Choosing the right Photographic Paper or Canvas November 13, 2015 13:30

Archival Quality

Archival refers to materials that meet certain criteria for permanence such as lignin-free, pH neutral, alkaline-buffered, stable in light, etc. A quality level for art materials, such as paper that has a neutral or slightly alkaline pH level resulting in high-level aging properties. A non-technical term used to denote material that will last for long periods (several decades) with minimal deterioration because of its chemical stability and physical durability.

Our fine art papers meet or exceed the standards as set down by the Fine Art Trade Guild. They are archival or conservation grade materials,  with a lightfastness score of 6 or more on the Blue Wool Scale in all areas of the print - or its equivalent under empirical test conditions. The substrates must be acid-free and have a pH level of between 7-9 with a minimum weight of 250gsm with minimal or no Optical Brightening Agents (OBA).

Our premium photo papers are of the highest criteria with a proven track record for longevity and quality.

OBA (Optical Brightening Agents)

Optical Brightening Agents (OBA) are additives to paper or coatings that make the paper appear whiter as well as the colours appear brighter and more vibrant. The effect is achieved by the OBA absorbing the light in the ultraviolet and violet region of the electromagnetic spectrum, and re-emitting light in the blue region. OBA may also be referred to as fluorescent whitening agents (FWA) or fluorescent brightening agents (FBA).

OBA help to achieve a bright, cool white paper. Certain images, such as cold toned black and whites, or prints with blues and greens, appear to be more appealing on bright white papers.

To date, we have not found any definitive answer as to how OBA affect the longevity of a print. There are some traditional photo papers that have been using OBA for decades, and the prints have held up to the test of time.


Optical Brightening Agents require a UV radiation light source (e.g. natural sunlight) to be effective. If a print is framed behind UV-protective glass or coated with a UV protective coating, the effect of the OBA could be rendered useless. The same would hold true for UV protective coatings such as liquid or film laminates. It is common practice in modern framing shops to use glass or acrylics that block UV radiation to protect images. When framing an image printed on paper containing OBA, we recommend using an acid-free mat and a clear, non-UV cut glass.

Optical Brightening Agents do fade over time. The time frame is dependent on the manufacturing process and how much OBA is present. Fading of the OBA causes the paper to revert to its original color it was prior to adding OBA. There is some debate as to whether OBA cause yellowing or staining.

Prints on papers with OBA can be more difficult to reproduce with accurate color representation. Also, colours can appear different under varying lighting conditions, e.g., the colours under incandescent lighting may look different if placed under fluorescent lighting.

When deciding on using a paper with or without OBA, consider:

  • the subject matter
  • where and how it will be displayed
  • the importance of longevity

Some additional information that you may find helpful can be found at the following websites.

Also, be certain to visit our Paper Guide to learn more about our fine line of Photographic & Fine Art Papers and Canvas