Archival Print Test

September 24, 2010 ·

Michael Reichmann


This page contains the results of a 60 day-long print fade test. The test has now concluded and the results are detailed below. I do not believe that much more will be learned by extending the test any longer.

As new papers and inks that interest me appear on the market they’ll be tested and the results will be published on these pages. From time-to-time keep an eye onWhat’s Newfor announcements.

NB:This page and the tests that it details are intended to be read in the context of the report titledArchival Digital Processing. If you have not already done so you should read that page first. What follows below will then make a lot more sense. Or, if you’re like me, just skip to theconclusionsbelow and then go back and read the rest of this page and the lead-in article afterward. But, do try and read it all.

I had hoped that the combination new-generation products likePictoricopaper andGenerationsink would potentially offer archival qualities comparable to or exceeding those of traditional colour media. Unfortunately Generations inks are not compatible with what I regard as the highest quality papers, specificallyEpson’s Glossy Filmand Pictorico’sHi-Gloss Film.  MediaStreet notes this on their web site.

MediaStreet claimed to have some new high quality paper that is compatible with Generations colour archival inks, but the paper proved to be visuallylessattractive than Epson’s regular Photo paper and less compatible with archival inks, at least as far as subjective image quality. Some people like the look of textured fine arts papers, but I’ve yet to see one that appeals to me for the type of photography that I do.

This report then details a 60-day long test (begun in early September, 1999) to determine how Generations inks perform against Epson papers and ink and also how the various Epson papers compare with each other and with Pictorico Hi-Gloss.

The protocol for the test is to compare 8.5X11″ prints made in Epson Photo Paper, Epson Glossy Film and Pictorico Hi-Gloss Film. Each of these papers was used with Epson’s standard dye based inks and the Epson Photo Paper with Generations pigment based inks as well. An Epson 1200 printer was used.

Two prints of each combination were made. One set was immediately placed in a sealed plastic bag and placed in dark storage. The other set has been placed in a south/east facing window exposed to both direct and indirect sunlight. 

The Test Print

This image consists of a portrait with excellent skin tones and clean colours. The test chart (taken from an Agfa calibration transparency) contains a broad spectrum of pastel as well as intense colours. 

Obviously this test will not provide any hard numbers on how long each of these paper / ink combinations will last before noticeable or objectionable fading takes place. What it should do is provide an admittedly non-scientific but otherwise informative point of comparison so that I and others can make appropriate purchasing decisions. It’ll leave it to others, such asWilhelm Imaging Researchto produce more scientific results.

November 10, 1999

One month has passed since the test was started. In order of worst image degradation first, here are the results. I will save editorial comments for the end.

– – –

Pictorico Hi-Gloss Film / Epson Inks

The daylight exposed print is faded badly. I would judge a full stop worth of fading. Colours have shifted markedly towards green and the print is essentially no longer suitable for display. (See below for print samples.)

– – –

Epson Photo Paper / Generations Ink

The daylight exposed print has faded slightly. I would judge a quarter stop worth of fading. There is no noticeable colour shift.

– – –

Epson Glossy Film / Epson Ink

The daylight exposed print has faded slightly. I would judge a quarter stop worth of fading. There is no noticeable colour shift.

– – –

Epson Photo Paper / Epson Ink

The exposed print is hardly changed at all. Only the slightest lightening of density (maybe an 1/8th of a stop) can be seen, and no colour shift whatsoever is visible.

December 10, 1999

A second month has passed since the test was started. In order of worst image degradation first, here are the results. 

– – –

Pictorico Hi-Gloss Film / Epson Inks

The fading and green-shift has continued. This combo is the worst of the group for archival permanence.

– – –

Epson Glossy Film / Epson Ink

There has now been a marked colour shift toward green, though not as bad as that seen with the Pictorico paper.

– – –

Epson Photo Paper / Generations Ink

There has been little change from last month’s results.

– – –

Epson Photo Paper / Epson Ink

There is now a slight (5cc) shift toward green and a slight (quarter stop) desaturation of the colour. The print is still quite acceptable.

Editorial Comment and Conclusion

The results are startling to say the least. They are not what I expected or even what I had hoped for. 

