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Methodology

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In the first part of our third-party ink and paper survey, around three months ago, we found that some third-party inks were ranked better in our double-blind trials than those from original printer manufacturers. That's only half the story, though. Most printer makers are keen to point out that the real test is how prints fade over time. So now we are now looking at fade resistance.

We're aiming to answer the question ‘Do original manufacturer inks resist fade better than third-party equivalents?’ If so, how badly to the third-party inks fade and are prints still usable. We’re not using high-intensity light boxes, as the ink manufacturers do to test fade resistance, but are instead employing ‘real world’ techniques that mimic the kind of uses people are likely to put their digital photo prints to.
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We took the prints that we’d used in the first part of this survey and chose the landscape image, which contains areas of blue, green and red inks. We cut each print into three and stuck the left third of each image on boards which we then put in the lab window, where they would be exposed to typical daylight conditions.

The second third of each strip was stuck to a clip frame and covered with glass, before being hung from an internal wall with no direct sunlight falling onto it. The final third of each print was put in a darkened draw in a sealed container.

The reason for putting the internal-wall samples behind glass is not to help protect them from light-fade, but rather from ozone-fade. This can be an appreciable factor in fade in an urban office environment, where traffic pollution and even office equipment can increase the ozone content in the air.

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