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Test Your Photos: Fade Resistance

Picking The Best Ink And Paper For Your Inkjet Printer
By

Fade resistance testing usually happens on expensive machines able to carefully control humidity, light, and temperature. But there are ways to test fade resistance at home.

  1. Print out two photos.
  2. Cover half of one photo with the other
  3. Leave them both out in the bright sun
Light Source
Brightness (Lux)
Candle Light at 20 cm
10-15
Street Light
10-20
Normal Living Room Lighting
100
Office Flourescent Light
300-500
Halogen Lamp
750
Sunlight, One Hour Before Sunset
1000
Daylight, Cloudy Sky
5000
Daylight, Clear Sky
10 000
Bright Sunlight
> 20 000


It's difficult to quantify fade resistance when you're testing at home. Luminance and UV intensity vary based on your location. Sunlight near the equator is different than Augusta, Maine. As a general rule of thumb, though, you can assume that a day of direct spring sunlight roughly equals 150 days indoors. If your picture is sitting in a frame on the living room table, you can guesstimate fade resistance by doubling that number to 300 days.

This is an example of weathering taken to an extreme. These two photos were subjected to about 30 years of light exposure, which simulates what your framed family pictures would look like after that period of time in the living room.

Look at the fade in the bottom picture. This is a case of poor quality ink and/or photo paper. The top picture was printed with official inks and official paper. This shouldn't be considered an endorsement of official inks, though. If you do this test on your own, you can and will find other inks and papers that get close to official quality.

Realistically, most of us don't care if our prints survive beyond 10 years. If the picture loses quality, simply print it out again (so long as you've managed to keep your digital data safe for that long). But if you're a shutterbug concerned with print preservation, these tests should provide a few easy ways to make sure that you're getting as close as possible to an optimal print at a fraction of the cost of tier-one-branded supplies.

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  • 2 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 1, 2011 5:14 AM
    the most interesting thing in this article was the B&W sunlight photo on the third page. awesome photo. can we have some more?
  • -9 Hide
    cmcghee358 , September 1, 2011 6:19 AM
    I'm not gonna lie, I didn't read this. I read probably 90% of Toms articles because even though they are technical, they are still interesting. The title of this simply turned me off.
  • -7 Hide
    kalidasa , September 1, 2011 8:17 AM
    Thanks for telling me how I can find my own quality inks and paper for printing. Now I can spend hundreds of dollars testing out the "thousands", as you put it, of third-party suppliers of printing materials.

    paraphrase of this article: We don't endorse buying first party, brand-name inks and paper; we're just here to tell you the extremes you can go through to find an alternative! p.s. HP is great!
  • 4 Hide
    bennaye , September 1, 2011 10:52 AM
    clearly someone was bored at Tom's...
  • 4 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , September 1, 2011 10:56 AM
    there is only one simple answer to "what is the best ink/paper for my printer". The answer is only the manufacturer of the printer makes the correct ink that and paper suitable for the printer that will yield consistantly good results for photos and prevent the head from getting clogged. The manufacturer pre-sets settings in the driver to deliver the right amount of a particular ink to a particular weight/absorbancy of paper. Use those presets with other paper/ink and you will get varied results. When you work fixing printers for a few years you will understand this is fact, not just manufacturers trying to sell overpriced ink. And you also have to remember that overpriced ink is there to make up for the losses they make on low end $50 printers.
  • 0 Hide
    TonyJ , September 1, 2011 11:52 AM
    No mention of Ilford paper and Hobbicolor ink. Very basic overview... Try the photo printing forums for better advice.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2011 12:06 PM
    I switched from using vendor inks a long time ago due to the massive cost of a full set of 8 cartridges (approx £25 each) and as most of my printing is general documentation the extra cost cannot be justified. When the printer isn't used for a few weeks/months the heads do clog but this also happened with the vendor inks and wasting the expensive ink to run the cleaning program and the test page is just painful to watch, this is a fraction of the cost with the non-vendor inks.
    Fade can be an issue on the photos that are left in direct sunlight (conservatory) but there is always the option to take the image to a kiosk for a better quality print, or simply print a different picture for the frame.
    I don't keep large collections of printed photos in albums so I guess I might think differently if I did.





