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The Importance of Archival Digital Photo Papers

Printing your digital photos on archival paper will help to ensure that your treasured photographs do not fade or change colors over time.  You will need a printer or a quality photo lab that produces prints on acid-free archival paper using archival quality inks.  Along with archival paper, you will want to choose a quality pigment ink for your printer to get a print that will last, presuming that you are not using a quality photo lab for your photographic printing.

Matte and fine art papers typically offer the greatest archival stability compared to other papers, with image permanence often approaching — or even exceeding — 100 years with pigment inks.  In addition, I prefer matte papers because I do not care for the reflective sheen of semi-gloss and luster papers.

The term “fine art” seems to imply that only great works of art can be printed on these papers, but, of course, that is not the case.  Fine art papers are often thicker and heavier than plain matte papers, with a variety of surface textures including smooth, satin, velvet and watercolor.  As a rule, they are more expensive than regular matte papers, and sometimes considerably more.  Matte papers are the best choice when you want an economical paper with the smoothest surface and the best photographic output.  Choose fine art papers when you want the texture of the surface to lend a certain characteristic to the print, or you simply want the paper to feel more luxurious in a potential customer’s hands.

For conservation purposes, it is important that you use archival printing and archival papers to ensure the longevity of your photographs.  Additionally, it is just as important that you take great care of your photographs in order to preserve your photographs.

I really like the following archival digital photo papers: (1) Hahnemühle Photo Rag archival photo paper; (2) the Crane Museo archival photo paper; and (3) the Somerset Velvet paper.  Images printed on these archival digital photo papers literally look like ‘works of art.’

Below is a Matte Fine Art Paper Comparison Chart

Paper Surface Texture Color Color Weight
Enhanced Matte smooth soft white 192 gsm
Legion Photo Matte smooth bright white 230 gsm
Red River Polar Matte smooth bright white 225 gsm
Hahnemühle Photo Rag smooth soft white 188gsm                     308 gsm
Brightcube Eclipse Satine Bright White (also available in soft white) satin bright white 190gsm                   300 gsm
Hawk Mountain Merlin smooth soft white 255 gsm
Crane Museo/LexJet Soft Fine Art/Red River Polar Art smooth soft white 250 gsm
Hawk Mountain Osprey Smooth satin soft white 250 gsm
Somerset Photo Enhanced Velvet velvet bright white 225 gsm
Ilford Fine Art rough soft white 190 gsm

For further reading, the Wilhelm Imaging Research has a lot of information concerning archival photo papers.

You can view more archival digital photo papers at B and H Photo’s website.


archival paper

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