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Sunday, March 22, 2009

••◊ Why media matters...and ink too!

Hah! You probably thought this was going to be about shameless self promotion and being published in print. Nope. We're talking printing this time. ...and not just any kind of printing, but the devilish task of trying to print professional quality photos. Just don't go blaming me about how difficult it is. I don't write software (or only when I have to).

This go around I'm going to compare the durability of four types of paper and two types of ink. Durability generally means resistance to moisture, heat, and especially UV fading over time. The laboratory will be the window sill in my living room. We get enough sun, temperature, and moisture variation here in San Diego that I figure it should be valid enough test conditions.

The photo paper I used for this test ranges in price from charmin economy to the expensive stuff only professionals buy. Ink comes in two varieties: dye and pigment. I'm not naming any names, but all products tested here come from the same major brand company, so there aren't any third party compatibility issues. The dye ink printer is a garden variety home photo-centric consumer printer. The pigment ink printer is a professional product and generally not sold in the consumer market.

I printed the picture from the original RAW file and scanned the prints back to digital using a scanner. Yes, I know they all pretty much look the same. You can click on them to get a larger version if you're a pixel peeper, however this pretty much makes an initial point. All the prints look reasonably good out of the printer. The expensive paper obviously looks a little better when examining the print quality in person.

First in the lineup is the dye ink print with the photo paper that runs sub-$0.10 per sheet (8.5" x 11", street price).

Next up is the same dye ink based print with a slightly better paper. This paper runs a little over $0.30 per sheet (8.5" x 11", street price).

Finally, the highest quality dye ink print comes from using this paper at approximately $0.60 per sheet (8.5" x 11", street price).

Now moving onto the pigment ink based prints; this test subject uses the same $0.30 per sheet material as the middle priced dye ink print.

Finally! Presenting the most expensive pigment print material used in this experiment. It only comes in 13" x 19" and larger rolls and generally runs a little over $2.00 per sheet (street price).

My initial guess at an experimental time span is to leave these pictures on my sill for two to three weeks, or basically when I start to see them aging. Then I'll scan the prints and publish the difference.

Just so I'm being fair - all inkjet prints that you wish to preserve should be kept out of direct sunlight (preferably behind glass if displayed). They should also be kept from extreme moisture or temperature. This is independent of brand, ink type, or quality of paper. All photos fade over time, even non-inkjet ones, if not properly cared for.

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