  • -1 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , September 1, 2011 2:10 PM
    i feel this article was just to fill the gap between something big thats coming up tomorrow or by monday.
    could it be BD? you guys probably have a sample but it must be under NDA
  • 0 Hide
    Arbie , September 1, 2011 2:29 PM
    More than print quality, my biggest problem is that the cartidges go dry = empty all by themselves, just sitting there for a few weeks. This is in a Canon ip-4000 printer. Leakage of so much ink would be obvious, so it isn't that. It just disappears. I live in a dry climate, but all of the ink including pigment is gone so it doesn't seem to be evaporation. It's as if the cartridges had simply been used up, which I know hasn't been done since only I have access to the printer.

    ==> Does anyone else have this problem? Put in all new cartridges, print two or three pages, let it sit for several weeks and then find one or two cartridges almost empty? BTW I'm using cheap ebay cartridges, and don't plan to spend the money it would take to install a set of Canon units unless that's known to be the cure. I can't remember how the first set of (Canon) cartridges fared.

    Thx - Arbie
  • 1 Hide
    TonyJ , September 1, 2011 3:37 PM
    Arbie...my biggest problem is that the cartidges go dry = empty all by themselves... - Arbie


    Make sure to turn your printer off when you aren't using it. If it cycles on and off with your computer, it will cycle through its cleaning process each time. That could be your problem...
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , September 1, 2011 4:11 PM
    As someone who print photos from my Canon Pro 9000 Mk 2 I enjoyed reading and being enlightened by this article.

    I had used third party inks a long time ago with my Epson printer. Colours on the printouts faded after a few months and the ink clogged my inkjet heads until finally I cannot clear the clogs anymore with the cleaning cycle.

    Now that I am using an expensive A3+ photo printer I am a bit wary about using 3rd party inks. I saw a brand that can be used with my Canon photo printer for half the price but I am very worried the ink with clog the heads and I end up scrapping my expensive printer or buy new ink heads.

    Experimenting with photo papers is less risky. I have discovered a local brand of photo papers that gives very close results as original Canon photo papers and for half the price of Canon originals and they save me lots of money. As for the inks I stick to originals but I hunt for the cheapest in town.
  • 6 Hide
    warezme , September 1, 2011 4:32 PM
    Great article with good insight on what to look for when spending big bucks on paper and ink.

    To those that don't get it, man, just don't read it. Not all articles have to be about high end CPU's and screaming SATA drives and this is coming from a guy who has high end CPU's, 590GTX Graphics, triple screen 23" Alienware 3D vision setup with more CPU firepower than most people I know. I also have a great interest in photography and like to shoot with both a 5dmkii and 40d and print my own stuff. It's all good. Keep up the good work Tom's and mixing things up.

  • 1 Hide
    Arbie , September 1, 2011 5:19 PM
    TonyJMake sure to turn your printer off when you aren't using it. If it cycles on and off with your computer, it will cycle through its cleaning process each time. That could be your problem...


    Thanks for the idea TonyJ, but the printer is OFF all the time except when I am actually using it. It doesn't make a sound when it's OFF - no head movement or anything.
  • -6 Hide
    jdamon113 , September 1, 2011 5:47 PM
    dumb artical
  • 0 Hide
    zak_mckraken , September 1, 2011 6:47 PM
    Quote:
    Computers get all of the glory, but everyone still owns a printer.

    I laughed at that sentence! Interesting article though. I no longer print anything, but I'm always interested in the process.
  • 0 Hide
    abdussamad , September 1, 2011 7:12 PM
    I made a silly impulse purchase and bought an all-in-one printer. Now it's just sitting there taking up space. Unless you own an office what exactly are you going to print? Everything is digital these days and who wants more waste paper to clean up.
  • 3 Hide
    spookyman , September 1, 2011 7:27 PM
    One of the reasons for me favoring a Color Laser Printer.
  • 0 Hide
    nastastic , September 1, 2011 7:49 PM
    first image, top center, girl in red bikini top ... where can one get that picture?
  • 0 Hide
    lp231 , September 1, 2011 8:34 PM
    Saw this printer that uses ink block that have actual cartridge. Once the ink is all used up, there is no cartridge to recycle or throw out. Less waste.

    It's called solid ink
  • 2 Hide
    gokanis , September 1, 2011 8:48 PM
    lp231Saw this printer that uses ink block that have actual cartridge. Once the ink is all used up, there is no cartridge to recycle or throw out. Less waste.It's called solid ink


    We have a xerox phasar printer at work that uses the, for lack of a better term, waxy crayon blocks. You drop them in a slot, close the lid and boom. It prints nice. Makes the room smell like crayons, brings back the memory of the 64 count crayon boxes (with sharpener) we had when I was young.
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