Print permanence

Print permanence

Print permanence refers to the longevity of printed material, especially photographs, and preservation issues. Over time, the optical density, color balance, lustre, and other qualities of a print will degrade. The rate at which deterioration occurs depends primarily on two main factors: the print itself, that is, the colorants used to form the image and the medium on which image resides, and the type of environment the print is exposed to.

Inkjet prints

For inkjet prints, dye-based inks last generally longest when used with specific paper types, whereas pigment-based inks can be optimal on more types of paper. Ink-jet paper types include swellable paper, porous paper, and cotton rag paper.Fact|date=September 2008

ilver/dye colour prints

The longevity of images on colour photographic papers depends on age and exposure to light. Older types of colour paper faded rapidly compared to modern RA-4 materials. For example, Fujifilm's "Crystal Archive" papers have a quoted longevity of sixty years dark storage. [Citation
last = Wilhelm
first = Henry
last2 = McCormick-Goodhart
first2 = Mark
title = An Overview of the Permanence of Inkjet Prints Compared With Traditional Color Prints
month = January
year = 2000
url =
accessdate = 06 September 2008

Black-and-white prints

In general, black-and-white prints using either silver or carbon-based media may last longer than some colour prints. Some black-and-white prints are produced using ink-jet printers, or colour photographic paper using the RA 4 process.

Gelatin-silver prints

To achieve a long lifespan, gelatin-silver prints must be thoroughly fixed and washed. Besides rendering the silver insensitive to light, fixer converts undeveloped silver salts in the emulsion into products that can easily be washed away. Effective washing removes almost all thiosulphate and dissolved silver salts from the emulsion and paper base. If left in the paper, these products will cause the image to deteriorate over time.

Toning can increase the longevity of silver-based prints by replacing or coating the metallic silver with more inert metals such as gold, silver sulphide or selenium. [ | Silverprint article on print longevity | Accessed 5 September 2008]

Platinum, palladium and other inert metals

Images composed of more inert metals, like platinum, palladium and gold are less prone to decay than those in silver. Amateur Photographer's "Dictionary of Photography" said "Owing to the chemically inert nature of platinum, a print so made is far more permanent than any print having a silver image can be". [Citation
first=A.L.M. (ed.)
title=Dictionary of Photography - A Reference Book for Amateur and Professional Photographers (nineteenth edition)
publisher=Iliffe Books Ltd.
p 515
] Indeed, the Victoria and Albert Museum's Conservation Journal states that "...the majority of the deterioration seen in such prints is usually associated with the supports, which are often yellowed and brittle, rather than the actual image." [cite web
last = Gent
first = Megan
coauthors = Rees, Jacqueline
title = A Conservation Treatment to Remove Residual Iron from Platinum Prints
publisher = Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
date = July 1993
url =
accessdate = 6 September 2008

Environmental factors

Environmental factors that hasten the deterioration of a print include exposure to heat, ozone and other pollutants, water or humidity, and high levels of light. Though light-induced fade often gets the most publicity, greater than 90 per cent of consumer prints are stored in the dark where the effects of heat, humidity, and/or pollutants can dominate.

Research and standards

Much research into image permanence has been carried out by Wilhelm Imaging Research, Inc. [| Wilhelm Imaging Research, Inc. website | Accessed 5 September 2008]

Some film companies and printer manufacturers are researching ways to increase the lifetime of their prints. While ISO or the International Organization for Standardization has developed standards for the testing of image permanence, those standards have yet to be extended to digital print output, though the organization has signalled its intent to provide such standards.


External links

* Arthur H. Bleich (2004). [ "Going, going, gone! How to Create Prints that Last"] . " Digital Camera".
* Bugner, Douglas; LaBarca, Joseph; Kopperl, David; Phillips, Jonathan; Skye, David; Baker, Irene; Cunningham, Caryn; Miller, Paige; and Kaltenbach, Thomas (February 2004). " [ Survey of Environmental Conditions Relative to Display of Photographs in Consumer Home] ". "IS&T's Thirteenth International Symposium on Photofinishing Technologies". 13, 31-36. ISBN 0-89208-249-6.
* [ In-depth white paper (Epson)]
* [ White paper on image permanence issues (Kodak)]
* [ International photo industry website on image preservation]
* [ International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO)Technical Committee 42, Photographic Standards Published and Under Development]

ee also

*Preservation (library and archival science)

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