Printer Ink That Does Not Smear

By Steve Lander

Some printer technologies are less prone to smudging.
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Between highlighters, off-site client meetings in inclement weather, and spilled coffee cups, it's hard to be a business document. One of the best ways to ruin a document is to get it wet, damaging the paper and smudging the ink. Some printing technologies are less prone to smudging than the dye-based inks used in many inkjet printers.

Laser Printers

Laser printers don't use ink at all. They use a toner powder that is made up of solid pigments, resins and other chemicals. When the printer creates a document, it touches the paper to the toner then uses a hot roller, called a fuser, to melt it on to the paper. This makes the printing on laser-printed documents essentially indestructible, although the paper is still prone to water damage.

Pigment-Based Inks

Some inkjet printers use pigment-based inks. While a pigment ink looks like a liquid, it actually acts like a hybrid between liquid ink and toner. These inks contain solid pigment particles suspended in a liquid. When the ink dries, the liquid solvent that holds the pigment evaporates, leaving the solid colorants behind, stuck to the paper. This tends to make pigment inks much less prone to smudging than dye-based inks.

Specially Formulated Dye-Based Inks

Dye-based inks have historically been the most smudge-prone printing medium because they combined a liquid colorant with a liquid carrying medium that was usually water. Until every bit of liquid evaporated, they were prone to smudging, and the addition of new liquid, like highlighter ink, could re-disperse the ink and smudge it. Some dye-based inks use different carriers that makes them more smudge resistant, but you should still test your particular printer's ink to see how it will react.

Reducing Smudging with All Inks

There are a few steps that you can take to reduce the risk of smudging, many of which will also keep your printouts looking better. Office supply manufacturers now make non-smudging highlighters that are safe to use with any printout. You can also let prints dry for a minute or two before marking them up or exposing them to liquid. If you have an inkjet, special inkjet papers have coatings that not only make prints more attractive but also reduce the risk of smudging. At the most basic level, of course, you could always just leave your coffee in the break room.