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Test Your Photos: Fade Resistance

Picking The Best Ink And Paper For Your Inkjet Printer
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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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