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Print permanence - Interested to produce prints that will last one hundred years?

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

At our printmaking studio, Fine Art Imaging, we often talk to our clients about print permanence and archival quality. Four years ago, when we relocated from Montreal to Bucharest, the term giclée was almost unknown.


Color balance, optical density, color graduation and sharpness fade over time.

A plain definition of „print permanence” is for how long the print obtained from a specific combination of printer, ink and paper retains its characteristics under given displayed conditions. This is very important especially if an art collector or a museum will buy the fine art print.

Here are a few tips to ensure a long print life of your digital images:

Whether as a professional digital artist or a passionate photographer, you will eventually print some of your most admired artwork. Probably, you’ll want to keep these not just for a few days, but for a lifetime. And that is why we'll talk about "print permanence".

If you intend for your images to be admired and handed over from one generation to another, here are few things that you should be aware of:

1. Careful choice of your media (see more information in our article published last month)

Not all papers are equal, even if they are labeled as “fine art papers”. To ensure optimal print permanence, start with an acid-free ph-neutral fine art paper, preferably 100% cotton or other natural fibre (bamboo, hemp, agave, alpha cellulose etc.), which will be very appreciated by your quality-driven customers looking to buy a giclée print.

Genuine fine art media have a microporous coating that will ensure the best printing results. It starts with the rapid absorption and ink retention. The best match for this coating technology is a pigment-based ink. By comparison, dye-based inks would be exposed to air throughout the porous structure of the coating and, over time, will lead to discoloration).

In conclusion, the archival quality of a fine art paper relates on the interaction of three factors:

· type of paper

· ink technology

- paper coating

2. Choose the right environment for display

Never expose your fine art prints under direct sunlight, or in an environment with extreme temperatures and high humidity. If not varnished, the print should be exhibited under protective glass.

When selling your fine art prints, you have a chance to provide advice to your customer on optimal display and framing conditions. If you provide an authenticity certificate for your artwork, it might be a good idea to list there some of these basic conservation rules:

· no direct sun exposure

· avoid high humidity and extreme temperatures (hot or cold)

· ensure UV protection (either liquid laminate or conservation glass)

· seal the back of the frame to avoid contact with dust, air pollutants, insects etc.)

3. It is probably better to avoid OBA:

Optical Brightening Agents (OBA) are fluorescent chemical added into the paper inkjet coating composition in order to make it whiter and brighter.

How does it work? – these additives have the capacity to absorb invisible UV light and release it over time as visible blue light. It depends of course on the lighting conditions under which the print is viewed. In time this effect wears out and the paper returns eventually to its original natural white.

How can you tell if a paper has OBAs? – the technical data sheet of the paper should specify if an OBA is present. Also, a description of paper as “bright white” will indicate the presence of some OBA. The content of OBA is important for the integrity of the print and should meet the archival standards - make sure to check if there is an “Archival Certificate” by an accredited third party.

Photographers prefer bright, whiter papers for their characteristics such as deep black and high contrast.

However, “natural” white papers are slowly becoming more popular with increased awareness of the risk posed by OBA to the integrity and longevity of the print.

A very useful site for brand name permanence data (printers and papers combination) is Wilhelm Imaging Research.

4. How to handle your fine art prints

You should make a habit of wearing cotton white gloves when you handle the acid-free fine art prints on paper or canvas. In this way, you prevent the transfer of oils and dirt from our hands. For shipping and transportation, wrapping materials must be acid-free as well. Insert interleaving acid-free paper between stacked fine art prints (for example glassine) and instruct your customer to wait a few hours before unpacking in order to allow the prints to acclimate to its new environment.

Warning: If the acid comes into contact with your print, it may cause yellow spots and compromise its integrity.

Print your artwork at our Fine Art Imaging Studio:

We craft our fine art prints using best-in-class technology. Also, we use media along with a workflow designed to comply with the strictest archival printmaking standards. Our giclée prints offer an image stability rating greater than 80 years, due to the exclusive use of archival-grade pigment inks, acid-free media and high-quality UV protective liquid laminates.

The quality of our works is the result of effort, passion, knowledge and skillful execution. We are looking forward to collaborating with you.


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