Photos and other images printed on photo papers or matt coated papers using inkjet printers may be susceptible to fading from exposure to light. In order to enhance the longevity of the inkjet printed image, it is important to understand the factors that influence fading, namely;
- The type of Inkjet Paper used
- The ink used
- Level of exposure to light
- Barriers placed over the image to filter UV rays
Different papers influence fading in different ways. Professional grade, microporous photo paper have a base layer of Polyethylene underneath the inkjet receiving coating. This means that the ink is enclosed within a very thin chemical layer on top of the paper and is not absorbed into the paper itself.
Instant dry (or cast coated) papers do not have the PE barrier between the paper and the ink and so the ink is absorbed by the coating AND some will drop deeper into the paper.
The result is that there is a higher concentration of ink on the surface of the micro porous paper and it will take longer to be affected by UV light and will remain vibrant and colourful for longer.
The ink used is a vital component when considering fading of inkjet prints. There are two main categories namely Dye based inks and Pigment based inks;
- Dye Based Inks
- Pigment Based Inks
Images printed with dye based inks will generally fade quicker than those printed with pigmented inks. This is due to dye based inks being 100% liquid (being essentially coloured water/chemical combination) which is not sufficient to keep colour from fading quickly. Some dye based inks perform better than others but never as good as pigmented inks.
Pigment inks contain solid particles which constitute the colour and are resistant to fading. Images printed with pigment inks will last longer, especially on micro porous papers.
Examples of pigment inks include but not exclusive to:
- Epson DuraBrite
- Epson UltraChrome
- HP Vivera
You need to check your individual printer documentation to see if it can take both inks or if it is already uses a pigmented ink as the default.
Clearly, without light there will be no fading. The type of light is a significant factor in speed of fading and locations such as the UK (unfortunately not blessed with too much strong sun) will have slower fading inkjet images than say, Spain, for example.
Where possible, inkjet images need to be displayed away from direct sun light and as far away from natural light as possible.
There are a range of physical barriers that can be put in front of the inkjet image to prolong its “life in light”. The cheaper options are fixative sprays which have a UV barrier and will slow down fading significantly. These are available in Matt, Satin and Gloss finishes and are really easy to use. An additional benefit of the spray is that it protects the image from dirt and allows safe cleaning without damaging the print.
Other measures can include UV barrier lamination or framing with a UV filter glass. These are more expensive than spraying but might be appropriate when the image is of a keepsake value.
So to keep your image vibrant and colourful for longer, use a micro porous photo paper, pigmented inks and a spray. Hang it away from sunlight and enjoy for years to come. The more of these parameters you can use, the longer the longevity of the print will be.
Alternatively, put the image in a dark place and take it out on special occasions only……….. but then, what’s the point?