Print Permanence Testing 2017-2019
For Calendar year 2019, we continue to seek funding for 16 new printer/ink/media systems that were actually started in test in late November, 2016. Because the tests will run continuously for several years, it was important to get them going even if only partial funding is currently available. As always, we will perform all Aardenburg Media Testing using the i* Metric, but new for 2019, we have begun publishing the results with an expanded report format. The updated report format will not only show light fading properties but also tracks additional long term Dark Storage Stability factors relating to additional yellowing/discoloration which can occur in some media when the print is stored in the dark or at low light levels after an initial display period where exposure to higher doses of light has occurred.
New and now in test are the following 16 systems. These studies involve tracking 80 samples in total, because individual samples of each printer/ink/media combination will be removed permanently from light fade test units at the 20, 50, and 100 megalux hour exposure intervals, thereby retired to dark storage at known light exposure doses. Their ongoing dark storage color and tonal accuracy will be measured at 6 month intervals and compared to corresponding dark storage control samples which were all printed at the same time.
Underlying the choice of these 16 samples are some deliberate experimental design objectives. First, there are specific comparative tests of three different Canon pigmented ink formulations (including the latest Canon LUCIA Pro-11 set made on or new Canon Pro-1000 printer purchased in 2016) to Epson’s newest UltraChrome HD ink set with its significantly improved yellow pigment ink. Some of the choices represent a direct paired ink set comparison on specific media, notably Moab Entrada Rag Natural and Red River Palo Duro Soft Gloss Rag which are both OBA-free and expected to have stable media white point properties. Thus, these media should better reveal fundamental light fade properties of the inks themselves with less confounding of the results due to poor media stability. Second, some ink sets are paired with resin coated (RC) media where the media whitepoint properties are expected to shift during light exposure due to more rapid fading of the optical brighteners (OBAs) in the media, but also further change is expected to occur in dark storage due to their RC-layer polyethylene (PE) with incorporated titanium dioxide(TiO2), and optical brighteners (OBAs). Here, Canon Photo Pro Luster and Epson Ultra Premium luster will be evaluated for media stability against a third RC paper, Epson Proofing Paper White SemiMatte. Epson’s proofing paper differs from the Canon and Epson photo luster media because it contains no OBAs in the PE layers, only OBAs in the paper core where they are more isolated from direct light exposure and also certain light- reactive aspects of the PE/TiO2 chemistry. Lastly, we will be evaluating some third party inks made by Precision Colors and comparing to their respective Canon and Epson OEM counterparts. A Precisioncolors pigmented ink set for the Canon Pro-1 printer and another for one made as a replacement for K3 or HD inks in various Epson Printer models are being evaluated. Also, a Precisioncolors dye-based ink set for the Canon Pro-100 printer will be compared directly to Canon’s own OEM set for the Pro-100 on a popular RC photo paper, Canon’s Photo Paper Pro Luster. Precisioncolors.com has gained popularity and respect among amateur printmaking enthusiasts because it offers reliable and affordable third party inks for both Epson and Canon photo printer models. Aardenburg Imaging and Archives has received more than one request to test Precisioncolors inks for light fade resistance compared to the respective OEM ink sets, and with help from the printmaking community, we have been able to obtain these PrecisionColors samples printed accurately to our test target image specifications.
Ink Cartridge Colors
Epson currently has four variants of its UltraChrome branded aqueous ink sets, each with its own print permanence properties: The 8-color UltraChrome HD ink set used in the new SC-600, SC800, and SC 6000 and 8000 printers, the 10-color HDX ink set (standard edition) used in the new SC 7000 and 9000 wide format printers, the 10-color HDX commercial edition (where a light grey ink is permanently swapped with a violet ink cartridge in the SC 7000 and 9000 wide format printers) and lastly, a novel HG-2 ink set that has seven colors plus a gloss optimizer. What’s novel about the HG-2 ink set is that it has no photo gray inks but adds a gloss optimizer and doubles down in the red-orange (e.g., skin tones) part of the color gamut with the inclusion of both an orange ink cartridge and a red ink cartridge. The HG-2 ink set’s lack of photo grays to replace cyan, magenta, yellow (and perhaps some orange and red inks) when printing low chroma and neutral gray scales make it inevitable that some light fastness differences are going to exist when comparing prints made on the SC-400 to other Epson photo printers like the SC-600 and SC 800 desktop models. The following table illustrates these variations in Epson’s UltraChrome branded ink technology.
