The longevity of fine art prints is something that’s been hotly debated for probably as long as fine art printing has been around. As I mentioned in an earlier post you play as much of a role in the longevity of your prints as I, the printer, do. I can make you an archival print that will fade away very quickly if handled incorrectly. On the other hand I can make you a technically not archival print that will last much longer if you mat, frame, and display the print properly.
It’s worth mentioning that there isn’t really any universally agreed upon standard as to what archival really means. For example, if someone tells you a print is archival how long does that mean it has been tested to last? I don’t know either. I can say that I do not use the term archival for a paper unless it has been tested to last 100 years. This means that I use papers that may be tested to last 70 years yet I don’t call them archival. There are papers that will not last that long that have the term archival applied to them.
Of course, none of this means they will last 100 years. It means simply that under the conditions tested (do you know what those conditions are?) they can be said to last 100 years. And by the way, what does “last 100 years” actually mean? Does that mean they won’t even begin to fade until then or that they may begin to fade earlier but will maintain some degree of the original image for at least 100 years? Good questions.
All this to say that print longevity is an elusive thing and it is important to understand what someone is telling you when they call their prints archival.
Here’s one thing I can tell you for sure: no print will last forever. Be wary if someone tells you otherwise and ask questions to be sure you understand what they mean and the part you are expected to play in it.
I decided to revisit the idea of archival prints in this post for a couple reasons. First, I continue to get lots of questions about the archival nature of prints. And second, I was recently sent a great article that goes into a lot of depth about print permanence testing. If you are really interested in print longevity then this is a great read.
We are always happy to answer any questions you have about archival prints, just get in touch with us.