How to Make Pigment Ink Prints Last

Make Pigment Ink Prints Last

We’ve already established that in many ways, Pigment Ink Prints are superior to C-Prints in terms of longevity—but how do you care for pigment ink prints in a way that helps them last longer? We’ve got your answers below.

Pigment Ink Print

Pigment ink prints are a great improvement from traditional chromogenic printing for creating superb, long-lasting color images. Even with these improvements, care must be taken to protect them — a necessity for all works of art on paper. Below are tips on taking the appropriate precautions as currently recommended by photographic conservators.

Protecting the surface of your prints

There are three primary components to a pigment ink print:

  1. Support: often a high-grade cotton rag paper which provides the mechanical support for your image, but it can also be plastic, fabric, or metal.

  2. Coating: often a micro-porous ceramic structure that looks like a sponge under high magnification. This receives the ink and bonds the ink and the paper together.
  3. Pigment Ink image: sits on the surface of the paper bonded by the coating.

Since the pigment ink sits on the surface of the print it is susceptible to abrasion damage. There is great variance in the durability of print surfaces, but generally matte surfaces are more fragile than semi-gloss surfaces. Prints that have not been framed should be stored with archival interleaving between prints and the set should be kept in a polyethylene (PE) or similar protective bag.
Ideally your pigment ink prints should be framed, to protect the prints and so they can be enjoyed. When framing, use acid-free archival materials. If the materials are not acid-free they may leach out over time, be absorbed by the coating and stain the print.

Pollutants and oxidizers

The coating on pigment ink prints is absorbent so that it can receive the pigment and bind to it correctly. The coating remains absorbent after printing and can act as a blotter and absorb pollutants. Pollutants vary, thus the effect of this is not fully understood. To be cautious, pigment ink prints should be protected from any type of pollutants.

Protection from Ultraviolet Rays

Pigment ink prints are proving to be quite light-fast versus chromogenic photographic prints, but still pigment ink prints will fade under strong light. Ultraviolet light (UV) is the most damaging of the spectrum and therefore direct sunlight or other light sources rich in UV should be avoided.

Documenting provenance

We do not mark prints unless directly requested by the artist, but we recommend that you label each one or include the sheet that KAS provides of the print specifications with each print. This not only helps galleries, museums, and collectors handle the prints appropriately, but if the print needs conservation in the future, this information is critical to the photographic conservator.