What Is Archival Ink?

There are many different ink types out there. One that you may come across every so often is archival ink. So, what is it? How is archival ink different from other types of ink? That is exactly what we will take a look at on this page!

What Is Archival Ink?

Archival ink is a special ink designed specifically for archiving.

This is virtually indestructible ink. It can’t be washed away. It is difficult to tamper with, and it is even resistant to fires.

If written documents are stored nowadays, they will have been written in archival ink most of the time. This is an ink that could potentially last decades without any issues.

We want to point out here that while archival ink will last a long time when it has been placed onto paper, it doesn’t last long in ink form. Most archival ink manufacturers recommend that you replace the ink if you have not used it all within 6-months. They also recommend that you replace the ink cartridge if it comes into contact with any contaminants. This is because contaminants can reduce the effectiveness of the ink when used for archival purposes.

What Do You Use Archival Ink For?

How do you keep pen ink from fading?

As the name suggests, archival ink will be used for archiving purposes.

When written documents are intended to be stored for long periods, archival ink is almost always used. Well, that or a graphite pencil. However, a graphite pencil doesn’t have the same fire resistance as archival ink.

Remember, archival ink doesn’t just mean that the ink has come out of a pen. There are many printers out there that can also be loaded up with archival ink cartridges. So, even if you see a printed official document, the chances are that it will have been printed with archival ink. 

Archival ink is most effective when it is used in combination with archival paper. It sticks to the paper a little bit better. However, the archival paper doesn’t need to be used. The archival paper is really just to give the document a bit more of a boost since these papers tend to be built to archival standards, i.e., resistant to destruction, including fire.

You may find archival ink used in some artwork projects outside of this. This is because it can look pretty unique when it is dried. Although, due to the cost of archival ink, this doesn’t happen as often. It also doesn’t help that some archival inks take a little bit of time to set. Some even need to be heat treated (very lightly) before you can be assured that it is permanent. This is often going to be too much hassle for very little gain, at least outside of the world of archiving. 

How Is Archival Ink Different From Regular Ink?

Regular ink just ‘sits’ on top of the paper, and it doesn’t last all that long on it either. At least in the grand scheme of things.

While you may not notice it on any papers that you own, if normal ink is used, it will eventually turn brown in color. This may take several decades, but it eventually happens. When the ink turns brown, it becomes more difficult to read. 

What is archival ink

If you go a few decades beyond this, then there is a chance that the regular ink will just fall off the page. There will be no trace of it left, beyond the pen imprints that remain on the paper. Probably not the most ideal when it comes to archiving!

That is all in the long-term, though. in the short term, a small amount of water on regular ink can cause it to smudge and become unreadable. Even when you are writing with regular ink, there is a chance that you could smudge it before the ink is set.

Archival ink doesn’t really have any of these problems. Obviously, you will be placing the ink on the top of the page. However, due to the way in which archival ink has been designed, not too long after this, it will physically change the color of the paper. It dyes it. This means that the dye remains even if the ink falls off the page. This is something that happens with normal paper and even many other surfaces. You don’t have to necessarily use archival paper for that dying effect, although it certainly does help. 

Is Archival Ink Pigment or Dye?

This depends on the archival ink.

Traditionally, archival ink will have been a pigment. The ink would have been resistant to absorbing impurities because of this pigment. It was the resistance to absorbing impurities that would make the archival ink work incredibly well.

Nowadays, some of the cheaper archival inks on the market are made with a dye. This dye will stain the paper. Once the paper has been stained, the ink doesn’t wash away.

When you purchase archival ink, it should give you an idea of whether you are purchasing archival ink that is a pigment or a dye.

What Is The Difference Between Archival Ink and Alcohol Ink?

Alcohol ink is a common ink type. It is often used in artwork. When alcohol ink is applied to a surface, the alcohol solution that the ink was suspended in evaporates. This leaves the ink behind, which sort of dyes the paper’s surface.

In the past, a lot of people have assumed that archival ink and alcohol ink the same. There is absolutely no denying that alcohol ink can last for many decades without any issues. However, it isn’t used for most archival purposes.

The problem with alcohol ink is that it is not very good when exposed to direct light. It is all well and good when a document is in storage, but when it is pulled out and looked at, the sunlight (or any other light pointed at it), will slowly break down the ink that remains on the surface of the paper. This means that, eventually, the alcohol ink is going to fade.

As you have probably guessed by now, this is not going to be a problem when it comes to archival ink. While archival ink may not last forever (but people are trying to work on solving that problem!), it certainly isn’t going to fade when exposed to a bit of light. You can pull a document written in archival ink out repeatedly, and you are not really going to see a huge change in the way that the ink looks, which is fantastic.

Of course, you can use alcohol ink if you don’t intend for the document to last a long time or if you know it is always going to be stored in a cool, dark location.

What is the Best Archival Ink?

There are a lot of great archival inks on the market today. But I’m always wary about buying ink that claims to be archival when they’ve only been around for a few years. Where’s the proof that they won’t fade!

One source I’ve found very helpful is fountain pen forums. This thread on the Fountain Pen Network has links to many tests of archival inks. They do a fade test by taping writing samples to windows that get direct sunlight. You can see that not all archival ink passes the fade test.

Noodler’s ink and Sailor have some of the best inks for archival purposes.

Check out Sailor’s pigmented Kiwaguru Ultra Black.

Sailor 13-2002-220 Fountain Pen, Pigment Bottle Ink, 1.7 fl oz (50 ml), Ultra Black
  • Ink: Ultra fine pigment; Volume: 1.7 fl oz (50 ml)
  • [Features] Clog resistant and does not change the same as the dye ink for a comfortable writing experience / Water...
  • Product Size (W x D x H): 2.1 x 1.7 x 2.8 inches (53 x 4
  • Weight: 7.1 oz (203.0 g)
  • Note: Bottle ink reservoir is not attached

Here are a few Noodler’s inks that can be trusted and relied upon.

Noodler's Black Waterproof Fountain Pen Ink - Bulletproof,3 ounce
  • 100% made in the USA from cap to glass to ink
  • Archival quality
  • Medium 3oz. Bottle
Noodlers Ink 3 Oz Polar Blue Eternal
  • 100 percent made in the USA from cap to glass to ink.
  • Bulletproof- UV light and bleach resistant
  • Archive quality
  • Waterproof and forgery resistant
  • 3 ounce bottle in Polar Blue

Final Word 

Archival ink is important for archiving. It is the only ink that has been specifically designed to last for a long time. It is pretty much resistant to everything the world can throw at it, including fire. While archival inks were traditionally included in pens, there are many printers out there that can also print in archival ink. If a document has been designed to be stored, then archival ink is always the way to go.

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