Archival simply means that the material or product used is permanent, durable and chemically stable and that it can be used for preservation purposes.  There is so set standard on which to base the archivability of photographic images. For photographers the term archival means that a print has been printed to the highest standard and that the photographer/printer has created an object that will last as long as possible.

Certain changes occur to a print over time due to a number of factors.  These include:

  • what the paper is composed of
  • how the print was made
  • how the print has been handled

Along with the type of ink used the composition of the paper also plays an important factor to the lifespan of the finished product.

A good quality paper should be acid free. Eliminating the acidity from the paper is the most important factor in creating a paper with a long lifespan.  “Museum grade”  100% cotton-rag paper such as Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308 is the number one choice of paper among serious photographers.

A properly manufactured acid-free paper can have a life-span of up to 1000 years.

Another factor affecting the archivability of a paper is the presence of optical brightening agents (OBAs).  Optical Brightening agents are sometime added to papers to improve their ‘whiteness’

By knowing which papers contain OBAs, you can predict which papers will change over time.  Epson Enhanced Matte paper is one example of a paper that contains optical brightening agents.  A paper with OBAs will almost certainly become more yellow over time. To eliminate this problem, simply choose a paper that does not contain OBAs, such as Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308.

Ink also plays an important role in creating an archival print.  Here at the Print Room we use high quality, genuine Epson inks.  When these inks were tested by certain international testing facilities (mainly the Wilhelm Institue) these inks were ranked in the top three of all archival inks currently in production.