to fade or not to fade . . .

The fading of art prints: In the early days of digital printmaking photographers and artists were concerned about how long their “digital” prints would last. Concerned is perhaps an understatement, there was a lot of dislike and mistrust of anything digital including digital cameras. Unfortunately, early digital prints did not help with this perception as the IRIS printer, which was pretty much the first high quality printer used to make art, produced amazing almost continuous tone and color correct CMYK prints but the inks were fugitive and would only last for the few months without fading dramatically. To be fair that was not their purpose which was to produce pre-press proofs for the commercial print industry and they only needed to last for a few days.

The images on the right are from around the same vintage. The top one is, what was once a very colorful original etching, given to me by a “friend” who knew how some people viewed my prints back in the day. The bottom image is a very early IRIS digital print I made with Lyson inks. Curiously I found this over thanksgiving on display in the house of the same person who gave me the etching back in the late 90’s.

An early IRIS print c. 1997

In the mid 90’s an English ink company, Lyson, came out with a set of dye based inks for the IRIS which were considered archival – at 15-20 years without fading – and the whole landscape changed. They were tested under accelerated testing of the equivalent of 12 hours per day under commercial lighting.

Of course there were still naysayers but contemporary articles about film and watercolor paintings were also pretty damning. Most color photographic prints were shown to fade quickly when exposed to light and some films even color shifted when kept in dark storage. Watercolor paintings equally faded and some combinations of watercolor inks and paper were very fugitive and faded quickly.

Fast forward to the early 2000’s when Epson introduced pigment-based inks that were much more stable and would last well over 100 years if framed correctly. Since then most digital printmakers specializing in fine art photography and art have been have known that using the correct ink and paper will produce prints which will not fade or color shift for generations.  

Unfortunately, and for a long time it has been easy to buy a printer and produce colorful good-looking prints that will fade within a few short years. This image is of a photograph we took out of one of the Motel rooms, it can’t be that old maybe 10 years or a little more, and it has not been displayed in bright sunlight and yet it has faded terribly. It’s so sad that a photographer or artist would take the time to create a work, have it printed, sign it and have it framed without knowing that in a few short years it would be unrecognizable.

fading of art prints example
A badley faded print made on the wrong printer with the wrong paper

If you are having one of your works printed either use a printer who specialized in art, they may not be any more expensive, or ask the print shop what printer and paper they are using and then check out what information is available on the longevity on the paper and ink being used.

Don’t let your work fade away . . .   

About us!

If your serious about your prints

We opened Silicon Gallery in Philadelphia in 1993 – the first gallery in the world dedicated to digital art – which for us meant art created on or influenced by the computer. In 1996 for some crazy reason we decided that we would like to make prints for artists and photographers so we bought the legendary IRIS 3047 (it cost slightly more than the building we were in).

We opened a gallery and print studio in New York (DUMBO) in 1998 which closed in 2002 after the devastating effect 911 had on the arts community. Thankfully Philadelphia was not affected in the same way as New York.

Silicon Gallery in Philadelphia's Old City
Silicon Gallery and Print Studio in Old City Philadelphia

In 2014 my wife, who is an art historian, was offered a position in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and moved there with our then 4 year old daughter. I foolishly thought I could commute to Dubai and after 2 years of 14 hour flghts and 2 days a month on planes or in airports I closed up shop and moved to Dubai to be with my wife and kid full time. digitalprintmaker was born in Dubai a year later – a print and image capture studio in the heart of Dubai. I curated a number of shows, printed for the Crown Prince’s office in Abu Dhabi, met and printed for some of the most famous Middle Eastern artists along with locals and ex-pats beginning their “art” journey

As our reputation grew we became known internationally and artists and photographers from all over the World printed with us in Dubai; it was fun. Many of our local artists were picked up by local galleries and became very successful (which made us happy).

After 7 years the glitz and glamour, sun and desert began to tell on us and we sought out a new adventure. For a complete change of pace we bought a small seasonal Motel and have been running it since May 10, 2021.
In November 2021 we officially opened our print studio (attached to our very own Motel) with the purchase of a brand spanking new Epson SureColor P9570 — the latest in a long line of large format printers from Epson.

our Epson SC P970 being delivered
Delivery of our new Epson Printer

Epson is acknowledged to be the world standard for Museum prints that last for centuries and have amazing color and detail. Many of our prints made on previous Epson printers are in museums, galleries and collections all over the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and MOMA in New York, the Art Institute in Chicago, the Tate in London and many, many other musuems, galleries and collections.

In 2022 we will have packages for artists and photographers that include accommodation, proofs and amazing prints of your work to take home with you. We will also have artists led retreats. To get on the early bird mailing list drop us a note.