Canon introduced a new 17 inch printer called the imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 in October, 2015 which utilizes a new LUCIA PRO 11-color plus Chroma Optimizer ink system. Canon followed in May, 2016 with new wide format Pro-2000 and Pro-4000 models. The Pro-1000, 2000, and 4000 family of imagePROGRAF printers all utilize the same print head design and the new LUCIA PRO-11 ink plus Chroma Optimizer ink chemistry. Canon claims improvements to color gamut, better Dmax, and enhanced detail in darker areas of the prints with it’s Pro-1000, 2000, and 4000 printers and LUCIA PRO-11 ink set. In terms of colorant choices, the Pro-11 ink set appears to meld together various choices of color channels found in the Canon Pixma Pro-1 printer and those found in the older LUCIA EX ink set which was used in Canon’s previous imagePROGRAF line of x300 and x400 series wide format printers. The color cartridge options are as folllows:
Aardenburg Imaging has begun some closely paired 200 megalux hour comparative light fade tests using both the latest Epson and Canon ink sets on various media as can be seen in our experimental design for the 16 new printer/ink/media combinations now in test. Epson has claimed an overall 2x improvement in light fade resistance for its newly reformulated Ultrachrome HD ink set and a further claim of 200+ years print longevity on select Epson media (assuming certain environmental conditions). Aardenburg tests of Epson’s new HD inkset that began in 2015 on two different media have now verified Epson’s 2x claim on one Epson paper and another third party paper. Our tests also clearly demonstrate how the fade resistance of important skin tone colors is even more than 2x improved when compared to the older K3 ink formulation, notably due to a much improved yellow pigment light fade resistance. However, Epson’s 200+ year claim is further dependent on the print owners’ tolerance for “how much fade is too much fade”. According to our projections, image fading will indeed be easily noticeable well before 200 years pass when applying Epson’s assumption about the average light intensity conditions for the prints on display.
Canon has made far more modest claims for print longevity, citing only internal studies using Canon Platinum Pro paper (PT-201) and Canon Photo Paper Pro luster paper (LU-101) with the new Pro-1000 printer and the new LUCIA PRO-11 ink set (Note: these claims were originally listed in the Canon Pro-1000 printer specifications, but now appear to have been removed from this documentation). The Platinum Pro paper was rated at 60 years light fastness while the Luster was rated at 45 years light fade resistance. Canon did not disclose its test methodology or failure criteria, but taken at face value Canon’s claim is surprisingly more conservative than Epson’s 200+ year claim. The new Lucia Pro-11 inks are now in test using Canon’s Pro luster and also a third party non RC fine art luster paper (Red River Palo Duro Soft Gloss Rag). As the new tests unfold we will have some independent answers for you to help you make more informed choices regarding the inks and media you choose in your own printmaking efforts.
Would like to propose Canson Baryta and Canson Editions rag paper with the ink for the study
Ilford has a new fine art paper range out. Interested in the textured cotton rag.
I would like to see Huhnemuhle Photo Silk Baryta and maybe some MOAB paper choices. Thanks
I would like to see these new inksets tested side-by-side on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308gsm, with no laminate or other coating, possibly with a known quantity (e.g. Ultrachrome K3, Ultrachrome HDR or Lucia EX) as a control.
We already have a lot of information on the relative permanence of papers – those with good longevity tend to have better readings with every inkset than papers with poor longevity. For example, Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl 320mg tends to have better longevity than Epson Hot Press Natural, and that holds true with every inkset. It’s not as if Paper A might outperform Paper B with Lucia EX, but Paper B outperforms Paper A with Ultrachrome K3 – where one paper outperforms another, it tends to outperform it regardless of which inkset is tested. So, we can already rank papers as to which ones have better permanence and choose our media based on that.
We can also rank inksets by permanence. As a general rule, HP Vivera > Lucia EX (although this is very close on many papers) > Ultrachrome HDR (although this gets a lot better with a RIP to minimise the use of yellow ink) > Ultrachrome K3. This ranking tends to hold true regardless of what paper the inks are tested on.