Pictorico Hi Gloss Film

This is the biggest disappointment. I regard this paper as having the brightest, cleanest and whitest surface of any paper I’ve yet tried. Prints are stunning and every bit as good as the finest continuous-tone prints I’ve ever made, which includes my 30 years as a Cibachrome/Ilfochrome printer. But, given what I now see as diminished archival qualities my enthusiasm is considerably reduced. (Please seebelowfor some further discussion on this.)

These are the results with Pictorico Hi-Gloss paper and Epson inks. The image on the left is a detail from the dark storage print and the one on the right from the one exposed to bright sunlight for 30 days. None of the other comparisons are as dramatic as this one and therefore are not shown. Please note that for this illustration the two prints were scanned as one so that any corrections made in preparing for web display were applied to both images simultaneously and equally. (Results for the second month are similar, just more extreme).

Epson Glossy Film

I am pleasantly surprised at how well this paper did in light of how poorly Pictorico’s film did. It should be noted though that Wilhelm rates this paper is having poor archival qualities. 

Generations Ink

The fading shown by these dye-based inks is quite surprising. Though slight, the fact that they are not doing as well as Epson’s own inks on Epson Photo paper is a surprise. Frankly, given their reduced colour gamut I don’t see their advantage at this point.

Epson Photo Paper

This was a very pleasant surprise. I had read that Epson had improved this paper last year (1998) but had not realized by how much.


I’m a photographer, not a scientist. The tests reported here are informal, anecdotal and non-conclusive. Someone else testing the same materials under different conditions would come up with different results. While I have tried to be as rigorous and consistent as possible there well could be methodology or interpretative flaws in my test. Caveat Emptor.

Also, while I’d enjoy hearing from youhere, I am not in a position to test other papers or inks, or to comment on papers or inks that I do not have experience with. I urge you to do your own tests and draw your own conclusions based on what you discover yourself.

Further Thoughts on the Pictorico Results

One of my readers entered into correspondence withPictoricoregarding the results of my tests. Here is their response to him and his question about my tests:

Thanks for the link. We appreciate independent testing of our products andencourage all of our customers to try our products to see if Pictorico suits their needs. However, this test was not very scientific and the photographer’s results are skewed because of his methodology. Here are some immediate problemswith his methodology:

1. Putting a printed sample on a window sill cannot be scientific, sinceit is not in a controlled environment. Depending on where the sheets are positioned, one sheet could easily get more or less exposure to sunlight(UV light) than others.

2. We actually manufacture Epson’s Glossy Film product which essentiallyhas the same coating formulation as Pictorico’s PGHG White Film. Therefore, under a controlled environment, both should have had the sameresults in terms of fade resistance.

3. Because of the relative hysteria regarding Epson inks’ propensity tofade and the misinterpretation of Wilhelm’s findings, many digital photographers unfairly target the Epson printer. If you expose a regular photograph, magazine, or lithograph print to direct sunlight, you’ll get the same results to a varying degree. Pure ultraviolet light is a powerfuldecomposer of any image, not just those printed on Epson inks.

Everyone has to remember that photo printers have only been around for alittle more than two years. Technology has progressed more in two years for the photo printer than in 100 years for traditional silver halide photography. In the next couple of years, you’ll see even more advances in ink jet printing which will include more stable inks capable of competinghead-to-head with silver halide photography.

I still think that Epson inks are the best when everything is considered.If you choose to use “archival inks”, Lysonic inks and Lumijet inks workon most of our products.

Hope this helps.

Chip Pryor

National Brand Manager

Pictorico Ink Jet Media

I have no argument whatsoever with Mr. Pryor’s comments. My methodology is not scientific, as I went to some pains to point out. I’m simply a photographer seeking, in the absence of any reliable third party data, to determine which papers and inks work best for me and how the performed relative to each other .

I want to add one final thought to the issue ofPictorico Hi-Gloss Film. Notwithstanding the results of my tests it still remains my favourite printing paper, and I will continue to use it almost exclusively. But, for display and sale prints I will haveLightJet 5000prints made onFuji Crystal Archivepaper for the greatest archival permanence possible.

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Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

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