How To Waterproof Your Prints

Not a day goes by without us hearing the question, ‘how can I waterproof my print work’ for better longevity, in particular when it comes into contact with the elements. When prints are made waterproof (thereby making the ink less likely to smudge) the added bonus is that in the process they are also made more durable against rubbing or mishandling as well as UV stable. There are several ways to shield your print, make it more durable and naturally waterproof.

Coatings – If your requirements of waterproofing the work comes from a need to protect the print from the wear and tear that comes from been handled or from exposure to the sun, you can probably get away with printing on a strong and durable coating. Before purchasing the base paper (photo paper, sticker paper, cards etc) evaluate the type of receiving layer that is used. In photo paper for example, microporous photo paper has a base layer of polyethylene underneath that offers greater durability.

Dedicated Papers – There are several types of base papers such as some types of matt and glossy sticker papers that have a water repellent receiving layer due to their intended use. Such base papers will be clearly marked if they offer any such properties.

Inks – The type of ink that is used to transfer the media onto the base paper also plays an important part in the durability of the print. When it comes to Inkjet inks, your choice is either Dye Based Inks or Pigment Based Inks depending on the manufacturer. If your printer uses Pigment Based Inks UV durability is higher.

Lamination – The process of lamination will sandwich your print between multiple layers of transparent material thereby achieving waterproof properties. Normally your print will be sandwiched between two layers of plastic film and using a combination of heat and pressure will bond to achieve one sheet. It will require a lamination machine and the print may lose some of its quality (sharpness for example) due to the introduction of a plastic film over the image.

Fixative Spray – Perhaps the most versatile option and one that can suit a whole host of printed media is the fixative spray. Sprayed onto the printed media directly, this solution adds a layer of transparent protection that when left to dry will allow you to handle the print freely and make it waterproof. In addition, a fixative spray will also enhance the UV stability of the image.  To ensure that your desired finish remains intact, fixative spray comes in matt, glossy and satin finishes.

If you have come across any other methods, we’d love to hear. Leave your comment below.

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18 Responses to How To Waterproof Your Prints

  1. Denise Gamache says:

    I need to know how to preserve a photograph, of an animal to put on its gravestone, this is very important to my mother, and would make her a bit more happy, in her hours of grief over her beloved Siamese cat that is to believed to have been ran over in a hit and run accident last week 🙁 please help if you can , and or tell me if the information up above is good enough to save the photo from rain and etc, during the seasons of at least summer and spring of 2015. Thank so much for any help on this matter.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, Any inkjet printed material will not give the longevity you require. You may be able to protect it against the elements for a while but it will fade and disappear within a relatively short period of time. We do not have anything suitable for such an application. You will need to look for a Dye Sublimation printer that can reproduce a photo on a plaque that can be attached to a gravestone and that will last the time.

  2. Aparna says:

    I want to make personalised mobile cover for which i made by own design and got scanned & printed on photo sticker paper but my designed got vanish so is there any way through which i can protect my design

  3. Jana says:

    Hello! We will be performing magic outdoors and hope to use inkjet images printed on satin photo paper. Is there a good way to make these papers water resistant (in case of rain)? And will the resulting papers still “slide” (as in shuffling) or will they become sticky? Fixative would be ideal, but we otherwise may end up sealing and laminating.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      You can make the print water resistant (not water proof) by using fixative spray. For extended use and for really wet conditions, I’d recommend laminating the prints.

  4. Mandy says:

    Why when I wash it wrinkles and peals on when I use light on white.
    How can I protect this from happening?
    Do I have to use a spray?
    Or can you tell me the best papers to use for the best results please?

    Kind Regards

  5. Coyne says:

    Hi, I am looking to print waterproof books (for use in potentially wet conditions in tropical forests). What would be the best method? Thanks

  6. Tari says:

    I would like to print inkjet labels that will go on essential oil bottles. Would a fixative spray help stop the label information from rubbing off? Would it also help with accidental drips of oil coming across the labels? The label would need to be able to bend slightly as well in order to fit onto the bottles. Thank you very much.

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, you can apply the fixative after placing the vinyl onto the bottle, so bending won’t be an issue. We haven’t any experience on how the fixative will react to the oil, sorry.

  7. Rebecca says:


    I hand make notebooks with 300gsm covers that I print on my canon pixma. They don’t cope well with accidentally water splashes with the standard card I use. What would you recommend?

    Many thanks

  8. Joan Hughes says:

    How can I waterproof a poster for outdoor decoration?

  9. Mary Oakes says:

    Hello, I work alot with printing from my HP inkjet printer and I make junk journals. What would be the best way to protect my pages from smearing while using glues and gessos? Would I be able to spray it with a fixative and then apply, say clear gesso without the ink bleeding after the gesso is applied?

    • Joseph Eitan says:

      Hi, The fixative spray only works on inkjet coated surfaces. If you have a photo printed on inkjet coated paper, you can spray the printed side to give the image some protection. If you spray the back of the paper, WHERE IT IS NOT COATED, the spray will penetrate the paper and will not provide a barrier. Inkjet printed images should be stock using a dry spray adhesive, rather than liquid.

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