What we don’t know is where these new inksets fit into the hierarchy. Do the new Epson inksets outlast Lucia EX? Does Canon’s new Lucia Pro inkset outlast Vivera (showing that Canon’s new permanence claims are much more conservative than previous ones), or have they gone backwards?
So, we need to test all the new inksets on the same paper to get a relative ranking – preferably a well-established, well-known paper that has a lot of data from other inksets so that we can make a good comparison. Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308gsm fits the bill perfectly – it’s one of the most commonly-used high-end papers, there is a lot of data available for it (practically every pigment inkset tested on Aardenburg has been tested on it) and it’s a consistent product which has been around for a long time (so there shouldn’t be too much variation between batches or changes to the formula). With a set of data from the new inksets on it, we would be able to see where the new inks fit into the longevity hierarchy and choose an inkset based on that, no matter what medium we decide to print on. (i.e. if Canon Lucia Pro outperforms Lucia EX on Photo Rag 308, it should also outperform Lucia EX on every other paper).
I use the methodology you’ve outlined quite often in the testing of new ink sets, whereby the new ink set is printed on the very same batch of paper along with a control ink set with well known performance. As I write these words, one such pared comparison type of test is currently under way. Filter the Aardenburg light fade test results database for [batch] equals “N”. That will bring up the full set of samples in a study of the newest Epson UltraChrome HD inks running side by side the older UltraChrome K3 inks and the Canon Lucia EX ink set, all printed on two paper types using same batch of paper for each ink set. This paired experimental technique reduces many sources of potential experimental error and lets us evaluate the role of the inks very closely.
It would be great to expand our testing to include a “marathon” round as you are suggesting with all the major aqueous pigmented ink sets on the market today side by side in test, including the latest from Canon as well as the current champion, i.e., the HP Vivera pigments used in the HPZ3200 printers. We have the equipment capacity and expertise. It only depends on new funding at this point in time.
Please remember that all research at Aardenburg Imaging is made possible by donations from you, our membership! The more funding we receive, the more able we are to serve our community with essential data on print longevity and image permanence that can be found only at Aardenburg Imaging. For more information regarding how Aardenburg ensures the independence and integrity of our data through our donation model, please see the About Us and Research pages at this website.
Mark, I believe the table above showing the various inks in the current Epson printers is in error. The table indicates that the Epson P7000/P9000 include a RED ink but this is not the case. I’m sure this is just a clerical error.
Good catch! The table has been corrected to reflect that HDX ink set has orange, but no red.
I want to thank you for the monumental work you have done on light fade testing. It has been very helpful to me in selecting a paper/ink combination. I notice from perusing the Luminous Landscape forums that you prefer Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl for your prints. I was wondering why you chose Photo Rag Pearl over Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta which I am thinking of standardizing on for my prints for my Canon ipf6300.
Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
Both are nice papers using a cotton base sheet of similar thickness, and neither has any optical brighteners (OBAs). Notwithstanding Hahnemuhle’s claim of Barium sulfate being added as a whitener in Photo Rag Baryta, both papers exhibit essentially similar white point media color which is ever so slightly on the warm side with a LAB b* value of approximately +2. I have never run the two media side-by-side in light fade testing which is a better way to reveal subtle differences, but there are enough samples of both media printed with different OEM inks in the Aardenburg database showing respectable results. I’m not too concerned about any adverse light fade interactions for either paper with modern OEM pigmented ink sets. Both papers also exhibit high color and tone reproduction quality with pigmented inks. Gloss differential and bronzing are quite similar when using various pigmented ink sets. That said, I personally have zero tolerance for gloss differential and/or bronzing, so I always coat any pigmented ink prints I make on luster/glossy media to eliminate the last traces, at which point any initial differences are somewhat academic. BTW, both papers take Hahnemuhle Protective Spray (Premier Print Shield, etc) very well, but I give a slight edge to the Photo Rag Pearl in terms of it being more forgiving to novice/amateur hand spray techniques.
