BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Digital Cameras and Accessories : Digital Photo Printers & Supplies

Photography Question 
Don Blais

Archival Ink Jet Prints

I understand what the word archival means. Is an archival inkjet print versus a regular inkjet print achieved with the paper, the ink, the equipment, or a combination of them? Thanks!

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3/5/2006 11:53:14 AM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  The ink and paper that's made to last longer.

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3/5/2006 12:07:13 PM

John G. Clifford Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/18/2005
  An inkjet print is considered "archival" when it will last at least 50 years without showing signs of visible fading. Inkjet printer manufacturers have found that the biggest problem that leads to premature fading and aging of prints is the breakdown of the dyes used in the inks due to exposure to UV light or pollution in the air (ozone).
Using special swellable papers and preservative coatings can give dye-based prints from Epson printers like R200/300 family longevity from 25 to 40 years or more (not in direct sunlight, prints framed).
The newer lines of archival printers from these companies tend to feature pigmented inks that can give print lifes of up to 100 years or more, and even longer if the prints are sprayed with preservative coatings and properly framed.
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3/5/2006 12:16:34 PM

Don Blais   Thanks for the help, John. I appreciate it.

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3/5/2006 12:57:03 PM

Michael H. Cothran   Concerning inks, there are two basic types of inks available to the consumer - dye based and pigmented. Dye-based inks have long been more colorful and vibrant, but with a much shorter lifespan, and as such, have never been considered "archival." Pigmented inks ARE considered archival, but have long suffered in their lack of brilliance and vibrancy. This is changing, as newer developed pigmented inks (such as Epson's Ultrachromes) are now closely matching the brilliancy of dye-based inks, yet giving much longer lifespans.
Concerning papers, "fine art" papers are considered more "archival" than standard glossy, semi-gloss, and matte papers. Papers with the longest lifespans seem to be those fine art papers WITHOUT any whiteners or bleaches.

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3/5/2006 8:11:01 PM

Anita Bower
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/3/2004
  These are helpful responses.
How do photos printed at a lab compare to archival quality printed on a home printer?

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3/7/2006 5:28:11 AM

Paul Tobeck
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/19/2005
  Let's put some reality into this discussion. Everyone gets caught up in the term "archival" when it comes to inkjet prints. Many people have the preconceived notion that lab prints last longer than inkjet prints. Unless you are using a specialty lab or a "premium service" at your local lab, this is just not the case. The majority of the "everyday" prints that we get from our favorite labs are printed on either Kodak or Fuji paper, which are essentially dye-based and just as susceptible to fading as dye based inkjet prints (to a somewhat lesser extent). Have you ever opened a shoebox full of your parents prints from the 60's and 70's and seen those terrible green and magenta color shifts? That's an example of gas fading on "lab" prints that are only 30-40 years old. Of course the lab papers available today have improved, but not as much as you would think. Another thing to consider is that most film/paper manufacturers are moving their focus away from these chemical processes and focusing on digital technologies. Further improvements on these papers is unlikely. One exception is Fuji's Crystal Archive paper, generally only available as a "premium service". This paper I believe is rated more than 75 years, similar to most standard inkjet pigment prints on glossy paper. Go to and look up the lab paper that your favorite place uses, and compare it to prints made by the inkjet you're considering. We are talking about apples to apples after all.
The main thing you have to consider when deciding on a photo printer is your end use for the prints. If you want to make gallery class prints for display, or plan on selling fine art prints to the public, I would look hard at one of the pigment ink A3 (or larger)size printers from the various manufacturers. If most of your prints are for albums, portfolios and an occasional print for that frame on your desk, then a dye based printer will work just fine (plus the price per print is cheaper than pigment). Dye based prints on the swellable or micro ceramic papers available typically have a lifespan of more that 75 years in dark storage and about 25-30 years framed, right in line with most typical lab prints. Hope this helps!

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3/8/2006 5:02:03 AM

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