How to Handle Inkjet Prints

16th September 2015 Papers & Presentation

Inkjet prints are amongst the most beautiful and versatile of prints. They can, however, be delicate things that need to be handled appropriately.



Spotting

An occasional problem on inkjet prints, that is sometimes not visible for quite some time after a print is made,is white dots. These are often mistakenly thought of as surface falking. They appear when dust or fibres that were on the paper surface when printed, later fall off leaving a small white dot of unprinted area underneath.

These are actually quite easy to 'spot' (repair). You can use any water based pigment - for example, old epson inkjet ink cartridges can be opened and the ink used on a brush, or you can simply use acrylics from an art store. Many people have used colour pencils/pens. The dots are generally very very small so you just need to get the tone roughly right and fill in the dot for the problem to become invisible. This is exactly how dust spots were dealt with in the days of traditional photographic printing as well.

We sell an Inkjet Print Retouching Kit that makes all this very easy. The best method is to take a sheet of clear plastic and cut a small hole in it. Place this over the print surface to protect the rest of the print while you are working, and simply paint through the hole over the white dot.

Trimming

Prints, as they emerge from the inkjet printer, should not be thought of as completely finished products in general. In particular, while we might wish for better paper handling from the printers, the reality is most prints are not perfectly centered. The easiest solution is to leave more whitespace around the edges. What might bother the eye with a very small amount of whitespace, such as 3mm on one side, 2mm on the other, simply isn't noticed when there's a good inch of whitespace around the print.

If you must go closer to the edges, then be prepared to do minor trimming post printing to get perfect centering and possibly to remove minor ink marks from the paper edge. A good quality rotary guillotine is the best thing to use for this sort of trimming. Rotatrims are good, and Dahle trimmers are excellent as well.

Coating

As a rule, your prints don't need to be coated. Inkjet prints that have been properly stored in acid free albums/storage or framed, that are not handled on the image area, should last a minimum of 75 or more years before visible fading occurs. Many archival substrates that we offer here will allow them to last far longer when stored properly.

Coating your prints can have benefits though - it depends very much on what you're planning to do with the them. It also depends greatly on the paper the print has been made on and the tones in the print.

Prints with deep shadows, and prints on soft cotton or baryta surface papers are more susceptible to scuffing and scratching, and therefore these prints probably should be coated. Coating on these papers is generally easy to apply and invisible.

The best coating to use, and the only one to have been independently tested to be archival with inkjet prints, is Hahnemuhle Protective Spray. It's easy to apply and adds a significant level of protection. It certainly won't make your prints bullet proof, but acts as a sealant that helps protect your prints from light touches, and from other nasties that affect inkjet prints like atmospheric pollutants. Do not use this spray on very glossy or metallic prints - it will leave a visible result. But on semi-gloss papers and matte papers, it's generally invisible. Always test on a small sample first of course.

We do not recommend thicker coatings on paper prints - they simply don't look right in general. That said, some people have mentioned they use Renaissance Wax on their prints (on semi-gloss papers) and like the effect both visually and in terms of protection afforded. This wax has been around for decades and early inkjet prints coated this way show no signs of yellowing, but I am not aware of any hard data on this product used with inkjet prints.

Hahnemühle Protective Spray
Protective spray for use on inkjet prints - fast drying and non yellowing.
$29
More info
Hahnemühle Varnish 1 Litre
Protective coating for use on canvas prints - available in matte, satin and gloss finishes.
More info

We use Clear Bags to pack all our services prints, and have them available to purchase as well. These are as good as bags get - are acid & lignin free, and are perfectly clear. They are pre-sized to popular print sizes (with enough give to fit a print mounted on foamcore as well) and can easily be made smaller as well with a simple fold down. They're also inexpensive.

If you're not going to use ClearBags, then make sure you source BOPP (biaxially oriented Polypropylene) bags, as these are archival and non damaging to prints. Most other plastic bags are acidic and will harm your prints in the long term. You can also use acid free tissue papers, available from any art store.

Proper storage for inkjet prints means one of three things - framed behind glass using archival acid free materials (in a sealed frame), archivally mounted prints in an acid free album, or acid free print storage boxes. All of these minimise the exposure to light, acid and other nasties that affect inkjet prints - notably atmospheric pollutants like ozone.