Posted Thursday, June 24, 2004

Tips for Preserving Your Inkjet Prints

Iíve been printing a lot of photos lately. My printer is an Epson Photo Stylus 890 that I got a couple of years ago. It delivers gorgeous results, but Iím saving up for a replacement: Epsonís $1799 Stylus Pro 4000. Now that Iím shooting 5- and 8-megapixel images, I want a large-format printer, and the Stylus Pro 4000 can print a borderless 16- by 20-inch print. Sweet.

The Stylus Pro 4000 has another big advantage: it uses pigments instead of dyes, and therefore, its prints have a much longer lifespan.

If you do a lot of inkjet printing, the truth behind print permanence can be depressing. Here with more details is, well, me. Hereís an excerpt from the iPhoto section of The Macintosh iLife '04.

Preserving Your Prints
After all the effort you put into making inkjet prints, it may disappoint you to learn that they may not last long.

Many inkjet prints begin to fade within a year or two -- or faster when displayed in direct sunlight. Some printer manufacturers now offer pigment-based inks and archival papers that last for decades, but pigment-based printers are pricier than the more common dye-based printers.

If you have a dye-based printer, consider using a paper rated for longer print life. Epson's ColorLife paper, for example, has a much higher permanence rating than Epson's Premium Glossy Photo Paper.

Keep it protected. To prolong the life of any print, don't display it in direct sunlight. Frame it under glass to protect it from humidity and pollutants. (Ozone pollution, common in cities, is poison to an inkjet print.)

Drying time. Allow prints to dry for at least a few hours (preferably 24) before framing them or stacking them atop each other. For long-term storage, consider using acid-free sleeves designed for archival photo storage.

Don't skimp. Finally, avoid bargain-priced paper or ink from the local office superstore. Print preservation guru Henry Wilhelm recommends using only premium inks and papers manufactured by the same company that made your printer.

Is all this necessary for a print that will be tacked to a refrigerator for a few months and then thrown away? Of course not. But when you want prints to last, these steps can help.

To learn more about digital printing, read Mastering Digital Printing: The Photographer's and Artist's Guide to High-Quality Digital Output, by Harald Johnson.