Does Pen Ink Fade Over Time?

Jotting down memories in your journal, composing a thoughtful letter to a loved one, or even just writing out your grocery list provides a permanent record of things you want to say or remember. Think again.

Even though it may take years, eventually, pen ink will fade until the written records are no longer legible. Pen ink is not a permanent fixture and cannot withstand the test of time although there are variables that influence how fast ink will fade.

In this article, we will discuss how long it takes for pen ink to fade as well as ways to prevent pen ink from fading. Additionally, we will cover why pen ink fades and which type of pen ink fades fastest as well as which type of pen ink takes the longest to fade.

How Long Does It Take for Pen Ink to Fade?

Does pen ink fade over time?

There are many factors that determine how fast pen ink can fade. In general, pen ink can last for at least twenty years before beginning to fade, but certain variables can speed up the process. It’s important to understand not only what type of pen ink you are working with but also what type of medium you are writing on.

Pen ink will fade faster on thinner, low-quality paper such as simple notebook paper or printer paper. If pen ink is exposed to sunlight or conditions of high humidity, then it will fade faster than inked mediums that are kept in dry, dark places.

Is There a Way to Prevent Pen Ink from Fading?

While all ink will eventually fade over time, there are measures you can take to prolong the amount of time it takes for pen ink to fade. Using heavy stock paper will allow the ink to absorb into the fibers of the paper and last longer.

Keeping written papers away from ultraviolet light which will bleach the color of the ink is essential to prolonging the life of your pen ink. Storing papers with pen ink in a dry environment is also important because high humidity may cause the ink to bleed and fade away faster.

There is another way to help your ink writings survive at least longer than you – use a chemical fixative. Fixative sprays can be found at any craft or hobby store and will preserve your writing far longer than the two decades it is expected to last.

Grumbacher 546 11-3/4-Ounce Workable Fixative Spray, 11-3/4-Ounce Can
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Why Does Pen Ink Fade?

The main culprit behind the fading of pen ink is ultraviolet. Even ink-written papers that are not kept in direct sunlight will eventually begin to fade because of the minute exposure to ultraviolet light. The light exposure causes the ink to oxidize. By changing its chemical nature, it loses some of its molecules to oxygen which causes the ink to fade.

Other environmental factors such as humidity, heat, and other light waves also play a part in the fading of ink.

The chemical composition of the medium used to write on can also be an integral factor in how fast the ink fades. If the paper is composed of fibers that promote oxidation, the ink may be more susceptible to fading, especially if exposed to a high amount of ultraviolet light.

What Type of Pen Ink Fades the Fastest?

Pen ink that is made from dyes will fade the fastest. When it is used on paper, it will absorb into the paper and become part of the fibers. Since it is mixed with the fibers of the paper that already have their own color, dye inks automatically lose some of their colors when they are applied to paper.

Bottled ink also fades very quickly. If you like to write using the old-fashioned method of dipping your pen or a quill into a bottle of ink to scratch out your writings on paper, beware that they won’t last nearly as long as using a ballpoint pen that cost pennies to purchase at your local office supply shop.

What Type of Pen Ink Takes the Longest to Fade?

Pigment ink is a surefire way to ensure that your writings will last a lifetime – literally. As opposed to dye ink, which is absorbed into the fibers of the paper, pigment ink sits on top of the paper. You need to give it more time to dry, but in the end, it retains its full color because it doesn’t bleed into the paper.

It is also more resistant to fading than dye ink. Because of this, pigment ink is usually more expensive, but if you want your writing to last, it is worth the cost.

Alternatively, ballpoint pens and gel ink pens tend to last quite a while as well and they don’t cost nearly as much as pigment ink. These are the type of pens that can give you at least two decades worth of legible ink before they begin to fade.


No matter what kind of pen ink you use, all pen inks will fade over time. Some fade faster than others. For example, dye inks and bottled inks do not have a long lifespan, while pigment inks, ballpoint pen ink, and gel ink can last in excess of twenty years.

There are many variables that factor into how fast pen ink can fade. Ultraviolet light exposure is the biggest culprit behind the fading of pen ink. It oxidizes the ink over time, causing it to lose color. Humidity, heat, and the type of medium used to write on will also affect how fast ink fades.

Although there is no permanent guarantee to prevent pen ink from fading, there are steps you can take to preserve your writing. Keep written pages out of direct sunlight and in dry conditions. Use high quality, heavy stock paper, and good ink. You can also spray your writing with a fixative to protect it from the damaging effects of sunlight and humidity.

If you take these precautionary measures, your writing could outlive you!

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