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Subject: Faded photograph prints

Faded photograph prints

From: John Castronovo <jc<-a>
Date: Thursday, January 27, 2005
Mark D. Hanson <curator [at] aeromuseum__org> writes

>I have inherited a puzzling problem. We have a hallway along one
>wall of which a photo timeline runs. The hallway is lighted by
>fluorescent tube lights in enclosed fixtures. It is an interior
>hallway with no windows. The photos are color scans of primarily
>black and white originals printed in color on glossy photo paper
>from an ink jet printer. The prints are then dry mounted onto foam
>The photos appear to "randomly" fade at an alarming rate. We have
>tried using different papers and different printers, but to no
>avail, we have tried to isolate a correlation to lighting hotspots,
>but none exist. Photos fade just as quickly in darker areas of the
>hallway as in brighter ones. We have tried control groups of
>multiple picture using the same print settings, printer, ink
>cartridges, box of paper, and dry mounting materials and technique.
>Nothing seems to work. ...

While there are too many variables to comment about here, what is
most important is the nature of the inks that your printer uses. You
probably have a printer that uses dye rather than pigment inks. Most
of the dyes that are in use in consumer type inkjet printers are
made of complex molecules that are famous for being unstable and
susceptible to all kinds of environmental factors that cause them to
fade. Light by itself is seldom the single factor that causes inkjet
prints to fade. Possibly there's a high amount of ozone or humidity
in different places in the room coming from ventilator ducts, for
example. The inks will change at different rates.

This may account for one print showing a color change before
another, simply because that image uses more of one ink which is
more likely to fade sooner than the other three. Also, a grayscale
image that uses only black ink will look good for a longer time than
one that is actually made up of all the colors. In the latter case,
all the inks must remain in balance and fade at the same rate to
remain neutral gray.

Laminating the surface before display may help, but the real answer
is to change media. Get yourself an inkjet printer that uses good
pigment inks that have been proven to stand up to abusive
environments, e.g. Epson's Ultrachrome inks, or have real photos
printed on Fuji Crystal Archive or Kodak Endura photographic paper.

John Castronovo
tech photo and imaging

                  Conservation DistList Instance 18:36
                 Distributed: Sunday, January 30, 2005
                       Message Id: cdl-18-36-005
Received on Thursday, 27 January, 2005

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