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Articles by Chris A. Paschke, CPF GCF

"Digital Discussions 2007"

June 2007

By now we all know that digitals are here to stay, but continue to struggle with exactly are custom framers are going to be influenced by their dominance in the market. As I continue work on the third edition of The Mounting And Laminating Handbook discussions of digital imaging become more and more prevalent within it's pages. Even the PPFA ReCertification class seems to spend more and more time on digitals when discussing the handling of art forms, yet there remain few hard and fast answers.

At the recent PPFA Conference in Las Vegas many of my classes were filled with photographers and digital production framers. Traditionally, framers attend this annual conference for the education and not the trade show itself, but where better to explore and become familiar with digital photographs, fine art and canvases than at this particular show?

As the self-appointed digital diva for the framing industry, it is my job to comb the show floor and target new research projects for learning how to better understand and handle digital imagery in the custom frame shop. Framers have resisted the digital world for years not really seeing the forest for the trees. But now that film photography is becoming as extinct as the drive-in theater, digitals require a new vocabulary, new equipment, new handling techniques, and a whole new attitude.

Read, Read, Read

As a registered attendee of the recent Vegas (PMA/PPFA) show, every morning there are two publications left on your hotel room doorstep. Printed in newsmagazine format and designed to read like the daily paper these are filled with promotionals, press releases, and industry news of product launches and technology that may be seen at the show.

I pour over these like they are manna from heaven, with this basic information giving a perfect starting point for helping determine are the trends of electronic printing and what may be the next dilemma for custom framers. These newspapers are a must read for any framer who desires to maintain their edge in the market, as they can only help you speak language.

i3A Consumer Friendly Advice

The current group of print technologies known as digital inkjet, dye diffusion thermal transfer and the digital versions of traditional silver halide photos (RA-4) continues to emerge from digital photographic techniques. Damage by deterioration and degradation is a natural consequence of the chemical changes that happen to plastics, dyes, adhesives and metals over time. Learning how to handle and preserve photos and prints during long term storage or for permanent display should be vital to any custom framer.

A new consumer friendly website, Consumer Photo Preservation (CPP) at, was recently launched by the International Imaging Industry Association (i3A) and announced at the PPFA show. I am a member of i3A in order to be allowed to work on select ISO committees and am thrilled at my first overview of this informative site. It was created to educate, inform, and motivate consumers to take steps to better care for and protect their digital photos. It outlines the needs, risks and methodology for proper storing and preserving of digital photos both as display and storage images. Participating companies include Acmeworks Digital Film, Creative Memories, Eastman Kodak, HP and Sprint. I3A will monitor and update the site and welcomes feedback from related industries to help improve it over time. Take a moment to check it out.

Digital Avoidances

More and more photographers, artists, and framers are getting into the production of medium- and wide-format images for their own and consumer consumption. The knowledge required in handling these images goes far beyond the heat tolerances of mounting or the use of cold roller-laminators. Degradation issues surrounding the aging of digital equipment include the deterioration of hard drives, CDs, and DVDs, but is also the impacted by temperature, light, humidity, moisture, and permanent display of the print.

For best long term storage, all these issues must be controlled. Avoid storage sleeves made of polyvinyl chloride to control outgassing; make certain images are printed with paper and ink combinations advised by manufacturers; do not house or store images in hot, humid, or excessively dry environments; keep prints away form unventilated kerosene or natural gas heaters, and ozone generating printers; avoid high light areas and direct sunlight; and always select UV-glazing when framing. It has been said that placing images in albums or behind glass will retard pollutant damage, though this has yet to be scientifically proven, outside the use of boards that utilize zeolite protection.

Permanence Claims

When searching for image permanence ratings by manufacturers always verify display vs. storage longevity in their description. When it has been stated an image will last "100 years in a photo album", it suggests a museum quality photo album (dark storage), with buffered or rag papers, kept at moderate temperatures, under controlled humidity...not an image framed for constant display in the presence of light for 100 years.

Current inkjet systems may claim "50 years of display fade resistance" but verify the specifics as to the type of papers that validate that claim, and realize the phrase "archival quality" is little more than a marketing term, unless specific support and testing data has been supplied. All this said, recent advances in digital printing technologies has greatly improved print life, fade and moisture resistance over the past few years.

Big Changes in Inkjet

Digital printing has taken a huge leap in the production of fine art images this year with the launching of Kodak's new thermal inkjet EasyShare AiO (all-in-one) Printers which feature pigment based inkjet technology for photos, documents, scanning and copying. The popular Kodak thermal dye-transfer/dye sublimation process found at over 100,000 kiosks around the country may be brought home and could compete with Canon, HP, and Lexmark desktop models. The new printer uses pigment inks for greater lightfastness at half the price of the thermal transfer images at kiosks.

