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Which Type of Printer?

How To: Make Photos That Last A Lifetime

Inkjet printers have been outputting our images for several years. Inkjets cover just about every price point the photographer needs. But not all inkjet printers are created equal. While small, portable inkjet printers or multi-function printers can output your photo, are they really best suited for your purposes of adding your images to the annals of history?

Your printer has to be able to create depth and image quality within your archival inkjet print. And a printer that has only four or five inks in its ink set will not be able to do the image justice. Look for a photo-quality printer that has at least six, if not eight or more inks. These additional inks will complement the primary inks in such a way that varying the dot size or spacing cannot do with a printer that has fewer inks.

These photo-quality printers are still considered inkjet printers. They can be found at most consumer electronic stores, including Best Buy. Even though we will discuss using higher-end paper for long-lasting photographic prints, these printers can also print on regular bond paper and print text.

Color inkjet printers make use of four primary colors, cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and black (K), also called the subtractive primaries. To these, a photo inkjet printer may add light cyan, light magenta, a photo black and a photo gray. Some printers also include a UV-coating cartridge to provide an additional protection to the print.

The additional colors let the printer fill in the nuances of shading and help create the depth you want for your historic print. These photo printers generate very small droplet sizes of three picoliters for the Epson Stylus Photo R2880, for example. This Epson model, along with the Canon PIXMA Pro 9500 Mark II, which we used for our tests for this article, can generate a Super B-sized print (13" X 19").

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  • 0 Hide
    ebattleon , July 11, 2009 4:04 AM
    There are archival class DVD media that have longer warrantied life spans than that mentioned in the article. Taiyo Yuden and TDK offer archive class DVDs' with life span of 70 years which is pretty good don't you think. It is implied that Laser Printers cannot be used for archive class photos, is this really the case?
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , July 12, 2009 4:19 PM
    i would rather see advice on preserving negatives or digital files since we only print when we need it and printing is improving constantly.
  • 0 Hide
    rockerrb , July 12, 2009 8:32 PM
    This was a really really good article. I remember using Illford photographic paper in college in basic photography. We used an Iris printer for computer graphics printouts. It cost over $50k. I don't know what the shelf life of the prints is. I have them mounted on mat board in a portfolio which is in storage. These days you can make prints that are just as good or better for a lot less money.
  • 0 Hide
    davehcyj , July 13, 2009 4:34 PM
    You should also mention that when framing a photo it is important to have UV filtering glass, since UV light can fade photos as well.

    It would have also been good to include in the article a section about getting the prints done somewhere. For people that will only need to do a small number of photos, the cost of the high end printers/inks might not be worth it. I don't know if places like Wal-Mart offer multiple paper choices, but there are many profession photo printing services available on the internet that give you a range of professional Kodak papers to choose from. These services have the added benefit of using million dollar printing machines which can produce higher quality prints than consumer printers especially if the home user isn't knowledgeable enough to properly calibrate the printer.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 13, 2009 7:23 PM
    Do you have any information on a scalable solution to scan all those photos that you don't have negatives for? I know you can outsource it but since they are irreplaceable I hate mailing them away. Is there a place that you can bring a box of them and they scan them and hand the box back to you?
  • 0 Hide
    Darkk , July 15, 2009 4:12 AM
    Very good article. I have a Epson R380 Photo Printer and Epson 4490 Photo Scanner. Both devices work very well for what I use it for. It is a shame that alot of my relatives never kept the negatives as I could have scanned it with my scanner to produce photos for them to keep.

    Now these days we all take digital photography for granted. Just point and click. Then take the SD card home to a printer for instant gratification for something that would have taken hours to do. I think doing it the old fashioned way a few times would show true appreciation of photography as it was in the old days.

    Case in point, pioneer photographers with monster box size cameras strapped to a donkey on a long trip whereas today we just whip the camera out of our pocket and take a quick snapshot. Boy, times sure have changed! LOL

  • 0 Hide
    Shadow703793 , July 16, 2009 9:50 PM
    This should article should have been more prominent on the home page. One of the better written ones this month.
  • 0 Hide
    klyndt , July 22, 2009 3:44 PM
    Good article. I would like to second the motion on adding information on getting the prints done by someone else. I am currently using Fotki because they claim to use archival quality inks and paper and I would be interested in seeing how they stack up to other firms. Also, I always thought that you couldn't print your own pictures for cheaper than an outside firm could. There are probably monetary advantages to going with someone else for printing. I think a follow-up article could be very interesting.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 28, 2009 3:43 AM
    You should just go to a real photo lab and have your photos printed if you have any interest in having your prints last a lifetime.

    Why give money to the ink cartels? Seriously, they told us 10 years ago our prints would last a lifetime too. Why should we believe them this time around?

    Chemistry prints are the way to go.
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