Archival Inks

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Color inkjet printers are great for printing out high-quality photos, but as you may already have discovered, inkjet prints are not necessarily as sturdy as photographic prints. Hang some inkjet prints in direct sunlight and you’ll probably see a dramatic change in only a few weeks.

Sometimes, inkjet prints fade when left in direct sunlight. More often, though, their colors will shift and alter. If you are hoping to sell your images, hang them on your wall, or simply want to be sure that they’ll still be around when you get older, then you might want to consider adding a set of archival inks to your printer.

Most inkjet printers used dye-based inks. Archival inks are typically pigment-based, increasingly, many dye-based inks are offering impressive longevity – sometimes as much as 50 years.

Often, for maximum archival range, you’ll need to use a special archival paper as well as special ink. Paper absorbency can have a big effect on the durability of an image. If your paper absorbs a lot of ink, then there is less ink on the surface of your page. With less ink, your image will fade or discolor faster. In addition, if you’ve got an ink that’s rated for 50 years, you want to be sure you’re not printing on a paper that’s going to disintegrate in 35.

There are a number of third-party companies that make special ink sets for certain inkjets. Even if your printer’s stock inks are "archival" you might want to check out third party offerings. Often, they provide better color gamut, frequently produce darker blacks, and sometimes offer sturdier results. Check out the links below for details.

Different types of archival inks have different longevities. For example, the standard Epson inks included in their new photo printers have a life-expectancy of 20-25 years when used with particular media. Lyson Photonic inks have about the same lifespan. Epson-branded inks made for older photo printers, as well as many of their 4-color printers have a very short life-expectancy, often measured in weeks. (Bear in mind, by life-expectancy, we’re simply talking about how long you can expect the print to last without a visible color shift or fade. Obviously, your print’s not gonna go blank in a couple of weeks.)

The pigment-based inks in Epson’s 2000-series, on the other hand, have a life-expectancy of roughly 80 years. Some of Lyson’s Lysonic inks, as well as Lumijet’s Preservation Series Inks have similar lifespans.

Even if your printer’s stock inks have an impressive archival rating, you still might want to consider a third-party alternative, if you’re very picky about color. Many people prefer the color gamuts of third party alternatives to their printer vendor’s stock inks. If your printer has a problem with bronzing, or with blacks that aren’t quite dark enough, third-party inks might be an ideal solution.

Bear in mind that third-party inks will not necessarily have the same gamut as your printer’s stock ink formulation. In addition, because may not be as well-tuned to your printer driver, you may have to adjust your images and do some experimentation to get the results you want from the new inks.

So how do these companies gauge life-expectancy? Most send their inks and papers to the independent Wilhelm Imaging Research laboratory, considered by most to be the experts in image longevity. Wilhelm conducts a number of experiments designed to simulate long-term light exposure. Their website provides detailed explanations of their methodology.

Obviously, ink longevity is theoretical at this point, and will remain so for at least as long as researchers and vendors are claiming for their inks. Many people dispute the various claims. Epson nay-sayers, for example, argue that ink longevity claims of 200 years are irrelevant because most paper won’t last that long. (Personally, I think I’d be real tired of looking at the same picture for 200 years, so this doesn’t worry me so much.) Probably the best measure for reasonable life-expectancy is to compare any particular inkset to traditional photographic printing processes. Black and white silver halide prints, for example, are usually good for 35-40 years. If you can get 35 years out of your inkjet printer, then you’re doing as well as you could ever hope to do with traditional chemical processes, but with a lot less expense and hassle.

Finally, most printer vendors do not approve of the use of third party inks, and installing these inks will usually void your warranty. Partly, this is an effort to get you to buy their inks, (which is where they make most of their money) but there can also be a danger to using inks not carefully engineered for your printer. Pigment-based inks, especially, can clog and damage the print heads in your printer. If your printer manufacturer makes a set of archival or semi-archival inks, it’s probably safer to go with these rather than a third-party solution.

Currently, the main vendors for archival inks are Lyson, Lumijet, and Bulldog. Check their web sites for lists of currently supported printers. A partial list of supported printers is included below.

