What is Archival Paper?

Simply put, archival paper is specially designed to last longer than your traditional paper. It doesn’t mean it is entirely indestructible or will last forever, but when stored in the right conditions, archival paper can potentially last for over 100 years.

Archival quality paper is made using 100% acid-free material and this helps it resist deterioration over time and maintain original colour and texture.

For the majority of us we maybe don’t need to print on something that will last 100 years, but maybe you do want something that will at least last your lifetime. Archival paper is a great way to increase the longevity of your prints.

What makes an Archival Paper?

For starters, archival paper must be acid-free. If the paper contains acids then it will react with various environmental factors such as humidity, sunlight, and damp to hasten the deterioration of the paper.

In order to ensure an acid-free paper the manufacturer must use a neutral alkaline material. The ideal material in simple terms is 100% cotton fibre.

True archival quality paper is therefore typically made of pure cotton pulp rather than wood pulp.

Does PrintIT stock Archival Paper?

Yes, we have a range of archival paper available either directly in-stock or orderable from our suppliers as and when customers may require.

As an example, one of our most popular fine art papers is a lightly textured 100% cotton rag paper.

We do also have clients who like to print on recognised brand papers such as Hahnemühle for which we also have readily accessible stock locally.

Is Archival Paper worth the extra cost?

It really depends on the situation. Here is a few different scenarios that you may fall into.

You are the artist or distributor of prints to end customers

In this situation you may want to entice clients by highlighting the archival quality of the paper as an added benefit to buying from you. It may allow you to charge a bit of a premium on the premise of producing your end product on a much higher quality paper.

You may also want to have additional confidence that the prints you sold have the longevity to outlive the client [sorry if that sounds a touch dark] and reduce potential headaches in the future.

You are printing something that doesn’t need to last more than 5-10 years

Many of us are just looking to print pictures to decorate a room or to enjoy the latest family memories. We don’t necessarily need something that is going to last 40+ years as you may redecorate many times over.

In situations like this you may want to save the cost of the archival paper and just go with a good quality non-archival paper. It will still last for a considerable number of years.

Also consider situations where you may have access to the digital files you printed from originally. If ever you do have issues with the print, you could always re-print.

You want to print something that will last considerably more than 10 years

It’s probably worth spending a little extra and getting the archival quality paper from the start.

What is Cotton Rag paper?

Cotton rag paper, as the name suggests is a paper made using cotton textile remnants. There is also cotton paper, which unlike cotton rag will be made up from cotton linters. Many cotton papers today are made up either from 100% cotton linters or a mixture of both cotton linters and cotton textile remnants.

The benefit cotton rag specifically is that the fibers are typically longer than that of cotton linters which ensures that they provide additional strength and are therefore more durable. Cotton linters are pure cellulose fibers that are the byproducts of cotton processing. Even though their fibers are shorter than those of the cotton rag, they do still provide excellent strength and archival quality.

At PrintIT we stock a papers that are 100% cotton rag, 100% cotton linters, and a mixture. This enables us to provide clients with high quality archival papers across different needs and budgets.

How does cotton paper compare to wood pulp based paper?

Cotton based paper is far superior to wood pulp based paper in terms of archival quality. In simple terms, if you are looking for a print to last the test of time, then you would want to print on cotton, not wood pulp based paper.

If you have viewed an old book, print or artwork, you may have observed the yellowing effect, which is quite unique to paper made from wood pulp. This yellowing is the result of  something called lingin, the polymer that is responsible for binding cellulose fibers together.

When lignin is exposed to the environment, it undergoes oxidation, which causes it to destabilise and absorb more light, which in effect causes it to turn yellow. In order to preserve wood pulp paper you would effectively need to ensure it is not exposed to sunlight. It takes only brief exposure to begin the oxidation process and this cannot be reversed.