How to prevent photos from turning yellow overtime
Have you ever seen some old photographs having the white part turning completely yellow? That usually starts with the edge of the image, and then, slowly but surely, all the photographs are tinted? If some might consider that’s charming (like a nostalgic sign of aging), other people would want to preserve their images.
So let’s start to learn which are the reasons that turn prints yellowish, which would allow us to find the perfect way to keep your prints and photo albums.
Table of Contents
Which factors would yellow your photos over time?
Let’s see who is the culprit!
- Sun exposure
Direct sunlight exposure can damage prints due to UV (Ultraviolet Radiation).
- High Temperatures
Variation of temperature plays a huge mechanical effect of dilatation/contraction of the paper. This one can wrap, break, crack, letting a small opening for molecules to impair the inside part of the paper. High temperatures can also accelerate the chemical reactions in photographs. For dye-printer (which is dry ink melt on the surface of the support), the pigments can melt and move due to high temperature.
Extreme cold temperature can cause the media to freeze and thus create physical degradation.
Too much humidity would have a mechanical effect. Photo paper would expand, and swell. It also has a chemical effect: layers of emulsions can stick together which lead to permanent damage. In extreme cases, too much moisture can also lead to the growth of mold and mildew.
On the opposite, in extremely dry environments photo paper can contract and crack. Pigment or other chemical elements in the top layer of the photograph can become brittle and fall.
Acid has a strong chemical power and over time it will alter the composition of the photograph (fiber, ink and surface layers). Anything holding acid molecules in contact with photographs will affect your impressions. That can be the support used, but also tape, the framing, the conservation box, the ink, or just a date/note written at the back.
- Molecules in the air
In addition to acid, there are many molecules (pollutants) in a home that can alter impressions, such as ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and even oxygen!
Those pollutants came from the product you use to clean your home, if you smoke or have a chimney, from the street/neighborhood. They can cause yellowing, fading and degradation of inkjet prints.
- Oil When Manipulating Long Term
Our fingers contain oils (and acidity) that stay on the surface of the pages when we manipulate them. Oil can also come from cooking.
- The Nature the Printing
There are different types of technology and paper. Some containing fibers would have a lot of lignin which is a substance in wood pulp that naturally turns yellow!
Of course, the type of material and the printing technology will play a huge role. We will treat that a bit later.
Best environment store prints and albums and keep them from turning yellow?
How to keep your picture from turning yellow or, at least to minimize future yellowing?
You need an environment:
- Sun light free
- with an ideal moisture between 35% to 50%
- With a stable and constant temperature between 40 °F to 72 °F (4° C-22°C).
- an acid-free
- Smoke and Pollutants free
Best places in your home to store prints for conservation
As a result, the smarter place in your home to ensure the safety of photographs (or a paint) is an opaque, hermetic and acid free box in a closet in one of the following rooms.
- A spare bedroom.
If this one is really used and that opens the windows each day, that should be fine.
- An office room
Except if spend 12 hours a day working in it
- A library room
- A Storage room
And if you wonder why a closet is better, it’s because it would have a more constant temperature and it’s shield from the sunlight.
Worst Rooms in your home you should never store photographs
Due to high variation of temperature and moisture
Due to high variation of temperature and pollutants in the air
If you have an old home, your basement probably has a high level of moisture during the summer which causes mold.
- The kitchen and dining room: when you cook, heat and breath, tones of molecules are liberated in the air that can create chemical reactions.
- Living room with houseplant
Houseplants and their foliage are another culprit. Houseplant sweat through their foliage system. And the drainage system also creates water vapors.
When you breathe the air, it can be slightly acidic. Over time, pictures turn yellow.
- Bathroom and Greenhouse
For some obvious moisture issue.
How to protect your framed prints on the wall from aging
By now you should start to realize that, in the long term, you can’t really preserve exposed prints from aging. Nevertheless, you can delay the process with a few tips:
- Use a clear case
glass would help a bit stoping exterior elements
- Hang your frame away from the Sun
- Hang your frame away from the heater, chimney or the AC
Conclusion, your home is not a museum!
If you live in a mansion or a big house, and if you can afford a”museum room dedicated to conservation, where you can control all the environment (constant temperature and low level of moisture, plants, etc.), then your impressions will last forever.
But if you live in a small home (especially in Country with warm summers with lots of moisture and cold winters), then you must be very careful to secure your photographs. They are your family heirloom.
