Alternative perspective on print archiving
When printers “guarantee” prints to last for 50-100 years, they also specify it under “recommended” storage. As for how true they will be to their words, no one can stay around for 100 years to witness it.
Also, “recommended storage” varies, do we want to seal the print behind air-tight containers? What if the air is humid? What if a rat or house pet bite it?
Therefore, due to these many uncontrollable complicated reasons, we decide to extend a different type of guarantee to our customers : we disclose honest information about material grade used in the print and let the customer know if the manufacturer has any form of guarantees on them. For example, how Epson specify that their print permanence in the perfect storage condition would last 100 years or above. This way, customers do not have to worry about whether this “small shop”‘s guarantees are real or not. We do however guarantee that all the information disclosed will be genuine, or we would refund 10 pieces!
Behind each art print will be labels with information on the quality of each material that makes up the finished product, so that consumers can be the best judge of “how long will their print last” rather than give them a blanket guarantee that no one is around to witness.
Below, we share share more insight into the different factors that affect how long a print can be “archived for”
Ink used on print
There are a lot of choices on ink choices on the market. There are some ink that would start fading at the 2 year mark, while there are also others would start fading only after many decades.
We use 100% original Epson UltraChrome PRO pigment ink. Together with the special-made coating on our paper, a slight waterproof, anti-corrosive, resist oxidisation property is formed, therefore delaying fading. This is why this type of Epson ink are clinically trialled to last without ink fading for at least 100 years, in some cases, even 200 years!
The type of “core” used on an art print
Be it Chinese painting, Japanese painting, or oil painting, the print materials are non resistance to fire and decay – therefore it would be unreasonable to talk about archival years without giving due considerations to the storage environment.
Core material of paints or canvas are made of paper fibre, silk, or other animal / plant extract. Over time, they will oxidise and age, allowing bacteria and fungi to invade and grow on them. Therefore, given difference situations of the same painting, there will still be a couple of decade’s difference in how long the ink can last.
Keeping the print in a place with natural ventilation, low temperature and low humidity can reduce bacterial erosion and allow the print to last longer.
Most of us should be more or less in-the-know about how long the usual office paper can last before turning yellow. The paper grade for large format printing are in general classified into 3 grades. The lowest grade would in general last longer than mundane office paper, due to a combination use of Epson UltraChrome PRO and the coating layer made specially for printing on the paper.
If customers can afford a little more, they can choose the acid-free paper, which greatly slows down the process of oxidation and ink fading; if the acid-free paper come from a better manufacturer, then of course the years it can last for will be longer. If we let you know what sort of paper we used, then it would be possible for our customers to grasp how long their prints can last.
In a traditional oriental hanging scroll, the adhesive paste could attract insects to eat at the print. For adhesive paste mixed with some herbs, the life can last slightly longer, a couple of decades. The advantage of mounting hanging scrolls by the traditional method is that as long as the paint core is not damaged, the core can be wet and then re-mounted onto new material, breathing in a new lease of life to an old paint.
Modern methods use dry mounting with machines in which thermal adhesives are used. Although pests are not attracted to these adhesive, there are chances the adhesive can dry and age over time. This is a new technology that has only been for around for just 1 decade – therefore it has not bee thoroughly tested through the times. It’s biggest disadvantage however, is the fact that the core of the paint cannot be removed without damage. Once the thermal adhesive lose its’ effectiveness, then it cannot be remounted, hopefully there will be a good solution for it in the future.
The paper used for decoration on a hanging scroll, the enamel, cotton, wood, etc. – although they do not last as long as archival paper, but we believe they can still outlive normal office paper and would be able to last a few decades.
Conclusion, and a new-age alternative
As long as the core is made of Epson UltraChrome pigment ink, the overall life of the whole calligraphy or painting under normal use should be several decades. The price of a modern art print is a hundred to a couple of hundred dollars. No matter what the purchase use is, the cost would have been recuperated after a decade of use. It would be unreasonable for something of this price line to last for many centuries. Also, due to lack of talents to repair hanging scrolls these days, the cost of remounting is more expensive than purchasing a new print. If it is your own work of calligraphy or art, we recommend to get an electronic version – that way whenever the print star wearing out, a new one can be printed – this way, the work of art will live on forever as long as the digital copy is well kept!