The release of HP's Designjet Z2100 and Z3100 thermal inkjet printers are 8- and 12-ink systems using HP Vivera pigmented inks. Capable of printing on a variety of media from photo papers to canvas, the lightfastness ratings are listed at more than 200 years. It is stated with a number of HP media that the HP pigmented Vivera inks may be laminated for added durability, but it does not state whether they mean over-lamination or liquid lamination. These inks need to be heat and lamination tested with framing products and equipment to better determine their tolerances in our world. I feel that vinyl over-lamination might visual compromise image appearance.

Canvas Studies

In light of the current debates over the stretching vs. mounting of digital canvases, I attempted to locate manufacturers of canvas receptor coatings and assorted canvas products at the show to begin my testing of this problem. InteliCoat Technologies was showcasing their Torino line of coated canvas for pigmented and dye inkjet printer systems using the Epson Stylus Pro 7800 printer and Canon imagePROGRAF iPF8000. The Epson UltraChrome K3, 8-color, pigment based ink printer with drop-on-demand Micro-Piezo technology has lightfastness ratings of up to 108 years for color and 200 years for B&W. The Canon iPF8000 uses Lucia pigmented inks with a 12-color thermal inkjet system, but does not readily promote it's lightfastness predictions.

InteliCoat printed many beautiful canvas samples on their Magiclée 100% Cotton Matte Canvas for pigment inks; Poly/Cotton Canvas for dye and pigment inks; and Poly/Cotton Matte Canvas for pigment inks showing fabulously vivid and brilliant colors for inkjet on canvas. With the help of samples from InteliCoat I will be conducting canvas studies of stretching, heat and pressure-sensitive adhesive tolerances over the next few months. I have a theory it may be the 100% cotton vs. synthetic blend that impacts the sagging of a stretched canvas.

New Dye-Sublimation Thermal Transfers

The world of thermal transfer imaging, also known as dye transfer, dye diffusion, or dye-sublimation is also making advances with more portable units and new players in the field. There are thousands of free standing thermal transfer kiosks in everything from drug store chains to big box discounters across the country printing millions of photo images for consumers daily. The Sony Picture Station prints in 7-80 seconds depending on output image size 4x6" to 8x10", with greeting cards in just 20 seconds, all suitable for framing.

Along with the new Kodak and existing Canon thermal systems, the new portable Fuji ASK-2000 and ASK-4000 high speed digital printers allow professional photographers the opportunity to quickly provide guests at any special event on-site 4x6" prints in 8 seconds and 8x10" prints in 40 seconds. The Mitsubishi Electric CP-3020DAU and CP-9550DW are also portable dye sublimation thermal printers new to the scene. They print in 15 to 90 seconds depending on image size and will also help in revolutionizing wedding and special events with immediate reproduction and gratification.

So What?

So how do all these printers impact framers? Wide-format and medium-format inkjet photos, fine art prints, and canvases will be cropping up at craft fairs and bazaars more than ever before. The small town wannabe artist or photographer may now create limited editions that will actually last decades longer than the original electrophotographic Canon 4-color toner copiers of the early 90s that lasted 3 months. Desktop printers are finally allowing for scrapbookers and lovers of photographs to print out quality images that are affordable and have the required longevity. And guests from weddings, bar mitzvahs, and kids sporting events will have dye sublimation images immediately, all ready to frame.

Longevity and lightfastness issues aside, many customers may want their framer to coat these images with laminates, which is not a framer option. The trick will be to know what framers can do with, and for, these images to best display them while not invading their integrity. And then to teach our customers about them. Then again there is that issue of stretching digital canvases. Well, stay tuned for my reports on these in a month or so, and keep those roller-laminators in mind.

Copyright © 2007 Chris A Paschke

For more articles on mounting basics look under the mounting section in Articles by Subject.
Additional information on all types of mounting is found in:
The Mounting and Laminating Handbook, Second Edition, 2002,
The Mounting And Laminating Handbook, Third Edition, 2008 and
Creative Mounting, Wrapping, And Laminating, 2000 will teach you everything you need to know about getting the most from your dry mount equipment and materials as an innovative frame designer.

All books are available from Designs Ink Publishing through this website.

Chris A Paschke, CPF GCF
Designs Ink
Designs Ink Publishing
785 Tucker Road, Suite G-183
Tehachapi, CA 93561
P 661-821-2188