Tips to protect your prints and wedding albums from aging?
The same storage rules apply for photo-books, and if you have an expensive wedding album, you want to make sure that it still looks good in the future. You don’t want the edge of the page-turning yellow. That’s especially true with the kinds of full-page layouts that we use!
So, now that you know in which room you should keep your precious photo-book (in a dark room, with constant humidity and constant temperature), it’s time to give you a few additional tips.
Wash your ends or use gloves
Human figures are covered by natural oil and drops of sweat which are acidic. Therefore wash your hands, or better, wear gloves when manipulating photo albums!
Put your album in its box immediately after looking at it.
Some photo-book covers (such as the velvet cover) are especially sensitive to dirt. You don’t want to drop a coffee or some cookies on it. So, put it back in its box immediately after manipulating it.
Clean Any Dirt With Acid-Free Tissue Paper
The material we are using is pretty strong and can easily be cleaned. For that purpose, use an acid-free tissue paper to take care of any dirt spot. Make sure it’s well dry before closing the page to avoid them sticking together. Indeed, this would tear apart the surface of the pages next time you open it.
Wear a Mask If You Are Sick
If you are sick and sneezing, wear a mask. Your eye might not see any drop immediately, but for sure, you don’t want any drop on the surface on the pages. That could change the colors.
If you are concerned about your parents’ book, you can find a box. Another option is to order a dedicated one through your photographer.
How does the quality of your photo paper impact the aging and fading color of your photographs?
We have learned what harms photographs and how to prevent color turning yellow, let’s think about prevention. Let’s see different kinds of prints, and wonder which photo paper will last longer.
Polaroids are famous for their fading colors. They are modes of several layers, and one of them is a light-sensitive silver halide crystals layer.
Inkjet paper is made from fiber that will absorb the ink. Some supports are called archival inkjet paper and are designed to last a century in the optimal storage condition.
The big issue with that is that most of the homes don’t present museum condition (those need to conserve expensive). And a paper designed to absorb ink is by nature designed to absorb moisture and other molecules in the air!
As a result, even if we see some layers of coating protection, we don’t think that inkjet paper is the more relevant choice of material for conservation.
Dye-Print or Thermal medias
Dye print is a printing process where solid ink is melted on the support. This one is usually made of a polyester material.
Stored in good condition, impressions can last for numerous years. The only downside we see is that the top layer, not protected, can easily crack (and fall) or melt.
RC paper (resin-coated), has been developed in the ’60s and then been improved through the years. It is composed of 4 layers:
- A base layer
Usually a strong plastic
- A resin coating layer
Made if polyethylene or polypropylene, it creates a smooth and uniform surface that will hold the colors
- The ink-receiving layer
It’s a porous layer made in silica. During the developing process, it receives the pigments (from a chemical bath). At the end of the process, all the molecules that have not reacted are washed away.
- A layer of plastic
It’s a strong layer of polyester with a UV-absorbing treatment that covers the photographs.
Conclusion: Best photo paper and printing technology to choose for wedding albums
In conclusion, we strongly believe that the best kind of photo paper to be used in a wedding album is an RC paper. Its composition won’t react most to moisture and temperature variations. Its chemical components are already stabilized and physically protected between layers of plastic.
Its top layer of polyester with UV-absorbing treatment protects the image from any dirt (oils in the finger, etc.), and from the Sun.
What’s more, it offers high dynamic range and superior resolution.
For all those reasons, we use Fujifilm media.
Be ready for Unexpected events
In addition to normal aging reasons, unexpected events can destroy your precious heirloom, such as.
- Water damage in a home
Keep your protecting case on a shelf, far away from water tubes.
- Insect damage
Make sure your home has no insects.
Home fire burns everything.
Have a backup
It’s easy to digitize any image. Have copies on different computers located in different homes.
If you have old precious photographs which are fading, you have it restored.
Photographs are not unique like paint
The good side of photography it’s its ability to be reproduced! We will be happy to offer a new framed image.
Other Related Questions:
Is discoloration and yellowing the same?
If they occur at the same time and have the same factors, they are not exactly the same.
Discoloration if due to the pigment falling, or having its chemical property altered.
The yellow color appearing is due to an alteration of the white support, and not the ink.
Why photos turning magenta or cyan?
Depending on the printing technology, some colors can last (magenta, cyan), while some colors would fade away.