Aftermarket Inks Fading Fast? Hard Copy Supplies Journal Announces Wilhelm’s Surprising Test Results

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Lyra Research, the digital imaging authority, has announced findings from Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR) showing that the image permanence of photos printed with aftermarket ink jet cartridges and photo papers is far inferior to that of photos printed with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) ink jet cartridges and photo papers.

Lyra Research, the digital imaging authority, has announced findings from Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR) showing that the image permanence of photos printed with aftermarket ink jet cartridges and photo papers is far inferior to that of photos printed with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) ink jet cartridges and photo papers. The results of this study were published in the May issue of The Hard Copy Supplies Journal, now available for free download at The testing examined the image permanence of prints made with store-brand ink jet cartridges, ink jet cartridges refilled at franchise refill shops, and other aftermarket ink sets, using OEM and third-party photo papers. It also compared the permanence of photos printed with these aftermarket products to that of photos printed with inks and photo papers from Canon, Epson, and HP using the respective OEMs’ consumer photo printers.

Charles Brewer, managing editor of The Hard Copy Supplies Journal, explains the framework of the study. “Wilhelm Imaging Research based the study on claims it found in the advertising for many aftermarket ink jet cartridges and papers indicating that aftermarket products generally provide equal or better quality than products made by OEMs such as HP, Canon, Epson, and Lexmark. According to WIR, image permanence is an intrinsic component of ‘overall product quality,’ and its 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.” Brewer adds, “While store-brand ink jet cartridges, refilled cartridges, and Internet-purchased cartridges have achieved remarkable levels of image quality, the test results indicate that in terms of the less obvious issue of light-fading stability, these products are comparable to where the OEMs were in the 1990s. It appears that the aftermarket’s one-size-fits-all approach to making ink and compatible photo papers doesn’t produce the same level of image permanence, especially when compared to the optimized combinations available from the major printer manufacturers. The WIR test results suggest that photos printed with a combination of aftermarket ink jet cartridges and premium OEM photo papers essentially negated the value of using the name-brand paper.”

Since no information regarding the longevity of photo prints is available at the point of sale, consumers have no guidelines for choosing printing supplies that will yield long-lasting photo prints. Ink jet photo paper analyst Andy Lippman explores the market implications of the WIR study. “Can printer manufacturers effectively communicate the value proposition of image permanence to consumers who are primarily concerned with price? As the aftermarket continues to gain market share using a value-driven message, particularly with the strength of office superstore-brand products, companies such as HP have begun to employ more pointed language about the lower quality of aftermarket products. With these test results in hand, the OEMs have an even better tool to battle aftermarketers. Even the thriftiest consumer may have second thoughts about buying a cartridge that produces photos that will fade in only a matter of months. From an advertising standpoint, the image of a faded family photograph gives the OEMs an emotionally and rationally compelling message based on the WIR results.”

Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR), led by founder and president Henry Wilhelm, conducted the testing. Wilhelm is an expert on image permanence and has worked on various issues related to the display and preservation of photographic prints with a number of groups, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Since 1995, he has been an advisor to the Corbis Bettmann photography collection, which is owned by Bill Gates and contains more than 65 million images. For more details on WIR’s methodology, visit

Download the Complete Story Free

The complete story on WIR’s photo image permanence tests is available online for a limited time by downloading a complimentary PDF of the May 2006 issue of The Hard Copy Supplies Journal at The article includes comprehensive information on WIR display permanence ratings for genuine Hewlett-Packard (HP), Canon, and Epson photo inks and papers, as well as ratings for store-label and aftermarket photo inks and papers including Office Depot (office superstore), OfficeMax (office superstore), Staples (office superstore), Rapid Refill (retail refiller), Island Ink-Jet (retail refiller), Caboodle Cartridge (retail refiller), Cartridge World (retail refiller), and Carrot Ink (private label).

Save $100 Off a New Journal Print Subscription

To commemorate the recent launch of the new Web site and 10 years of publishing the Journal print edition, Lyra Research is offering new subscribers a $100 discount off the price of a one-year subscription to the monthly newsletter. The Journal's discounted annual subscription rate is $480 in North America and $555 outside North America. To subscribe, call 617-454-2612 and mention this special offer before June 1, 2006.

About The Hard Copy Supplies Journal

The Hard Copy Supplies Journal monthly newsletter provides comprehensive reporting and analysis of technology, product, and market trends and industry events in the hard copy supplies industry. Published monthly since 1995, the Journal is the leading publication covering the vast digital imaging consumables industry and is written for product and marketing managers, strategic planners, public relations and advertising managers, and corporate executives at supplies companies worldwide.

About Lyra Research

Founded in 1991, Lyra Research ( is recognized worldwide as the leading provider of market, product, and technology information and analysis focused on the imaging industry. Lyra Research provides targeted information on printers and copiers, digital photography, and imaging supplies to more than 2,000 clients in more than 40 countries. Lyra’s portfolio of services includes leading industry newsletters, special market reports, advisory services, conferences, Webcasts, and custom consulting.


Andre Rebelo

Marketing Manager

Lyra Research, Inc.



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