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Epson Computer Tip: The importance of print life; it's all about the ink and paper

Light, air pollution, and humidity all take a toll on photographs, causing them to fade and yellow over time. You can protect your cherished photographs by matting them and placing them in a frame, or by keeping them in an archival safe photo album or scrapbook. But how you print your photographs may be the most important factor in their longevity.

There is an industry recognized, independent authority on the topic of image permanence. His name is Henry Wilheim, and companies rely on his un-biased ratings of their papers. His website, lists his ratings for all ink jet papers. This is the place to confirm any image permanence claims made by paper and printer manufacturers.

Usually, most image permanence ratings are measured under what are called “display conditions”. This refers to a photo in a frame, hanging exposed to natural or artificial light. Frames also help to protect photos from atmospheric contaminants and humidity, which can be as harmful as light.

Another measure is called “dark album storage” and this is how most photographers, archivers, museums, and scrapbookers store their photos and albums. This is the safest way to store photos and albums, especially when sealed in a box or bag, in low humidity environments.

Traditional prints made from film developed at a photo lab are rated for over 100 years, dark album storage conditions but are NOT acid free.

When you have your pictures developed at a photo lab, you can usually choose from glossy or matte finishes. Glossy finishes are shiny; Matte is non-glare. Many professional photographers choose matter photo paper since most of their prints end up behind glass. Matte paper also tends to have a longer print life (longevity) than glossy.

If you choose to print your photos at home, you have a much wider range of photo finishes.

Very few photo papers are acid-free (with a pH higher than 7.0). The glossy coating on most photo papers contains some amount of acid, which is why it is so important to store your photos and memorabilia on acid-free paper.

Ink quality is another large player in print longevity. Thanks to advances in ink-jet technology, you can print pictures at home that will now last much longer than prints from a traditional photo lab.

There are two types of ink found in inkjet printers: dye-based, or pigment-based. Pigment inks are longer lasting and more water-resistant than dye inks. Both inks are acid-free, and both will give you beautiful prints.

But most important – choosing your favorite paper means nothing unless you tell your printer what type of paper you’re feeding into it. When you print, your printer driver will show you a list of paper types to choose form. If you don’t see your type listed, ready the instructions in the paper package. They will tell you what paper name option to select in your printer’s driver.

Sponsor: Epson America

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