What is Water-Based Ink?

In this article we take a look at why water-based digital inkjet inks are an increasingly popular option due to their environmental friendliness and their application versatility.


Water-based inks are defined as inks that use water as the main solvent for carrying pigment. These inks are made from water, rather than other components such as plastic or PVC. Water-based inks use water as a medium to bring pigments (colours) into the substrate. Water-based inks require a longer drying time during the production process. Due to the low chemical risk associated with water-based inkjet inks, this inkjet ink technology is well suited for primary and secondary packaging applications, including food packaging production.

cardboard food packaging


Aqueous, water-based inks are particularly useful for printing onto non-porous surfaces and those which may come into contact with items for human consumption. They are also much kinder to the environment and equipment:

  • Cost Effective: Aqueous inks use a carrier comprising water and organic co-solvents, which are low-cost compounds. Thus, water-based aqueous digital ink can deliver attractive economic benefits.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Water-based ink formulations are kinder and limit safety risks for operators as well as end users, and for printing on food packaging. Products printed using these inks can also be widely recycled.
  • 'Soft-hand': Water-based inks seep into the fabric, and after a couple of washes, there is virtually no difference in the texture between the unprinted and printed fabric. This is known as a “soft hand” because (you guessed it) it feels soft to the hand. This soft hand is especially beneficial for baby clothes and pillows.
  • Versatile: Aqueous inks are versatile, meaning they can deliver high-quality prints for a range of applications. This includes porous substrates, such as papers, corrugated boards, and cardboard.


Water-based inks are particularly useful for printing onto various substrates within a range of industries. Here are a few:

  • Cardboard Packaging: Water-based inks eliminate the risk of toxic compounds migrating through packaging to what is inside - this is particularly important for food packaging. 

  • Non-Porous Surfaces: Water-based digital inks are particularly useful for printing onto non-porous, high density substrates such as plastic flexible film packaging.
  • Wallpaper ManufacturingWater-based inks are being utilised increasingly by wallpaper manufacturers who aim to improve the quality of indoor air without compromising print quality. Moreover, designers would traditionally need to hold stock of wallpaper prints in order to replicate them, sometimes for years. Water-based digital ink allows for small run productions of digitally-stored designs.