When you print a document or a photo, you do so with the understanding that it is going to stay with you for a decent amount of time. This is especially true in the case of photographs and high-value documents. However, unless you’re a professional photographer, legal expert, or archivist, it is unlikely that you’ve considered the fact that your prints may not really last the distance.
After all, most of us don’t really bother considering whether our printed photos will last us 20 or even 10 years down the line. Unfortunately, this is why we end up with fading inkjet prints long after the crucial moment has passed us by. Don’t you remember seeing those fading or yellowing photos of your grandparents gushing over your birth or even their 50th anniversary?
What Influences Fading Inkjet Prints The Most?
There are mainly two variables that have a say in how quickly you have to come face to face with the problem of fading inkjet prints. The first is the printing process and the other is the conditions you chose to store or display your prints in. Between these two variables, neither is more dominant because both of them have the same impact on how long your prints maintain their visual sanctity.
The printing process is important because it determines the quality of your prints. The printing process means everything from the quality of your printer and the quality of the ink you’re printing with to the quality of the inkjet paper you’re using.
The variable of storage or display conditions means two things as well. The first of these is how much light the print is exposed to and the nature of that light. Other elements also affect the longevity of a particular print such as humidity and heat. This is why the second condition-related aspect that influences how soon fading inkjet prints will become your problem is what is the kind of barrier behind which the prints are placed.
Now that you know what variables affect the speed with which fading inkjet prints will become your problem, you can actually go about preventing the problem from occurring in the first place. Let’s take each influencing variable one at a time.
Fading Inkjet Prints Challenge #1: Select the Right Paper
The printing process itself consists of the technology used in the printer along with the paper and the ink. Since the printing technology used in inkjet printers is consistently changing, developing, and evolving there is literally no point in trying to explain which printers are ideal for avoiding fading inkjet prints today when the information will only become obsolete tomorrow. What we can focus on, however, is the type of paper being used by inkjet printers because picking the right type of paper can truly prevent fading inkjet prints.
There are many different types of inkjet paper that you can use. These papers will come with a wide variety of markers such as surface finishes, thickness, coatings etc. The best paper to use to prevent fading inkjet prints from ever showing up in your life is to go for archival paper. These are microporous, professional-grade photo paper.
What this means is that these types of paper have multiple layers on their surface. They have an ink-receiving layer on top under which is a layer of polyethene. In other words, when the print head in your inkjet printer, drops ink onto this type of paper, the ink gets concentrated in a very thin layer. What this does is prevents the ink from being absorbed by the fibre of the paper.
The direct effect of the ink being concentrated in a thinner layer is that it becomes more resistant to external influences such as ultraviolet light. Because the ink printed on this kind of paper doesn’t get affected by ultraviolet light, the print remains colourful and vibrant for a longer period of time.
Prints Challenge #2: Use the Right Ink
Debatably, ink is probably much more important than the paper you use in your printer with regard to how quickly the problem of fading inkjet prints rears its ugly head into your field of vision. There are mainly two types of ink that modern-day inkjet printers use. These two types are dye-based inks and pigment-based inks. The problem of fading inkjet prints arrives much sooner with dye-based inks than pigment-based inks.
The reason why dye-based inks are more prone to produce fading inkjet prints is that they’re completely liquid. Essentially, dye-based inks are water coloured through the conclusion of chemicals. In contrast, pigment-based inks are liquids carrying solid-coloured particles.
Solid-coloured particles are less likely to get affected by light and other natural elements than liquid water. This is especially true in combination with microporous photo paper wherein the solid-coloured particles get trapped in a thinner layer.
Fading Inkjet Prints Challenge #3: Stop Light Exposure
Even if the quality of the ink you’re using or the paper you’re using is excellent, you can still end up with fading inkjet prints. This happens because the main culprit behind the existence of fading inkjet prints is nothing but light. In fact, if you keep your prints in a completely dark environment, then you’ll most likely not see any kind of fading at all.
This is also the reason why people living in regions that see less sunlight tend to be less troubled by the problem of fading inkjet prints than people living in areas that get a lot of sunlight.
What all this means is that if you really want to be free from the problem of fading inkjet prints, then you should try to display or store your prints away from sunlight. In fact, if possible, you should even try to protect your prints from reflected sunlight because that can also have an adverse impact on the sanctity of your prints.
Fading Inkjet Prints Challenge #4: Pick the Right Barriers
While it may be possible for you to counter fading inkjet prints by simply storing your prints in a dark place without sunlight, what do you do when all you want is to display a picture of a special moment with your loved one? What if you want a memorable moment eternalised through a photograph?
There’s an easy answer for this as well. There are many barriers that you can put in place to protect your prints from the dangers of light exposure. As mentioned earlier, the main reason why exposure to light makes prints fade is ultraviolet rays. However, if you use the right barriers, you can actually prevent ultraviolet rays from adversely affecting your prints.
The best barriers that can be used to prevent fading inkjet prints are known as fixative sprays. Fixative sprays contain chemicals that are designed to counter ultraviolet rays which leach away the vibrancy and colour of the inks on the paper. Fixative sprays, themselves, are available in a wide variety of surface finishes just like the papers on which they’re supposed to be used. These surface finishes include glossy, satin, and matte.
Another tool that can be used to prevent fading inkjet prints is lamination or framing which can counter ultraviolet exposure. Lamination or framing with an ultraviolet filter substance tends to be much more expensive than just using fixative sprays but it is more effective as well. If you really want to thwart fading inkjet prints, then there are no better options than either framing or lamination with ultraviolet-resistant substances.
Fading Inkjet Prints Challenge #5 Degradation By Pollutants
Inkjet prints are prone to fading over time, which can be accelerated by exposure to pollutants. Pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide can cause fading and degradation of inkjet prints.
The fading of inkjet prints occurs due to the chemical reactions that take place between the ink and the pollutants. When pollutants come into contact with ink, they break down the molecules, causing the color to fade.
To prevent the degradation of inkjet prints, store them in a cool and dry place sealed with pollutant-resistant material. Additionally, using high-quality ink and paper as well as placing your printer in an environment-friendly space can help to prolong the life of inkjet prints.
Fading Inkjet Prints Challenge #5 Degradation By Humidity
Humidity can also cause the degradation of inkjet prints, leading to fading and discoloration. High humidity levels can cause the paper to absorb moisture, which can cause the ink to bleed, blur, or fade over time.
If you store prints in an environment where the humidity level is normal, it will not let them fade. The ideal humidity level for storing inkjet prints is between 30-50%. Keeping your printer in an air-conditioned environment can also help to maintain the appropriate humidity levels.
The quality of ink and paper can also cause the decoloration of prints. Therefore, buying them from well-known manufacturers can also help to reduce the impact of humidity on inkjet prints. Furthermore, certain types of ink and paper are more resistant to humidity, and using these materials can help to prolong the life of the prints.