Spray Prints to Extend Longevity

Make them last

Give your prints a differnt look while protecting them from the elements that can cause them to fade faster by spraying 'em.

Spraying inkjet papers, canvases, and other substrates can give them a very different look and feel (more or less gloss, and in some cases, sprays can add texture). In some cases, spraying prints can also significantly extend their estimated display life before noticeable fading or color shift. Wilhelm Imaging Research has published the results of multiple accelerated tests that demonstrate the effects that some coatings can have on different inkjet papers and canvases.

I have successfully used PremierArt Print Shield Spray (www.premierimagingproducts.com) on many papers and canvases and recommend it highly. It comes in a handheld aerosol spray can and can add some contrast to matte inkjet papers and canvas without leaving streak marks. However, some sprays can also reduce contrast when used on certain materials, so testing is suggested.

This photo shows the "bronzing" effect described in the tip. Photo © Andrew Darlow

Spraying prints can help to reduce bronzing and gloss differential (especially on gloss and semi-gloss papers). Bronzing means that areas (especially medium tone to dark areas) of an image appear bronze in color (and tend to lose detail) when light hits them at a certain angle. High-gloss papers tend to show this more than semi-gloss papers. Bronzing is generally only seen at very specific angles to light on gloss and semi-gloss papers, and it can usually be reduced (though generally not eliminated) by using a solvent-based spray. The effect is also sometimes seen in skin tones. Matte papers almost never exhibit this effect.

Gloss differential is a term that describes an unevenness of the ink surface on a paper (usually in areas of high contrast, such as around people's heads, where a tree and sky meet, or in areas that have specular highlights, such as jewelry and street lamps). Also, after spraying, some papers may show small droplets on their surface, so I recommend first testing any sprays on your favorite papers before using them for all of your work.

Two semi-gloss prints made on pigment-based inkjet printers, with a can ofPremierArt Print Shield UV Water Resistant Lacquer and a U.S. SafetyMulti-purpose "7-in-1" Respirator. This respirator can protect theuser against many types of toxic fumes, including those from solvent-based sprays.Photo © Andrew Darlow

Like many sprays, PremierArt Print Shield contains solvents, so it’s important to use a mask in a properly ventilated area whenever it is used. Hahnemühle Protective Spray for Fine Art Inkjet Papers & Canvas and Moab Desert Varnish are also good choices for spraying prints.

My basic approach for spraying matte and semi-gloss prints is to tape the top edges to a piece of foam board or mat board with low-tack painter's masking tape. I then prop the board up as if I had taped it to a wall. I then start spraying from left to right, overlapping strokes as I make my way down the artwork. I will sometimes do a second coat, especially if I am coating canvas.

There are a number of non-toxic coatings that can add considerable density and protection to papers, but they generally require special spraying equipment to get even coverage on inkjet papers using that approach. When coating water resistant canvas, however, I will often coat canvas using a foam brush with a mix of gloss and matte non-toxic varnishes from Liquitex (www.liquitex.com) or Premier Imaging Products (www.premierimagingproducts.com). That technique gives the canvas the look and feel of a painted canvas.

Andrew Darlow is a photographer, author and digital imaging consultant based in the New York City area. He is editor of The Imaging Buffet, an online resource with news, reviews, and interviews covering the subjects of digital photography, printing, and new media. Portions of this article are excerpted from Darlow's new book, 301 Inkjet Tips and Techniques: An Essential Printing Resource for Photographers.

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