Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best printer?

Printer quality is not just about permanence, but a host of other factors such as image quality, reliability, and cost (of printer as well as ongoing supplies of ink/toner and paper). Some prints of high image quality can have poor permanence and others of low image quality can have high permanence. It’s important to make a list of all the qualities you need in a printer and then do the research to find the printer best suited for your needs.


Can IPI give me life predictions for a print made using specific printer or on a particular paper?

As per our founding charter, IPI does not publish test results for specific products. Our goal is to develop best practices for caring for large, mixed collections of digital prints of potentially unknown origin and type.


Where do I go to get conservation treatment information for digital prints?

IPI is currently only performing research on the preventive conservation of digitally printed materials. For information on restorative treatment, IPI suggests contacting the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.


How does your approach to digital print preservation research differ from that of other labs such as the manufacturers or for-profit testing labs?

IPI does not publish estimated life predictions for specific products. IPI believes that general education is the best approach. It’s like the old adage “Give a man a fish and he eats today, but teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime”. There are literally thousands of printer/colorant/paper combinations available; telling you how long one, two, ten, or even a hundred different print types might last would only scratch the surface. Teaching skills on how to care for collections mixed with a variety of prints of unknown origin will produce the best results for our audience.


Do digitally printed photos need cold storage like color photographs?

The current ISO standard 18920 Imaging materials -- Reflection prints -- Storage practices suggests the use of cold storage for inkjet and dye sublimation prints and room conditions for electrophotographic prints. IPI believes more data is needed to develop the correct storage environment recommendations. We are currently studying this issue.


Do digitally printed documents and images need the same storage conditions?

There are no known guidelines specifically for the storage of digitally printed documents. Current IPI research suggests that digitally printed documents may be more robust that digitally printed photographs over the long-term; however, the optimal storage temperatures and humidities have not been firmly established. IPI is currently examining this issue in our latest research projects.


If a storage enclosure or framing material says it is photo safe, will it be ok with my digital prints?

The current ISO standard 18902 Imaging materials -- Processed imaging materials -- Albums, framing and storage materials for storage enclosures, framing materials, and photo albums states that those that are safe for traditional photos will be safe for digitally printed materials (whether text or image).  However, recent research indicates that many adhesives safe for traditional photos may be reactive with some digital prints. Paper enclosures and interleave tissues may also be too abrasive for sensitive digital prints.


Are the life expectancy values given on some products accurate?

IPI cannot comment on the claims made by specific manufacturers regarding the longevity of their products or the accuracy of their testing protocols. IPI can recommend our publication, A Consumer Guide to Understanding Permanence Testing, which describes the various ins and outs of image permanence testing. This will help you better understand how the claims may be reached and be better able to judge them for yourself.


How can I tell what processes were used for my digital prints?

Basic digital print ID skills can easily be developed. IPI suggests utilizing multiple approaches including our online digital print ID tool, known sample sets, attendance at workshops, and literature such as the book The Digital Print: Identification and Preservation.


Are UV sprays/laminates and other post-printing treatments OK for digital prints? Will they actually extend the life of my prints?

IPI is not currently studying the impact that sprays, laminates, and the various mounting systems may have on digital prints over the long-term. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the number of print possibilities (printing technology, colorants, and paper types), without adding the complexity of treatment variations, is already extremely large. The second reason is that there are no existing test methods by which to accurately evaluate the long-term performance of treated prints. For now, we believe our best approach will be to thoroughly understand the print materials’ behavior without treatments. From that point, new test methods may be developed to begin to understand how post-print treatments will affect the preservation of the printed materials.