially when compared with refills done by kiosks. Have there been any impartial studies done to compare the quality and longevity of the aftermarket inks? I have no qualms about using the cheaper inks for some purposes but am concerned with using them on art prints that I plan to sell.”
Reviews of various brands of ink for photo printers are available but some do not include many of the common brands of inks available in Canada, John. Others do cover some of the brands that are sold here but the reports are based on testing conducted four or more years ago. The latter are of greater interest but remember: there’s no way of knowing whether they are valid for the latest inks that are currently sold by the aftermarket companies.
The most useful article Aftermarket Inks Fading Fast? at HealthStip discusses extensive testing conducted by Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR) an independent lab. After testing many aftermarket inks they raised serious concerns about longevity: “Testing reveals that aftermarket photo inks and media fall far short of these claims, with a gap of more than 70 years in permanence ratings in some cases.”
You can download additional specifics from the 2006 report from the WIR Web site. Be sure to review the chart with the print permanence rating for numerous inks that were available for testing in 2005. It’s as short as five months—and under two years on average—for the aftermarket inks compared to the permanence ratings for some OEM inks: 73 years, 105 years, 16 years and 23 years.
For other insights also read the 2003 article, Cheap Ink Probed at PC World, especially the comment about a technical problem: “You can save money using no-name inks but you may have to spend a lot of time cleaning clogged printheads.” That can consume a lot of ink. Note too that changing from aftermarket ink to “genuine” ink would require several head cleanings to remove all of the previously used dyes or pigments.
You may decide to try no-name inks for unimportant purposes. But the machine you use for photo printing should remain pure, employing only the manufacturer’s cartridges/inks. That will ensure both permanence and optimal quality since they’re 100% compatible with the unique print head technology used by each manufacturer. And finally, you’ll get maximum consistency so you won’t experience unpleasant surprises when printing the same image in the future.