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The 3rd Party Ink Debate

As a reseller and a partner for the UK’s leading print manufacturers, you might say it’s in our interests to tow the party line when it comes to 3rd party ink.

So while it comes as no surprise that our manufacturer partners advocate the use of own brand ink, as the guys talking to customers every day and being asked these things we need to be comfortable that we’re recommending the best solution to our customers and able to give advice based upon strong knowledge.

In addition to our own tests, we thought the best thing was to look at some information from those parties with fewer vested interests and share that with you.

Which.com provides some really interesting content on 3rd party inks and the pros and cons. So what issues do they raise?

Cheap inks are not always cheaper

Which.co.uk states that while 3rd party inks are cheaper per cartridge, they often don’t work out cheaper per print. So value can be deceiving on this front

3rd Party Ink & Cartridge failure

3rd party inks do sometimes fail when installed. The reports of how often this happens are mixed, from as low as 2% to up to 1 in 10. Failures happen for a number of reasons, including chip not recognised – Some cartridges have a chip on them, which is reset or replaced by the third-party ink manufacturer. If the printer doesn’t recognise the chip, it may refuse to print with the cartridge. Poorly fitting cartridges – if the cartridge doesn’t form a good seal when you put it in the printer, air may get into the cartridge and stop it from working properly, or the cartridge may leak. Or clogged print heads. (more on that separately)


Not so much research as fact. The use of 3rd party inks during a warranty period will most likely invalidate that warranty. This is usually linked to whether the 3rd party ink damages the printer in any way.

Fading (light fastness)

This is crucial and particularly in our industry, while you may feel comfortable with a 3rd party ink for printing at home or printing some documents, for those of us printing for professional purposes, the light fastness of 3rd party inks is noticeably poorer. Even websites who advocate giving 3rd party inks a go, suggest that if this is an area you’re concerned about, you don’t want to move away from manufacturer inks.

Blocked Print Heads

Third-party ink doesn’t have the same formulation as the original printer manufacturer’s ink. If it’s thicker, it might clog the print head, resulting in printed dots, streaks or missing colours. Initiating a cleaning cycle on the printer may clear the blockage, but will increase your printing costs.

This is a particular issue if the print head is part of the printer; the problem is bigger and more costly as you may need to replace the print head. This diminishes any money you may save by departing from manufacturer inks.

The DPSB verdict on 3rd party inks

While there will be websites that advocate the cost and quality of prints produced using 3rd party or compatible inks, and customers who are looking to save money, our position as a trusted supplier into the professional printing marketplace means that we have to advocate the on-going use of manufacturer inks.

For us it comes down to two main reasons:

  1. Protecting your investment: If you’ve bought a high quality printer, the risk of damage from using compatible inks isn’t worth it to us, especially considering the mixed results on real cost savings
  2. Quality & Credibility: If you’re selling printed products to end users, you need to be able to supply products with the confidence that those products will look the part on an on-going basis, and additionally that those products are of superior quality to what they might have done themselves.

If you’d like to chat with the team at DPSB about choosing the right inks and achieving consistently high quality results, then get in touch.