Early production samples I received of Photo Rag Baryta had some random “black specks” in the coating that caused a higher print reject level, and that was disconcerting to say the least, but many printmakers complained about this experience with Photo Rag Baryta as well, and I believe Hahnemuhle has largely resolved this particular issue in recent years. I’ve used much more Photo Rag Pearl over the last several years, and it has always been consistently excellent batch to batch.
The “look and feel in hand” is noticeably different between the two papers due to gloss level and surface texture properties. Their base sheets are calendared somewhat differently at the mill before they are delivered to the coating facility, and this base sheet surface texture difference as well as distinct changes in the coating layer pigment/binder chemistry contributes to the noticeable difference in the aesthetics of gloss level and surface finish between the two papers, IMHO. The base paper of the Photo Rag Baryta exhibits a stronger uni-directional grain orientation which tends to be amplified by the higher gloss coating laid down on this base sheet, whereas the Rag Pearl base sheet exhibits a little more random “dimpling” and less distinct grain orientation, and its lower gloss coating layer then tends to minimize the underlying base sheet texture a little more as well. Lastly, high gloss inkjet coatings typically incorporate higher amounts of finer and more highly concentrated nanoporous alumina particles which can be added as an upper layer in a multi-layer total coating structure. This addition makes the full ink-solvent receptor layer more brittle and prone to micro cracking, especially under low humidity conditions, so in terms of superior physical properties, again, the coating durability advantage over time probably goes to the less glossy Photo Rag Pearl.
All that said, both papers are indeed high quality fine art inkjet papers in the “traditional fiber photograph” venue, and if you personally prefer the look of the glossier Photo Rag Baryta better than the Photo Rag Pearl finish, then by all means choose it with confidence.
Hi Mark, care to comment on Xiao Ho’s claims, “As a general rule, HP Vivera > Lucia EX (although this is very close on many papers) > Ultrachrome HDR (although this gets a lot better with a RIP to minimise the use of yellow ink) > Ultrachrome K3. This ranking tends to hold true regardless of what paper the inks are tested on.” Also, have you run any longevity tests on non-inkjet papers such as watercolor papers used in the art industry? Thanks.
I agree with Xiao ho’s statement. However, both Canon and Epson offer completely new inksets in their latest aqueous pigmented inkjet printer, and thus it’s worth revisiting the relative ranking of the HP Vivera pigment (still state of the art in the HP Z3200 printer) versus the newer Canon and Epson ink set. We are working on that here at Aardenburg as can be seen by some of the sample choices shown in the 2017 inks and media table above. All of these samples are now in test.
To paraphrase the relative importance of inks versus media, I would say that a great media choice cannot really redeem an under performing ink set, but a poor media choice can definitely undercut the benefit of choosing a great ink set. As OEM pigmented ink quality improves in overall lightfastness, media matters more and more because it then has a higher chance of becoming the weak link in the chain.
I should have added whether you have any data on the Lucia Pro inks from Canon’s smaller “pro” printers and how do they compare to the Lucia EX?
The Canon Pro-1000 ink set and the print head used in that 17 inch desktop model is identical to the configuration used in the larger Canon Pro-2000 and 4000 models. We now have the Pro-1000 printer in house, and some samples in test. Although our policy at Aardenburg is not to “repurpose” test results from one printer model to another as some other labs do, I do think it will be a pretty safe bet for endusers looking at the Pro-1000 results when they become available to infer how the larger Pro-2000 and Pro-4000 printer models would perform in our testing when choosing the same media (and,of course, with the LUCIA Pro-11 OEM inks). We do hope to add more Lucia Pro-11 ink/media combinations into the testing pipeline as soon as we are able to complete our funding goals for the current round of tests now in progress.
I would really like to see the Canon Pro 10 and Pro 1000 using Precision Colors Special Edition Ink sets compared to the Canon OEM inks.
No plans to test any more Precision Colors inks. Precision Colors seems to change formulations too often to make it worthwhile. Additionally, I feel the battleground for print permanence has shifted to media yellowing problems. We will be focusing on some “baryta” and “baryta-like” media printed with various OEM ink sets in our next round of testing. We hope to start a new round of testing in 2020.
Interesting article, but from behind comes the Lomond photo paper, we in the laboratory are already working on this paper, which honestly has very good results.