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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 its lifespan without change. The phrase is not quantifiable, and no standards describe how long such material is expected to last. Below we explore our relationship to the term – and how we work hard to have your prints truly last as long as possible.

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. The exposed paper is then traditionally wet processed using photographic chemistry, much like 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 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, and Super Gloss. Pearl finishes alongside transparency materials (Fujiclear and Fujitrans – also commonly known as Duratrans or backlit transparencies).  Wilhelm Imaging Research Inc., a leading archival test facility, has thoroughly tested these materials 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 regarding 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, we use the Epson UltraChrome K4 inks to produce prints with an extremely wide colour gamut. This 8-colour ink system incorporates Black, Dark Grey, Grey, and Light Grey inks that improve mid-tones and highlights and significantly reduce colour casts by improving the printer’s grey balance.

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

Because stability and image permanence is a concern for artists, galleries and collectors, the inks, or pigment inks’ that 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 onto 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 to produce 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 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 had been tested. 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 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 it comes to passé-partouts, 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 deterioration of the surface of the image).

For archival framing, we only use an acid-free and neutral PH museum conservation-quality board, 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 the best option for reflective-free and neutral viewing and incorporates a 70% UV filter to protect your valuable artwork from fading.

Find out more about our Framing services

Further Reading

The Wilhelm Institute