Image permanence and true color fidelity: A number of factors, including the type of coating and whiteness of the coating will affect how vibrant images will appear when printed with inkjet technology. The substrate and coating components can also affect the longevity of the image, as can the type of ink used (pigmented inks should be used for real image permanence).
Optical brightening agents: As discussed previously, papers without OBAs are preferred for the most color stable prints. OBAs can result in more pop of an image because they make a medium appear brighter; however, they are not permanent. Since the observed color of a print is a result of a combination of the substrate color as well as the inks used, the substrate color will change (yellow) when the OBAs fade. This means that the use of OBAs will affect the color of the print as it ages.
High archival quality: To ensure the archivability of images, print providers should use acid- and lignin- free media since both acid and lignin can contribute to premature discoloration of paper. A naturally occurring component found in trees, lignin is the material that causes newspapers to yellow quickly when left out in the sun. As mentioned earlier, archival papers typically have buffering agents to prevent acidification from environmental factors.
Optimized coatings for high-quality color reproduction: Media for fine art and photography applications should be coated to accept heavy ink loads without substrate cockling or ink mottling. Exceeding the ink saturation limit can result in paper cockle, which affects printer conveyance and finishing. It’s important to use products are that are designed with optimized coatings that result in good dot gain and excellent color output.
Water resistance: Another characteristic to look for is a water-resistant coating that is free of optical brighteners, which can alter color fidelity and cause yellowing over time.
Easy to protect and mount: Fine art and photography applications need to incorporate both high quality archival imaging media and finishing and mounting products that have archival qualities.
The attractive fine art and photography market presents many opportunities for today’s wide-format print providers. In order to successfully navigate the fine art and photography waters, it is critical for print providers to understand the landscape and the wealth of media options available. Not only will utilizing media options that are optimized for the fine art and photography industry bring success, but differentiation in materials will push educated print providers ahead of the competition.