Epson
StylusColor 3000
Pinnacle
Gold Ink by American Inkjet

Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lyson
Lysonic Inks

Lumijet Preservation
Series Inks
Epson
810/830/925/935/915/950/2100
Lyson
Photonic Inks
Epson
790/870/875/890, 1270/1280/1290, 2000P
Lyson
Photonic Inks
Epson
440/460

Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lyson
Lysonic Inks

Lumijet
Preservation Series Inks

Epson
400/700/750/1200 & Photo EX Black
Lumijet
Preservation Series Inks
Epson
700/750/740/800/850/860/1160/1520
Lumijet
Preservation Series Inks
Epson
600/640/660/760
Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lyson
Lysonic Inks

Lumijet Preservation
Series Inks
Epson
Stylus Color 740
Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lyson
Lysonic Inks

Lumijet Preservation
Series Inks
Epson
Stylus Color 5000
Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lyson
Lysonic Inks

Lumijet Preservation
Series Inks
Epson
Stylus Color 900
Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lyson
Lysonic Inks
Epson
Stylus Color 7000
Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lyson
Lysonic Inks
Epson
Stylus Color 1200
Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lyson
Lysonic Inks

Lumijet Preservation
Series Inks
Epson
700/Photo EX/750
Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lyson
Lysonic Inks

Lumijet Preservation
Series Inks
Epson
800/850/860/1160/1520
Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lyson
Lysonic Inks

Lumijet Preservation
Series Inks
Epson
7000/9000
Lyson
Photonic Inks

Lumijet
Preservation Series Inks
Epson
7500/9500
Lyson
Photonic Inks
Canon
3000
Lyson
Photonic Inks
Canon
6000, 6100, 6500
Lyson
Photonic Inks
Canon
Photo S8200
Lyson
Photonic Inks
Canon
S400, S800, S4500, S6300
Lyson
Photonic Inks
Canon
S900/S9000
Lyson
Photonic Inks
Canon
i850, i950, i9100
Lyson
Photonic Inks

Different types of archival inks have different longevities. For example, the standard Epson inks included in their new photo printers have a life-expectancy of 20-25 years when used with particular media. Lyson Photonic inks have about the same lifespan. Epson-branded inks made for older photo printers, as well as their 4-color printers have a very short life-expectancy, often measured in weeks. (Bear in mind, by life-expectancy, we’re simply talking about how long you can expect the print to last without a visible color shift or fade. Obviously, your print’s not gonna go blank in a couple of weeks.)

The pigment-based inks in Epson’s
2000-series, on the other hand, have a life-expectancy of roughly 200 years.
Some of Lyson’s Lysonic inks, as well as Lumijet’s Preservation
Series Inks have similar lifespans.

So how do these companies gauge life-expectancy?
Most send their inks and papers to the independent Wilhelm
Imaging Research laboratory
, considered by most to be the experts in image
longevity. Wilhelm conducts a number of experiments designed to simulate long-term
light exposure. Their website provides detailed explanations of their methodology.

Obviously, ink longevity is theoretical
at this point, and will remain so for at least as long as researchers and vendors
are claiming for their inks. Many people dispute the various claims. Epson nay-sayers,
for example, argue that even if Epson’s ink can go for 200 years without a color
shift, it doesn’t matter because their paper won’t last that long. Personally,
I think I’d be real tired of looking at the same picture for 200 years. Probably
the best measure for reasonable life-expectancy is to compare any particular
inkset to traditional photographic printing processes. Black and white silver
halide prints, for example, are usually good for 35-40 years. If you can get
35 years out of your inkjet printer, then you’re doing as well as you could
ever hope to do with traditional chemical processes, but with a lot less expense
and hassle.

Finally, most printer vendors do not approve of the use of third party inks, and use of these inks will usually void your warranty. Partly, this is an effort to get you to buy their inks, (which is where they make most of their money) but there can also be a danger to using inks not carefully engineered for your printer. Pigment-based inks, especially, can clog and damage the print heads in your printer. If your printer manufacturer makes a set of archival or semi-archival inks, it’s probably safer to go with these rather than a third-party solution.

 

Related Links:
Quadtone Inks

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