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Epson UltraChrome K3 vs. Epson UltraChrome Hi-Gloss

What's the difference between the Epson UltraChrome K3 ink system, and the Epson UltraChrome Hi-Gloss inks? There is quite a difference in functionality and inks included, but the quality of both is excellent.

UltraChrome High-Gloss was introduced with the Epson R800. At the time, there was a need to some how make glossy and satin prints look better and not suffer from gloss differential and bronzing. These problems were prevalent in earlier pigment ink sets. The main difference of this new ink was the gloss optimizer (GO) tank. When turned on, the GO sprays a clear coating on top of the paper during printing. The coating basically smoothes out the differences in height between the darkest blacks and the whitest whites on a glossy or satin paper. The result is a much more uniform looking print that does not change in appearnce when viewed at different angles. After the R800, the R1800 13" wide printer was introduced followed by the Epson R1900.

In May of 2011, Epson rolled out UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2 in the Epson R2000 printer. A replacement for the R1900, the R2000 is a 13" wide platform. The Hi-Gloss 2 system replaced blue ink with orange.

The UltraChrome K3 system was introduced as an upgrade to the original UltraChrome system in the Epson 2200. The major improvements were the better performance on glossy and satin media and the black & white (three black or K3) system. This ink set was chosen by Epson to be their "professional" system. It has been put into a number of wide format models and can be found in the Epson R2880, R3000, Pro 3880, and other wide format models.

Inks Used

UltraChrome K3® UltraChrome Hi-Gloss® UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2®
  • Cyan
  • Magenta or Vivid Magenta
  • Yellow
  • Light Cyan
  • Light Magenta or Vivid Light Magenta
  • Photo Black or Matte Black
  • Light Black
  • Light Light Black
  • Cyan
  • Magenta
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Blue
  • Photo Black
  • Matte Black
  • Gloss Optimizer
  • Cyan
  • Magenta
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Orange
  • Photo Black
  • Matte Black
  • Gloss Optimizer

System Strengths

UltraChrome K3 UltraChrome Hi-Gloss
  • Slightly more "natural" color gamut
  • Black & White specific setup and settings
  • Matte black ink for matte and fine art papers
  • Red and blue inks (Hi-Gloss) and red and orange (Hi-Gloss 2) allow for a more "punchy" color gamut
  • Optimized for glossy and luster type photo papers (using gloss optimizer feature)
  • Matte black ink for matte and fine art papers

What Printers?

UltraChrome K3 UltraChrome Hi-Gloss & UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2
  • R3000
  • R2880
  • 3800 / 3880
  • 4800 / 4880
  • 7800 / 7880 / 7890
  • 9800 / 9880 / 9890 / 11880
  • R2000
  • R1900
  • R800
  • R1800

It may seem hard to understand why there are these two systems. Why not combine the best of both into one system? The answer is probably related to the timing of the release of the Hi-Gloss system and why it was needed. As mentioned above, glossy performance with pigment inks was not good prior to the Hi-Gloss ink set. It was likely released to deal with that fairly specifc issue. The UltraChrome K3 system developed along a different track and became the "professional" choice. Glossy and satin performance on K3 inks has become better with newer printers, and the Hi-Gloss system now stands alone in the R2000 model. Our opinion is that Epson should incorporate the gloss optimizer into the K3 system which would create a true all-around ink and printer platform for any need.


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