Diverse device applications for lead zirconate titanate (PZT) ceramics in thick-film form are currently in active development. In the present study, the particle dispersion properties of thick-film ink formulations containing PZT powder have been determined using rheological measurements. Although all of the eight commercially available dispersants tested are more effective than the terpineol solvent alone in decreasing attractive interparticle forces in suspensions, the best dispersant identified for hard and soft PZT powders is a phosphate ester oligomer. This dispersant is extremely efficient, and its use in thick-film ink formulations results in viscosity decreases of 50% at low shear rates (10 s(-1)) and 30% at high shear rates (100 s(-1)) compared with current ink formulations containing no dispersant. The effects upon rheology of the order of addition of components in the processing of inks have been studied, with the most effective processing route using a fugitive solvent that probably facilitates uniform coverage of the particle surfaces by the dispersant molecules. Modeling of the rheological profiles of inks indicates that the use of a dispersant decreases the depth of the primary minimum in the interparticle potential by a factor of 3. Demonstrated advantages of the use of a dispersant in PZT thick-film inks include improved microstructural homogeneity in the green body and the ability to formulate printable inks with higher solids loadings. No adverse effects of the dispersant upon the dielectric and piezoelectric properties of bulk PZT samples are found following burnout and sintering.