Thoughts on Archival Permanence

One of the more commonly asked questions in digital printing is, "What is the archivability of the paper I am using?" How long your prints will last depends on how you handle, present and display them more than the any inherent archival properties that might be in the paper itself. The reality is that all high quality name brand inkjet papers don't really have anything in their chemical makeup that isn't archival. Below are some simple and basic rules to follow to insure your prints last a long time.

Printing on a fine art paper whether it be made of alpha-cellulose, 100% cotton, kozo, bamboo or baryta papers with a printer utilizing pigment based inks are a winning combination for archival pigment prints. Sure RC papers will last a long time, as well as other papers, but for gallery and museum quality printing, the fine art papers are preferred. Pigment based printers such as the Canon Pro-1, Epson R3000 use ink that is made up of ground up particles of pigments, suspended in a solution, and do not contain optical brighteners that are used in less expensive dye based printers. Pigment based inks are more resistant to fading when exposed to light than dye based inks.

In terms of presentation you want to make sure your inkjet print is sealed from external environmental contaminants. Framing your print in a matte, away from the glass or plex and displayed away from direct sunlight will give it the best chance of success in lasting a long time. Take the same print and throw it on the dashboard of your car in the summer time and let it bake for a few weeks and you will surely see some fading very quickly.

It is also recommended to spray you prints with a protective lacquer spray such as Hahnumuhle Protective Spray. This spray seals the surface of your print making it more resistant to potentially absorbing airborne contaminants. Always wait at least 24 hours before framing or spraying your print with a protective lacquer coating to allow necessary out-gassing and chemical processes to stabilize. Remember inkjet emulsion is designed to absorb chemicals i.e. ink and it will do so for the life of the print.