What Does The Term ‘Archival’ Really Mean?

What Does the Term ‘Archival’ Mean?

The term archival – when in the context of a material, such as paper – traditionally refers to its suitability to be used in archives and therefore its lifespan without change. The phrase is not quantifiable and no standards are set to describe how long such a material is expected to last.


Archival C-type Printing

A Lambda c-type print is a digital print produced using Durst’s Lambda machine – a photographic printing machine that uses three lasers (RGB – red, green and blue) merged into one beam to produce digital c-type prints on light-sensitive silver halide materials. Exposed paper is then traditionally ‘wet’ processed using photographic chemistry, in much the same manner as traditional photographic prints produced using negatives with an enlarger in a darkroom.

For prints to be considered archival the bleach must be removed from the print thoroughly during the wash stage. This is one reason why minilab prints, often found in retail photography shops and supermarkets, are not considered archival.

With this in mind, our Lambda processor includes three wash tanks rather than the standard two, to increase the archival stability of your images and for your peace of mind.

We only use the highest grade archival materials to produce your Lambda C-type print and carry stock of Fujicolor Crystal Archive papers in traditional Matte, Gloss, Super Gloss, Pearl and Velvet finishes alongside transparency materials (Fujiclear and Fujitrans – also commonly known as Duratrans or backlit transparencies).  Each of these materials have been thoroughly tested by the Wilhelm Imaging Research Inc. – a leading archival test facility – and certified as archival following testing procedures.

Find out more about our Lambda C-type printing


Archival Giclée Fine Art printing

To produce Giclée prints (often also called ‘inkjet’ or ‘pigment prints’) that are classed as ‘archival’ both the paper and the inks used in the process are paramount to be considered. Firstly, the paper used needs to be considered in terms of its resistance to yellowing, humidity, and water and against other forms of degradation.

For this reason, we only stock acid-free paper by brands including Hahnemühle and Canson, which the Wilhelm Imaging Research Inc. – a leading archival test facility – has certified as archival following testing procedures.

Incorporating high-density pigments, the Epson UltraChrome K4 inks that we use produce prints with an extremely wide colour gamut. This 8-colour ink system incorporates Black, Dark Grey, Grey, Light Grey inks that improves midtones and highlights and significantly reduces colour casts by improving the printers grey balance.

Epson UltraChrome K4 ink incorporates High-gloss Microcrystal Encapsulation™ Technology along with unique screening algorithms and Light Light Black ink that significantly reduces gloss differential. There is no longer any compromise for professionals that require glossy prints that have excellent longevity and durability.

Because the stability and image permanence is a concern for artists, galleries and collectors, the inks, or ‘pigment inks’ we use are classed as archival, and twinned with our range of tactile fine art papers or canvas to provide exceptionally vivid pigment prints with outstanding light fastness and stability.

Find out more about our Giclée Fine Art Printing


Archival ChromaLuxe Fine Art Printing

ChromaLuxe printing uses a process called ‘dye sublimation’ to fuse images on to metal.  The term ‘sublimation’ describes the transition of a substance (in this case, the special inks) directly from the solid to the gas phase without becoming a liquid first.

The 8 dye sublimation inks we use for the production of your work consist of a solid and heat intensive dye. Images or artwork are first printed as a Giclee print using these inks, on to transfer paper, which is then applied to a specially coated 1.2mm aluminium panel. Using both heat and pressure the dye particles change into a gas, bond with the polymers in the aluminium, and then change back into a solid state; fusing the image and aluminium together.

Leading research by Wilhelm Imaging Research Inc. details that ChromaLuxe Fine Art Prints, produced using a dye-sublimation process using Epson UltraChrome DS inks, show three times more display permanence than silver-halide papers. Both the inks and the ChromaLuxe sublimation coatings used had been tested and a WIR Display Permanence Rating of 65 years was given for ChromaLuxe sublimation panels when printed with Epson Ultrachrome DS inks and 64 years when printed with Sawgrass Sublijet HD Pro Photo XF inks.

With unprecedented resistance to surface abrasion, high humidity and contact with water, fire and chemicals, ChromaLuxe prints can be safely displayed without the need for framing under glass or acrylic, face mounting, or surface laminating.

Find out more about our ChromaLuxe Fine Art Printing


Archival Mounting

Archival mounting describes the process of mounting prints or photographs to a substrate that will not deteriorate or degrade the print over time.

When in comes to passé-partout’s, or window mounts, we only use the finest 8-ply acid-free and neutral PH museum conservation-quality board, which is certified by The Fine Art Trade Guild and offers exceptional preservation qualities that conform to the highest conservation standards.

Find out more about our Mounting services


Archival Framing

In addition to the aesthetic benefits of framing your work, framing also serves the purpose of protecting your photographs or artwork from damage caused by light and water.

Our framing includes the use of UV protective glass, which reduces the UV rays that reach your artwork – protecting your work from fading. In addition, where a print is mounted within the frame, the substrate used should be considered for its archival properties.

Aside from enhancing visual appeal, window mounts are often used for archival framing as these offer protection for photographs and artwork by providing separation between the artwork and the glass (preventing damage from any condensation – resulting in water damage, mould, mildew or the deterioration of the surface of the image).

For archival framing, we only use acid-free and neutral PH museum conservation-quality board, which is certified by The Fine Art Trade Guild and offers exceptional preservation qualities that conform to the highest conservation standards.

All of our frames feature anti-reflective Artglass as standard; this is not only the best option for reflective-free and neutral viewing but also incorporates a 70% UV filter to protect your valuable artwork from fading.

Find out more about our Framing services


Further Reading

The Wilhelm Institute