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Monday, June 15, 2009

••◊ Why media matters...and ink too (part 2)

Last March I wrote a blog post about why paper and ink matter for professional prints. The article set out to compare two types of ink and four grades of paper ranging in cost from $0.10 to $2.00 per sheet. The prints have been in my living room soaking up the southern California sun for almost three months now and are starting to show the results of their respective durability characteristics. I know if my mom is reading this she's going "WHAT-everrrrr." Yes mom, it really does matter what you print on and with. Have proof.

First up is the $0.10/sheet photo media and dye ink. There is definitely an overall fading that can't be missed. So I would deem this combination good enough to show grandma pictures of the kids, but not good enough to keep the photos.

Setup number two uses media that is $0.30/sheet and dye ink. Certainly there is less fading, but you can still see it in Rebecca's hair and shirt. Since it's nearly criminal to turn a beautiful redhead into a blond, I would personally stay away from this combination. This is middle of the road durability performance, as you would expect from the middle priced paper with dye ink. Not quite cheap enough for throw away photos, not durable enough to keep the photos very long. Maybe this is a good combination for refrigerator pictures(?)

Photo pairing number three uses dye ink and the most expensive photo paper of the dye ink prints at $0.60/sheet. To my eye there is little change or color fading. This combination would be good enough for consumer photo album prints. Dye inks aren't quite as durable as pigment inks, but this combination is close enough for most consumers.

Finally we get to the pro level pigment inks. You'll have to excuse the general lack of saturation. Consumer printers (i.e. dye printers) tend to saturate colors, whereas pro printers don't. I didn't want to modify the photo or change the settings in the photo program between prints, so I didn't increase the saturation to compensate here. This is a before and after comparison anyway, so all that matters is that the "before" and "after" aren't different. I don't see any immediate signs of fading between the before and after here. This is the exact same $0.30/sheet media as above, but the major difference here is the pigment ink, which is much more durable to UV than dye.

The $2.00/sheet (13"x19" sheets) professional media with pigment ink also shows similar performance. In general I use this paper for all color prints when I need professional quality. With this combination I don't see any immediate signs of fading. That's good because I've already sold prints on this paper with this particular brand of pigment ink. No need to worry about fading here.

So...no surprises. Pigment works better than dye. More expensive paper works better than cheaper paper. The downside?...now my mom is going to ask me to do all of her photo printing.

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