We use ink on almost every piece of paper and packaging. Here’s how HP’s commitment to water-based inks will change the way we approach print materials.

Ink, the liquid used for writing, printing, or drawing, has come along way since its first creation several thousands of years ago. Originally made from elements found in nature, such as vegetable juices or tree bark tannins, ink evolved over the years to keep up with current technologies.

With increasing environmental concerns, businesses and brands alike have started to think about ways to reduce their environmental footprint, from packaging materials to ink contents.


What is Ink Currently Made Of?

Inks used for printing are made up of a combination of ingredients to create its pigment and shine. These same ingredients also ensure durability and staying power. Printer inks usually consist of a varnish, resin, solvent, pigment, and other additives.

Varnish is a liquid that makes up the base of any ink color; this produces the shiny gloss that you see from print jobs. It increases the durability and staying power needed for long-term print displays.

While it ensures longevity for many designs, varnish is typically petroleum-based. Being derived from oil, much like plastic, varnishes can release VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can be harmful to consumers, animals, and the environment. Not only that, but varnish doesn’t decompose, meaning it often contaminates soil and groundwater.

HP Introduces Sustainable Ink Initiative To Change Digital Print Solutions — What is Ink Make Of
Image via Boibin.

Resins allow the printer ink to bind to a surface. These also make the ink become heat, water, or chemical resistant. Solvents optimize drying times and ensure print materials last longer.

The pigments incorporated in printer ink contribute to the color variation in the ink output. Black or darker inks typically use a carbon black pigment. Meanwhile, lighter inks utilize titanium dioxide to lighten up the hue.

In addition to the ingredients above, printer inks also come with multiple additives to ensure a smoother application and increase the ink quality. Additives can take the form of waxes, defoamers, surfactants, and more.

The make up of printer inks is anything but simple. While each ingredient has its role to play, there are concerns about the toxicity and environmental harm of producing such printer inks. Many businesses and brands are opting for safer vegetable- and soy-based inks to lessen the impact from the ink’s production to end use.


How HP’s Water-Based Inks Will Make an Impact

While vegetable-based inks exist as an environmentally-friendly option, many businesses are still opting for cheaper, petroleum-based inks. In an effort to make eco-friendly inks more accessible, HP has committed to a sustainable innovation for water-based print solutions. The printer ink giant has decided to invest $200 million over five years to further develop those water-based technologies. Specifically, the company is focusing on water-based ink for printing on textiles and corrugated materials.

HP Introduces Sustainable Ink Initiative To Change Digital Print Solutions — How Water-Based Ink is Different
Image via Itsanan.

By having a sustainable alternative in the hands of HP, the future of environmentally-friendly printer inks is already looking good. Not only will this innovation reduce waste and environmental impact over the entire product lifecycle, the contents of the ink will also meet the health and safety demands of conscious consumers.

As water-based solutions become easily accessible to businesses and consumers, I believe this huge innovation will spur further sustainable changes in the printing and packaging industries.


Cover image via antpkr.

Interested in more sustainable design? Check out these articles below: