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Inkjet Fade Testing Explained

Get a Snapshot of Estimating PrintLife

The process of estimating printlife is indeed complicated, but we'll give you an overview on how fade testing works.

How fade testing works

Please note that the process of estimating printlife is indeed complicated. A full report is over 50 pages and encompasses many scientific concepts and notations. Below is a snapshot of what happens in order to predict printlife.

Tests are conducted by the Image Permanence Institute (a department of RIT's College of Imaging Arts & Sciences).

To begin, we test for fading that results from light exposure. These tests do not account for other causes of image failure which we now know can have a significant effect. Measuring effects from pollution (indoors and outdoors) and humidity are very difficult to qualify and are not addressed with our tests. Recent testing overseas has attempted to quantify the effect of other factors with some success. However, so many variables are in play that using light as the standard cause and testing with glass protection are generally sufficient for most users.

Red River prints small color patch images on each paper/ink to be tested. These color patches include the pure colors, neutrals (which are full mixes of all color) and combinations of two colors. When fading or other change has been recorded to reach a specific point, the sample is declared to have "failed". For instance, if the "Pure Cyan" test reaches a point of 30% deterioration, that is the "End-Point" for that sample, regardless of whether any of the other 11 patches has registered a decline. The bottom line: we are looking for the worst case scenario.

This does not mean that your image will "disappear", rather it will change a bit in shade which can be recognized by the human eye especially if you compare it to another identical image freshly printed on the same printer with the exact same settings as before.


Illumination source - Cool white high intensity fluorescent light

Display intensity - 450 lux / 12 hours per day

Display conditions - 70°F ± 5°F and 50% Relative humidity ± 3%

Samples analyzed according to methods described in the standard, Imaging Materials - Stability of Color Photographic Images - Methods for Measuring, ANSI/NAPM IT9.9-1996. Calculations performed using the "half stain" correction metod.

End-points (time where image "failure" is calculated) agree with the illustrative end-points chosen by ANSI/NAPM IT9.9-1996

Here is the specific test criteria for each paper:

Parameter Patch Color End Point where failure (fade) is noted
Cyan Fade Pure Cyan 30% Loss
Magenta Fade Pure Magenta 30% Loss
Yellow Fade Pure Yellow 30% Loss
Black Fade Pure K Neutral 30% Loss
Magenta Fade Red 30% loss
Yellow Fade Red 30% loss
Cyan Fade Green 30% loss
Yellow Fade Green 30% loss
Cyan Fade Blue 30% loss
Magenta Fade Blue 30% loss
Cyan Fade Composite Neutral 30% Loss
Magenta Fade Composite Neutral 30% Loss
Yellow Fade Composite Neutral 30% Loss
Red Green Imbalance Composite Neutral + or - 15% change
Red Blue Imbalance Composite Neutral + or - 15% change
Green Blue Imbalance Composite Neutral + or - 15% change
Cyan Stain White (Dmin) +0.10 Density Change
Magenta Stain White (Dmin) +0.10 Density Change
Yellow Stain White (Dmin) +0.10 Density Change


The Image Permanence Institute (IPI)

The Image Permanence Institute (IPI) is a university-based, nonprofit research laboratory devoted to scientific research in the preservation of visual and other forms of

recorded information. It is the world's largest independent laboratory with this specific scope. IPI was founded in 1985 through the combined efforts and sponsorship of the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Society for Imaging Science and Technology. Funding for IPI's preservation research and outreach efforts has come mainly from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. IPI is a provider of information, consulting services, practical tools, and preservation technology for libraries, archives, and museum collections worldwide.

IPI's staff works in six principal areas:

  • research on the stability of information media
  • collection management and environmental standards
  • ISO standards development for imaging media preservation
  • testing of archival and imaging materials
  • training of photograph conservators (in collaboration with George Eastman House)
  • outreach through publications and consultation.


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Last updated: August 19, 2021